Feature Article

Destiny 2 Grasp Of Avarice Dungeon Is Hilariously Salty About A 7-Year-Old Exploit

The Bungie 30th Anniversary DLC dungeon sees the developer finally get some sweet comedic revenge on the Destiny community.

Grasp of Avarice is, it must be said, kind of hilarious. Hidden in-jokes that require history with a developer or franchise to understand are fairly common in video games, but the dungeon Bungie released as part of its 30th Anniversary DLC for Destiny 2 is next-level. Because yes, Grasp of Avarice is referencing a notorious moment from the game's past, turning something all original Destiny 1 players remember into a lengthy, rewarding, and fun piece of content. But it's also a dungeon Bungie made specifically to dunk on those players--while also spending a little time laughing at itself. And that, as far as I know, might be unprecedented in gaming, or media of any kind.

To understand how good of a jab Grasp of Avarice is, you first have to understand a somewhat ignoble bit of early Destiny history. Way back in 2014, when the original game was first released, it was kind of a pain to play. That was largely because Bungie hadn't really tuned the game's progression system yet; this was before you could infuse one piece of gear into another to raise its level, for instance. You had to constantly hunt new and better guns to raise your character's power stats in order to take on tougher content.

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So when players finished Destiny's story campaign, they naturally turned their eyes toward the Vault of Glass raid--but they were all too weak to actually take it on. Then as now, they had to keep working through the game's playlist content to grind for new gear that would advance their levels. But the grind was painfully slow, and there were fewer activities in the game to actually play. Drop rates for new gear felt low, especially if you were chasing only the Legendary items needed to advance. Lower-level drops would constantly clutter your inventory, and back in the day, you had to take all of your good engrams to Master Rahool in the Tower for decryption--often only to discover that the drop you were so hopeful for was actually a trash weapon of a lower level.

The whole situation was kind of awful. There wasn't much post-story content and it all quickly became very repetitive. Good as Destiny's first raid was, it required hours of slog just to be able to try it out. Bungie would eventually dial in a number of these systems and Destiny would really hit a stride with The Taken King, making its loot and leveling system work much better. But especially in those first few days, everyone felt stuck struggling to level up.

And that's when Guardians discovered the Loot Cave.

There's actually not much to the Loot Cave. It's just a spot in the Cosmodrome where enemies spawn to fill the open world with targets to shoot. What some players discovered, however, was that this particular cave spawned enemies at a constant rate if you killed them, while other enemy spawns had built-in delays. Essentially, that meant you could wipe out all the enemies near the Loot Cave, then have a constant stream of more enemies piling out of the cave itself. You could shoot those enemies as they tumbled out of the tiny cave and they were immediately replaced. That resulted in a near-constant stream of enemies to shoot, and every so often, one of those enemies would drop an engram containing a piece of gear. So instead of repeating Strikes and running matches in the Crucible, or hunting down Public Events over and over, players chose the more boring but more rewarding route: standing still in front of a cave and mindlessly shooting enemies for hours at a time.

The Loot Cave was the go-to means of leveling your character for about a week in the original Destiny. I used it to get raid-ready, as countless others surely did as well. It was a testament to how frustrating the loot grind could be in the early days of the game, and an exploit that Bungie quickly patched out. The developer wasn't without humor about the situation, though, and later dropped a jokey little Easter egg into the Loot Cave that remains there to this day.

Interact with this pile of bones and you'll hear the message,
Interact with this pile of bones and you'll hear the message, "A million deaths aren't enough for Master Rahool," a spooky and fun reference to the Destiny 1 Loot Cave days.

That was seven years ago. Destiny has seen many adjustments to its progression system and grind since then, and there's a whole huge community of players who probably have no idea what the Loot Cave even is. If you weren't there right at the start of the game, you never got to experience it. If you joined the game with Destiny 2, the whole Cosmodrome area is new to you.

And yet Bungie made an entire Loot Cave-themed dungeon and filled it with gags specifically aimed at players like me, who opted to avoid playing the game in favor of shooting at a dark cave.

Grasp of Avarice is an elaborate send-up of those Guardians. The entire dungeon plays on a theme of greed, the implication being that those of us who stood at that cave were too greedy for Bungie's vision of early Destiny. We wanted loot and we didn't care how we got it, opting to avoid actually playing if it got us goods.

So the dungeon is called Grasp of Avarice, literally about being in the grip of greed, and its mechanics are predicated on that concept. To get into the cave, you shoot enemies who come streaming out of it, just like back in the D1 days. And those enemies all drop yellow engrams, which look like Exotic loot drops, the very best things you can get in the game. As you scramble to pick up all those engrams, you don't receive loot, but rather, a debuff called Burden of Riches. It starts a timer, and if that timer runs out, you die. The only way to extend it? Pick up more engrams. Your greed for loot gains you nothing and marks you for death, and the only way to stave off that death is to greedily gather up more useless junk.

Okay, Bungie, we're jerks, we get it.

Grasp of Avarice begins with a much deadlier visit to the Loot Cave, and the whole encounter is a big dunk on Destiny 1 veterans.
Grasp of Avarice begins with a much deadlier visit to the Loot Cave, and the whole encounter is a big dunk on Destiny 1 veterans.

Beyond the entrance, the next part of the dungeon sends you in the footsteps of Wilhelm-7, an NPC Guardian who, like you, delved into the Loot Cave in search of treasure. As you pick your way along Wilhelm's path, time after time, you find multiple closed doors with no clear way forward. You try one at random, only to discover it's boobytrapped--open the wrong door and spikes annihilate your character. Step in the wrong place and the ceiling drops down to crush you. The first half of Grasp of Avarice is just you and your team trying to chase treasure and meeting grisly, hilarious death for your trouble. You can almost hear the developers laughing just off-screen.

And then you uncover the story of Wilhelm-7 himself, which is told through a series of audio logs hidden throughout the dungeon. The gist is that Wilhelm and two other Guardians went down into the dungeon in search of riches and found all kinds of incredible treasure. Every time they went deeper, they found more, like it had been placed there for them, just waiting. Slowly, their greed corrupted them--they became angry and paranoid, eventually killing each other. Wilhelm even killed his Ghost, the key to his own immortality, because he was convinced the Ghost was trying to rob him of his junk. In the end, Wilhelm died of his wounds, surrounded by useless engrams.

Still, even though the developer lays on the greed joke pretty thick, Bungie isn't just sending up players. The Burden of Riches debuff mentioned earlier turns out to be essential to exploring the dungeon--there are strange crystals hungry for your avarice, and picking up engrams to gain the debuff and then standing beside those crystals causes them to grow. That mechanic is central to the dungeon, filtering back into the meta-joke: Yeah, it's a dungeon sending up players' unending hunger for loot, but there's an awareness that Bungie gave Guardians those cravings to begin with. In fact, all of the bosses are immune to damage until you carry enough Burdened with Riches engrams to a nearby crystal--and each one "succumbs to temptation" when you supply enough loot. So while the whole dungeon is a search for treasure, it's also about overcoming the pull of greed, created by the game, to kick some ass with friends.

All the characters in Grasp of Avarice are slaves to greed, and you have to give up your quest for loot in order to thoroughly wreck them.
All the characters in Grasp of Avarice are slaves to greed, and you have to give up your quest for loot in order to thoroughly wreck them.

Grasp of Avarice would be a great dungeon in any event, just because it's well-made, creative, and weird. It's intricately and often ingeniously designed. But Bungie's self-awareness is what elevates it to the next level, especially if you've been a Destiny player since the first game's release. One can't help but admire the supervillain-like elaborate execution of this gag. Bungie made one of its coolest pieces of game content specifically to goof on us players seven years later. The petty brilliance of that fact cannot be understated, and it's part of what makes Destiny 2 so special.

Still, it feels like Bungie may be holding a bit of a grudge about the Loot Cave. I can't help but wonder what future ludicrous dunks might be in store for the Destiny community--and I can't wait to play them.

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philhornshaw

Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw has worked as a journalist for newspapers and websites for more than a decade and has covered video games, technology, and entertainment for nearly that long. A freelancer before he joined the GameSpot team as an editor out of Los Angeles, his work appeared at Playboy, IGN, Kotaku, Complex, Polygon, TheWrap, Digital Trends, The Escapist, GameFront, and The Huffington Post. Outside the realm of games, he's the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler's Guide to Time Travel and The Space Hero's Guide to Glory. If he's not writing about video games, he's probably doing a deep dive into game lore.

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