With the announcement of Destiny 2 Shadowkeep, it feels like we're starting to see the effects of Bungie's separation from Activision, and it looks like good news for Destiny 3. We shouldn't assume that Activision was actively impeding or opposing the many promising features coming to Destiny, but Bungie's certainly made some exciting changes after striking out on its own. The future of Destiny 2 looks bright, and so does the future of the Destiny franchise - that is, whatever comes after Destiny 2, namely Destiny 3. Bungie's done incredible things using Destiny 2 as a base, so imagine what it could do with a fresh start built on all that incremental growth.
Of course, for all the excitement in the air, we've yet to receive any official word on Destiny 3. We know Bungie will make it at some point, but that's about where the hard facts end. The closest thing we have to official acknowledgement is a comment from Destiny creative director Luke Smith, who responded to a question about Destiny 3 during a Destiny 2 Shadowkeep Q&A.
"Anything that we're gonna do beyond what we're talking about today [Shadowkeep] is super far out," Smith said. "Right now, we've really recommitted the team to Destiny 2, the next chapter of it this fall. We've got plans for where we're going to go with Destiny and there's a bunch of stuff that we've talked about here we've gotta deliver on. A thing I will say about the future of Destiny is that that vision we outlined is gonna be true no matter what we do. We are making an awesome action MMO and a single evolving world that you can play anywhere, and that's what we're going to be doing."
At this stage, all we have to go on is a mix of rumors, purported leaks, the series' history, and some clues in Destiny 2. That said, that's still a lot more than nothing. So, here's everything we've heard about Destiny 3.
Destiny 3 release date
Let's start with the big one: when will we get to play Destiny 3? Known Destiny leaker AnonTheNine previously said that Bungie started active development on Destiny 3 in late 2018. This leak remains unconfirmed, but AnonTheNine has a history of reliable information, and the timeline does fit. Destiny 2 was released in September 2017, exactly three years after the original game, so history would suggest Destiny 3 will be released in September 2020.
Of course, that's not a perfect estimate. Development pipelines vary wildly, and plenty of things can change in three years - Bungie only recently broke up with Activision, for example, and that's going to affect its processes considerably. The PS5 / Xbox Project Scarlett console generation is also expected to arrive in late 2020, and that will undoubtedly factor into Bungie's plans for Destiny 3. The studio may also simply want to spend more time on Destiny 3 either to avoid the mistakes of the previous games or expand on some new ideas.
Taking all that into consideration, I'd say it's pretty reasonable to expect more details to arrive in 2020, with a potential Destiny 3 release date penciled in for mid-to-late-2021 at the earliest.
What will the Destiny 3 story focus on?
Destiny 2: Forsaken was arguably the first story in Destiny history that seriously questioned the actions of Guardians, and ever since that expansion, Bungie's been weaving in moral quandaries connected to the war between the forces of Darkness and the allies of the Light. The mysterious pyramid ships seen at the end of the main Destiny 2 storyline are also clearly connected to the Traveler, so you can bet they're a new Darkness faction of some sort. As such, Destiny 3 is expected to delve deeper into the origins of the Darkness and the true purpose of the Light - and that's more than speculation.
In the lead-up to Destiny 2: Joker's Wild, Bungie published a series of short stories exploring the ambitions of the Drifter, the legality of Gambit, and the perspective of the Vanguard's big-wigs. Together with the backstory told through the Destiny 2 Invitations of the Nine, these stories took a closer at the Darkness, with the Drifter suggesting that the Light isn't all it's cracked up to be and that the Darkness can and should be harnessed. The mysterious Nine, a race of interstellar beings who have history with Guardians, may also play a part, as they've grown more prominent since the introduction of the Drifter.
This also lines up with clues in the lore for Thorn and The Last Word, both of which are back in Destiny 2. I won't try to relay an entire chapter of Destiny Grimoire here, so let's just say these Exotic hand cannons and the Guardians who originally wielded them are diametrically opposed due to disputes over the Darkness. Both guns are also clearly tied to the Drifter in Destiny 2, and there's no way that's a coincidence. We haven't even gotten to the Destiny 2 Drifter Allegiance Quest, which directly asks players to side with either the Drifter or the Vanguard. We already know that your choice in the Allegiance Quest affects what story content you experience, and Bungie says it will have more consequences down the road.
It's clear Bungie is building toward a Darkness-fueled rift in Destiny's storyline, but how - and indeed if - it carries into Destiny 3 remains to be seen. That said, another batch of unconfirmed but curious leaks has given us one idea.
A Reddit user calling themselves ShadowOfAnonTheNine recently appeared carrying a bag of info ostensibly supplied by AnonTheNine. Now, we haven't heard from AnonTheNine in some time - reportedly because Bungie asked them to cool it with the leaks - and none of this stuff has been verified, so it should be treated as rumor. However, while Shadow's claims are sweeping and unconfirmed - and no, I can't take that username seriously either - they aren't totally baseless.
According to this user's information, Destiny 3 will double down on the Darkness through a new enemy faction known as the Veil. The Veil are described as "astrodemons" which are "on an equal power level to Guardians, if not stronger." They're said to be behind the aforementioned pyramid ships which were introduced when the Traveler awakened, and which were shown again in Destiny 2: Forsaken (thanks to Awoken Queen Mara Sov). The Veil will reportedly invade the Earth in Destiny 3 so they can claim the Traveler's power for their own and use it to resurrect their god.
To recap, here's what we know: Bungie is steadily dialing up the Darkness in Destiny 2's story and lore, the Drifter and the Nine are getting more screen time than ever, those pyramid ships are eventually going to do something, and all available rumors suggest this pot will boil over in Destiny 3. Now, I could've told you three years ago that Destiny 3 will feature the Darkness in some way, but we're finally starting to get an idea of how, and it sounds like pretty cool stuff.
Destiny 3 planets and locations
Leakers have also thrown out a few planets which are said to be new destinations in Destiny 3. We don't know for sure whether Destiny 3 fill feature some or all of these, to say nothing of other potential locations, but the possibilities are interesting.
- Europa, Jupiter's moon
- Venus, which was a destination in the original Destiny
- Old Chicago, which would be the third Earth zone
Those mysterious pyramid ships are also said to be an endgame destination in Destiny 3, not unlike the Dreadnaught from Destiny: The Taken King or the Dreaming City in Destiny 2: Forsaken.
Destiny 3 Darkness powers and RPG elements
While we can at least rely on history when we speculate about Destiny 3's release date and storyline, the idea of Destiny 3 adding Darkness powers is almost exclusively grounded in unconfirmed rumors contributed by AnonTheNine. The Drifter is adamant that the Darkness should be harnessed, and you could also point to Uldren's corruption in Forsaken, but there's not a lot to go on in-game for this one.
Anyway, rumor has it that Destiny 3 will expand the longstanding subclass system by adding in Darkness powers, as opposed to the usual Light powers Guardians wield. If genuine, there's no telling how these Darkness powers would affect the void/solar/arc subclass triangle, let alone how they'd play into each element. It's possible Darkness powers will be available alongside standard powers, but they could also have their own separate skill trees.
Incidentally, the same leak that spawned these rumored Darkness powers also suggested Destiny 3 will push more RPG elements, especially with regards to character loadouts and customization. Bungie has historically shied away from detailed stat breakdowns, but Destiny 2 Shadowkeep is slated to turn that around, so it's possible Destiny 3 could go all-in on RPG-ness. Destiny has always struggled to balance the desires of hardcore players who want to invest hundreds of hours with the interests of players who are happy to play for a few hours a week, and current rumors suggest Destiny 3 will lean toward the former. Of course, it's entirely possible to cater to hardcore players without excluding other players.
What do we want from Destiny 3?
Those are the biggest rumors and bread crumbs we've found so far. Again, it's still very early days, and with no official announcement from Bungie, Destiny 3 details are thin on the ground. I'll tell you what's not in short supply, though: hopes and dreams. We're as excited for the sequel as the next Guardian, and there are plenty of improvements and additions we'd love to see.
1. A good launch
Destiny 2 is in a great place nowadays but it started off pretty rough, in no small part because it repeated some mistakes from the original Destiny, which also launched with tons of issues. Quite frankly, we're hoping we don't have to wait for Destiny 3 to get better. We want to see Bungie kill it from the get-go and use updates to add to Destiny 3, not fix huge parts of it.
2. Firm PvE and PvP separation
There have been rumors of Bungie cutting PvP from Destiny 3 entirely, but the studio's made it clear that those are baseless. We don't want PvP to disappear either, but we do want it to play nice with PvE. Between subclass, Super, and weapon balance, the needs of PvE and PvP often feel at odds with one another and they frequently drag each other down. Bungie's gotten better about balancing things separately, but the two game modes could still be more clearly defined to prevent cross-contamination, so to speak.
3. New subclasses and abilities
Destiny 2 made minor changes to some Supers - the biggest being Daybreak, which is totally different from Radiance - but it mostly uses the same suite of solar, arc, and void abilities as the first game. Compare that to the Forsaken expansion, which shook things up in a big way by adding nine new supers. I reckon we've fired enough Golden Guns and slammed enough Nova Bombs. How about an array of all-new abilities - Super, grenade, melee, and class abilities - in Destiny 3?
4. New enemies and factions
In a similar vein, while Destiny 2 introduced a few new enemy types within each Darkness faction, it didn't add a new faction outright until the Scorn in Forsaken, so it felt a little too familiar in its first year. Whether it's the rumored Veil or another mysterious force, we'd love to see at least one totally new enemy type in Destiny 3 on day one.
5. Forsaken-grade storytelling
For all intents and purposes, Forsaken is the best Destiny has ever been in terms of loot and activities. The expansion also delivered some of the most memorable characters and story beats in the series, and I'm not just talking about Cayde's death (RIP). Uldren was an interesting and supremely hateable villain, and the eight Barons gave the expansion some Wild West flavor while providing milestones for your revenge story. The finale came out of left field - though that's practically tradition at this point - but Forsaken was a great ride, and we'd love to see its cinematic approach applied to Destiny 3.
6. A better loot economy
The introduction of modding and the subsequent re-introduction of random rolls gave Destiny 2's weapons the variety they needed, but other categories of loot are still lacking. Armor is oddly limited, enhancement cores and mod components are obscenely rare, many materials and weapon archetypes are utterly vestigial, several key items are tied to RNG crapshoots, and the majority of random perks feel totally useless. The result is a system with more lows than highs, and that can be discouraging in a loot-driven game. The actionable Menagerie grind of Destiny 2 Season of Opulence and the expanded customization coming in Destiny 2 Shadowkeep are definitely encouraging, but I reckon there's still room for Destiny 3 to improve the process of customizing and upgrading Guardians.
7. Cross-save or cross-play
Given the Destiny 2 cross save announcement, we can pretty much check this one off the list. As of September 2019, Destiny 2 players can transfer their guardians between PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Google Stadia - did I mention the Destiny 2 Google Stadia version? Bungie also committed to avoiding platform-exclusive content going forward, both to protect cross save compatibility and to help unite the game's community. I certainly wouldn't complain if Destiny 3 had true cross-platform matchmaking in addition to or rather than cross saves, but I'll be happy as long as this is the norm going forward.