With the launch date for Shadowkeep and New Light closing in, Bungie’s been releasing a ton of new information about not only the expansion and free-to-play base game, but the changes that will shape the next year of content and activities coming to Destiny 2. Here at Daily Reaction, we’ve always been Destiny fans, going all the way back to the good old days of Dan and I covering the original Destiny alpha more than five years ago. As we reach Destiny’s fifth anniversary and start into its sixth year, there’s one element that’s got me more excited than in all the time I’ve been playing: an evolving world.
Destiny is a living game, but it’s always felt limited by the monetization model of DLC content packs. New optional expansions can’t make drastic fundamental changes to the base experiences without impacting players who don’t want to pay the premiums to move forward. Content drops have always felt like self-contained side stories with only hints at a larger changing world. Bungie did manage to make some changes with each of the yearly releases (The Taken King, Rise of Iron, Forsaken) and the launch of Destiny 2 provided the studio with a huge reset point in which they could make those kinds of big narrative movements, but the game has never quite felt as “alive” as its potential suggests.
Every time a new content release comes, I wonder how it will move the world and story of Destiny 2 forward. We’ve been reeling from the shock of the Red Legion’s attack on the old Tower for nearly two years now, our new Tower remaining basically unchanged. Bungie is fundamentally tethered to certain story beats by game design. Characters and activities don’t react to other narrative changes within the world. Everything feels disparate. But what if something like the Dreaming City Curse Cycle was on deadline? What if that element of the game wasn’t designed as a piece of forever content, but had an expiration date as we break the curse and the story moves forward?
Luke Smith revealed details about the evolving world in the third part of his Director’s Cut article. As we move forward into future Destiny Seasons, content will be designed to rotate out. Activities will be based on specific events happening at that moment within the story. Big story beats will move things forward. Those events and activities will go away, paving the way for new ones that carry the themes of the next part of the ongoing story of this world. Instead of each bit of Seasonal content feeling out of place, it fits logically as the next piece of the puzzle.
That idea seems like it capitalizes heavily on FOMO (fear of missing out), but I think it redefines what it means to truly be a living game. Look at an experience like Fortnite, which is constantly changing its map, modes, and events. The idea is that this isn’t the same game you logged into last year or even a few months ago. It will always progress and change, and that world’s story is told in real-time. I also think that there’s a great balance, and three-month long seasons provide plenty of opportunity for players to take part in each narrative beat before it moves on.
Paying for each individual Season that you play essentially makes Destiny 2 an MMO on a variant subscription model now (something I posited with this year’s Annual Pass as well), and puts it on par with a game like Final Fantasy XIV where you still have to buy the expansions in addition to subscribing to ongoing play (obviously with some key differences in how it works, but that’s the generalization).
Bungie has created some incredible spaces, so why not let them play there? By letting the narrative be the driving force of the game’s activities, we’re kept with constantly fresh things to do and see, even on locations that have started to get old and stale. We get to see the real impact of our actions, something that was toyed around with when the Dreaming City’s Curse cycle began after the world’s-first team beat the Last Wish Raid. These are the kinds of things I want to see in Destiny 2; the world living, breathing, and reacting to what we’re doing.
Does that inevitably mean that some activities will be going away? Yes, Luke said as much. But honestly, when was the last time I went back to run forges, Blind Well, or Reckoning willingly, just for fun? After a season, these activities begin to wear out their welcome. Blind Well just seems like this lengthy chore now. Reckoning is a whole mess of an endgame activity (as admitted by Luke Smith). I want to play the new content and activities—or at least have old activities be updated to be relevant with the current lore and activities in the game.
I’m not saying that the Dreaming City now becomes a dead location, or that the forges become these barren offshoots but if certain activities within them change with the ebb and flow of the narrative, it would provide a lot of opportunity to breathe life into the existing game worlds. Maybe we could see the balance of power shift in some locations. The Red War is two years removed now, maybe that can be reflected in the locations where the Red Legion is most prominent (EDZ). Maybe we could see certain enemy factions in locations we never thought we’d see them in. There are a ton of possibilities if we untether ourselves from the idea that Destiny 2 needs to remain this unchanging entity with more, more, more piled on top of it. Maybe instead of “more” we should start expecting “different.” Embrace change. Let the state of the in-game world reflect the current point in the narrative timeline.
Here’s the thing. Bungie can’t expand Destiny 2 infinitely forever. Enormous file size aside, that splitting of the playerbase would eventually mean that matchmaking is diluted across everything that Destiny has to offer, notably on legacy activities. Sure, the downside is that you do have to play these activities when they are live. New players wouldn’t be able to go back and grind out or play older activities. But look at the event-based activities like Sparrow Racing League or the different incarnations of the Infinite Forest. These are interesting microcosms that not only tell a story within the game world, but gives players their own story to tell too. Destiny 2 isn’t a packaged single-player experience. It’s an ongoing evolving game world with narrative threads reaching into the expanse. This new approach takes these micro events and expands them to a seasonal level. Instead of just a few weeks, each will last for up to three months, but they will be temporary.
I understand the trepidation behind the idea of Bungie “taking away activities,” but I think we’ll find our experience with Destiny enriched by the fact that fewer gameplay constraints are holding the developer back from engaging in the narrative evolution of the world that they really want to. It will also keep all facets of the game feeling fresh and new. Execution remains to be seen, and Bungie still needs to reveal more details about how this evolving world will work, but the idea behind it is something I’ve been clamoring for in Destiny for a long time.
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