Destiny 2 Lightfall is now just two weeks away, so to set expectations ahead of the big Year 6 expansion kickoff, Bungie's dropped an irresponsibly large blog post (opens in new tab) penned by game director Joe Blackburn. It delves into Bungie's big goals for the year ahead, from Power level changes and weapon crafting updates to ways to "bring challenge back to Destiny" through ability and enemy tweaks, so grab a drink and get comfy because it's time for a hefty read.
Bungie outlines four relatively abstract points for Year 6 of Destiny 2: "expand players' imaginations, bring challenge back to Destiny, enrich our content, and connect our Guardians." How's Bungie gonna expand your imagination? Well, it starts with making seasonal content less predictable.
As Blackburn casually revealed today, Lightfall will kick off the Season of Defiance, and it will be followed by the Season of the Deep (a title sure to put Destiny lore enthusiasts on high alert). Bungie apparently wants to preview seasons like the Season of the Deep more thoroughly ahead of time to keep players apprised of where the game is headed, though Blackburn says the team will still keep some surprises in reserve.
Season of Defiance will streamline the well-worn process of upgrading a vendor skill tree every week and cashing in Umbral Engrams. Expect fewer vendor upgrades with more individual impact, Seasonal Engrams replacing Umbral Engrams (and freeing up a lot of inventory space, as they're now stored with vendors), and standard Legendary Shards and Glimmer standing in for now-retired Umbral Energies, all with the goal of making seasonal loot simpler to earn. Likewise, Blackburn mentioned better base loot from seasonal activities so that cashing in seasonal currencies to open extra chests feels like more of a bonus and less of a requirement.
Because Season of Defiance was finalized a while back, Blackburn warns that it won't have all the changes Bungie's pushing for. More of those will come in the future, though even the Season of the Deep won't deliver the "vendor upgrade paradigm" Bungie wants. However, "In both Season of the Deep and Season 22, the team is pushing the envelope to create more fresh activity experiences," Blackburn adds, "like when we first unveiled the Shattered Realm in Season of the Lost or debuted Battlegrounds in Season of the Chosen."
"Stories, progressions, and themes aren’t the only way we think we can stretch the player imagination space," Blackburn says. "Some of this is going to come from putting new systems into Destiny 2 or revisiting systems that aren’t quite hitting the mark."
One of the systems on that list is weapon crafting. Bungie's already announced some big changes for crafting – like the total removal of the Resonant Element currency – and Blackburn's added more to the pile. Firstly, we'll be able to enhance "more and more" non-crafted weapons "in the year of Lightfall," essentially unlocking enhanced perks on randomly rolled guns. This is good news because Bungie says fewer weapons, proportionally, will be craftable in the year ahead. But Bungie is "adding a mechanism to activate Deepsight on any craftable weapon [players] do not have the pattern for" to make obtaining the few craftable weapons less time-consuming.
As our weapons get better, Bungie's looking to highlight Destiny 2's gunplay by shifting some of the spotlight away from abilities in a push to make the game more difficult and, hopefully, engaging. "Across both PvE and PvP, we believe that abilities dominate too many engagements due to potency (which we don’t want to nerf) and uptime, which we do want to tackle," Blackburn says. To that end, ability recharge time will get a blank update (read: nerf), and with the big mod changes coming in Lightfall, Bungie's also adjusting several builds to "rein in some unintentional power creep that we saw over the last year."
Bungie's also adjusting enemies to make them more of a threat, "especially against max Resilience Guardians." Making Resistance mods more expensive is part of this, but it sounds like the Power-capped difficulty of the latest seasonal activity will become the norm for more activities going forward, including the Season of Defiance Battlegrounds playlist and, to a lesser extent, the updated Vanguard Ops playlist.
These difficulty updates also tie into Power level changes, including some of the Power "experiments" Bungie's been running and similar trial runs to come. Lightfall will see a Witch Queen-sized leap in Power cap, for example, but the Season of the Deep won't raise the Power cap at all, so you'll be good for at least half a year once you grind out the expansion.
"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," Blackburn says, echoing what he told me about Power when I spoke to him about Lightfall a few months ago. "However, to understand more about how our changes could be improved, we want to keep tweaking our Power settings over the year of Lightfall."
The second half of Blackburn's big blog post – yes, we're only halfway done – focuses on new and updated activities. PvP is getting three more modes, at least three (new or reprised) maps, and updates to spawn placement on existing maps. PvE fans are getting an Exotic mission rotator to revisit Presage, Vox Obscura, and Operation: Seraph's Shield, with more of "Destiny 2's most classic missions" hopefully coming in the future. My kingdom for the return of the Whisper mission. Here's another standout quote for the PvE crowd: "moving the initial source of obtaining Exotic armor away from Lost Sectors and back into the core rituals."
Strikes are getting some changes too, with Lake of Shadows and Arms Dealer getting substantial overhauls to modernize their objectives and difficulty curves. Oppositely, Exodus Crash and The Inverted Spire are being all but removed from the Strike playlist while Bungie works to update them. However, the Season 16 and 19 Battlegrounds experiences will be filling the gap, and some Battlegrounds activities will even be playable as Nightfalls.
Rounding things out, Bungie wants to make Destiny 2 more sociable, especially as it pushes Guardians to rate each other using Commendations under the upcoming Guardian Ranks system. It's still working on a fireteam finder, but the studio's in-game LFG plans have been pushed back from Season 22 – which will see the next reprised raid – to the final season of Year 6. Somewhat strangely, Bungie's also setting in-game text to chat opt-out rather than opt-in. "This does not mean that text chat is going to become required for Destiny 2," Blackburn is quick to clarify, but it could promote "more frequent opportunities to reach out to a fellow Guardian." I, for one, can't wait to see how that pans out.
Check out our full Destiny 2 Strand preview for a deep-dive on what its latest subclass can really do.