I'm personally fine with the token system too. Is it kind of boring? Yes. Lack of imagination? Sure. Does it work as intended? Definitely. Can they in some way shape or form improve on it? You bet!
That being out of the way. . . sgtcoy's daily sprinkling of "salt" got me thinking back to articles I knew I had read in the fairly early days of D1 (relative to the current D2 timeline), so I did some digging and as I thought a lot of similar things with the community were being said. I'm sure they can and will be ran with either way someone wants to construe them, but I find it quite telling in multiple ways the way people were reacting to D1 and now D2.
Not Enough Carrots
As I was partway through writing this article, I saw a thread on the Destiny subbreddit titled "Who else feels like taking a break from Destiny until the next expansion?" I've seen that sentiment shared more and more at the various Destiny hubs I frequent, and this particular thread captured the zeitgeist.
"I broke 800 hours of combined gameplay," the original poster, temporarycreature, wrote, "and I'm just feeling bored and burned out. I'm not complaining. I am not threatening Bungie. I just hit a wall, and I don't feel like doing the same things over, and over, day in, and day out."
The thread has more than a thousand responses, many from other players who feel similarly. The whole thing boils down to carrots, basically.
"The main problem with the dangling of the carrot progression is, once you get the carrot (or enough bites of it), you really don't feel the need to keep chasing it," responds one player, supaloco.
"This whole thread makes me scared that Bungie will make the carrot harder to catch when [the House of Wolves expansion] comes out…" writes another player, banannabelle, in response. "I've minimized my playtime considerably since [Crota's End hard mode] came out, because I'm tired of chasing the carrot."
More Subscription Than 'Expansion'
The single biggest change to Destiny has come in the form of The Dark Below, a collection of missions and new gear billed by Bungie and their publisher Activision as an "expansion." It feels pretty thin compared to expansions in other MMOs and RPGs, but that's what they're calling it, so.
Thing is... The Dark Below doesn't quite feel like an expansion pack. It doesn't feel optional, like the sort of thing some players could choose to ignore in order to continue playing vanilla Destiny. That's mainly because missions exclusive to The Dark Below have been added to the weekly mix for all players, even those who don't own it.
Destiny's Actual Biggest Flaw
My colleague and Destiny comrade-in-arms Jason Schreier has been (justly) critical of the unfortunate ways that The Dark Below changes Destiny's loot system. A couple of weeks ago, he argued that Destiny's biggest flaw was the fact that the game ties post-level-20 progression to your armor, rather than to experience points. By making your level-progress dependent on your armor, Bungie tied your character's access to the game's most rewarding high-level challenges to your gear, rather than directly to in-game experience.
The gear you really need—the high-level stuff from the raid—can only be obtained through random drops, meaning that the gear you get is only partly connected to the amount of time and work you put into the game. It was possible to complete the Vault of Glass a dozen or more times—as I did—and still find yourself missing one crucial piece of armor—as I also did. It was also possible to complete the Vault one or two times—as I heard of many others doing—and walk away with a full set, comfortably on your way to level 30. Bungie claims to have improved their loot algorithm for the new raid, but the sourness of the random number generator lingers.
I agree with Jason that Destiny's is a flawed system, particularly given the fact that Bungie has asked us to redo all of our exotic items a mere three months after we first started. But I don't agree that the loot system is the game's biggest flaw. It's just a symptom of the game's actual biggest flaw, which is that there simply isn't enough to do.
There's a scene in The Lord of the Rings where Frodo tells Sam that due to the corrupting power of the One Ring, he feels "sort of stretched, like apricot jelly scraped over too much toast." Or something like that. Anyway, that's Destiny: delicious apricot jelly scraped over too much toast.
Destiny's lack of "content," for lack of a better word, is the source from which the game's other problems flow. The maddening weekly currency caps, the ceaseless repetition, the bizarre upgrade requirements, the stingy loot system: All are designed to force people to sink dozens of hours into a game they'd otherwise blow through over the course of a weekend.
With The Dark Below, Bungie has performed a bleak magic trick: They've transformed a meagre handful of story missions, a single strike, and a single raid into dozens and dozens of hours of gameplay, simply by carefully scraping the whole thing over a time-consuming leveling process.
Did you spend a week leveling up an exotic gun or piece of armor? Cool, now you can trade it in for an identical version with a bigger number on it and spend a week upgrading it all over again!
Did you already spend a bunch of in-game money on the gear you have? Too bad, everything you need now is twice as expensive, so you better get grinding.
Want to get to level 32? Good luck, you're going to have to collect a full set of raid armor and 63 hard-to-come-by radiant shards to do so.
Oh, and you know those raid guns you spent the last few months winning and leveling up? Well, now they're a bit underpowered, and they'll be obsolete in another week or two. Sorry!
If you're in it for the loot—and all of us are, to some extent or another, in it for the loot—it's tempting to just throw your hands up and quit.
Now in short, because there is a lot more to read there than I quoted. . . I think the past and present in a round about way indicate that Bungie is guilty of a lot of the accusations the community is throwing their way. But also things weren't always sunny and awesome as some remember in D1 either. They've proven that they are poor to ok at release, and they finish fairly strong after sloooowly listening and implementing changes. Is this ideal? Probably not. Is it the end of the world and the death knell to Bungie and the community? Doubt it.