Destiny 2 left 2017 on quite the cliffhanger. Players were abandoning the game in droves, and those sticking around were overflowing with salt about the anaemic endgame and obnoxious use of microtransactions at the expense of actual content. Would Bungie be able to satisfactorily address the complaints and start turning things around? Or is it doomed to become one of those sequels that somehow managed to break what was good about the first game?
Today we finally got some detail regarding how the studio hopes to solve various issues, which were best summed up last year by game director Luke Smith when he admitted: “Destiny 2 is a game that doesn't have enough excuses, or reasons, to play for those hobbyist players.” The guy tasked with leading the recovery effort is Christopher Barrett, who heads the live team at Bungie. This afternoon he published a whopping Destiny 2 development update blog outlining the changes coming over the following weeks and months. There’s quite a bit to get into, but we've pulled out the most interesting stuff.
Less emphasis on microtransactions
Barrett kicked off by saying Bungie acknowledges "the scales are tipped too far towards Tess at the moment, and Eververse was never intended to be a substitute for end game content and rewards." Tess is the hated owner of the in-game MTX store, and it sounds like she’s going to be poorer soon. According to Barrett, in the future cool items like ghosts, ships and sparrows will no longer be locked behind the Bright Engram system, but will instead be added to the loot pool for completing activities. About bloody time.
For those still struggling to get the item they want, Bungie is also planning to add "more direct purchase options", so there should be less reliance on RNG when hunting for cosmetic items. It sounds like these changes will begin to be implemented with the arrival of the Crimson Days event on 13 February, with players able to earn legendary emotes, weapon skins, and an exotic sparrow for completing milestones relating to the raid, Nightfall strike and so on.
Reading between the lines, it will be with the arrival of the game’s third season that substantial changes to the way Eververse works will really kick in. This is certainly a step in the right direction, but we won’t know if it's enough to placate angry players until we see how Crimson Days pans out.
Masterworks Armor is on the way (Jan 30)
The new Masterwork tier of weapons that was introduced late last year has largely been a success, offering improved power via additional orb generation, and a small but welcome layer of extra customisation. Later this month the system will be added to armor, with the bonus effect being incoming damage reduction whilst your super ability is active. Which doesn't set my heart racing given how seldom we get to use our supers, but hey ho.
Otherwise these seem to work much the same way as weapons, so you’ll either need to get lucky and have the item drop in the wild, or spend spare Masterworks Cores and Legendary Shards to upgrade your favourite pieces. The update also mentions being able to re-roll the stat, which I assume means swapping from mobility (ugh) to recovery (yay). Nothing game changing here, but for those ‘hobbyist’ players it’s at least another reason to grind and offers greater scope for changing the way your guardian looks without gimping your stats. (And everyone knows fashion is the real endgame.)
Raid rewards are being reworked (Jan 30)
While great fun to play with a like-minded team, to say the rewards from the Leviathan raid are underwhelming is putting it politely, and reduces the incentive to keep running it. Bungie agrees, and is improving rewards "to make them more unique and interesting". In practice that means items will drop with mods that directly benefit you whilst playing the raid. There aren’t any examples given, but I imagine it’ll be stuff like "enhanced speed when carrying a Vex Cranium" for the World Eater lair.
In another bid to salve the pain of those with shocking RNG, you’ll also be able to purchase armor and weapons from the raid vendor using your tokens. Which is nice, though I would imagine that most players who've been plugging away since launch will already have all the gear. There is some new stuff on the way, though. A ghost with raid-specific perks is being added to the loot pool for both the main raid and the lair, and Bungie says it plans to create more unique rewards further down the line. Though that’s such a vague promise we can safely ignore it for now.
The Nightfall time limit will be replaced by Strike scoring (February TBC)
I don’t think the timer placed on the weekly Nightfall Strike was quite as tricky as some made out, but I'm also not sure it added much fun either. In any case it's getting nixed in favour of Strike scoring, which was a fun arcade-style addition to Destiny 1. There’s also talk of high-score tables and selectable modifiers for the Nightfall, which should spice it up slightly. Hopefully this stuff also gets added to the Heroic Strike playlist sooner rather than later.
PC finally gets Tower text chat (February TBC)
Hey, you wanted it (rightly so), and it's coming. Further on in the update we’re also promised that clan chat is due to arrive sometime in the spring, more on which further down.
Mods are being reworked (February TBC)
This is the big one for me, and it’s slightly disappointing there isn’t more substance. The update promises the rework will "focus on reducing redundant mods, more unique theming, and greatly increasing their impact on your power." Which is all good, given that mods—as we’ve seen in The Division and Warframe—have the capacity to make the loot system much more interesting. But until we see how impactful these new mods are, it’s impossible to gauge whether enough is being done here.
Personally I’d like to the ability to add potent perks such as Outlaw and Explosive Rounds to weapons, but Bungie’s sandbox team has been incredibly reluctant to do give players that kind of customisation or power in Destiny 2, so I remain sceptical. Particularly as the update also notes that the mod rework may end up slipping to spring.
Reduced duplicate exotic drops (February TBC)
No idea who still needs any of the exotics, especially given Xur's new Fated Engrams, but when new items arrive this will be welcome, though will also reduce the grind. I speak here as someone who has probably see enough Aeon Soul gauntlets to glove the entire Red Army.
Fireteam members visible on the map (February TBC)
Why this isn't already a thing is anyone’s guess (which is very much a theme of the improvements), but it should lead to fewer of those "where are you?" "I'm right here, where are you?" conversations while on patrol.
More Vault space (Spring)
It’s absurd that players with even a mild hoarding problem have struggled to store all the gear in Destiny 2, despite the fact that Bungie ditched the last-gen consoles that supposedly led to the limited vault space being an issue in Destiny 1. There are 50 more slots on the way, which is probably still nowhere near enough given the amount of crap most of us have amassed. "We don’t believe just adding more space is a complete solution," Barrett says, "and are actively working on other changes to reduce load on your vault space." One thing that will help is a new tab for the ghosts and sparrows which I’ve been reflexively dismantling.
Crucible changes (Spring)
Big changes are coming to the Crucible in the spring, beginning with the addition of Seasonal Crucible Ranks at the start of season 3. Valor will increase with matches played—wins will increase your rank faster, but losses will not incur a penalty—while Glory is performance-based, increasing when you win and decreasing when you lose. Private matches are also on the way, enabling players to select their map, mode, and of course who they want to play with.
Another feature that players have been asking for is 6v6, which was the main format in Destiny 1, and will be added to the current 4v4 matches. Mayhem will also return for a limited time in season 3 and beyond, and Bungie is making adjustments to reduce the amount of mid-match quitting (which, to be honest, I've had very few encounters with) and "improve the overall Crucible experience."
No details about how it will accomplish that were given, but the February update will include changes to Quickplay game mode rules that will "increase the pace of gameplay and power ammo acquisition," which sounds like it fits with the overall goal.
Additional updates (Spring)
Spring will also bring balance adjustments to weapons and abilities, and a "comprehensive design pass" for exotics to help ensure that they are, in fact, exotic, and not just inconvenient to wear or wield. Some vendors will begin offering special rewards to players based on a new Seasonal Reputation ranking, Iron Banner and Faction Rallies will be improved—again, no specifics, but Bungie will "continue iterating on these to make them unique, exciting experiences"—and Crucible and Strike playlists will be changed so they don't repeat nearly as much as they do now.
Clan chat, separate from the due-in-February tower chat, is also coming, and that may be the most "finally" addition of them all: I've said it before and I will no doubt say it again before the feature arrives, I cannot believe that a shooter designed specifically for online multiplayer action went out the door without it. Better late than never, I suppose.
Masterworks Exotics (Fall 2018 or sooner)
This stuck out amongst a long list of planned improvements which aren’t due to drop until the second half of the year. Hopefully it’ll amount to more than just stapling the same orb generation perk on. Exotics feel way too bland right now, so anything that can be done to juice them up will be good news. Most of the other long term goals are pretty vague—think stuff like better clan rewards and Trials improvements—which are desirable, but don’t warrant comment without any detail.
I was intrigued by one though, which is the mention of 'Weapon Slot and Archetype Improvements'. I would say the majority of players think the current weapon slot system in Destiny 2 is less interesting than the one used in Destiny 1, so if there’s any scope for moving things like sniper rifles and shotguns out of the power ammo slot, that could potentially be very interesting. All this is a long way off though, and obviously subject to significant change in the meantime.
Shader dismantling (Fall 2018 or sooner)
Perhaps the strangest item in this Hadrian’s Wall of text is the fact that being able to mass delete stacks of shaders still seems to be miles off. Bungie, plz. What am I supposed to do with 286 Avalon Teal that make my guardian look like a jaunty little boat’s sail?
Faction Rallies return (next week)
In the more immediate future—as in, this coming Tuesday—Faction Rallies are back. The three-way throwdown between Future War Cult, New Monarchy, and Dead Orbit will be open to all players of level 20 or higher who have completed the Red War campaign and have the Faction Rallies Introduction Milestone under theirs belts. As always, faction-based rewards including new armor ornaments will be up for grabs, and when the dust settles the winning team will have the opportunity to pick up a special weapon on the cheap.
The rally will begin on January 16 and run until January 23. A guide to what each of the three factions is offering is available on Reddit. A new hotfix will also be rolled out on January 16 that will remove the Curse of Osiris requirements from seasonal content.
Summing up, there’s a lot of info to digest, and not all of it as clear as might be hoped—but overall it’s a relief to at least see some forward momentum from the studio. However there’s little here that immediately jumps out as being a game-changer. Most of these improvements are basic quality of life things which should have been included in the first place, or returning features from the original game which were inexplicably cut for the sequel.
The situation with Eververse was clearly unsustainable for much longer, so it’ll be crucial that players no longer feel like they’re being mugged if the game is to return to health. As for the other improvements, what Bungie does with mods and masterworks are key to restoring both a sense of player power and giving us reasons to keep grinding. I really hope someone fires a rocket up the sandbox team and stops them from being so conservative. Spoiler: shooting aliens is supposed to be fun, please give us fun stuff to do it with. Trust me, the aliens aren’t going to write angry Reddit threads about how our guns are OP.