Destiny 2 hit store shelves in 2017, but it’s still getting expansions and updates. In fact, the version of the game you can pick up and play now bears little resemblance to the game Bungie first released five years ago. After several full-scale expansions and almost twenty seasons of periodic updates, Destiny 2 has grown into an MMORPG of epic proportions.
The game features some of the most stunning graphics, epic boss fights, and addictive dungeons of any RPG on the market. Destiny marries shooting mechanics with the loot-based grind you’d expect to see in titles like World of Warcraft or Diablo and features polished mechanics akin to Bungie’s prior series, Halo.
Bungie has continuously injected ongoing interest in the long-running game by releasing yearly expansions like Beyond Light and The Witch Queen. During the company’s yearly showcase in late August, they showed off Lightfall, the upcoming yearly expansion that will land in February 2023. Bungie also showcased the upcoming Season of Plunder, the game’s eighteenth season, and teased the nineteenth season, which will serve as a prelude to Lightfall.
Creating an MMO
Destiny 1 (2014) was Bungie’s first game since Halo Reach, and it gave the company its first opportunity to explore another element of game design without the expectations that had come to define the Halo series. Destiny borrowed elements from loot-based games like Borderlands and Diablo and allowed Bungie’s designers to get into more fantastical, space-magic storytelling beats.
As the game’s support went on over the next three years, it became clear that Bungie was angling Destiny as a “live service” title. They added new locations, new weapons, and even brand-new subclasses with each subsequent expansion. The game started to resemble a hybrid between World of Warcraft and Halo, which made it extremely popular among legions of fans.
By the time the sequel came out, Bungie knew they’d landed on a winning formula for a long-running game. The sequel sadly put a gulf between the original adventures and the new content in Destiny 2, but the studio has since doubled down on making all content available in the new client instead of creating a theoretical Destiny 3–though some fans argue the controversial “sunsetting” and “vault” systems effectively created a Destiny 3 by deleting old content from the existing client.
Breaking from Activision
Bungie has made a habit of breaking away from its corporate ownership. In the 90s, the studio created the Marathon series while working under Apple, creating one of the most recognizable Mac games of the decade. In the early 2010s, the studio wriggled away from Microsoft, leaving the Halo franchise behind and partnering with Activision to publish Destiny.
Apparently, things weren’t any better under Activision, and Bungie split from them in 2019 to strike out on their own and forge a unique path without direct oversight from Activision. Ironically enough, that independent period didn’t last too long: the studio was bought out by Sony Interactive in January of this year, making them the latest in-house Sony developer.
The Sony acquisition doesn’t mean that Destiny is going to become a PlayStation exclusive or anything, it just means that Bungie has access to a new suite of resources. It might also see the company bring back timed-exclusive content for PlayStation players, such as dungeons and weapons that are only available on PlayStation for the first year of their existence.
The Witch Queen
The latest story expansion, The Witch Queen, took the story in fascinating new directions. That expansion’s antagonist, Savathun, had impersonated a Guardian named Osiris throughout several in-game seasons. Savathun and the Hive species she leads into battle all follow a bizarre religion called Sword Logic, which dictates that beings can only earn their place in the world through combat. This makes them uniquely drawn to fighting the player characters, the Guardians, who can apparently recover from any combat.
During the events of The Witch Queen, players tackle Savathun’s forces in her demi-plane, called a Throne World. Eventually, the players defeat the powerful Hive god, but they learn that something even darker awaits them beyond the stars: her master, the Witness. The Witness acts as a mouthpiece for an abstract force of destruction called The Darkness, while the player character Guardians fight for the Traveller, a construct that fills them with the power of Light.
The Witness sends his fleet of Pyramid Ships to attack the remnants of humanity on Earth. His minion, Rhulk, The First Witness, serves as the raid boss in the “Vow of the Disciple” raid, The Witch Queen’s toughest player-versus-enemy challenge. After defeating the First Disciple, the Guardians turn their attention to the Witness and prepare for the final battles between the Light and the Darkness.
Season of Plunder
The storyline has progressed through several seasons of periodic updates called seasons. These have included the Season of the Risen and the Season of the Haunted, which have seen the Guardians pursuing side objectives unrelated to the quest to defeat Savathun and Rhulk. The most recent season, the Season of Plunder, sees the Guardians tackling Fallen pirates throughout the system and raiding their cargo holds.
Notably, this season also sees the return of the beloved Destiny 1 raid “King’s Fall.” This follows Bungie’s recent pattern of reintroducing older content that players enjoyed throughout the seasonal model. This keeps the game’s file size from getting too massive but also allows Bungie to keep raking in money throughout the year in-between full-sized expansions.
The Season of Plunder will also mark Destiny’s first crossover with the popular battle royale game Fortnite. The collaboration sees Destiny adding several popular Fortnite skins as cosmetic options for Guardians, while Fortnite is adding a handful of Destiny characters as cosmetics.
The next expansion, Lightfall, will go live in February of 2023. It features a new setting, an alternate-reality Earth populated by Cloud Striders, the alternate reality’s version of Guardians. The new setting, the city of Neomuna on Neptune, has a distinctly cyberpunk-inspired look. Neon lights, bright buildings, and garish-looking Cloud Striders all give the expansion a distinctly 1980s-inspired feel.
The expansion will introduce another new element, the poison-inspired Strand element. This will be the game’s second Darkness subclass after the ice-like Stasis mechanic. By the time the current saga ends, many players expect Bungie to add a third Darkness element to make the new subclass category balance with the Light subclasses.
Bungie has stated that Lighfall will mark the beginning of the end for the current Light and Darkness saga. The Witness is on the way to Earth, and his fleet of Pyramid ships will soon threaten the Guardians all over the Sol system. After Lightfall, it’s possible that the game’s status quo could shift dramatically. Some players expect this expansion to culminate in the destruction of the Traveller, the Tower, or even the Vanguard.
Vaulting and Sunsetting
Starting in 2019, Bungie began “sunsetting” older weapons from prior expansions. In 2020, with the release of Beyond Light, the studio also “vaulted” a large swath of content from older expansions. This process saw entire campaigns and massive amounts of in-game gear simply vanish. While Bungie said this was to reduce the game’s file size, it rubbed a lot of players the wrong way.
Bungie has since reversed its stance on vaulting and says it has no plans to vault any more Destiny 2 content. However, this has led to some players wondering how much longer the studio plans to support the aging client. If the issue of file size continues to pressure the company, the problems that cropped up in 2020 could appear again in the future as Bungie adds more expansions.
The jump from Destiny 1 to Destiny 2 was a massive gulf for players. Everyone who played in the first game lost all of their progress, weapons, armor, and powers they’d gained throughout three years of adventures. If the company does something similar for a hypothetical Destiny 3, it could alienate just as many old fans as it would entice new players.
Destiny 3 and Beyond
After Lightfall, the game will feature a handful more seasons that will continue the story until the climactic 2024 expansion, The Final Shape. That term refers to the Hive race’s religious views, the Sword Logic, which predicts the universe will eventually enter a “final shape” where only the strongest individuals will survive.
Bungie has told fans that The Final Shape will be the final entry in the Light and Darkness saga that started in 2014 with the original Destiny. After that… no one knows outside of Bungie. The studio has confirmed that it plans to continue supporting Destiny 2 for the foreseeable future, but what this means after the current saga ends is anyone’s guess.
One thing is certain, though: Destiny’s future is bright. Bungie’s excitement for the franchise is evident, and the game will continue to receive expansions for the foreseeable future. If you’ve slipped out of the franchise for a while, or you’re thinking about picking it up, now is the best time yet.