Destiny 2 has a weird relationship with secrecy. On the one hand, Bungie has recently moved to a model where new content isn’t revealed until right before its launch. On the other, the game is more transparent than it’s ever been, with very little in-game content hidden from the player. And on the gripping hand, the game’s once-detailed roadmaps are a thing of the past. What gives? Why has Bungie gone back and forth on the amount of information about upcoming content conveyed to players, and most importantly, why doesn’t Destiny 2 really have secrets anymore?
If you’re not sure what I mean by secrets, let me provide some examples. In the summer before the launch of Forsaken, Guardians discovered a portal leading to a new area on the now-vaulted Io. News of the mission spread through the community online, and soon Guardians everywhere were rushing to find the portal, explore the hidden area, and defeat the boss — thus earning Whisper of the Worm, for a while one of the most powerful DPS weapons in Destiny 2.
Later, during the Season of the Drifter when everyone was burned out on playing Gambit, another secret mission appeared in the game. The Zero Hour quest required that players locate a Fallen Transponder and activate its nodes dispersed around various in-game areas. Figuring out the location of these nodes was a community effort that was rewarded with a quest taking players back to the old Tower, which in turn rewarded the powerful Exotic pulse rifle Outbreak Perfected. (It was also the first time that we teamed up with Season of Plunder’s star player, Mithrax.)
Crucially, neither of these missions were signposted in any way. Players had to find their way into them on their own, then make their way through without the advantage of waypoints — not to mention with a time limit hanging over them. Whisper and Zero Hour are some of the best content Destiny 2 has ever featured, and I feel bad for anyone who never got to experience them before they were vaulted. I’m not the only one who appreciated them, either.
“One of my favorite moments in Destiny 2 was discovering the Whisper of the Worm mission,” says Fanbyte Guides Writer Collin MacGregor. “People would hear about these random Taken enemies that spawned on Io, [and] it was like a fun little rumor for the first couple of days, since those enemies didn’t always spawn in that patrol zone. Plus, the level itself was awesome and the nostalgia of bringing back the Vault of Glass oracles for the catalyst was icing on the cake.”
“Outbreak and Whisper were the most memorable,” adds Destiny content creator Aztecross. “I loved it when things came out of the blue like those missions, with little to no hype behind them.”
Evidently, the Destiny community loves secrets like these. So why haven’t we seen anything like them since? The also-great Presage mission from Season of the Chosen also technically began somewhat obfuscated, requiring players to take a different route during a strike to gain access to it. And the less-great Harbinger mission from Season of the Hunt was intended to be a secret mission, but players found the entrance to it even before it launched.
Secrets don’t even have to be missions, really. Back in Season of the Dawn, we had the Corridors of Time, a massive maze that took a communal effort to solve. It was a cool thing to see, even if you weren’t a part of the actual effort. And then there was Niobe Labs during Season of the Forge which, when solved, granted access to the Bergusia Forge.
The response to Niobe Labs offers one hint regarding why Bungie has moved away from these sorts of secrets. While many players relished the quest to solve the puzzle, others lamented the fact that paid content was essentially being gated behind a wall that the average player had little to no chance of breaching on their own. This led to Bungie announcing that they’d open the forge to players regardless of whether the community had solved the puzzle, and while players ultimately did do so before the deadline, Bungie clearly noted the tension inherent in this approach. Maybe that’s why the Corridors of Time puzzle didn’t unlock much — but then, this approach can generate its own kind of disappointment and frustration.
Perhaps the difficulty of this balancing act is why Bungie has moved away from secrets with Destiny 2. Hiding content away can lead to angry players who want access to everything they’ve paid for right away — even if they might then feel unsatisfied and complain about a lack of activities in the game when they get it. But many of Destiny‘s greatest moments have been tied to secrets, and those, I think, are worth a certain amount of player discontent.
Another possible reason for Bungie’s move away from secrets is the existence of datamining. As Forbes’ Paul Tassi tells me, there’s “no point doing a secret mission when everything is datamined and spread around so fast. Also,” he adds, “I think they wanted more selling points to a season. Missions like Vox Obscura and Presage may have been total secrets before but now they’re used as part of the seasonal package to sell it.”
The need to market each season as a piece of paid content seems like a powerful motivator for Bungie to lay its cards out on the table rather than hide things away — and, like Tassi says, there’s little reason to do so when they’ll be discovered long before players experience them in-game. But our current status quo, in which players simply complete more of the current season’s questline each week, has started to feel a little rote. Some secrets sprinkled in throughout the season could liven things up — maybe a secret compartment discovered in Ketchcrash that leads to Guardians tracking down a Taken ghost ship, or an enemy hiding in Expeditions that triggers an alternate mission objective. These don’t even have to be whole missions — hidden dialogue, emblems, Sparrows — these are all great rewards that don’t impact gameplay.
The point is that Destiny is at its best when it gestures towards mystery, when it feels bigger than our weekly missions and playlist activities. Lore entries help with that, but secrets are the ingredient that truly make Destiny feel alive. With Lightfall on the horizon, I hope we haven’t seen the last of them.