With a new Destiny 2 expansion, Shadowkeep, just around the corner, I am diving back into the grindy first-person shooter for the first time in months. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself utterly engaged in the game after being away for so long, catching up on all the story missions I had yet to complete and building up my Light level with new armor and weapons. In fact, Destiny 2 has managed to hold my interest for over a month now, which is longer than I’ve ever played either this game or its predecessor after the initial launch period.
Even better, just as I began to feel myself falling into the familiar loop of checking off the boxes of daily challenges to inch my Light level a smidge higher than it was the day before, a sweeping new event came to the world of Destiny 2. As Bungie explains, the Solstice of Heroes is “a tradition in which Guardians reflect on past hardships and celebrate the resilience of humanity’s foremost defenders.” But really it’s just an excuse to get more loot.
The Solstice of Heroes event adds a variety of activities and additions to the game, but the one that has dominated a majority of my time (along with countless other players) is the incredibly long-winded process of upgrading the armor sets that Eva Levante hands out to everyone participating in the event. You’ll start with a set of Drained (uncommon) armor, but by performing very specific tasks while wearing the armor, you can upgrade it to its Renewed (rare) state, and eventually its Majestic (legendary) state, which looks pretty awesome.
If you’ve ever played Destiny or Destiny 2, you’re probably aware that every new expansion raises the Light level cap, thus making old armor and weapons virtually obsolete the minute they launch. So why spend so much time and effort completing the objectives to be rewarded with something that will be worthless in a few weeks?
The answer is relatively simple — unlocking the legendary armor set will get you a worthwhile reward in Shadowkeep. Here’s what Bungie had to say about the Solstice of Heroes armor sets in a recent blog post:
Lest it feel like a bummer earning this set just to have the new armor system make it somewhat obsolete when Shadowkeep releases, we decided, based on player feedback, to make the Solstice of Heroes armor set the first armor 2.0 set you will receive (assuming you earn it, of course).
Whatever full Legendary sets you earn now will have their new armor 2.0 versions waiting for you to pick up from the Gunsmith when Shadowkeep releases.
We’ll learn more about what armor 2.0 means for Destiny 2 from Bungie later this week, but what’s important is that players can get a head start on the expansion by upgrading their armor during this event. The only problem is that the tasks players are asked to complete in order to upgrade their sets are utterly tedious.
I completed my Drained set over the weekend, and by the end of it, I was more than a little burned out. But it wasn’t a bummer from start to finish. Rather, by forcing me to battle other players in Crucible matches, complete Adventures I had missed, and beat Strikes, it pushed me to experience segments of Destiny 2 that I often ignore. My memories of player vs. player matches in the Destiny games weren’t exactly positive, but after playing a few Crucible matches to fill up that specific bar on my armor set, I realized that I wasn’t quite as atrocious as I remembered. In fact, of all the activities I was forced to participate in, I might have had the most fun reintroducing myself to Crucible.
The problem — and the reason both Destiny and Destiny 2 have always eventually fallen off my radar — is that the grind eventually becomes unbearable. It was nearly midnight on Sunday when I finished the final Strike I needed to fill the last progress bar, and although I was somewhat exhausted, I was still stoked to upgrade my armor. Then I felt the color drain from my face when I saw the requirements to reach the Majestic state.
This entire process is basically a perfect microcosm of the Destiny experience at large. Just when you think you have reached some kind of plateau, you realize that you’re still miles from the peak of the mountain.
I still plan on finishing my Majestic armor for my Titan before Solstice of Heroes ends on August 27th, but that initial excitement I had to work my way back to a respectable Light level with competitive gear has begun to fade. The new European Aerial Zone, which is a horde mode where you team up with two other players, was fun the first few times, but I’m going to have to play through it at least a half dozen more for the upgrade. And as much as I love Destiny’s MMO-lite approach, finding groups to beat heroic public events with might be the death of me.
At this point, the people who like Destiny 2 like it for what it is, even if they have their misgivings about the grind. Having found my way back into Destiny 2 at a very important moment in its life cycle (cross-saving is coming next week, Shadowkeep launches on October 1st, and New Light will make most of the game free-to-play on the same day), I was fascinated by how delicate the balance can be for a player like me. On one hand, I enjoy the gameplay loop enough to keep coming back several times each week to boost my Light level and make some progress on my armor sets. On the other, I can conceivably see myself giving up on acquiring my legendary armor simply because I don’t want to carve out 10 hours to tick every box that Bungie has laid out for me.
In order for Destiny 2 to thrive for years to come, especially with a huge influx of new players set to arrive once New Light launches, the key for Bungie will be to find a way to balance the grind for brand new players, returning players like me, and hardcore players that haven’t lapsed since the game launched in 2017.