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Iron Banter: This Week In Destiny 2 - Death To RNG Raid Exotics

Bungie made the right call with the Vow and Duality seals, because chasing random Exotic drops in high-level content is the worst.

Just about every week brings something new to Destiny 2, whether it's story beats, new activities, or interesting new combinations of elements that let players devastate each other in the Crucible. Iron Banter is our weekly look at what's going on in the world of Destiny and a rundown of what's drawing our attention across the solar system.

Last week, when Deep Stone Crypt was the rotator raid, I finally completed my Descendant seal--the series of Triumphs you can earn in the dungeon that denote that you've mastered it. Thing is, I wanted to complete that seal a year ago, and the only reason I didn't was bad luck.

The Descendant seal, like a lot of the older raid seals in Destiny 2, requires you to knock out a whole bunch of tough Triumphs with your team. These include finding all of the raid's hidden lore and completing special challenges throughout it, which rotated weekly when the raid was released with the Beyond Light expansion. But what turned out to be the toughest part of the seal was completing its Collections Badge, which requires you to earn every piece of gear in Deep Stone Crypt, including all its armor and weapons--and its Exotic rocket launcher, Eyes of Tomorrow.

For about a year, the last thing I needed for the Descendant seal was Eyes of Tomorrow, which has a small chance of dropping from the final boss fight of the raid. Supposedly, Bungie has infused its raids with "bad luck protection" that should raise your odds of receiving these Exotics every time you clear the raid and don't get one. It might be a thing on paper, but in practice, the random number generator that determines these things is cruel and petty.

Badges show all the items you can earn from a certain batch of content, but when they're required for seals, they mean you're stuck fighting the RNG.
Badges show all the items you can earn from a certain batch of content, but when they're required for seals, they mean you're stuck fighting the RNG.

My team and I ran DSC something like 30 times in the course of completing the seal, and I was the only one who never received an Eyes of Tomorrow. On completion 33, the gun finally dropped--but only after we'd taken a year off from the raid after running it so many times that we were sick of it.

My personal story of Exotic drop irritation is a minor one, to be honest. I could have used a "looking for group" forum to jump onto other teams and run more DSC completions to finish my seal before now, and 33 completions is on the low side of similar "the gun never dropped for me" horror stories. Just bounce around on one of the Destiny 2 subreddits to find people who took 50 or 70 completions to earn guns such as Vex Mythoclast from the revised Vault of Glass raid. But I do think my own complaining is illustrative of a problem Destiny 2 could stand to fix: the fact that random Exotic drops suck.

All of Destiny 2's raids have come with cool Exotic weapons that can only be earned from playing that activity, and most of them have dropped as random rewards from boss fights. As with DSC, most of the time, these items are also required to complete seals--which, admittedly, are fully optional goals designed to give Destiny 2 die-hards something to keep them busy and a small amount of bragging rights for their time invested. Not being able to complete a seal you worked hard on because of bad luck is annoying, but ultimately not a big deal; however, locking Exotics behind the RNG often creates gameplay disparities that are absolutely no fun.

I'm reminded of One Thousand Voices, the Exotic fusion rifle that drops from the Forsaken expansion's Last Wish raid. Especially in the early days of Gambit mode, One Thousand Voices (henceforth 1k, as it's often referred to among players) was a gun that was absolutely devastating, if you were lucky enough to have one. The rifle was great for blasting invading players from across maps, allowing them to live just long enough to curse you before they exploded and died. There are a few guns that shifted the balance of fairness in Gambit in those early days (The Queenbreaker is an Exotic you also earned from a random drop and which dominated in early Gambit, but it wasn't sequestered in a raid), but 1k was a constant reminder of your bad luck, and the good luck of others.

Vex Mythoclast was a great gun in PvP after the release of Vault of Glass--unless you didn't have one.
Vex Mythoclast was a great gun in PvP after the release of Vault of Glass--unless you didn't have one.

Similiarly, the fusion rifle Vex Mythoclast came out of the gate dominant in the Crucible after it was added to the Vault of Glass raid, and there was absolutely a period where not having one felt like a serious disadvantage. Other guns have tended to become important strategies in a lot of high-level activities. Anarchy, the Exotic grenade launcher that dropped in the Scourge of the Past raid, was a nearly essential boss-fighting weapon for years in high-level content, until it was finally nerfed just two seasons ago. Having one was a drastic boon for players, and some strategies for defeating bosses like Gahlran in the Crown of Sorrow raid heavily relied on it.

The thing of the raid Exotic situation is that, if ever the gun turns out to be great, not earning one instantly feels like the game is holding you back, or that the time you invest in the game isn't being respected by the game itself. Raids are already a top-tier activity that most of the Destiny community doesn't participate in; they're tough, often gated by Power level, and require you to have five friends with multiple hours to spare to play the game with you. Getting taken apart by raid guns is a double bummer when you're a person with limited time and who struggles to get raid runs organized. Even with my crew of die-hards, getting one weekly raid run together is an uphill battle.

Bungie has recently taken smart steps to decrease the reliance on RNG for cool weapons, or to make not having them less burdensome. The Vow of the Disciple seal requires finishing off tough challenges and several Master-level runs of the raid, but it doesn't require the random drop of Collective Obligation, the raid's Exotic pulse rifle. In the Duality dungeon released in Season of the Haunted, the seal requires earning the Exotic sword Heartshadow, but your chances of the sword dropping from the final encounter of the dungeon are boosted by several Triumphs you can earn along the way, which are themselves also required for the seal--so at least on paper, your performance has a direct impact on your chances of earning a slick new sword.

And randomness isn't always how Bungie does these. The Garden of Salvation raid contains one of the game's best Exotics--a trace rifle called Divinity that creates a big bubble on enemies that greatly enlarges their critical hit spot. Divinity has become a mainstay for raid teams and in content like Grandmaster Nightfalls because it's so good, but Divinity wasn't a random drop. Instead, it requires solving an intricate puzzle hidden throughout the raid, and completing it is actually one of the most fun parts of the entire experience.

The Divinity puzzle is among the best parts of the Garden of Salvation raid.
The Divinity puzzle is among the best parts of the Garden of Salvation raid.

Divinity feels like a best-case scenario for dishing out raid Exotics. It's a tough but engaging series of extra steps, and you'll need a whole team's cooperation to earn it. It works with the challenge of the raid to make Divinity suitably challenging to unlock, while taking out the artificial difficulty of randomness.

Of course, we can assume that creating a series of puzzles like those for Divinity takes a lot of effort on Bungie's part, while a random drop is a drastically easier solution to getting raid Exotics in the game, and thus, probably a lot more realistic from a design standpoint. Adding Triumphs that adjust drop rates and taking Exotics out of the requirements for completing objectives are also good ways that Bungie is addressing the issue, and I'd like to see more ways in which challenging yourself in tough content has a direct impact on the rewards you get for doing it.

Honestly, though, my ideal scenario is the complete removal of RNG for raid Exotics. The randomness in these cases feels like a punishment, rather than a reward, for taking on high-level content. There might be an argument that Exotics as random drops encourages players to keep running raids, but that seems like a dubious assumption. If you're the kind of player who would be willing to put in multiple raids to chase an Exotic, you probably are the kind of player who would put in multiple raid runs regardless, thanks to random gun and armor rolls, extra challenges, and seal completions. RNG Exotics might encourage people who do far fewer raid runs to try to get back in there, but at least in my experience, it's not enough of a carrot to overcome the stick of organizing a team and scheduling. It's tough for more casual players to get into raids, and for lots of people, completing a raid once or a handful of times is a serious accomplishment. They shouldn't be penalized because they're not committed to putting in 33 runs, for whatever reason.

I'm generally not a fan of randomness and the grinding it entails in Destiny 2 overall, but especially when it comes to raid Exotics, this feels like an unnecessary slot machine to force players to engage with that doesn't really add to the game. Players have already done the tough part in completing the raid, after all; why not reward them for engaging with some of Destiny's toughest, best content, in a way that might make them excited to engage with more of it? It seems like Bungie has this same idea in mind, and I hope it'll continue to iterate on the idea of decreasing the pain of Exotic RNG. Randomness might be an important feature in Destiny 2, but in the case of my 33 Deep Stone Crypt runs, it certainly didn't add any fun.

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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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