The New Shader System for 'Destiny 2' Is an Appalling Misjudgment

Ghaul is only the second-worst thing to happen to the Guardians.
screenshot courtesy of Activision

Destiny 2 is out on PS4 as of yesterday, and as players are discovering more and more departures from the first game as they make their way through the campaign. Some of these are marked improvements, but when it comes to cosmetic shaders, players are finding themselves faced with a dramatic downgrade.

Shaders are items that can be used to tint equipment to match an array of preset colour schemes, from drab browns to vibrant neon and metallic treatments. And as a customization-driven player, Destiny's original shader system was close to ideal. A little more control would have been welcome (shoutout to Guild Wars 2's versatile dyeing tools) but the ability to buy or earn a shader that could painlessly turn a mish-mash of different gear into a cohesive outfit accomplished exactly what it needed to. I amassed a collection of shaders as I played, cheerfully cycling through them to suit my mood. Even if they were a bit of an all-or-nothing exchange, I appreciated the options they afforded me as someone who likes to look stylish while shooting all those space wizards in their space faces.


But Destiny 2's shaders, at least from what we've seen so far, seem like a massive step back.

Shaders are now consumable, so people like me who like to stockpile shaders and change things up regularly are going to have to get a bit more conservative. At the same time applying a shader now costs glimmer (the primary in-game currency) rather than being free—another excellent way to dissuade enthusiastic players. The coup de grace, however, is that shaders now seemingly need to be applied to each individual component that a player equips. Rather than being a couple clicks away from a perfectly coordinated set of gear, players would now need to buy and expend a shader on every single piece of kit they're wearing to get that classic head-to-toe look.

And remember, it's not like you use a shader once and it's bound that piece of equipment forever. No, if you decide you liked your desert camo shader on your pants better than that aquamarine shader you tried out, you'll discover that the desert camo shader is gone and you have to re-acquire it if you want put it back on your armor. And then pay glimmer to apply it. So much for experimenting with different looks, or having preset outfits!

The only advantage I can see to these changes is that allowing shaders to affect individual pieces of gear could open the door to more variety and more options in terms of customizing your look, rather than being limited to the matchy-matchy style those original shaders created.

But that's cold comfort when every other change seems tailor-made to smother the joyful collecting and experimenting that Destiny's original customization fostered. It's still possible that shaders will end up being extremely common and extremely easy to acquire, and if everyone's eventually drowning in shaders then this will be a non-issue. Personally, though, I always find it hard to be optimistic about how much or how little a game might want to exploit me whenever microtransactions are involved.