“But Chandler, you just did one of these analysis posts, do we really have to read about Destiny again?” You’re going to have to bear with me here. I’m a Destiny fan. I have more hours into this game than most people do with any one thing in their lives. And I’m highly invested in what’s coming next. As Bungie gears up to launch Shadowkeep and New Light on October 1, I’m going to be doing a lot of talking about Destiny 2. (I’m also slightly confused why you’re reading this if you saw in the headline that it was about Destiny 2 and you don’t care about the game, but hey, while you’re here, maybe I can interest you in rolling a brand new Guardian with the upcoming free-to-play release.)
Part two of Luke Smith’s massive Destiny 2 “Director’s Cut ” article is now out, and instead of looking back, it’s looking at what’s coming. Specifically this part talks about the move to embrace the RPG side of Destiny, some of which we got a quick look at in yesterday’s Armor 2.0 reveal stream. While it was great to get a raw and honest look back at the last six months of Destiny 2 from the Director’s perspective, it’s time to take those lessons and look forward. For those of us who love Destiny, there is some really exciting stuff here.
I noticed that Luke (can I call him that? We’re on a first name basis, right?) uses the term “first steps” a number of times throughout this piece. (Okay, so it’s only used twice, but it jumped out at me both times he used it.) What’s coming in October isn’t the end of Destiny 2. It’s not even the beginning of the end of Destiny 2. At this time in Destiny 1, we were headed into Rise of Iron, which would be the end of the first game. Less than a year later, the Cabal attacked the Tower and gave us Destiny 2. Rise of Iron was simply a holdover, and while it was plenty enjoyable, it wasn’t really the kind of thing that was designed to lead the game into the future (at the time… but we’ll get to that).
To hear Luke communicate the dedication of the team to the future of Destiny 2 is reassuring. It means that what we’re headed into now isn’t going to be the end of things. We aren’t going to get another Destiny 2 launch, where the focus shifts completely from the advancements the expansions to Destiny 1 gave us. In fact…
“We’re taking the initial steps toward building Destiny as a single, evolving world.” I’ve previously talked about how Destiny 3 needs to happen now that Bungie is independent. It seems like a necessary step to evolve the game properly, especially with next-gen coming up. But… maybe, just maybe they can make it all work out in Destiny 2? For the first time, I’m beginning to wonder if Destiny 3 is really necessary at all? I’m fascinated to see how Bungie is managing to change up Destiny 2. If anything, maybe next-gen needs a “Destiny” release, that’s effectively everything they are doing with Destiny 2, built for the PS5? I’m not sure how this would work exactly, but I’m really excited to see Bungie’s long term plan for the franchise play out now that there is a dedication for continuity.
Enough of the long term. Let’s get to what’s coming in Shadowkeep this fall.
Embrace the RPG
Destiny has always been on action MMO, leaning heavily on the action, and only really teasing those MMORPG elements. Bungie’s finally embraced that people want and love that nitty-gritty numbers side of the game. They want the grind. They want the custom builds. They want to feel rewarded for continuing to play. And that’s what Bungie is taking the first steps towards.
Yesterday we got a good look at some of that through the Armor 2.0 live stream, showing at least some of the customization that will be possible. The new armor system separates the look from the special perks. Armor still has random rolls, but that will be for stats that decrease cooldown times or increase recovery or mobility. So there’s still plenty of reason to grind to get the stats that you want.
If you missed that live stream, you can catch all of the details on Bungie’s Twitch. Honestly, I think it’s a great system that will increase the diversity of builds and give plenty of reasons to play the game repeatedly, grinding out stats, while freely being able to apply perks and having really cool paths to earning the more powerful enhanced ones. It’s going to be interesting to see what players do with it once they get their hands on the new system, not to mention how Bungie adapts it in the future based on lessons learned. Remember, this is just the first step. More to come.
Fight Monsters and Look Good Doing it
With all the talk of aesthetics being separated from stats, it felt to a lot of people like Eververse would be the prime location for getting stuff that looks good. That’s microtransactions, for those of you who haven’t been to the Tower recently to hear Tess invite you into her storefront. For the most part, Destiny 2’s microtransactions have been fairly low key, and Luke wants to make sure players understand the game’s new free-to-play base won’t be paving the way for microtransactions being the only destination for looking cool (or pretty, or weird, or however you want to look. That’s up to each Guardian).
Luke reassures players that there will still be paths to earning great looking armor, ghosts, ships, sparrows, and weapons through normal gameplay activities. The Eververse store is moving to more of a direct purchase path, with the ability to either pay Silver (real-world money) or Bright Dust (in-game currency), and there will be more paths to earning Bright Dust in the game.
Personally, there’s part of me that loved opening up a Bright Engram and getting a random new cosmetic item. Although I completely understand this shift towards direct purchases. Loot boxes aren’t exactly in gamers’ good graces right now, so the more Bungie can move its microtransactions away from randomization, the less scrutiny the developer comes under. I’m willing to see how this next season goes, and I have to say, I’m happy the loot pool isn’t diluted with a bunch of useless legendary ghosts, sparrows, and ships that most players will never choose to use.
That Good Old Stat Game
Do you like numbers? Good. Bungie is giving you numbers. The developer looked to The Taken King/Rise of Iron era for a starting point, which is great because most players consider that to be a golden age of Destiny (no, not literally the Golden Age). Combined with how Destiny 2 progressed in Forsaken, and the lessons learned from the Annual Pass? Well, Bungie’s just getting started and that’s really exciting.
While right now a lot of these detailed numbers and stats are focused on armor, I hope that weapons get the treatment next. Help me understand exactly what that reload stat means, or how stability or range really affect my gun. Knowing specifically how my armor is helping things like my shield or super cooldown is going to be a really effective tool in crafting the perfect builds. With armor on the right track, let’s see weapons get to that place too, where players don’t need to turn to external sources to understand a generic stat bar.
Choose the When, Why, and How
Bungie’s goals for the migration to the new Armor 2.0 system are to never force anyone into making choices they don’t want to. No armor is being deprecated, so you can continue to use older build armor if you want to. There are no limits to mixing and matching new armor with old. In addition, all items will be brought up to a base level of 750, so all items will be relevant from the get go. All your old weapons, armor, everything. New players and old alike will start on an even playing field, but existing players will still have the benefit of everything they’ve been grinding being useful.
This is a problem that Bungie has been trying to perfect for a long time. How do you mitigate the Power creep, keep players together, make the grind feel worth it, and also having that level of prestige and accomplishment that comes from gaining Power? I don’t think this is the last iteration of how Bungie will handle this changeover and the forthcoming grind, but it’s definitely one of the most drastic changes they’ve made going into a new yearly expansion.
Pursuit of Power
So here’s the part I’m super excited for. The pursuit has always been one of the most fun parts of Destiny to me. The thrill of getting the next item you need to level up. That feeling of getting just one step further, being just a little more powerful. And there are a lot of ways that’s all changing in Shadowkeep.
Powerful sources are being culled down from the broad range that we have now, but are being better balanced overall to feel more rewarding when they happen. Instead of jack of all trades, you can feel really good getting a really powerful drop from a pinnacle source. Sources in the world will also drop items at Power, which means that if you happen to get a piece of gear that’s lower than your current average, it actually incrementally improves your stats. Prime Engrams will also not start dropping until players hit 900, so the grind from 750 to 900 needs to come from Powerful sources and activities in the world, not randomized drops. It creates a much more focused and predictable grind.
Finally, there will be Seasonal Power bonuses, tied to the artifacts and earning XP in the game. Play more, and you can earn more Power bonus levels for the seasonal artifact, which will impact all of your characters, adding onto the top of whatever Power level they are with gear. Each Season this gets wiped, which gives a great incentive for regular seasonal play, and makes XP worth a lot more than just earning Bright Engrams for cosmetics (which might not even be a thing in Shadowkeep). I really like this mid-level grind for Power, leading into the pinnacle pursuits of high-level activities, and I think the changes being made here are definitely for the better. We’ll see how it plays out in practice, but the theory sounds great.
Admitting Destiny 2 was too Easy
As much as Part Two is about looking forward to how things are changes, there are some glances back at what they’ve done before. It’s inevitable in explaining how things are going to be changing. One thing that Luke admits was that the base Destiny 2 experience was originally built to attract new players. The whole experience catered to the more casual fans, the ones who had fallen off of the original Destiny, or never really latched on in the first place. “[We] hoped that players would pursue looks alone as their endgame,” Luke said, calling back memories to his infamous words about people playing pinnacle activities for shaders alone. Though he humbly admits that they were wrong.
In doing so, they alienated Destiny’s core fanbase, and it’s taken a lot of work to bring those players back to being excited for the game. Hearing this admission directly reassures me that the team understands and is learning from the past. They aren’t content or defensive. They want to make Destiny better for the people who love Destiny.
As mentioned before, players can gain bonus Power levels seasonally using the artifact, but this will also be a way for Bungie to toy around with experimental mods and other changes without upsetting the entire balance of the game. By applying them to the artifacts that will be deprecated and reset seasonally, it provides an interesting opportunity to really modify each season in a creative new way, but not have that become part of the Power creep that’s presented so many issues in the past.
Along with this, Luke talks about still rewarding the prestige of Power through Pinnacle activities. There will be certain activities that will allow players to earn Power up to 960, so you know if you see any players over 950 running around, they’ve done some pretty impressive things in the game.
Finally, he quickly refers back to the Armor 2.0 system, which will see players leveling up items and using materials. That’s part of the new gameplay economy and grind. It’s always interesting when a new economy like this gets added to the game. What’s the balance? What’s too easy to obtain, versus a barren time sink? I love the idea of leveling items (do weapons next please!!), but hopefully the grind doesn’t put people off from engaging with the system entirely. I have’t touched masterworking my armor in Forsaken because cores had previously been too difficult to come by. Even after the changes that made them easier to get, I was so used to not engaging with that system that I still never have.
Part Three is going to change things up, switching from talking about stats and customization to talking about the action. Destiny is an action MMO after all, so we still need to talk about that action part. “Think: combat and PvP, with a bonus section on the evolving world,” Luke says. I’m eager to know how this all concludes. How do the history and the numbers all relate to the gameplay? I’m sure Luke’s got plenty more to talk about in this final part, an Bungie’s got even more to show us before we get our hands on Shadowkeep. Expect another Daily Reaction talking about Part Three after it goes live.
Daily Reaction reacts daily to the video game industry. Have suggestions for the column or subjects you’d like us to react to? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to check out previous Daily Reactions for more dives beyond the headlines.