I’ve been playing Destiny since its initial release in 2014, and aside from the annual Destiny break I take for around 3-4 months a year, I have played it continuously for the last 8 or so years.
Destiny was never a game I intended to devote such a large portion of my life to, but like most fans of Bungie’s grand space opera, something about the sparkly world and airtight gunplay kept me coming back for more – even if it was just to experience that ‘pop’ you get when landing a headshot on a Cabal or Fallen enemy.
Of course, this was always the intention of Bungie since before the first games release – to create an MMO that players would come back to play on a daily-basis. But honestly, after almost completely fumbling the initial Destiny 1 experience by way of huge late-development gameplay overhauls and rewrites that led to a final product that was far below expectations, it didn’t feel like Destiny would be the kind of game players would still be grinding out almost a decade later.
The Destiny Roller Coaster
Bungie managed to claw back a lot of good will in the form of excellent DLC content such as the Taken King and Rise of Iron expansions, which provided new play spaces, raids, and campaign missions that were highly rated by old and new players alike, but what followed was a rollercoaster-like series of releases that varied from breathtaking to severely underwhelming, one after the other.
Destiny 2 was unanimously hailed as a huge disappointment among the community upon release. A relatively stripped back release that saw players repeating most of what they did in Destiny 1, including having to play the entire game without the use of essential items such as the Sparrow – a summonable vehicle that is the players only mode of fast transportation around the open maps of Destiny, which was an item available to Destiny 1 players from the get-go, but for some reason required completion of the full Destiny 2 campaign before the item could be earned again.
Destiny 2 also essentially put your character back to zero; forcing you to start again with the same armour and weapons as every other player, despite if you had played Destiny 1, with the exception of Exotic items which carried over from the first game.
The following 2 DLCs featured on the original season pass, Curse of Osiris and Warmind, did little to assure players that the Destiny 2 experience would be the leap in quality they were expecting from Destiny 1, but yet again, Bungie were able to bring players back into the fold with the release of Forsaken; a huge expansion that brought with it a satisfying campaign, 2 new campaign maps, exotic weapons, PVP maps, and a new raid in the form of The Last Wish.
The Forsaken DLC set the standard for Destiny’s yearly expansions, a standard which has generally been met for every main release since, but it also paved the way for the new seasonal model that Bungie would adopt for their magnum opus, one which was fully realised during Shadowkeep’s Season of the Undying, and the introduction of the 100 level battle pass.
The Burnout Issue
The battle pass model isn’t unique to Destiny by any stretch, but Bungie’s iteration of the ‘100 level pass’ offers something unique in the form of developing the overall story of Destiny with each season. This is less of a feature with competitor battle passes such as Apex Legends, Fortnite, or Overwatch, and in the beginning the idea worked great.
With any battle pass, you are expected to play the same content over and over again for the right to level up your pass and earn the content you’ve already paid for – that’s a given. The problem is that Destiny’s battle pass promises so much more with each season. It promises to advance the overall story of a grand space opera with the introduction of new characters, or the return of older ones. It promises to keep you involved in an ever changing story with far-reaching consequences, but it demands that you play the same content over and over again before you can enjoy any of this.
The problem with the Destiny battle pass is the ‘burnout’ experienced by pretty much all Destiny players every few seasons. It’s a problem that is well documented on the Destiny Reddit, and many players will miss entire seasons because of this problem,which is an especially bad problem if you are playing Destiny to experience the story.
The average Destiny 2 season will work like this:
- Player is taken to an introductory mission to set up the seasonal story.
- Player completes the intro mission and is sent to the new ritual activity in order to gather a specific item.
- Player is asked to visit whichever NPC is acting as the main NPC for this season.
- Players are told they need to gather enough of a certain material before playing the ritual activity again so they can unlock a chest, or something similar, at the end of the ritual activity.
- Players complete the ritual activity again.
- Players are then asked to visit an NPC again to receive around 30 seconds to a minutes worth of new dialogue, which advances the story in a very minor way.
- Players are told they need to wait until next week to advance the story again.
- Repeat steps 4-7.
This system has been the main way people have played Destiny 2 since 2019, and for story players especially, this model has become extremely tiresome. For a game that is supposed to be centred around a developing story, it is becoming increasingly easier for players to simply watch a 10 minute roundup video at the end of each season than actually grind through 6 weeks of repeated content to experience any advancement in the story (most seasons last around 3 months, however the story of each season is usually finished after week 6).
It’s no wonder that players are experiencing burnouts lasting anywhere between 3 months and an entire year which, for a game that needs players to be actively spending money on the service every season, is not ideal.
The Original Expansion Pass Could Work Well
The Destiny 1 seasonal model followed the same route as most expansion passes of the time. For around $20-30, players would be given access to 2 small DLCs in the form of The Dark Below and House of Wolves for Destiny 1, and Curse of Osiris and Warmind for Destiny 2 prior to the introduction of the battle pass model.
Each of these DLCs would provide players with around 5 hours of story content each, and generally included either a new destination, hub world, ritual activity, or raid, to help tide people over until the next release. Sure, the season pass DLCs were pretty hit and miss, and at the time weren’t subject to much praise, but in hindsight, it might be worth Bungie revisiting these ideas for their future season passes.
The solution could be a revised season pass that combines the best ideas of both seasonal models, including new campaign difficulty options introduced in The Witch Queen, to create a new type of season that can help alleviate the current burnout by demanding less from the players on a weekly basis.
Imagine a seasonal model that gave players a new 4-6 hour campaign to complete each season, one that could be accessed and completed from the very first day of the season.
Completion of said campaign would then unlock the new seasonal ritual activity, which would in turn provide players with season specific bounties to complete, whilst also allowing them to complete their season pass in whichever way they want, without a new demand to complete the same tired activity being made of them each week.
In the following weeks, a new legendary difficulty variant of the seasonal campaign would unlock, perhaps with a new exotic as a reward.
The seasonal model could then, realistically, continue as usual. There would be a mid-season story reveal, followed by weekly challenges introduced in PVP modes, dungeons, and raids, and concluding with a final story reveal at the end of the season.
There is no doubt that Destiny players are tired at the moment. Luckily, with Lightfall just around the corner, we know that there will be a few months of excitement pumped back into our favourite space shooter. But inevitably the allure of the DLC content will fade away, and it won’t be long until the Destiny burnout starts to creep back in mid-way through 2023.
We’re now reaching the end of the ‘Light and Dark Saga’, with The Final Shape presumably arriving around February 2024, but with only a year left until the conclusion of the current saga, will Bungie bother to revise the seasonal model before the potential switch to Destiny 3?
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