I'm nearing the end of Destiny 2's campaign and must say I'm enjoying it a lot. But there's one aspect of Bungie's ultra-hyped shared-world shooter that has gone down like a lead balloon: microtransactions.
Destiny 1 has plenty of microtransactions via the in-game shop, dubbed the Eververse Trading Company. You're able to buy a raft of in-game items, such as emotes, exotic ornaments and even sparrows. Destiny 2, however, crosses the micro-transaction line in a number of areas - and the Destiny community is not happy.
A cursory glance at the Destiny reddit, which has over 350,000 subscribers, reveals a change to the way shaders work has sparked outrage among the community.
In Destiny 1, once you found a shader you could apply it to your gear to your heart's content. It was great because you could change your look as often as you'd change your mood. I fancy Cicero for Crucible, Chatterwhite for our Vault of Glass run - that sort of thing.
In Destiny 2 shaders are consumables, which means they're one-time use. Bungie did not signal this change in some update on its website, or warn players in a tweet before the game came out. Players have discovered this for themselves - and it's come as one hell of a surprise.
One of the ways you can get shaders in Destiny 2 is by buying blind loot boxes from the Eververse Trading Company with the in-game currency you buy with real-world cash. Shaders are one of the items you may get from decrypting a Bright Engram (more on those later). You can't just go to a shader shop and buy the one you want when you want it.
One thread pushing back against this system on the Destiny reddit has had a whopping 36,000 upvotes. In it, redditor WeilageM calls on the community to not spend a penny on Destiny 2 microtransactions until Bungie makes shaders unlimited use again.
"Getting a stockpile of shaders doesn't beat just having a collection you can use at will, even if the shader drops were so frequent that you never ran out of the ones you want," WeilageM wrote.
"At that point, why even have them be consumable? Because you're supposed to run out, get impatient, and just start dumping money into Eververse so you CAN have a stockpile."
Moving on from shaders, Destiny 2's in-game shop has come under fire for offering gameplay-affecting mods.
These mods, which can be applied to armour and weapons, boost your character in some way. Take the Impact Absorption Mod, for example. This increases the resilience of the armour it's applied to, allowing you to absorb more damage. Another mod makes class abilities charge faster. You can see why you'd want mods.
It's worth noting that currently you can only buy rare quality mods from the in-game shop, and once you finish the Destiny 2 campaign, the Gunsmith vendor character sells legendary quality mods in exchange for easy-to-obtain weapon parts, but there's no getting around the fact you can spend real-world money to get a gameplay advantage in Destiny 2. Destiny 1 did not do this.
Even the basic cost of Destiny 2's loot boxes feels a bit much. Like most games these days, Destiny 2 has blind loot boxes, called Bright Engrams. These engrams, which contain a random assortment of customisation items, can be bought with silver, which itself must be bought with real-world money. (You can't buy silver until you hit level 20 with a character, which means most players will have finished the campaign before they spend real-world money on Destiny 2.) You also get a Bright Engram every time you level up after you've hit the soft level cap of 20.
Here's the breakdown of the costs involved:
- 500 silver costs £4.49
- 1000 (+100) £8.49
- 2000 (+300) £16.79
- 5000 (+800) £39.99
- 1 Bright Engram costs 200 Silver
- 3 Bright Engrams costs 500 silver
- 5 Bright Engrams costs 800 silver
- Silver Starter Pack costs 900 silver
A Destiny 2 loot box, then, costs £1.80, which feels a tad expensive. In Overwatch, for example, a loot box costs £1 (you get two for £1.99). Of course, if you buy engrams in bulk you get better value. (If you buy five in one go you get an engram free.)
Confusingly, there's another in-game currency, called Bright Dust, which can only be used in the Eververse shop. You have a chance to get Bright Dust from a Bright Engram, and you get some for dismantling items found via Bright Engrams. You can spend Bright Dust on items you get from Bright Engrams. Still with me?
The confusing in-game shop and the worrying gameplay-affecting mods are bad enough, but it's the new shader system that has sparked the biggest uproar, and with good reason. You can't help but feel for Destiny 2, Bungie has re-tooled shaders to fuel the microtransaction system, which leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Consider this: one cool change for Destiny 2 is that you can apply a shader to an individual piece of gear. So, you can apply one shader to your chest piece, a different one to your legs, a different one to your gauntlets and a different one to your helmet. If you're anything like me though, you'll want a complete set of armour to have the same shader applied to each item, so you get the complete shader look, as in Destiny 1.
Perhaps it comes as no surprise to find shaders come in bundles of three. Say you get a cool legendary shader from a Bright Engram - that's three you have to apply to your four-piece armour set, leaving one poor gear item out in the cold. Clever, aren't they?
Bungie and Activision will of course argue that you can get Bright Engrams and mods through the normal course of play, and they're primarily for those who don't have the time to spend hours playing Destiny 2 each night. (We've asked Activision for comment.)
But this argument falls down when you consider Destiny 2 lets you pay real-world money for a gameplay advantage in a full-price game that also sells a season pass. Compare and contrast, once again, to Overwatch, which does not let you buy any kind of gameplay-affecting item whatsoever.
Meanwhile, the Destiny community has collectively pleaded with Bungie to change the way shaders work to make it less grubby. Will it listen?