Bungie talks Destiny 2 Season of the Haunted: harder, scarier, and building more end-game

Bungie talks Destiny 2 Season of the Haunted: harder, scarier, and building more end-game

When I had the rare opportunity to sit down with three lead Destiny 2 designers and talk about the Season of the Haunted, I knew exactly what I had to ask about first: Persona 4. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve found it impossible to separate this season’s themes of self-acceptance from Atlus’ coming-of-age JRPG. Seriously, you could put some of Crow’s dialogue in Persona 4 unaltered and nobody would notice. 

Anyway, I’m sad to report that senior design lead Tom Farnsworth tells me there’s no Persona shrine at the Bungie office. Instead, with input from Duality dungeon and design lead Brian Frank and art director Rob Adams, we end up chatting about how the Destiny team is crafting a harder, scarier experience in Season 17 – all while it attempts to invest further in the end-game and make Destiny 2 more welcoming to all kinds of players.

Duality kicked everybody’s ass  

Destiny 2 Duality Dungeon

(Image credit: Bungie)

With the Season of the Haunted, Bungie eased up on its usual pre-release hype reel and kept basically everything close to its chest until the last minute. Farnsworth mentions a “rhythm of showing a lot and sharing, maybe over-sharing.” For Season 17, Bungie wanted its surprises to be more, well, surprising. One of the biggest hitters here was Duality – a dungeon that we knew was coming, but knew nothing about. I’m told that the central mechanic for Duality dates all the way back to Bungie’s experiments with the Corrupted Strike’s similar, realm-switching combat in Forsaken in 2018, but Bungie was also building the new dungeon around a simpler idea: it was gonna be hard.

“I knew going out the door that we were going to tune more aggressively,” Frank explains. “I don’t want raid and dungeon content to be really formulaic. We always try to present novelty. And this content is pinnacle, aspirational, so I think it makes sense to ask a lot of players. They’re becoming more powerful with all the build-crafting elements, so I think we need to provide them with challenges to test their abilities. It was a conscious decision to not pull back too heavily on lowering the challenge. We saw a ton of engagement with Grasp of Avarice, and I think that one felt sort of lighter on the tuning end, so this is just the team experimenting with the boundaries of what it feels like to go a little heavier or relax. I don’t think it necessarily is the standard. We’re gonna move along that spectrum.” 

Destiny 2 Season of the Haunted

(Image credit: Bungie)

As Frank says, the previous dungeon, Grasp of Avarice, was downright comfy compared to Duality. That’s even more true of legacy dungeons like Shattered Throne, which have been featured in the new rotating end-game playlist, and as Farnsworth puts it, demonstrate just how much Destiny 2 has evolved since Forsaken. This has helped position Duality as the latest example in Destiny 2’s slow-burning plan to gradually ramp up the challenge in some activities. But while many players have celebrated having denser hordes of enemies on which to test their favorite guns and abilities, others were put off or intimidated by the spike in difficulty that Duality presented. 

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