It's a rough time for Destiny 2's community right now. I'd argue the game itself isn't in too bad of a place, but the combined effect of Lightfall's disappointing campaign and more general burnout with the seasonal model has meant the mood around online discussion has been grim for months now. Step forward today's 'State of the Game' post from Destiny 2 game director Joe Blackburn and the wider team, which attempts to tackle some of the recurring complaints and concerns being raised.
There's a handful of scraps regarding Crucible, Vanguard and Gambit activities, but first, I want to highlight the planned quality-of-life updates coming in a few weeks with the launch of season 22 on August 22, aka, the good stuff.
- You'll finally be able to favourite shaders, ornaments and emotes.
- You'll be able to buy the Stasis subclass's Aspects and Fragments rather than slog through a lengthy unlock quest.
- Transmat effects will become unlockable effects, rather than single-use inventory items.
- A new resources tab in collections will show all the games currencies, along with information on what they do, and how to get them.
- You'll be able to earn Iron Banner reputation modifiers without having to play a specific subclass.
- The Wish-Ender quest will no longer require tracking multiple inventory items—it'll just be a quest, in your quest log.
- Reputation rank-ups will now happen at the end of the activity and not when you return to orbit.
I have listed this broadly in order from most to least exciting—sorry rank-up messages, I simply do not care where you happen. But up to 100 shaders favourited? That's the good stuff. Currently, Destiny 2's shaders are displayed in a big, multi-page grid view, roughly in chronological order. As someone who's been playing since launch, it is a nightmare to find a specific one that you like—especially if it was released early in the game's life. And while I'd prefer a more in-depth shader library, with search and sort functions, I'll happily take anything that lets me more easily slap Malibeaux Bronze onto a gun.
This will, of course, not change the thing where shaders contain hidden colours not shown on their icon. Why does Erebos Glance have orange, Bungie? Where is the orange coming from?
The change being made to Stasis's Aspects and Fragments is also good news. Previously, unlocking them required a lot of irritating, grindy quests that required applying specific Stasis conditions in, for instance, Crucible. It was a pain, to the point that I never bothered unlocking Titan's Behemoth subclass because I couldn't face doing it all for a third time. Scrapping all of that in favour of just buying them from Elsie is the right move.
Elsewhere, Bungie goes through some of the frequently asked questions they've been getting about the game—many about the state of ritual activities like Vanguard Ops, Crucible and Gambit. What's here feels unlikely to quell the negativity of the moment. In many cases, Bungie is simply explaining why the update cadence—or lack thereof—is the way that it is.
One change that Bungie does note is that, as of next season, players will be able to complete all of the weekly ritual challenges—the ones that drop Exotic engrams—in any ritual playlist they choose. That means you no longer need to play Vanguard, Crucible and Gambit to get all of their challenge drops—you can pick the mode you like and stick to it. This will become important when we talk about Gambit later on.
Bungie also provides an update on the armour sets that you earn through the ritual playlists. Post-Lightfall, I've seen a lot of grumbling about the lack of a new ritual armour set. With Beyond Light, Bungie switched to releasing a new set—with themed variants for each of the ritual activities—each year. That didn't happen for Lightfall, though. "Delivering ritual armor sets at the rates we have in the past has become increasingly challenging," writes Bungie, "especially considering these sets have historically had very low adoption by players as both base armor and cosmetic ornaments."
I don't think this explanation really holds water. While I get that these sets aren't supposed to be an aspirational loot chase, part of the reason they have such low adoption is because, a) they look very plain, and b) they drop with terrible stats. These are both things that are within Bungie's power to change. Nonetheless, we will get a new ritual set next expansion: "We are amending our delivery plans for how often we refresh these sets and will no longer be creating a new set for every expansion. However, we are prioritizing the delivery of a new ritual armor set alongside The Final Shape to infuse some new looks you’ll be able to show off from your time in the Vanguard, Crucible, and Gambit playlists."
There's not a whole lot of news for Strikes and Nightfalls—Bungie claims that the playlists are "in a solid place with a healthy population"—but the studio does note that, in season 22, Vanguard Medals are being introduced. These will work a lot like the medals used in Guardian Games, which give score bonuses for achieving certain actions, like killstreaks with specific weapon types. Medals will contribute to scoring, so should make it easier to hit the reputation bonuses that high scores provide. A nice bonus, sure, but nothing game changing here.
Bungie also notes that it's putting more team resources into seasonal activities like Battlegrounds that will eventually make their way into the Strike and Nightfall playlists. The studio explains that "this can come at the cost of an additional Strike in a given year", which may be the explanation for why Lightfall launched with just HyperNet Current. I would say the introduction of Battlegrounds into the Nightfall playlist specifically has been more controversial than Bungie admit here. Personally, I quite like them—even if they've resulted in some pretty frantic Grandmaster runs—but I've seen a lot of people question whether they're a good replacement for more traditional strikes.
Here's a statement that I expect will go down poorly with Destiny 2's beleaguered PvP community: "To set expectations, our studio structure is built to support more overarching updates to PvP … rather than focusing exclusively on maps. When we do focus our resources on building new Crucible maps, it comes with the tradeoff of multiple teams' bandwidth on work that contributes to a variety of experiences that players also hold dear, such as new story or exotic mission content, core activities that make up the foundation of each Season, or new destinations."
That said, a new map is releasing in season 22—this one set in the Vex network by way of the Infinite Forest. The studio is also introducing two new modes to the Crucible Labs playlist. Checkmate is described as a mode where "rich primary weapon fights can happen more often". Abilities recharge more slowly, secondary ammo is harder to come by, and player health has been increased. In this sense, it sounds a bit like the Destiny 2 Year 1 sandbox—controversial at the time, but maybe an interesting wrinkle in a game that now features a baseline lower time-to-kill and already includes even higher-speed variants like Momentum. Relic, meanwhile, is a "party mode" similar to Team Scorched, where players get to mess around with relics like the Aegis shield from Vault of Glass or the Scythe from Season of the Haunted.
More generally, though, it seems as if Bungie sees the key to Crucible health less in terms of new stuff and more through the lens of better matchmaking, quality-of-life updates and sandbox tuning. They could be right, but it's probably not what the PvP hardcores want to hear.
In Bungie's last state of the game update, Gambit wasn't mentioned at all. Here it does at least get some paragraphs, but the news is very much not good. Gambit will get some updates with The Final Shape, including the return of the Dreaming City map, and the addition of Shadow Legion and Lucent Hive enemies, beyond that things are looking bleak. Bungie notes that "we don't have plans to dedicate more resources to significantly transforming Gambit."
In fact, the primary message here is that: hey, you don't have to play Gambit at all. "We’re making Gambit entirely optional to maximize your rewards unless you’re looking for a piece of gear that’s specific to the mode. Gambit will continue to serve as a source of Exotic engrams via weekly challenges, though as we mentioned above, you’ll be able to complete all your weekly challenges in any ritual you’d like starting in Season 22. If you want to stick to Vanguard or Crucible challenges without touching Gambit, now you can."
Bungie is also reducing the number of Gambit-specific seasonal challenges, meaning you won't even need to play it much to get the big Bright Dust reward for completing the majority of the season's optional objectives. You will still have to play if you want to earn guns from the Gambit-specific loot pool, but, given that next season is featuring a Void machine gun in a world where Commemoration exists, I don't see it being a big draw for end-game players.
The rest of the post features teases for upcoming releases:
- New Strand aspects are coming next season—Whirling Maelstrom for Hunter, Banner of War for Titans, and Weavewalk for Warlocks
- More changes are coming to underused Exotic Armour next season, which will be revealed in a blog post next week
- Some big sandbox changes, primarily for the range and zoom stats, but also big PvE buffs to hand cannons and swords. Several perks will become "much more useful" too, including Bipod, Envious Assassin and Under-Over
- More experiments with seasonal variety, including the promise of something "very new and different" in season 23
- Confirmation that The Final Shape and its raid will provide the climax to the Light and Darkness Saga
- Confirmation that Bungie will not raise the power cap next season
- A delay to the planned wider changes to ritual playlists, which was originally planned for season 23, but is now being pushed into The Final Shape
It's not the most exciting slate of revelations, in part because a lot is being saved for August 22's Destiny 2 Showcase. The most common refrain throughout this post is that Bungie will have more to share after that date, to the point I am a little unsure why this was even released right now. Given the mood of the community, Bungie could use a slam dunk here: a clear message that they're forging ahead with Destiny 2's longterm future. And while there is good stuff here, mostly what we get is some genuinely good quality-of-life changes, a few concessions to the ageing ritual playlists, and a promise that the good stuff is just around the corner.