Bungie is making some big changes to the way it adds and sells new content with Destiny 2 Shadowkeep and its accompanying season, the Season of the Undying. As game director Luke Smith explained in a blog post today, a new progression system resembling the Battle Passes in Fortnite and Apex Legends is a big part of those changes.
Beginning with the Season of the Undying, Destiny 2 players will increase their seasonal rank as they earn experience. There are 100 ranks, each with free and premium rewards. If you purchase the pass for that season, you'll get access to the premium rewards. If you don't, you'll still get the free stuff. Each season pass will cost $10, and it will also unlock the other new content and activities included with that season. The season pass content and the seasonal rank rewards are not sold separately. Additionally, the Season of the Undying pass is included with Shadowkeep. Anyway, here's how those ranks look:
Smith acknowledged that this system will feel familiar "if you play other games," stopping just short of name-dropping Fortnite and Apex Legends and the like. However, Smith adds, "unlike those other games, you’ll make progress by earning XP doing the things you’re already doing in Destiny - defeating monsters and completing bounties and activities. This is about a new additive layer of predictable rewards for just playing the game."
In other words, you won't have to complete any weird challenges. You'll earn rewards just by playing the game and earning XP, which will also upgrade your seasonal Artifact and its Power level (more on that here). And if you purchase the season pass, you'll receive additional rewards and get some rewards sooner. For reference, here's how that will work with some of the stuff coming in the Season of the Undying:
- The Vex Offensive, a new activity with additional daily and weekly bounties and rewards. This is exclusive to the season pass.
- The quest for the new Exotic Bow Leviathan's Breath. This is also exclusive to the season pass.
- The new Exotic hand cannon Eriana's Vow. Season pass owners will receive this at rank one, but it will also be available at rank 35 for players who don't own the pass.
- Three seasonal Legendary armor sets. Season pass owners will receive all three sets at rank one, while players who don't own the pass will be able to earn one full set within the first 25 ranks. Season pass owners can also grind the Vex Offensive for better versions of this armor.
- More season pass-only rewards: three universal ornament armor sets, an Exotic ornament for Eriana's Vow, two Legendary weapon ornaments, a new Finisher move, an Exotic emote, and an Exotic ship.
"We have also added a lot of rewards on the free track that are nice quality-of-life rewards for players, like upgrade modules, which are free Infusions," Smith says. I'm assuming upgrade modules are those Lego-looking things in the image above.
Season pass ranks will be tied to XP, but Smith says players will also have the option of buying ranks at the end of a season. The pricing for this option remains to be seen.
"To solve for how our community plays Destiny, we’re planning to allow Season Ranks to be purchased as a catch-up mechanic late in the season," he says. "We’re going to wait to see how players engage with Season Ranks and make sure it’s tuned well before determining exactly when we unlock the ability. Season of the Undying runs for 10 weeks, and we’re currently thinking of enabling this somewhere in the last 2 - 4 weeks of the Season."
Smith was quick to acknowledge that the prospect of buying seasonal ranks would cause some players to worry that the normal grind would be skewed to encourage purchases. Bungie's been better about these kinds of things in the past year, but it did previously change the game's XP system after players learned it was artificially throttling XP gains, so these worries aren't unfounded.
"I see you: 'Did Bungie just raise the XP needed to get a rank to some ridiculous level so that players have to buy ranks at the end of the season?' The answer to that question is NO," he says. "For example, in our internal team tests, playing Strikes in a fairly relaxed manner (18 minutes per Strike play time) with full stacks of bounties can get a Seasonal Rank in less than one hour. Every week, Guardians also get rest XP bonuses (per account), where their first three ranks are at triple XP. Playing strikes with full stacks of bounties and rest XP should get 10 ranks in around eight hours. And knowing you, we’ll all see even better ways you’ll min-max your time to clear your ranks.
"Our goal in tuning this is for our most committed Destiny players, who start on week 1, to reach Rank 100 simply by doing the things they already love spending their time on. If that’s not happening, we have the freedom and ability to adjust."
The hypothetical Smith presents is encouraging, and Bungie has been much more generous with progression and XP in the past year. I'm willing to bet that the amount of XP necessary to earn seasonal ranks won't feel any different than the current system which awards Bright Engrams - and Bungie is clearly aware that players will notice and raise hell if it does feel skewed.
"We want to make sure that each Season has multiple, complementary reward sources, because we all play Destiny differently, and we want to be able to customize our Guardians the way we want to," Smith says. "We will continue to have RNG rewards as a part of our activities, and we also want to add a direct track of rewards each Season that you can progress every evening. The best weapons and armor will still live in the treasure chests of our toughest monsters and villains, but we hope now there will be fewer nights where players feel like they logged into Destiny and got nothing done."
How does this compare to the Annual Pass model used in Destiny 2 Year 2? Well, in theory, this season pass system should give all players more stuff to do and earn. If you want to play new seasonal content, you'll need the season pass anyway, so these ranks will just be an added bonus. Everyone will benefit from the free rewards, and season pass owners will get access to additional rewards on top of the activities and content included in that season. At $10 a season, and with each of Year 3's four seasons available on an a la carte basis, it could be a better value than the $35 three-part Year 2 Annual Pass. There are a lot of potential positives here.
That said, there are still questions to be asked. How many hours will it take to reach season rank 100? How much will it cost to buy ranks at the end of a season? Perhaps most importantly, compared to the Annual Pass, how much new content will each season pass deliver? These rank rewards are nice, but I don't think they'll sell season passes on their own. Will we get more matchmade activities like Vex Offensive? New raid lairs? Strikes? PvP maps? Smith previously said that producing content at the rate necessary to sustain the old Annual Pass was untenable and burned the dev team out, so I'm assuming the new four-season model is partly a way to spread that work out over the year. How that affects the density of each season remains to be seen.