Insubstantial, limited-time content and odd design decisions collide in Season of the Worthy.
Over the years, I’ve been continuously amazed at Bungie and its handling of the Destiny franchise. There’s perhaps no other franchise from a developer that’s done so much tearing down and reworking from the ground up to the grievance of its players, just to go back to the way things worked. This isn’t to say Destiny hasn’t delivered its share of highlights. It’s just that its moments of infamy are seemingly overwhelming in comparison, regardless of the intentions.
With that, we come to the Season of the Worthy. For all the grief I’ve given Bungie over failing to deliver on its existing plot threads – which it’s still doing but bear with me – this season actually does continue from Season of Dawn. A lone Psion Flayer, incensed over the Red Legion’s failure to undo history with the Sundial, has sabotaged the Almighty to crash into The Last City. It’s a desperate rush to work with Rasputin, the AI Warmind on Mars, and arm him to combat this threat. Why Rasputin can’t just shoot something so large out of the sky is another issue. How something so large could hit the Last City when the Earth is constantly rotating is also a plot hiccup. Regardless, there’s purpose in the current set-up.
Yet the execution amounts to little more than Guardian playtime. Locate some a Seraph Tower in the European Dead Zone and play ball. No, really – you throw balls, except this time you’re throwing them at another ball while fighting off the Fallen. Why the Fallen? Why not? Then go and talk to Rasputin’s nearby bunker and buy some bounties to get some Bits to upgrade some stuff. Now it’s off to a Seraph Bunker aka Legendary Lost Sector which is way over your Power level, with Bungie once again going back to arbitrarily increasing difficulty to slow player progress, to get something. Rinse and repeat till the next Seraph Tower and Seraph Bunker some time next.
Some truly odd design decisions have been made with this new season. Numerous Exotics, both weapons and armor have been nerfed. Several Supers and abilities have been nerfed. In the wake of director Luke Smith talking about plans to sunset Legendary Weapons, capping their Power to make them useless for higher level content in the long run, we now have Legendary Weapons that roll with awful perks. Want Kill Clip or Rampage along with Outlaw on the new Seraph Service Revolver? That’s not happening and while I wouldn’t say the weapons can’t roll with some decent perks, it’s a big ask when players already have amazing loot to fall back on.
Bungie also infused the Legendary loot pool with Faction armor and weapons from previous rallies, which helps bolster the total variety of loot dropping. However, it shot itself in the foot again by not allowing seasonal mods to apply to the Faction armor, or letting the Faction armor serve as ornaments. There would have at least been some decorative purpose to having the armor but that probably would’ve taken away any incentive to buy cosmetics from Eververse. So now you have even more useless loot to dismantle. Or maybe keep it. Who knows – Bungie could change this after three months.
It’s a catch-22. Legendary Weapons and Armor will have a Power Cap and eventually be shelved down the line but it’s fine because there isn’t much that’s really worth grinding. It also doesn’t help that one of the longer-term pursuits, Ritual Weapons, have been completely gutted, leaving one Iron Banner Legendary Bow that was originally meant for Season of Dawn. Players could make the argument that Ritual Weapons were simply an afterthought, born of Bungie’s desire to get away from the crazy Pinnacle weapons of yore, but they still served as a long-term pursuit for players. Something to chase, to add to their collections, even with the news that Legendary Weapons had a shelf-life. Now those are gone as well.
But wait there’s more. Bungie has redesigned its Emblem system, resulting in all player stats and progress tracked over the past few years to be reset. If you were proud of all that Fractaline donated to the Empyrean Foundation, rejoice – now it’s like you were never there. The development team has stated that all stats are still stored on its end and will bring back a number of them while also asking players which ones they’d like restored. Which is nice and all but at the time, especially with all the talk about being there for key moments, it was a major shock.
Of course, there are other key issues – a lack of overarching narrative for Destiny 2 as a whole, the recycling of Trials of Osiris weapons and armor, the recycling of Crucible maps from Destiny 1, nerfs to Exotics and weapons, nerfs to Supers and abilities, trying to buff Fighting Lion and somehow nerfing it. But for the most part, the player base seems to be tired of playing these throwaway seasonal activities that don’t matter at all in the long run, be it in terms of loot or achievements, and engaging with the same boring gameplay loop of grinding bounties again and again. There’s that Battle Pass but the limited time gear and content is quickly becoming exposed as another catch-22.
Why design these activities to be complex, thus requiring precious resources, when they’re going to be gone anyway? Why make long-term investments for loot instead of just giving it out and ensuring players get their money’s worth before the season is over? Why make long-term investments for loot when making rewarding loot is challenging as is due to underwhelming perks? Why does this even matter at all when Legendary weapons are just going to be put out to pasture anyway? As for everything else, it’s all on Bungie’s end to address feedback, drip-feed more content and focus on bigger things.
With Destiny and Destiny 2, there’s always the sense that the current game is unsustainable. That it’s caught in a cycle of repeating the same mistakes again and again while pushing for ideas that are promising but poorly thought out for the long term. The double primary weapon system, lack of Heroic modifiers for Strikes, the Token system, Armor 2.0, Seasonal Mods, Infusion, Ornaments, Infusion Cores, Enhancement Cores, Masterworks – the list just goes on and on. There’s always that desire to reinvent the wheel, failing which several months are taken to just add back what players had to begin with.
It’s always been interesting to see which new direction Bungie takes the franchise – there are bright spots like The Dreadnaught, the Outbreak Prime puzzle, Age of Triumph, The Whisper, Forsaken, Zero Hour, the Menagerie and Pit of Heresy. This is to say nothing of incredible raids like King’s Fall, Vault of Glass, The Last Wish and so on. But the misses have far outweighed the hits at this point. How many Bungie can afford, especially at this stage as an independent studio with other projects in the works, remains to be seen.
Before Season of the Worthy released, director Luke Smith talked about moving away from limited time content during seasons and instead focusing on core aspects of the existing game like Strikes, Gambit, Raids and so on. This was planned past the current and next season because it’s tough to refurbish activities with new mechanics and rewards.
However, the problem is that players are looking at what has been attended to in terms of old content and aren’t satisfied. Legendary Lost Sectors are a fun challenge, sure, but they’re not refurbished with tons of new rewards, nor do they present interesting new circumstances like puzzles or new enemy types, nor do they feed into the overarching, non-seasonal end-game of Destiny 2. Why would you introduce new currency types in a season and then only allow players to grind two activities for hours on end to earn them? There are bounties for earning these new Bits so that’s something but that’s all it really is. Something, and not necessarily something fresh and new.
When you look at today’s action RPG looters – or live-service games in general – there’s a general sense of wanting to move forward and make things better. For all the guff that The Division 2 is getting after Warlords of New York launch to the backlash that Path of Exile and Warframe constantly receive due to balance overhauls and changes, everyone is still trying to improve the state of their games while adding new content and providing a fun new experience. It’s almost crazy when you think about how much these games have evolved since their initial iterations, even if they didn’t always get it right the first, second or fifth time around.
Game development in this space is tough since you’re constantly assessing the desires of players, looking at what’s feasible to implement within a given period of time, what resources must be allocated without taking away from other important things, Q&A testing, and so on and so forth. That’s without getting into how it’s all going to be monetized so that you can still keep the lights on.
And again, this isn’t to say Bungie isn’t doing the work needed to improve the game’s state. When Destiny 2 nose-dived in player numbers after launch, the studio outlined an almost one-year long cycle dedicated to adding back features missing from Destiny 1 while also working on new content. The return of Rumble, 6v6 Crucible, the old weapon loadout system (with improvements), Bounties and so on – you could argue they shouldn’t have been removed in the first place. But they took work to bring back and were brought back at the behest of players, like Trials of Osiris. In my opinion, these are things that actually make the game deeper, even if they didn’t individually amount to much at the time.
I’m sure Bungie is working hard while also worrying about how sustainable its current platform is but it needs to expand and refine the current game. And no, not by introducing some new-fangled systems which upend everything and force players to start from zero, again. It needs to add Strike-exclusive loot that players can chase after or at least expand on the Vanguard Strike vendor as a whole to make it a worthy activity with a unique reward pool (something along the lines of Path of Exile’s Masters system).
It needs to make Raid loot compelling while incentivizing new players to try them out, perhaps by making a section of one raid as the weekly challenge and offering Pinnacle Gear as a reward for those who can complete. Heck, make an easier version with matchmaking with the best rewards locked behind the normal difficulty.
Make a choice between Gambit and Gambit Prime and decide which should be given more attention in terms of loot, maps, etc. Balance for PvP all you’d like but it also needs new maps and loot, new challenges, interesting new modes (and no, I don’t mean bringing back Rift), and dedicated seasonal pursuits in addition to better matchmaking and more frequent patches. Most importantly, pick a period of time and focus on one of these activities to make it the very best it can be.
Keep the Season Pass with new Exotics, armor and other cosmetics for that additional revenue. Focus on making the game deeper in the long-term, perhaps evolving the story every year to 18 months with a major story expansion (perhaps even a free story mission here and there) rather than trying to reinvent the looter shooter wheel again. Introduce some new enemy types and races, weapon types, perks, passive skills and so on in small bursts.
Change is important and gets people talking but new content generates more buzz and revenue. Many players might be content to have Bungie simply improve the current game but others want new content. Perhaps something that everything can agree on is having stability – of being able to do what you want, without the fear that it will disappear, whether it’s because of limited-time content bound to Season Passes or Bungie’s desire to tear everything down and start afresh.
Once a good few months have passed, Bungie will likely reveal a new expansion for the Fall that’s filled to the brim with shiny new content. Destiny 2 will become wider. Perhaps some systems will become deeper while others are uprooted entirely. Power numbers will likely be squished a la The Taken King. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Artifact System retired as well. Everything will seem like it’s going to be okay and then the cycle will begin anew.
Or perhaps Bungie will take note of what’s been doing wrong and actually give players a reason to invest in Destiny 2, on their own terms at their own pace with real freedom and that perfect mix of difficulty, mechanics and power fantasy. And the story will be finished, perhaps with both games consolidated into a single entity as we look back on the long journey and finally rejoice at making it. There’s always hope, right?
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.