There must be an almost erotic thrill to eliminating an entire currency at the click of a button. That's what is going to happen in Destiny 2 at the end of November when Season 23 launches. Bungie today announced that it will be completely deprecating Legendary Shards, which are a material used to pay for all sorts of items in the game. Unlike previous material deprecations, the studio also said that it will not be offering anything by way of compensation. Legendary Shards are just going to be gone.
The timing is a surprise, but Bungie's rationale is not: The Legendary Shards economy is currently in shambles. Checking my balance, I have just over 13k after many 1,000s of hours in the game. That's enough to be able to pay for engram decoding and weapon masterworking without much worry. But in the past I have dipped as low as a couple of hundred, particularly when Trials and Iron Banner weapons were exorbitant to focus using Shards. However, one of my clan mates has somehow managed to amass a staggering 186k (largely because he's a cheapskate who, unlike me, doesn't masterwork every gun he owns).
The problem, though, is new players, who have little way of catching up. The primary means to acquire Shards is from dismantling Legendary quality gear, with a return rate of four shards per item destroyed. Without grinding for 100s of hours it's near impossible to accrue a comfortable balance because Bungie has been trying to set prices that work for both types of players.
"Some players have more than they would ever be able to spend, while others struggle to earn enough to engage with the systems that require Shards as a cost," said a spokesperson for the Destiny 2 economy team in the This Week at Bungie blog. "This often made it hard to find Legendary Shard costs that would feel impactful to players, while also ensuring that the content that did require Legendary Shards could be enjoyed by all players, no matter how long, or how much they play."
Matters weren't helped by various exploits down the years that enabled players to rack up a mountain of Shards before the loopholes were patched. Generally these exploits involved a vendor or the collection manager offering a piece of gear that broke down to an incorrectly high amount of Shards, enabling an infinite loop (if you could handle the tedium of doing it).
Bungie did at least express some sympathy for the bankrupted Shard barons: "As much as we know how bad it feels to have currencies that you have amassed over a long period of time wiped away, please know that we don't make the decision to remove them lightly. We truly believe their removal is in the best interest of both the game and the players."
So far, I haven't seen a ton of pushback, which suggests the playerbase understood there was a problem with the economy. The Reddit thread accompanying today's blog is full of people swapping ideas for how to dump their Shard 401k. The best suggestions are stocking up on Raid Banners from Suraya Hawthorne or trading Shards at the Cryptarch's Materials Exchange. As things stand, you can buy a single Enhancement Core for 30 Legendary Shards, which is obviously daylight robbery, but better than deletion. The Cyrptarch also offers Ascendant Alloys and Enhancement Prisms for an obscene 400 Shards each, but these are on a weekly lockout.
Staying on the subject of materials, I'll wrap up by noting I love another change announced in the blog. From September 19, the drop rate for Essence of the Oversoul will be massively buffed. It's only found by completing encounters in the reprised Crota's End raid, and it's needed to acquire the exotic autorifle Necrochasm. In addition to more guaranteed Essence from clearing the raid each week, Bungie is adding a chance for a lucky drop of all the remaining Essence you need for the gun and its catalyst.
Between that change, and also swapping this week's Nightfall reward after players complained it wasn't one of the new weapons, it does feel like the studio is trying to respond much quicker to feedback. No doubt in response to the breakdown in community relations that happened in August, about which I spoke to game director Joe Blackburn a few weeks ago.