This past year, there seems to have been a bit of schism between players and Bungie regarding Destiny 2. Yes, even more than usual, given that this is a game where the playerbase is usually complaining about something (myself included) and Bungie always has to try to placate/react.
The disconnect appears to be in terms of seasonal quality, where various Bungie team members were hyping up the seasons this year, specifically Haunted and Plunder, as some of the best they’ve ever done. But now they’ve arrived and players would…disagree, for the most part. But why? What’s the disconnect here? Why has Bungie been thinking these seasons are going to land much better than they have been?
What I think is going on here is the difference between the physical content of the seasons, and how it feels to play them for the player.
I can absolutely understand why Bungie is proud of what was designed for seasons like Haunted and Plunder. Haunted featured an extremely cool way to bring back the Leviathan, corrupted and unsettling, and had a sick horror aesthetic and great attached dungeon. Plunder had a very fun pirate theme and a wide scope of content, soar-through-space Ketchcrashes, Expeditions and Pirate Lord hunts. Neat armor, fun weapons.
Any player has to admit that looking back, we have the most total volume of content coming out each season these days, more than really anything minus say, Menagerie, which Bungie had two support studios helping with back in the Activision days. But it’s easy to imagine in a past season like Worthy, Plunder’s Expedition may have been the only seasonal activity. Now, clearly things have great expanded.
However, the problem isn’t the content itself, necessarily, it’s how it feels to play it. It’s the investment, and the reward loop, and the overall commitment to a hyper fixed seasonal structure that is simply getting stale, even if it’s getting larger.
Weapon Farming – I would argue the current system, which involves running the seasonal activities until our eyes bleed to get red frames, has not meaningfully improved on things like Menagerie’s focusing (and bonus bugged drops) or Season of the Dawn’s multi-perk hauls. Crafting has made already lengthy grinds seem even more arduous, much of the time.
Seasonal Structure – Timegated story and activity unlocks with our little three rows of boxes. Six man matchmade activities that never feel like they have quite enough enemies to go around. Resetting artifact power level, grinding up for GMs and Trials. Every season, the same.
Dungeon Sold Separately – In a time when players are already starting to burn out, what’s been one of the best things added to the game, a new dungeon, is not included with it, and a separate purchase. Even if it’s “worth” the cost, it doesn’t feel like it helps the seasonal model itself, and is just another cost. In Duality’s case, it also didn’t help that its mechanics were bugged out for several months after launch.
Core Playlists – Have been painfully static for eons now. Next season’s ranked PvP ladder may help, but these playlists are such a staple of the game that have felt under-focused in favor of disappearing seasonal activities. We get 1-2 of those every season now, but we remain stuck at 0-1 Crucible or Gambit maps per year. And if we get new strikes through an expansion, we’re usually trading away old ones due to content vaulting.
No Secrets – This has been much discussed, but we have not had an exciting community event/secret hunt in an extremely long time, causing the community to jump at shadows (or constellations) whenever they think they might see one. Just something to mix up the monotony a bit and feel fresh and exciting. Now we’re about to start our first community event in a while but it’s….having people re-grind a whole bunch of seasonal/playlist activities even more.
I can recognize that the Haunted Leviathan is a very cool space. I can say that I love my Plunder Voltshot sidearm and neat pirate armor ornaments. In many ways, Destiny 2 is producing a lot of great stuff. But I think the biggest problems stem from rewards, structure, game economy and investment in non-seasonal things, which is where things are separating between Bungie’s perception of what they’re making and the players playing it.