The past year has been a storied one for Bungie and Destiny 2. Launch was great but longtime fans were soured by the endgame (or lack thereof). Through Bungie began making changes quickly, a lot of the first expansion—Curse of Osiris—was already in the pipe at that point. There was little the studio could do except release what’s widely considered to be Destiny’s worst content expansion and continue to push forward. The song has changed quite a bit recently. Forsaken is highly regarded as bringing Destiny to the best state it’s ever been, but it wasn’t so long ago that the game was at its lowest point.
Curse of Osiris had a few problems, but one of the central ideas that flopped was the concept of the Infinite Forest on Mercury. Early marketing painted a picture of something that could be, well, infinite. Players imagined what a horde mode or other activities could look like inside of a place that was literally designed as a Vex simulation of reality. What we got was something far more tame. The Infinite Forest was nothing more than a few repetitive building blocks that acted as filler from one point to another for a set of Strikes, Heroic Adventures, and story missions.
Most players talk about how much they hate running any content on Mercury. They’ll rush through the Infinite Forest as quickly as possible, letting the dull Vex architecture whiz by on the way to their true goals, whether it be iterations of Mercury past and future, or massive Vex and Cabal bosses that guard loot in waiting. The Destiny subreddit has been filled with players giving their own ideas of what the Infinite Forest could have been, or what it could become. It all seemed like a pipe dream. Then Bungie did something magical.
From Tricks to Treats
Instead of abandoning the Infinite Forest, Bungie cultivated this destination for the Festival of the Lost. Destiny’s yearly Halloween event returned with the Infinite Forest in tow, now titled the Haunted Forest. It’s a darker environment now, and acts a lot more like that horde mode that players thought they’d be getting last December. Thematically, it fits in perfectly, opening with a quest about the Vex doing some spooky things with the Infinite Forest, and resulting with players diving deep into the various branches of the forest to eliminate the Nightmares that it has created.
Realistically, the Haunted Forest isn’t that much different from the Infinite Forest that predicated it. It holds the same building blocks of Vex architecture (albeit with the lights turned off), but it holds more meaning and reward. Rather than being an environment players use in passing, the Haunted Forest is the content. Completing it grants rewards. And it stands as a shining way to headline a limited-time holiday event within Destiny 2.
That’s an important lesson that Bungie learned during Destiny 2’s first year. No matter how good the content is, there has to be reason and reward if you want players to play it on repeat. The Infinite Forest started out as a barricade to rewards and content that people actually wanted to play. Players wanted to avoid it as much as possible, or speed through it, never giving it a second thought. But Festival of the Lost sees the forest for the trees, as it were. The forest became the content. Playing through it ensures that players reap the rewards. The Haunted Forest was smartly designed for repetition, but not to feel repetitive. There’s a big distinction between the two.
And so Bungie managed to salvage one of the worst pieces of content within Destiny 2. They took something that players would actively go out of their way to avoid or speedrun through, and made it into something that people want to dive into time and time again. In fact, there are already calls on Reddit for Bungie to keep the Haunted Forest around permanently. That’s a pretty big U-turn, and it’s just the latest chapter in the continuing saga of Destiny 2. We’ve got a ton more to look forward to, from even more upcoming holiday events like The Dawning, to the first content drop for the Annual Pass—Black Armory. If the past six weeks are anything to go by, we’re in for some great things in Destiny 2’s future.