Here at Daily Reaction, we talk a lot about what the future of gaming looks like. We examine the decisions being made today that will shape how we’ll play games tomorrow. Sometimes very specific decisions speak to wider strategies and things we think will really play into gaming overall. If you’ve followed my work, you know I’m huge fan of Bungie’s action MMO series (yay, they finally called it that!) Destiny. Today was a massive day as Bungie revealed the road forward for Destiny 2 and the studio itself. Not only did we get a look at the new expansion coming in September, but we got a good look at how Destiny 2 will be evolving to meet a new vision that Bungie’s set for it. Let’s break it down piece by piece and tackle how Bungie has created a brilliant vision for the future of gaming as a whole.
Destiny 2: Shadowkeep
Gotta get this one out of the way first! Shadowkeep is the next major content expansion that will headline Destiny 2’s third year in the same way that Forsaken kicked off year two. We’re headed back to the moon. Eris Morn returns to guide that journey. And we’re going to be fighting nightmarish versions of some familiar foes. Bungie knows how to play on the nostalgia factor of longtime fans, paying off story threads and taking stunning left turns that we may not expect. Shadowkeep wasn’t on anyone’s radar as the next step in the story—at least not as a whole—but the implications seem really intriguing nonetheless.
What Forsaken did before it (and Shadowkeep will continue the trend of) is to present an ever evolving and changing world where the story is told dynamically through activities and over time. It’s a new era of immersive storytelling where we live and play in the world as the story happens. In-game, the Red War was nearly two years ago when Destiny 2 launched. Cayde-6 died almost a year ago now, and eventually the world will move forward and begin to recover from those losses. This is why Destiny 2 is so much more than just a game we play. It’s a shared experience over time.
Shadowkeep will reintroduce those villains we’ve faced down before. Something is resurrecting them deep in the moon. I remember the first time I smashed Crota’s face in with a sword back in Destiny 1. I remember taking out Ghaul. I faced Skolas when he was at his most difficult. Now these monumental monsters are coming back, and it’s a great way to reengage players, or keep them engaged, while also pushing the story and the world forward. Everything we do makes a difference. Actions and consequences. As a longtime player, I’m happy to be able to feel that effect within the world and the storytelling.
That’s all without even mentioning the renewed focus on the MMORPG aspect of the game. Bungie’s never acknowledged that genre for Destiny before today, so it’s pretty exciting to see a clear focus on leaning heavily into what the players love most about this game. There’s some really cool stuff coming, like reworked armor perks, new weapons, and a shift towards really customizing your own look and build in the game. A vidoc went into some pretty good detail (check out the video below), but there’s a lot we won’t know about until September, and I’m insanely excited to be on this journey of discovery.
It seems like there will be some kind of Year Three Annual Pass for the seasons beyond Season of the Undying (which is Shadowkeep’s three month season of content). The biggest difference this year is the ability to purchase them a la carte, so you can pick up Season Nine, skip the tenth season, and then come back for Season Eleven if you wish. I’m sure that there will be a bundle for those of us that are certain they’ll play through it all (not just guilty, but guilty and proud of it), but giving players options and breaking down barriers is a huge thing. Speaking of…
Breaking Down Barriers, Destiny 2 Goes Free to Play
One of Bungie’s major goals for the future of Destiny 2 is to break down as many barriers to play as possible. The first part of that equation is making the base game free. Rebranded as Destiny 2: New Light, this new entry point into the Destiny franchise will include all Year One content for free. That’s right. You or you, or even you will be able to go and download and play Destiny 2’s Red War campaign, Curse of Osiris, and Warmind, all for free. You’ll be able to wander around all environments in the game in free roam, including the upcoming Shadowkeep moon area, though premium content such as the Raid will be locked behind a purchase of the expansion.
The idea is to provide a free platform for players to enter and start feeling comfortable within. Once they find that they are enjoying it and making friends they want to play with, this will (or it should, anyway) entice them to buy the premium content additions and engage with the game’s latest updates in real time. It’s clear evolution of the Annual Pass model we saw this year, where efforts were made to provide a wealth of both free seasonal updates and paid new content. We’ll probably get more details in the coming months, but the announcement provided a pretty good vision of the game as a platform going forward.
The one thing I don’t much agree with is in continuing content lockouts as the game moves forward. Because Destiny 2 is a live game and the story continues to expand and evolve and move forward, it seems like there might be missed opportunities and limitations from a content creation standpoint by letting players buy Shadowkeep without needing to have Forsaken, for example. My kneejerk solution to this (without knowing the financial aspect or how this would inherently work) would be to have the purchase of each expansion just include all of the content before it. This would guarantee that, for example, any players with Shadowkeep had access to Forsaken stuff, which gives the developers a lot more freedom.
By keeping it entirely a la carte, we could see the game get a little bit unwieldy as Destiny 2 continues to grow outwards, but fails to build meaningfully on any previous content because its players don’t have to own it to move on to the next thing. The one light of hope in this darkness for me is what Bungie said about having access to things like free roams on each of the planets in the free version of the game. So Shadowkeep can still have content that goes to the Dreaming City, for example, without players absolutely needing to own Forsaken. It seems like it just might be the big premium content that’s locked behind these expansion purchases, which might mitigate the worries that I have about this. Again, this is probably something we’ll get additional details about here soon.
Cross Save Support and a Google Stadia Flagship
All right, so I admit it. As soon as Destiny 2 was announced as a Google Stadia flagship game, I was already teetering on the edge needing Google’s streaming games service. When full cross save support was announced across every platform, I immediately put in a preorder for the Founder’s Edition. This is the next piece of breaking down barriers, not just in getting people to play the game, but allowing people to play the game where, when, and with whom they want.
Cross save means that if I had an Xbox One, I could now take my Guardians over there to play with friends. If I had a good gaming PC, I could migrate over and play with friends there. There are loads of people that I want to Raid and play the game with, but having been locked into the PS4 ecosystem for so long, I wasn’t about to abandon my 2500+ hours in Destiny and Destiny 2 just to have to start over on the PC. And I certainly didn’t want to have to maintain two platform’s worth of characters. Now my friend pool is deepened with the same characters that I’ve been playing Destiny with since day one.
If I’ve got one concern here, it’s that Google Stadia seems to be its own separate platform that will not overlap with PC (outside of that cross save support). Without cross-play, which would allow players on all platforms to play with each other, my Stadia experience with Destiny 2 will be limited to those who decide to also get a Stadia. I couldn’t take my Stadia on vacation, for example, and expect to get to Raid with my friends on PS4 (unless they all had Stadias too). It will be really nice for doing things like grinding out dailies, weeklies and participating in other activities on my own or with a couple friends I know are getting it, but I worry that my circle of Destiny friends that play on PS4, Xbox One, and PC, may not overlap to Stadia to the point where this would be a viable platform to Raid on. I’d love for it to at least be bundled into the PC community, as there are tons of friends I would love to Raid with there.
I’m very curious to see if cross save is just the first step towards full blown cross play. We know it’s possible. We know that games like Modern Warfare will be launching with full cross play support, and I would love to be able to get a platform agnostic Raid team together in the Destiny franchise at some point in the future.
How is This a Vision of the Future of Gaming?
Bungie’s own mission of breaking down barriers should be the vision for the industry overall. I know that I talked before about wanting to bring my PSN with me everywhere I go. I would love for Stadia to let me game on the go, and then sit down at home and pick up right where I left off on my PS4. I would love to link my Stadia and PSN accounts to get access to games, saves, the ability to play offline or irectly off of my home console without consuming data, and then use Stadia as a cloud gaming solution in conjunction with that. I think Stadia works better to complement the home console experience than it does as a central gaming platform, largely due to the data consumption that I simply won’t want to use while I’m at home. If they can partner with the platform holders, you start to paint a pretty incredible picture of how home console boxes and streaming services can work in harmony together, not in competition.
What Bungie is doing with Destiny 2 gets tantalizingly close to that. I can toss my character save over to Stadia on the go, play some games, get some drops, work towards various goals in the game, and then take it back to my PS4 to Raid or team up with friends while I’m at home on the couch. This way I’m also not using Stadia’s very high data rate to stream games. I think we’ll start to see the idea more and more popularized, and I am happy that it’s Bungie leading the charge with my favorite game in the known universe.
Days like today are a huge part of being a Destiny fan. It’s not just about playing the game itself, but about the experience and community that surrounds it. From friends I’ve met over the years and still play with today, to the frantic messages back and forth during today’s reveal, the Destiny experience extends beyond the boundaries of any screen (and now that you will be able to play it on any screen, I mean this quite literally). Gaming is going to some pretty cool places. Destiny’s going to some pretty cool places. Even if you don’t play on PS4, hell, even if you don’t play Destiny, I’ll see you starside Guardian.
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