Destiny has always been defined by its growing pains as much as its successes, and that hasn't changed since the launch of Destiny 2: Beyond Light. The latest expansion introduced a whole bunch of great stuff that really shook things up, but many players are still justifiably shaky on some of those changes. The most controversial change in Beyond Light was Bungie's decision to sunset, or Power cap, a huge chunk of older gear, pushing it out of the current sandbox in order to make room for new content.
Sunsetting started off pretty messy with a sudden loot vacuum that even Bungie called a "clear-cut miss", and it's only going to get messier in the next season as more gear is sunset and some previously sunset gear is re-issued. But even through all of this, I do see a healthy path forward for loot in Destiny 2, and I think the game could be better off sunsetting gear in the long run if Bungie handles it appropriately.
I love mess
Season 13 is going to kick another 20-or-so guns to the curb in just a few weeks. While we will get new guns next season – including two weapons for each core playlist – we won't get 20-or-so new weapons to replace them. To compensate for this and avoid another loot vacuum, Bungie is re-issuing some weapons and armor from the Forsaken and Shadowkeep expansions via their respective dungeons. The good news is that the re-issued versions will drop with new perks if you obtain them from these dungeons, but the bad news is that players will still effectively need to grind for new god rolls of old guns that they've likely obtained before (and may have even deleted before).
This has gone down about as well as you'd expect with the Destiny community, but there are fair points on both sides of the discussion. Bungie previously said that it would update the perk pools of future re-issued weapons after the blowback over repeat guns in Season 11, and it's doing that with these returning Forsaken and Shadowkeep weapons (armor is another story, but more on that later). Many players also felt that the Shadowkeep gear especially didn't get enough time in the limelight before it was sunset, so they asked for them to be updated to current Power levels. Again, Bungie is doing that, albeit only partially. And perhaps most encouragingly, the studio is using this re-issued gear to liven up old dungeons, which is tantalizingly close to another thing players have asked for – some sort of rotation or challenge that makes legacy content relevant.
This is far from an ideal solution, though. Really, it's not a solution at all; it's a bandaid. Even if they have a few new perks, re-issued guns will always be less interesting than new guns. And while some players will be happy to have a loot-driven reason to revisit old activities, others will rightly argue that replaying old activities to get old gear doesn't feel like progress. Then there's the elephant in the room: what was the point of sunsetting these weapons if they're going to be re-issued later on? The purpose of sunsetting was ostensibly to free up space so that Bungie could create fun weapons without power creeping the game to infinity with stronger and stronger loot. But if a sunset weapon can just come right back without drastic modifications, it doesn't appear that power creep was a concern.
Still waiting on the sunrise
A lot of this is bad, let's be clear. With Beyond Light, a truckload of guns got Power capped with relatively few new ones to replace them, and in its attempt to smooth things over, Bungie has told players to go get the same guns again – not the "exact same version", but still the same guns. But I don't think this means that sunsetting is inherently bad. I think we're just seeing the bad parts of sunsetting here, and Bungie hasn't yet done enough to demonstrate the good parts.
When sunsetting was first announced, I knew it would hurt – and the cold turkey rollout really hurt and could've landed more softly – but I was on board on the grounds that I don't want to use the same guns forever because I do want to care about loot when new expansions come out. At the time, I said it's Bungie's job to use the design space freed up by sunset weapons to create new ones that can win players over, and I still feel that way. I support sunsetting as an idea, partly because I don't see how Destiny 2 can be sustained for another three years without it, but I'm also still waiting on the fun new guns Bungie described when it first proposed the concept.
Exotics aside, the only new weapons in Beyond Light that truly wowed me were the raid guns. There were lots of good guns, and even more good perks like Wellspring and Surplus, but not many killer apps. I'm not asking for something as broken as the infamous Recluse SMG, but I think we could do with a bit more pizzazz in the near future.
How does Destiny make good use of sunsetting?
The lack of jaw-dropping new weapons puts the quality issue into perspective, but Destiny 2 is also facing a quantity issue. As Bungie itself acknowledged, there aren't enough total or new guns in the game right now. This can make Destiny 2 feel somewhat samey for players that are heavily invested, which runs counter to the idea of refreshing loot through sunsetting (which is compounded by re-issued gear). Every weapon is a way for Bungie to show off new ideas and play styles, so when there aren't a lot of new weapons to try, it's harder to see the benefits of sunsetting and easier to grumble over the stuff we used to have.
Destiny 2 definitely has a weapon problem, and the best solution that I can come up with is an obvious one: a healthy injection of great, new guns that properly demonstrate what Bungie is capable of when it doesn't have hundreds of old guns weighing it down. At the very least, I think we need enough new stuff to replace re-issued gear in Bungie's agenda. That's easier said than done, of course, but it feels like the direction the studio should be heading in. Extending the sunsetting window or excluding DLC gear might help prevent the kind of whiplash we saw with Shadowkeep gear, but I think it would only buy time. And Bungie has promised to increase the volume of new guns in future seasons and expansions, and it's hiring for its loot team to make that happen, and lord knows it can't happen soon enough.
Of course, weapons are only half of the sunsetting problem. Armor is also being sunset and re-issued, and this is much more of a head-scratcher for me. Armor is currently just a pile of stats that changes how you look, and with transmog coming soon, it will be reduced to nothing more than a numbers game. Our builds are tied to mods which carry over between seasons, so it feels like sunsetting armor forces players to get new gear every few months for no benefit, which is pretty frustrating given the work that goes into masterworking armor. The fundamental armor update that Bungie recently mentioned might address this, but that's a huge and far-off unknown.
The question I keep coming back to is: If Destiny 2 totally walked back sunsetting right now, would it actually fix its loot problem, or would it just create another one? The quality and quantity of new guns would still be a concern, and it would also be a far more difficult one for Bungie to solve. And that's just the immediate impact. What about Season 14, or Year 5? The weapons still to come will inevitably be more exciting in a world where sunsetting exists, and I'm still far more interested in them than the 50 Outlaw / Rampage god rolls I've had kicking around my vault for three years. And I am prepared to wait for the good that sunsetting can bring to the game, but I'm not willing to wait forever, nor do I think anyone should be. Every launch deserves some sort of grace period, but if things just aren't improving there does come a time to hold some feet to some fire. I don't think that time is right now, but if we're having this exact conversation in a season or two, Destiny 2 will need to look at sunsetting from another angle.