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Why Destiny 2 players are upset about its new armor synthesis transmog system

Destiny 2
(Image credit: Bungie)

Bungie has finally detailed the armor synthesis transmog system coming to Destiny 2 in just a few weeks with the launch of Season 14, and in classic Destiny fashion, the discourse around a Big New Feature quickly became a dumpster fire. Bungie was trending on Twitter for all the wrong reasons yesterday, and the official Reddit thread for the discussion is a sea of criticism. What the hell happened?  

How armor synthesis works 

There's a lot to unpack here, so let's start with a summary of what Bungie announced. Transmog will use a new currency, Synthweave, to let players convert any armor in their collection into a universal ornament (with a few exceptions, including most Year 1 gear at launch, and older Solstice armor glows). To get Synthweave, players will first need to collect Synthstrand by killing enemies anywhere in the game, and then use it to purchase new bounties from Ada-1 which grant Synthcord, which can then be converted into Synthweave. 

The kicker is that there will be a limit to how much Synthweave you can get for free: 20 per class in Season 14, and 10 per class in future seasons. The only way around this cap is buying more Synthweave from the Eververse store for real money, with one going for about $3 worth of Silver and five going for $10 worth. 

What players don't like about it 

Destiny 2

(Image credit: Bungie)

Despite all the fine print, I'm super excited to see transmog finally come to Destiny 2. The new interface looks great, and this will make the fashion end-game much more manageable and exciting. Destiny has always been an incredibly convoluted excuse to play dress-up with space wizards, and armor synthesis will make that process way more fun. 

But damn, that is some fine print. 

Let's get this out of the way now: Synthweave is weirdly complicated. We need to get one thing to buy bounties that give another thing to convert into a third thing. Why? Couldn't we just spend Glimmer on bounties that give Synthweave? I don't see the need to involve three currencies, a vendor (Ada-1), and a new Tower kiosk (apparently some kind of loom) in this process. Maybe it's more intuitive in practice, but it feels like this system is solving a problem that it created for no good reason. 

Beyond the sheer redundancy of it, I don't get why making a custom ornament has to be so grindy in the first place. Transmog is usually treated as a quality of life feature that adds an optional pursuit to the end-game, hence the unfavorable comparisons players have made to games like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy 14. To be fair, those games have a monthly subscription and therefore more room to give out stuff (though Destiny 2 has a season pass which may as well be a subscription). I gather that Bungie wants it to take us a while so we have more goals, but then why tie down those goals by limiting how much we can transmog for free? That brings us to the real bugbear in all this: the Synthweave cap. 

The dreaded cap  

Destiny 2 Black Armory

(Image credit: Bungie)

I think there are two questions here: is this cap really that bad, and what does capping Synthweave accomplish? The answer to the first question will depend on the player. I could definitely build a comfortable wardrobe of my favorite gear within this cap, and I think a lot of players will find that they can too. I mean, if you average five loadouts on each class, that's four unique transmogs and an Exotic per loadout, or 20 ornaments worth, and that's assuming you transmog every slot. Season 14 will cover that, albeit without much room in future seasons for potential new loadouts, armor sets, or outfits. Of course, I'm sure there are people that have dozens upon dozens of pieces in mind for transmog, and others who just want more freedom. As it stands, those players will either have to wait several seasons or spend money right now. And so, we return to the Eververse store. 

Capping earnable Synthweave will, in part, incentivize players to spend real money on more Synthweave. That's just how monetization works. Without a cap, buying Synthweave would save some time on the grind, but here, it gets you over the cap, which also saves you some waiting. Either way, you're paying for convenience. Rather than the idea of paying for convenience, it feels like most players don't like that this kind of monetized time-gating is tied to a long-awaited feature, especially since Destiny 2 already has paid season passes and expansions. The most-upvoted comment on the aforementioned Reddit thread says a lot: "I love being seven years and hundreds of dollars worth of expansions deep into Destiny just to be treated like a F2P player." 

Destiny 2

(Image credit: Bungie)

I have to imagine Bungie expected this reaction to some extent, and community manager dmg04 was quick to note that the studio is "in this for the long haul" and taking critical feedback into account. So after laying all of this out, what should be changed? 

I don't think anyone is against reducing the number of currencies involved, for one. Let's say the cap was also removed; players would still have the option of paying for convenience, and others would have unlimited transmogs to work toward. Let's also ask what Bungie needs to clarify. I'd like to know if Synthweave rolls over between seasons since the wording on crafting is unclear. If I only make five ornaments in Season 15, can I make 15 ornaments in Season 16? Also, as a quick aside, why are Eververse shaders jumping from 40 to 300 Bright Dust in an update explicitly intended to make fashion more flexible? That feels like a rake Bungie really didn't need to step on, but I digress. This version of transmog doesn't look horrible, but there's undeniably room for improvement. Here's hoping Bungie can find some middle ground soon. 

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.