Destiny 2’s latest season just went live earlier this week, and players are already feeling super bummed out about it. In many ways it feels like just another reskin of the same hamster wheel we’ve been running on for years, and the burnout is more real than ever. The good news is that Bungie says it hears the feedback. The bad news is that it will take close to a year for the space MMO oil tanker that is Destiny 2 to turn in a new direction.
“I just wanted to step in and say: Heard loud and clear on the feedback with our current seasonal backbones,” the game director, Joe Blackburn, tweeted yesterday. “The team is excited to put some more creative risk in seasonal progressions, but there will be some time before the feedback catches up with the dev cycle.”
He went on to preview what types of upcoming changes players can expect to help freshen up the five-year old loot shooter. Some, like Guardian Ranks and cyberpunk city Neomuna, will arrive in February’s big new expansion, Lightfall. Others, like new systems for seasonal progression and “more novel activity setup[s],” will arrive in Season 21 and beyond next June. “On the seasonal pursuit side our major focus is reducing complexity and improving the synergy between your seasonal pursuits and the rest of the game,” Blackburn wrote.
While vague and jargony, the comments are addressed to very real feelings of frustration and exhaustion in the Destiny community. Since Bungie moved away from discrete DLC updates to a constant seasonal churn funded by battle passes and microtransactions, the game has benefited from a steady stream of new content, but also struggled to break new ground.
Each new season begins with a story mission. Then players get a seasonal artifact, upgrade it by grinding the new seasonal activity, and slowly unlock new seasonal mods, power boosts, and battle pass ranks. Story content and upgrade progress is gated week-to-week. By about week eight, the narrative wraps up until the final story beat drops at some point near the end of the season. Then Groundhog Day begins all over again.
It was fine for the first couple of expansions, but as each new season has arrived with flashy new character reveals but minimal changes to the underlying structure, the whole thing’s begun to wear very thin. The story and guns are great. Everything connecting them is a drag. I hit my limit over the summer. A growing chorus of other players have started to get fed up more recently. Destiny 2 hit its lowest player counts ever last month, and despite fresh content to dive into with Season of Seraph, player morale is still very low.
Lightfall, as Blackburn alludes to, will no doubt change people’s moods. 2022’s Witch Queen was exceptional in many ways, and next year’s expansion looks very promising so far as well, complete with overhauled social features and a new magic grappling hook. But the seasonal model was aimed at making the game feel fresh all year long, not just for the few weeks after a new DLC. While the repetitive and cookie-cutter approach Bungie has taken thus far is understandable from a production standpoint, it’s clear the upcoming seasons need to take more risks if they’re going to survive.
Though it sounds like it might be a while until that happens. “There’s still novelty, thematic variety, and new ways to progress your character coming to Destiny over the next several months,” Blackburn tweeted. “But while we work to use this feedback in our future releases, I wanted to make sure everyone knows that your words are not falling on deaf ears.”