Beyond Light was billed as something of a fresh start for Destiny 2—albeit not the first, and probably not the last. Entire planets were removed, campaigns and missions swept away, and even a handful of raids closed their doors. As if that wasn't change enough, Bungie also rebalanced the entire loot ecosystem through sunsetting. Gone are the days of Mountaintop dominating our loadouts, as now legendary weapons and armour can only be infused up to end-game power levels for one year after they've released.
As a result, it's fair to say that Beyond Light had something of a controversial launch. The expansion itself was a great time: a big new patrol zone, some fun new enemy types, and a brief, albeit eventful campaign that actually progressed Destiny's story in some meaningful ways. The introduction of a new element—Stasis—was a much needed shake up of the sandbox (albeit not without some missteps in PvP), and the new raid has proved popular. But ultimately there was less to do, and fewer guns worth earning while doing it.
Now, the onus is on Destiny's ongoing seasonal model to fill in the gaps left by Beyond Light's launch. This year—unlike last—all seasonal content will remain in-game up until the release of the next expansion, The Witch Queen, due late-2021. There's a long way between now and then, and plenty for the next three seasons to prove.
So, how is Destiny 2 right now?
For all of Beyond Light's successes, Season of the Hunt itself has been lacking. This is par-for-the-course for seasons that release alongside an expansion proper—last year's Season of the Undying was also pretty slim. The main activity, Wrathborn Hunt, offers little challenge and only a handful of new guns. Worse still, charging the lure used to trigger the hunts requires dipping into core playlists that are feeling stale. Sure, we got a couple of new Strikes this season (although lost a whole bunch), but it's been some time since we've touched down on a new Crucible or Gambit map.
On the subject of Gambit, the Beyond Light rework feels like Bungie throwing its hands up in defeat. The old Gambit was contentious, sure, but at its best was a thrilling back-and-forth contest between two teams of players. The best that can be said about the new version is that it's over quickly. There's little chance for heroic counterplays and turnarounds: it's a sprint to the finish, seemingly designed for the people who hate it so they don't have to play it for long.
All that said, Destiny's weapon sandbox is arguably the healthiest it's been in a while, in both PvE and PvP. Recent hand cannon tweaks have done the seemingly impossible: made a weapon archetype with a 1.0 second time-to-kill the current meta. While 120 RPM hand cannons are the current hotness, though, there's still space for alternative options.
What's been happening recently?
- Beyond Light's first season concluded with the final Wrathborn Hunt against the High Celebrant. As a mission, it wasn't anything to write home about, but still felt like a neat end to the season's main story.
- Last week, a new mission arrived letting players grind for Hawkmoon—Destiny's first exotic to feature random perk rolls. While not as over-the-top as previous exotic missions Zero Hour and The Whisper—both, sadly, now removed from the game—it's nonetheless a fun romp with pals, and downright nightmarish alone. I suspect it dropped too late into Season of the Hunt to change anyone's opinion of the season at large, but it's a fun addition nonetheless.
- A balance patch nerfed the pretty absurd Glacier Grenade/Shatterdive wombo combo that was running rampant in PvP. Hunters being nerfed in Destiny? Truly this is a new era for the game. Titans next, please.
Are the players happy?
They rarely are. The release of Beyond Light skipped over the usual honeymoon period and went straight to the backlash. And while in the months since plenty of praise has surfaced, morale remains low. Some of the complaints are pretty petty, but there are recurring gripes that Bungie would do well to address.
It's fair to say that sunsetting has not been a popular move. This is to be expected: Bungie deprecated fan-favourite guns in a shooter. This was always going to be controversial. There's nuance here: certain guns absolutely dominated the sandbox, to the detriment of new loot. Overall, something probably did need to be done.
In practice, though, the system has massive flaws. The worst part of it is that, because Forsaken and Shadowkeep are both now over a year old, any guns earned via their activities were already sunset.
Bungie has since announced that, as of next season, the Dreaming City and Moon armour, plus a handful of weapons tied to each location, will be reissued—essentially resetting the clock and guaranteeing those guns will be relevant for another year. This is, however, a bandaid at best. For one, it just delays the problem. For another, it forces players who already have good versions of those guns to re-earn them. For a third, it doesn't even cover all of the weapons released in past expansions. I fully believe the better solution is to disable sunsetting for guns tied to specific expansions, ensuring there is a small pool of weapons that will always be available to infuse. That way, seasonal guns can be sunset— giving Bungie the chance to experiment with more outlandish and potentially OP perk combos and archetypes—but will be grounded by the more permanent arsenal of guns tied directly to the game's biggest releases.
Also: you will never be able to convince me that sunsetting armour makes any sense.
A perennial Destiny problem: players always want more. This year, the longing is exacerbated by the game offering so much less overall. The core playlists, for instance, offer just one weapon unique to each mode—a weapon that drops randomly for completion, regardless of performance or achievements. It's a basic system, and one that isn't incentivising players to spend time doing the same things they've been doing for years.
Bungie addressed the call for more loot in a recent post. Next season, two more weapons will be added to each core activity, as well as three Nightfall exclusive weapons. You'll also be able to earn specific, 'Adept' versions of weapons for Grandmaster Nightfall completion—similar to the current Trials of Osiris system.
More guns sounds fine and necessary but, so far, the Adept system hasn't proved a good reward for Destiny 2's most difficult activity. The mods are underwhelming—with tiny stat buffs or even debuffs to counterbalance more notable improvements—and the grind for a good roll is demoralising. It's just not a good reason to engage with Trials, aka the worst time you can have in Destiny 2 right now.
For Beyond Light, Bungie changed how players would earn Bright Dust—the currency that lets you buy cosmetics from the Eververse store without paying real money. Now, players earn less Bright Dust from weekly bounties, but more from the season pass. This had the potential to be a positive change, because the only thing more tedious than doing weekly bounties is doing weekly bounties on three characters to maximise your Bright Dust gains.
Except, the community realised, the changes meant the maximum amount of Bright Dust that players could earn in a season was reduced thanks to the change. I'll be honest: this means little to me, because I didn't do weekly bounties in the first place. Technically I benefit from the change. And yet: I just think the Eververse store has been bad for Destiny's overall design, and that the game would be in a much better place if more cool cosmetics and ships and Sparrows were earned for achieving things within the game itself.
What does Bungie say?
The next season will launch in two weeks time, on February 9. While we don't know the title of the season just yet, or what its corresponding activity will be, Bungie does seem to realise that it needs to work to get its current systems into a better state. As well as new loot for core activities, Bungie has revealed the return of the Umbral Engram system—giving players a more targeted way to chase specific guns from the loot pool.
Beyond that, Bungie has promised a big debrief of their current goals and challenges due next season.
Last year, I said Destiny's Best Days are ahead. Seeing what's coming, I believe this more than ever. But we have work to do to get there. 2021 is going to be a little different for Destiny. Taking some time to validate our plans, but expect a state of Destiny 2021 next season.January 19, 2021
Further out, two Destiny 1 Strikes will be added to the Cosmodrome for Season 13, and, in Season 14, transmog will arrive—finally giving players more control over their look. Later still, Destiny 1's Vault of Glass raid will be added at some point before the end of the year.
What do we say?
There's a lot riding on Bungie's planned State of Destiny post because, while the bones of sunsetting make theoretical sense, the current implementation isn't working. It hasn't helped that none of this season's loot pool has been particularly inspiring. Part of the promise of sunsetting is it would let Bungie be a little looser with the legendaries—a statement which many took to mean a return of some of the most absurd weapons of the Forsaken-era. And while Beyond Light offered up some great raid guns, the arsenal from Season of the Hunt itself has been, at best, average.
As it is, each season will trigger a new wave of player resentment as yet more guns and armour is sunset.
Two weeks out from a new season, and I'm barely playing—logging in maybe once a week to run a couple of things with friends. I look back to the end of the extended Season of Arrival—the season before Beyond Light's launch—and the difference couldn't be more pronounced. Back then, I was playing regularly ahead of Beyond Light's content cull: running raids to finish armour sets, earning Seals and helping friends through The Whisper and Zero Hour. The Destiny Content Vault—the idea to remove so many planets, missions and raids—has hurt the game.
And Season of the Hunt launched alongside an expansion and new raid. The next season doesn't have the same luxury, so the pressure is on for it to deliver.