Ahead of the Destiny 2: Lightfall DLC launch later this month, Bungie is laying out the company’s plans for Destiny 2 for the year ahead and beyond. There are some big changes on the way for players. Chief among them is making Destiny 2 more challenging to play and some hints at a big overhaul for the Power leveling system that Bungie has used for years.
While Bungie keeps adding new content to Destiny 2, it has become increasingly easy to conquer bosses and challenges in the game, even at the so-called Grand Master level that’s supposed to challenge players the most. It’s also super difficult for new and returning players to play alongside friends without investing hours into leveling up.
“While we are still committed to offering multiple difficulty levels in content such as our campaigns, Nightfalls, secret missions, dungeons, and raids, we feel like the baseline challenge in most of our content is just too low,” admits Destiny 2 game director Joe Blackburn in a more than 5,000-word blog post today.
Bungie is tackling the challenge of Destiny 2 and its ongoing Power creep issues with buildcrafting updates, mod changes, and some nerfs to the damage and survivability of players. But there’s also a “difficulty knob,” as Blackburn describes it, that Bungie uses to adjust how enemies fight back across activities, and it’s going to get dialed up slightly for Lightfall.
Bungie has been experimenting with its Power system since The Witch Queen expansion last year. The Power light level is a system that players need to reach through experience points and activities to be able to access endgame content with the best rewards. It’s a grindy system that often means if you’re new to the game or simply returning after a few months out, you’ll need to grind hours of content to catch up to friends and be able to play at the highest levels.
That might sound reasonable for a looter shooter, but it’s not an engaging or rewarding system, and it often leaves players feeling like Destiny 2 is a second job.
“We think that there are some major issues with Power in Destiny 2 and how it prevents players from seeing some of our best content, so we’d like to make a big change to the system in The Final Shape,” says Blackburn. The Final Shape will likely be Destiny 2’s biggest DLC, expected in around a year’s time, as it will signal the end of the light and darkness saga that the entire franchise is built on.
Bungie is now planning to tweak its Power settings over the year ahead before it tackles the challenge of ending one storyline and figuring out where Destiny 2 heads next. While Lightfall will launch with the usual Power grind, the next season — Season of the Deep — won’t have one at all, as the Power and pinnacle cap will remain the same. It’s clear that Bungie is ready to drop the Power level grind, and hopefully, we’ll get different levels of difficulty across all content as a replacement, much like the campaign for The Witch Queen.
For Lightfall, Bungie is also tackling issues around players getting bored of Destiny 2 toward the end of seasons. Toward the end of Season of Plunder, the average number of Destiny 2 players on Steam plummeted to the lowest we’ve ever seen since Bungie launched Destiny 2 on the platform.
That’s clearly been a wake-up call to Bungie that its repetitive content loop for seasons isn’t working. “Destiny 2 can sometimes feel too predictable,” admits Blackburn. “While there is plenty happening at the start of an expansion or seasonal drop, by the end of a season we often see our most engaged players lamenting that they have run out of things to sink their teeth into.”
Bungie is removing the Umbral Engrams that it has relied on for many seasons, and you won’t have to stack a seasonal currency to unlock a chest at the end of a seasonal activity. These are being replaced with keys that let you get bonus rewards and a simplification of the vendor upgrade system.
Blackburn also admits that this rigid predictability in Destiny 2 has created a “lack of surprise and delight” in the game. One of the big reasons I’ve sunk more than 5,000 hours into Destiny 2 is the element of surprise. Bungie used to be the master of surprise and delight, with secret missions and challenges that would take the community days to solve. It feels like it’s been a long time since Destiny has had that element of magic. Blackburn doesn’t spell out exactly how Bungie will address this, but it’s encouraging to see the studio is aware that more surprise is a good thing for players.
Making Destiny 2 more challenging and less reliant on a Power system are the main overhauls on the way in the future, but Bungie is also listening to player feedback and implementing some great quality-of-life changes, too. Weapon crafting has been a favorite for fans, but crafting isn’t always the best way to get a weapon. Adept raid weapons are supposed to be the best of the best, but often, the enhanced craftable version is actually better.
Bungie has recognized the disconnect here, and there are some good and bad changes on the way. Let’s get the bad news out of the way: fewer of the total weapons in Destiny 2 will be craftable starting with Lightfall. Bungie thinks this will encourage more value from randomly rolled weapons, but there is some good news here. More non-crafted weapons will now have the ability to be enhanced with more powerful versions of the perks that have rolled on the random drop. It’s not clear how many guns will be capable of this, but Adept raid weapons will include the enhanced ability upgrade.
That means you can level these weapons up, enhance them, add mementos, and not have to worry about crafting an alternative if you got a great Adept drop. Lightfall raid Adept weapons will get these changes first, with “most” new non-crafted weapon drops over the longer term.
If you’re a player-vs-player (PvP) fan, then there are some changes on the way in Destiny 2 as well. The Countdown PvP mode is returning with the launch of Lightfall, alongside a new Countdown Rush variant where players have to detonate or defuse both bombs on a map before a round ends. Bungie is also experimenting with a new Checkmate Control mode that will see weapon damage, ability uptime, and ammo all adjusted. Hopefully this puts a greater focus on weapon skill in PvP instead of players simply spamming abilities like they have been for several seasons now.
There is still a lack of new PvP maps in Destiny 2, but a new Vex Network map will arrive in season 22. Meltdown is also returning in Season of the Deep, and Citadel will reappear in the last season before The Final Shape launches. “We will also be looking at our existing maps and doing a spawn retuning pass on many of them this year to improve how our various modes flow,” says Blackburn.
Trials of Osiris, the pinnacle endgame mode of PvP in Destiny 2, is also getting some changes this year. Blackburn says the team wants to change up “the rewards and matchmaking structures” of Trials of Osiris to keep the player population more healthy. Hopefully that means making it easier for players to get Adept weapons to encourage more people to play this mode.
Bungie is also planning to add an exotic mission rotator in season 22 so that classic missions are rotated on a weekly basis, similar to how raids are today. The vanguard strikes playlist is also being overhauled, including tweaks to the Lake of Shadows and Arms Dealer strikes to match the combat levels found in more recent strikes. That probably means players won’t be able to zoom through Lake of Shadows in record time anymore.
Similarly, Bungie is moving exotic armor away from being locked to Lost Sectors and into the core ritual activities. That might make it harder to focus your efforts on getting the perfect roll of a specific exotic, but it will make it easier to obtain new exotic armor.
While Lightfall will include a new commendations system and a loadout manager that’s similar to the Destiny Item Manager, the promised LFG system is coming a little later. As Bungie takes more time to perfect its LFG system, Fireteam Finder won’t arrive until the final season of the year.
All that’s left is for Bungie to fully reveal Lightfall and launch this new DLC on February 28th alongside Season of Defiance. We know about the major buildcrafting updates, some big ability changes, and how the Strand system will influence gameplay, but I’m hoping there are a lot more secrets on Neomuna to uncover.