Destiny DLC plans have leaked far and wide, but the names of upcoming packs are far from the whole picture. We speculate on what's next for Bungie's shared-worlds shooter.
Destiny is really settling in now. Thanks to frequent updates and the first major content drop, many of the criticisms levelled at Destiny at launch have been rectified, and those who came on board expecting something else have long since left. The holidays brought us a huge pile of new players who knew what they were getting into, and walked into a much more mature game than early adopters.
Players are growing comfortable with the game. The esoteric progression systems have been well documented, so that a troubled newb need only Google to find dozens of sources of advice. The increased difficulty of new content gives high-level players something new to chew over every day. We've all gotten used to the cat-and-mouse game of finding cheese strategies for the hardest content, farewelling them when Bungie drops a patch, and starting again.
So now that it's all grown up, what's next for Destiny? The first and most obvious answer is, of course, "more": we've always known Bungie and Activision have big plans to keep the game alive long-term with content drops, and the most recent Destiny content leak only affirms that knowledge. But I suspect we're in for something a bit more significant than another DLC pack like The Dark Below come September.
Let's take a look at what's coming. To rehash the leaked details, as best as they've been deciphered so far without creative additions:
- House of Wolves
- Date: March 10th, 2015
- Locations: Cosmodrome, Moon, Venus, Reef
- Activities: 3 Story, 1 Strike, 1 Raid, 4 PvP Maps
- Comet: Plague of Darkness
- Date: September 2015
- Locations: Moon, Venus, Mars, Hive Ship
- Activities: 12 Story, 4 Strike, 1 Raid, 1 Location, 6 PvP Maps
- Bonus: New subclasses and 2 new weapon types
- Vex [illegible]
- Date: TBA
- Locations: Venus, Mars
- Activities: 3 Story, 2 Strike, 1 Raid, ? PvP Maps
- Forge of Gods
- Date: TBA
- Locations: TBA
- Activities: TBA
This information is unconfirmed, and even if proved to be 100% accurate is subject to change, but I believe there are several reasons to believe it's a good guide to what's coming next. The first and simplest is that it all checks out; there're none of the telltale signs to suggest this leak isn't genuine. The second is that Destiny information has leaked quite a few times in the past, and the leaks have been accurate.
The third reason is that the information in the latest leak matches that of an earlier one from the game files themselves, which, apart from mission name changes, turned out to be totally accurate regarding The Dark Below.
Finally, the leaked information makes sense in the context of what we know about Activision and Bungie's long-term plans for the franchise. Let me explain what I mean by that.
The return of the Comet
Way back in 2012 Activision and EA were both quite busy in a lawsuit involving the former heads of Infinity Ward. One of the consequences of this suit was the release of a a 2010 contract between Activision and Bungie detailing the publishing deal for Bungie's first post-Halo IP.
This contract was likely already redundant by the time we first saw it, and in the intervening years we've seen several details change. For one thing, Destiny launched much later than expected (rumours and speculation suggest the project underwent a significant reboot at quite a late stage, with major changes to the story at the very least) and planned Xbox exclusivity went out the window. These changes likely came about as Activision and Bungie both adopted their plans to suit the changing face of the industry and their intended audience.
So we can't take the details of the contract as concrete, but I think it's safe enough to assume the broad strokes are still in place: Activision has signed up to produce four core games - Destiny and three sequels.
These games are expected to release every second year, so Destiny 2 won't be upon us until the end of 2016. In the meantime, though, what do we get? A string of smallish expansion packs at three month intervals?
Nope: we get Comet. Comet was the codename used in the 2010 contract to indicate major expansions, to be released in the interim years, between sequels. If you glance back at that leaked content plan again, you'll see that the September release is named, or at least codenamed, Comet: Plague of Darkness. You'll also notice there's a six month gap between The House of Wolves in March and Comet: Plague of Darkness.
To me, all this suggests that Plague of Darkness, with or without Comet in its final title, will be one of the major expansions mentioned in the 2010 contract.
The Dark Below and House of Wolves, on the other hand, are basically just DLC packs - that's why they're included in the Expansion Pass rather than sold as major releases. Plague of Darkness, I speculate, will be much more expensive than either of these packs, because it will contain significantly more content, as well as make major changes to the game's systems - the introduction of a third subclass for each of the three archetypes is just one example.
Plague of Darkness will almost definitely involve a major story campaign, much more like the original game's mission sequence than the short offering of The Dark Below (and presumably House of Wolves). Having learned from the poor reception to Destiny's storytelling, we'll likely see a much more coherent campaign, with an obvious single enemy.
You can see Bungie has switched up its storytelling style already in The Dark Below, but the fact that the DLC pack won't be seen by all players means its overall impact on the game world has to be limited. Plague of Darkness has an opportunity to be much more bold, and to take on even more lessons learned along the way.
The codename "Comet" suggests something that returns periodically, as these interquels will do, and it fits nicely with the presumed title of the first major expansion, as comets were once known as plague stars and believed to bring ill-fortune or calamity. This makes me wonder whether Plague of Darkness will herald sweeping, lasting changes to the world, like World of Warcraft's Cataclysm.
AC: After Comet
Given Plague of Darkness's scheduled debut one year on from Destiny's own release, I expect Activision will take the opportunity to re-release Destiny with all three packs bundled together as one of its major end of 2015 launches.
Vanilla Destiny will no longer be sold after this. Although those of us who paid for the additional content when it launched will be miffed, it's likely that all expansion content will be made available to all players eventually - rolled into the base game the way World of Warcraft's earlier expansions have been.
Following on from the re-release of Destiny, I believe we'll see another two small DLC packs in 2016 - the Vex pack and Forge of Gods, likely releasing about three months apart, on a similar schedule to The Dark Below (December) and House of Wolves (March). Then we'll get a six month break before Destiny 2 in September 2016.
In the six month break between House of Wolves and Plague of Darkness, as well as between Forge of Gods and Destiny 2, Bungie will likely keep us hooked with lots more events than we've seen so far. We're likely to see the return of a majorly overhauled Queen's Wrath (especially as House of Wolves seems to be focused on the Reef, the Queen and the Fallen, as The Dark Below was all about the Hive), but expect more and varied PvE events as well as greater variety in PvP events than just plain old Iron Banner. These will keep us occupied and interested while Bungie works on major content and tech for Comet and Destiny 2.
As for Destiny 2 itself, well - Bungie has hinted we'll be able to bring our characters with us, having had two years to build them, so don't expect really major changes to the game's systems (I wouldn't bank on new class for example, although I don't rule it out). However, it's almost certain that we'll see either brand new Destinations (planets and locations besides Earth, the Moon, Venus, the Reef and Mars) or really major additions to existing Destinations; after all, Bungie did once say it wants to make everything you can see in the distance while in-game into playable environments.
Eyes up, Guardian
Destiny still has its detractors, but despite all its continuing growing pains it's achieved something very special; it's become a game people continue to play every day, or at least every week, four months after launch (heck, Pat says GTA Online could stand to learn a thing or two from it). Bungie can probably thank Activision (and possible even Blizzard) for helping make that possible with its very savvy approach to online gaming.
As such, we can expect both developer and publisher to build on this solid foundation. The goal is to make a ten year game, we've been told; not a "WoW killer", but something that occupies a similar kind of headspace.
That's good news for those of us who are committed to the defence of the last city. Keep your finger on the triggers, Guardians; there's plenty still to come.