When Bungie’s Luke Smith did his epic trilogy of Director’s Cut articles looking at the past, present, and future of Destiny 2, one of the changing elements hinted at was how Seasons would work going forward, with a promise of more to come. We now have much deeper insight into the new Season Pass plan, which includes a “BattlePass”-like progression system for rewards and an ever-evolving world that will change the physical and narrative state of the game.
There are a few major ways in which Destiny 2 Seasons will be changing:
- Evolving Narrative World
- Seasonal Artifact
- Season Pass Ranks
- A la Carte Offering
Evolving Narrative World
To help stem the massive file size increase of an ever expanding game like Destiny—but perhaps more importantly to make the world feel alive—Seasons will progress in narrative and sometimes even the physical state of the game world. This means that Bungie is free of the shackles of static game design and can dynamically update the game and the world lore in real time as the game progresses. That will also mean that some characters and activities will go away, but the world will progress in a meaningful way to where players’ actions will feel like they have an impact throughout the course of the season, and the narrative will tie into the following season’s events.
The team is working hard to find a balance where gear won’t go away, at least not permanently. You’ll still be able to earn those rewards through other channels or at a later time, but the narrative structure surrounding them will be ever changing. Think of the new Seasons like extended—and perhaps more dynamic—versions of seasonal events like Solstice of Heroes or The Dawning. Now it’s possible to see game design elements like the Dreaming City curse finally end, or for Drifter to at last get whatever he’s been chasing with the game of Gambit.
As an example, next season, events from Shadowkeep will cause a Vex gate on the Moon to awaken, which seeds the Vex across the system. This kickstarts Season of the Undying. “And at the end of the Season, your collective actions will have caused the world state to change and the Seasonal Activity connected to those events will also go away,” Luke says. “Doing this allows us to evolve the world—narratively, but potentially physically as well. It is not possible to keep Destiny frozen in place to allow all activities to live forever while also changing the world in meaningful ways. This strategy lets our team be agile and innovative. We believe that Destiny will grow even better when the world state can change, and that the best Destiny stories are the ones where ‘you had to be there when….'”
The seasonal Artifact is an element that Bungie has talked about quite a bit before. It allows the studio to play around with builds, metas, mods, and progression, and then reset that all at the end of each season. Using the Artifact, players can level it up and earn special seasonal mods that Bungie might be experimenting with. You can also earn uncapped Power level progression that is distributed account-wide on top of your gear Power score.
Most importantly, the Artifact will allow Bungie to set expectations early on. Players will now know that certain gameplay styles may be changing or going away, so the expectation is that seasonally we’ll be shifting how we play. “We wanted to figure out how we could have a system that allowed players to create build-altering powers yet not need to commit indefinitely to whatever they made and have it live on forever. We want to date new builds, not get them hitched into the forever combat ecosystem.”
The Artifact will change thematically each season as well. For Season of the Undying, focusing on the Vex, it’s the Gate lord’s Eye. For Season Nine (which disappointingly is not the “Season of the Nine”), called Season of Dawn, it will be something else related narratively and thematically to that particular season, and so on.
Season Pass Ranks (or the Destiny 2 “BattlePass”)
No, Bungie isn’t calling it a BattlePass, but the format will be very, very familiar to anyone who has spent any time at all with free-to-play battle royale games in recent years. Taking after the models of games like Fortnite, Apex Legends, and many others, Destiny 2 is introducing an additional reward structure that lets players rank up just by playing the game and doing bounties, earning rewards at different tiers.
There’s both a free track and a premium track, with the premium track include within the purchase of an individual season (which we’ll talk more about in the next section). The Premium track will offer earlier access to certain rewards, such as the Eriana’s Vow Exotic Hand Cannon (another one…?), unlocked at Rank 1 of the premium track, but set at Rank 35 of the free track. This will also be a way to earn some of the game’s highly sought after cosmetics and ornaments, in addition to armor sets from that Season’s activity.
Effectively, Season Pass Ranks are a targeted grind for specific gear and items for players who may not have a lot of time to jump in and dedicate to pinnacle quests or grinding out RNG and just want to earn some of these rewards. It’s all designed to work in tandem with current and upcoming rewards systems, so don’t worry, Bungie isn’t replacing things like Raid drops or Exotic quests with this pass. Season Pass Ranks are just one more goal to chase in the game.
Bungie is also toying around with the idea of selling Season Pass “catch-ups” near the end of the Season, to give players the opportunity to close out the season and get the final few rewards if “life gets in the way” and doesn’t allow them to finish out a Season. Luke goes on to say that they aren’t artificially increasing the grind to sell Seasonal catch-ups either. Rewards will be entirely attainable through regular play, but they want to offer an option for people who might have other circumstances come up.
At the ends of the Season, ranks and rewards will reset and change for the following Season. Additionally, any Legendary or Exotic weapons that get introduced in a Season Pass (like Eriana’s Vow) will return at a later time, so players won’t be entirely locked out if they missed them the first go around.
Buy What You Want, Play What You Want
With Destiny 2: New Light being a free-to-play base game, these additional premium options give Bungie the opportunity to provide premium new content and activities to players while also keeping a vast majority of the player base together, moreso than they’ve ever been able to do in the past. You can choose to buy into additional content, but not picking up an expansion or Season Pass for a given season won’t leave you behind. Think of it like an a la carte subscription model. You can choose when and where you want to invest into Destiny 2, and still get plenty of rewards and enjoyment out of the game if you decide not to purchase the latest Season.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see a whole new cabal of players entering the fray that opt to play the game entirely on the free base, still enjoying access to new weapons like Eriana’s Vow (so long as they reach that Rank 35). Of course, purchasing expansions like Shadowkeep and individual Season Passes will grant plenty of additional rewards to earn and activities for players to participate in (you won’t be playing the new Black Garden Raid unless you own Shadowkeep), but there’s now a massive portion of Destiny 2 that can be played without ever paying a dime. Seriously, it’s staggering how much content these new players are about to get access to, and each season will feature a bunch of new free content, so that all players can stay on the same page when it comes to the narrative progression and evolution of the world.
Tying it All Together
How does this all come together? Well that’s perhaps best communicated by Luke Smith’s own look at a bizarro alternate version of Destiny 2 Year 2, if they’d been running this same concept this past year:
A week before the Season begins, all players receive a note in their mailbox. It simply reads: “I have returned from the stars. Meet me on Dec. 4 at 10:15 AM PST. —Ada” Once this note has been given out, a small countdown timer appears on the Traveler. When the timer reaches 0, players in the Tower see a ship unlike any they’ve ever seen land between Zavala and Lord Shaxx. A figure transmats out and walks through the Tower, opening a door that had long been shut. Players follow the character through the Tower and the figure lowers her hood and greets players, “I am Ada, and we have work to do.”
The Season Pass in the Director is updated, the rewards are revealed, and now Ada and players begin a Season-long experience of refining forges in the world, completing bounties, finding materials, working on Black Armory armor sets, and taking on the new raid, Scourge of the Past. In a twist, Datto and his group are the first to finish.
As players work together to forge weapons early in the track, smithing and building new ones, the room around Ada begins to change. The schematic data from players’ work is resulting in new weapons and mods for players to create. These weapons and mods don’t all require playing the Seasonal activity—some of them are found in new encounters within strikes, some of them are forged in Last Wish (like the Alchemy Lab in Blackwing Lair).
As the player community plays, meta objectives are revealed. Once a certain number of players have unlocked ranks on the Pass, cinematics unlock for everyone to watch. We see the Drifter and Ada arguing over something pitting the two against each other, the scene ends with Drifter raising an eyebrow at a set of gun schematics behind Ada.
As the Season winds to a close, the Drifter begins to summon players to him. He’s having a new space built in the Tower, and the first people he asks for help are those who’ve earned the title of Dredgen. Now players begin to gather materials and donate them to fund the Drifter’s new scam. The Drifter won’t stop talking about the gun schematics he saw behind Ada.
Very late in the Season, players notice Ada’s room looks like it’s being packed up. She’s leaving. The schematics that sat behind her are missing. Over the course of a few weeks, she packs her equipment and, in an event similar to her arrival, she vanishes. Ada, her wares, and her forges are gone.
Banshee-44 reminds players that even though Ada is gone, she left him the schematics for her weapons and armor, and he’ll be rotating them through over time.
And the Drifter asks you to visit him, saying he’s got a surprise…
Even before this deep dive into Destiny 2 Year 3’s Seasons, I was most excited for how an evolving world could breathe life into a game that’s felt sorely static except for major story beats, and these additional details only steel that resolve. Destiny 2 is the type of game that I will load up and play even when I don’t have a specific thing to chase, but Bungie just keeps giving more and more reasons to hop into the game regularly. Just reading through that hypothetical for how the past year could have gone has me absolutely thrilled for the vision of the future of Destiny and how it perfectly aligns with what I want out of the experience.
As with everything Destiny, expect this too to evolve and change as the team executes it, sees how it performs, and then learns, grows, and evolves themselves. For now, it’s looking like Bungie is setting up Destiny 2 Year 3 to be the deep and ongoing MMO experience that its players want it to be.