Destiny 2 needs to retire Legendaries, but it needs to get better at loot too

(Image credit: Bungie)

Bungie dropped a bombshell last week: in the not-too-distant future, Destiny 2 will start capping the Power level of old Legendary weapons. Simply put, this means players won't be able to use Midnight Coup or Blast Furnace for everything anymore, because weapons like them will become objectively weaker. 

This change won't arrive for several months at least, but it's already gotten considerable pushback from the Destiny community. Personally, however, I've wanted a system like this in Destiny 2 for a long time. I understand some of the arguments against it, but I truly believe this revision will benefit the game in the long-run. That said, for it  to work, Bungie will need to streamline the grind and make the process of acquiring new weapons more enjoyable and consistent.  

I think much of the blowback to this change comes from players focusing on perceived negatives, some of which have been overblown. For a lot of people, the immediate response seems to have been, "I don't want to lose my favorite gun." The thing is, nobody will outright lose a gun due to these changes. Old Legendaries won't be removed from the game, they just won't be viable in pinnacle activities like raids and the newly revealed Destiny 2 Trials of Osiris. You'll still be able to use whatever you want on Patrol, in Strikes or in regular Crucible modes, or in older activities. Your go-to fun weapon will still be fun, and you'll always have access to every Exotic (which may be a stealth buff to terminally overlooked Exotic primaries, but I digress). 

(Image credit: Bungie)

On top of that, as Bungie director Luke Smith explained, the plan is for weapons to be retired between 9 to 15 months after their release. Barring extreme bad luck - which I'll get to in a bit - a year and change is more than enough time to obtain a weapon, get comfortable with it, and in my case, get tired of it. I was ecstatic to get the curated Nation of Beasts hand cannon in Forsaken, and it barely left my hands for a year. But sure enough, I was sick of it by the time Destiny 2: Shadowkeep came out, and I was eager to try the new hotness. 

I realize everyone doesn't feel this way. Some players just want to use the same gun forever, and while I'll never understand that mentality, it's a fair position. What isn't fair is that a lot of those same players also seem to think that Bungie should add more weapons to the loot pool and refresh vendor inventories. In other words, some players want to use the exact same guns forever, but they also want Bungie to add more guns to the game. Why? So they can ignore those too? 

Modern design 

This leads us to the issue at the heart of this change: design space. At this point in Destiny 2's life, there are so many Legendary weapons in the game, and so many of them are so good, that Bungie is running out of design space. It's getting harder and harder to make bespoke, memorable guns without introducing unsustainable power creep. If Bungie did a full vendor and world loot refresh right now, none of those guns would matter one iota and they would all be forgotten in two weeks. That's why Legendaries are being retired in the first place. 

(Image credit: Bungie)

Bungie can't just make better and better guns every season. As Smith pointed out, that's what led to the introduction and subsequent removal of Pinnacle Weapons, not to mention over-tuned activities like The Reckoning. Clearly, that doesn't work. And based on the state of the current season, churning out new gun models with the same-old stat and perk combinations doesn't work either. That's just stagnation. 

This is why I find this retirement update so exciting. By capping old Legendaries, Bungie will expand its capacity to introduce new, powerful guns which are actually worth grinding for. It feels like a lot of people are overlooking that. It's not about what we're losing; it's what we stand to gain. As Smith put it, "Our hope is that instead of having to account for a weapon’s viability forever when we create one, it can be easier to let something powerful exist in the ecosystem. And those potent weapons entering the ecosystem mean there’s more fun items to pursue." 

Imagine the guns Bungie could create without hundreds of precedents weighing it down, and with the knowledge that new weapons will be retired after a year anyway. The studio would be free to experiment (and hopefully go a little crazy) with new perks, stat combinations, and archetypes. We could see guns that define the year they're released in, and then they'll rotate out and we can get new, equally powerful but meaningfully different guns. 

That's what I want to see, because the one-gun crowd does have a point here: this retirement system won't work if Bungie doesn't introduce more weapons with new and exciting abilities. It will all be for nothing if every rotation boils down to reacquiring another Outlaw + Rampage equivalent. Retiring old Legendaries will free up design space, and it's Bungie's job to use that space to make weapons that can win over players who are reluctant to leave their favorites behind.

The need for smarter loot  

(Image credit: Bungie)

A lot of games use retirement systems just like this, from new raid sets in Final Fantasy 14 to Standard card rotations in Hearthstone, but the best comparison for me is Diablo 3. Every season, Diablo 3 adds new armor sets that spawn builds which are largely unique to that season. I've always mained Monk, and that class has seen some huge transitions over the years. I've played Dashing Strike speed builds, Exploding Palm AoE builds, multi-Mantra tank builds, and plenty more. I'm always playing the class I love, but Monk feels totally different every season precisely because my old setup is replaced. That's the kind of evolving experience I want from the guns in Destiny 2. 

The Diablo 3 comparison highlights another area Destiny 2 will need to improve in order to make this system work: the accessibility of good weapons. Every Destiny 2 player has their white whale, whether it's an Exotic like Anarchy or a god roll for a specific weapon. Sometimes, bad RNG just straight-up denies you certain rewards, and while that's already frustrating, it definitely won't fly once Legendaries start retiring. Again, the one-gun crowd has a point: nobody should have to grind another thousand rolls just to get a replacement for their Blast Furnace. 

Just as Bungie needs to create enticing new weapons to replace retired Legendaries, it also needs to lay down clear, direct paths to obtain them. To go back to Diablo 3, every season you get sort of a starter kit to help you try the new builds and build up decent gear pretty quickly. Once you've got the bare necessities, that's when you can really start grinding and min-maxing and experimenting. I don't think Destiny 2 needs to follow that track exactly, but it should give players clear paths to get specific weapons. That way, players can get a jump-start refilling their arsenal after each retirement while also sampling the new guns. 

(Image credit: Bungie)

The good news is that recent seasons have done a pretty good job of this. Between Essence weapons in Shadowkeep and weapon bounties for seasonal activities like Vex Offensive and the Sundial, Bungie's drastically improved at creating actionable, reasonable grinds. We're way better off than the days of the Season of the Forge, that's for sure. I'd like to see more diversity beyond just "do bounties," but bad RNG is less intrusive nowadays, and we have more ways to mitigate it.

Bungie previously said that it isn't working on a Weapons 2.0 analogue to the Armor 2.0 update, but that's exactly what Legendary retirement feels like - and I know that might sound like an oxymoron to some. But just as Armor 2.0 gave players more ways to create awesome builds, Legendary retirement will give Bungie more ways to create awesome weapons. Ditching your old Legendaries might sting at first, but think of them as an investment in the game's future, in the goals and guns still to come. I want to care about loot again, and I know I'm not alone here. If Bungie has to put some old Legendaries out to pasture to make that happen, it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make. 

Austin Wood

Austin freelanced for the likes of PC Gamer, Eurogamer, IGN, Sports Illustrated, and more while finishing his journalism degree, and he's been with GamesRadar+ since 2019. They've yet to realize that his position as a staff writer is just a cover up for his career-spanning Destiny column, and he's kept the ruse going with a focus on news and the occasional feature.