At a first glance, it may seem like Destiny 2 and Monster Hunter: World don’t have much common. But there are several clear reasons why people like me are switching from Bungie’s first-person shooter to Capcom’s third-person monster-fighter. The biggest one, in my view, comes down to grinding and loot.
“Grind,” in a video game, is the thing you can do forever. The game shows you a reward that can only be obtained after hours spent doing repetitive activities, usually with some element of randomness involved. If you’ve played a grindy game, you know the drill: You can only get the flame sword if you mine 50 fire crystals and obtain the proper parts from six lava beasts that you can only find in the Burning Plains.
Grind gives dedicated players something to work toward once they’ve unlocked every new area, beaten every boss, and more or less “done everything” in a game. There are no more cutscenes, no new areas to explore, and no more story revelations; there’s just a spreadsheet to gradually fill. Grind isn’t for everyone, but assuming a game itself is fun on a basic level, it can give people who need one a “reason” to play beyond the moment-to-moment pleasure of gameplay.
Over the last week and a half, I’ve put dozens of hours into Monster Hunter: World. It’s become my go-to grind game, occupying the same space in my gaming diet that Destiny 2 did last fall, and that the first Destiny did before that. It’s the game that I can return to every day and always have something to do, whether I have a free hour or a free afternoon. As a result, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the two games, and why I’m playing the one instead of the other.
There are plenty of similarities between them, even though one is a first-person sci-fi shooter, the other a third-person dinosaur beat-em-up. Both games have hard-to-obtain gear. Both games assign rarity tiers to that gear, and in both games the rarer, more coveted gear is usually more powerful. The most consequential difference is that in Destiny 2, the majority of loot will drop randomly across all events, while in Monster Hunter, you have to actively hunt down whatever you want. That may not seem like a big difference, but it’s massive in practice. It makes Monster Hunter a more rewarding game.
In Destiny 2, your Guardian can earn the majority of the game’s weapons and armor from just about any activity. You can hop on the strike playlist, do some public events, or grind in the competitive Crucible with the comfort of knowing that each chest, strike boss, and engram can drop any tier of weapon. There’s even a chance at getting the rarest exotic gear every time you get a standard drop.
There are a few exceptions to that: the raid is the only place you can get raid gear, and the new weapon Forge added in the Curse of Osiris expansion asks you to repeat activities to “charge up” objects that can then be used to unlock specific guns. Some weapons are constrained to the loot pools for a particular activity or vendor, like the Vanguard or Gunsmith. New armor ornaments require you to repeat tasks in order to unlock them, and there are a handful of exotic weapon quests that have you complete difficult missions to unlock exotic weapons that aren’t in the standard loot pool. By and large, though, Destiny 2’s loot is spread evenly across all activities.
Monster Hunter’s crafting-based grind works differently. You don’t get “drops” in the traditional sense; you never open a chest and get an item you’ve been hoping for, or see a rare sword fall from a boss. Instead, the whole game is built around killing (or capturing) tougher and tougher monsters in order to get better and better parts, which you can then use to craft higher- and higher-tier weapons and armor. You’re not grinding for the gear itself, you’re grinding for the materials you need to make the gear. It is not a minor distinction.
I like Monster Hunter’s approach because it gives me so much more control over what I’m getting, and when. Here’s an example: Right now, I want to make a blessing charm. Crafting one requires me to get specific parts from a Paolumu, which is a fabulous flying mouse-monster that I can find in the Coral Highlands. My way forward is clear: go to the Coral Highlands and slay or capture a Paulumu. There’s still some randomness, because I might not get the exact parts I need on my first try. That’ll just mean I need to go fight one again. Not such a big deal, because, like taking on most of the monsters in Monster Hunter: World, the Paolumu is consistently exciting to fight.
Compare that with Destiny 2. In Bungie’s game, if I were to want a similar item—say, a pair of boots that gave me a higher Recovery stat—I’d have no direct way of chasing it down. I’d just have to play the game, doing activities until eventually the boots dropped. Destiny 2 does have different loot pools, meaning that if I want a specific piece of Iron Banner armor or a specific Crucible gun, I should focus on repeating those events so that every drop I’m getting will draw from the loot pool containing the item I want. But it’s a vastly different experience, more vague and less satisfying.
A diffuse and unengaging grind isn’t Destiny 2’s only endgame problem, of course—much of the gear itself is unexciting, drops repeat too often, and activities rarely actually require the best weapons, just to name a few. Bungie has already copped to the endgame’s shortcomings and promised that it will be improving things over the months to come. The Forge in Curse of Osiris was already a step in the right direction, and Game Director Christopher Barrett indicated on Twitter that secret exotic quests—hidden challenges with specific rewards that reward players who take the time to complete them—will also be returning to the game. Blog posts about the game’s future have included sentences like “we will be making adjustments to shift more rewards into specific endgame pursuits instead of generic XP grinding.” Destiny 1 already had a fair number of rewards tied to specific activities, and given how many of Bungie’s planned changes to the sequel are lifted from the first game, it stands to reason that eventually Destiny 2 will at least resemble Destiny 1 in that respect, too.
Crafting-based loot won’t be anything new to longtime Monster Hunter fans (this is how the series has always worked), nor will it amaze anyone who’s gotten into crafting in MMOs like World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV. Destiny was my first MMO-style grind game, however, so diving into a crafting-based loot game has been eye-opening. Given that World launched just as fan interest in Destiny 2 reached a nadir, I’m guessing I’m not the only lapsed Guardian currently discovering the joys of monster crafting.