As my old bones march inexorably towards the age of 30, and therefore the grave, I wind up increasingly drawn to games I can play at my own pace. That’s not easy. The games I play for work are mostly designed to eat up all my time in one way or another. But having “one way or another” is what I like about the Destiny 2 battle pass, or “Season Pass” as Bungie confusingly decided to call it. Chewing through it is an incredibly open-ended experience.
It seems like such a small thing. Unlike a lot of battle passes — dating all the way back to Dota 2, the first game to employ them, which I have played for thousands of painful hours — the Destiny version isn’t predominately tied to extraneous challenges. You don’t have daily goals to reach, and aren’t forced to play timed activities as a class you don’t know. Progress doesn’t feel like a limited resource. It feels like the sort of mindless, relaxing grind Destiny does best. It gamifies being the game I play while listening to audiobooks and Friends at the Table.
There are problems with the Season Pass system. It’s basically the source of all new content in the nominally free-to-play game. It’s a soft subscription: a nearly mandatory charge every few months if you want to play the game seriously. But the battle pass grind exists separate from the playable features (like the recently introduced Sundial mission type, or the Vex Offensive before that). You need to pay to play the new stuff, but don’t need to play the new stuff to get cosmetics and the other nice bonuses that usually come from this sort of thing. You gain XP toward a sweet new weapon ornament just for fighting bug monsters and filling out your quest log.
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That’s what I’m right back to doing in Destiny, for the first time since the big Shadowkeep expansion. The game’s quest log is still bad, and I’m still treading water to clear it and play more naturally. I rescued Saint-14, the Russian juggernaut that likes to blow bubbles, from an alternate timeline. Now I’m trying to get all the cool guns.
I like collecting all the cool guns (Exotics and Ritual Weapons and “god rolls,” if you want to be specific) because they give me options. Even if I never end up using them in specific loadouts, that feels like the real Destiny progression to me — given how the game’s power level gets squashed and boosted every few months. Chasing higher numbers means nothing to me now. Chasing weird builds that let me yeet a grenade at my own feet to super-charge a barbecue prong that shoots lightning: that’s the good shit.
All the while I’m gaining experience. The occasional bonus of a Bright Engram (which hold random cosmetics) has been replaced by the guaranteed reward of unique, seasonal items (plus the occasional Bright Engram).
Them Good Brain Chemicals
And because I don’t feel railroaded into playing the game a certain way, or like I’m losing progress by not hopping in to knock out daily achievements, it keeps me from burning out and getting frustrated. In just a few short days, with just under a month to go, I’m more than a third of the way through it. Getting to level 100 feels attainable in a way that no other battle pass ever has for me.
That attainability pulls me along further, making me feel like it’s worth doing because it is, in fact, doable — without even spending a huge chunk of cash for Apex Legends skins I’ll only use when another daily challenge forces me to play a character I don’t like, or what-have-you.
The further investment I have with my Destiny character also helps. I’m a Titan. I’ve been one almost since Destiny 2 launched. I fought for Thorn, and Lumina, and Thunderlord, and dozens of other wacky weapons on that character. A spooky Spartan warrior helmet to go with them just furthers my commitment to the bit.
I don’t know if I will get to the end of the Season of Dawn pass. I thought I would get to the end of the last one, but did end up getting dragged away by more traditional expansions to Monster Hunter and Final Fantasy 14 — two of those aforementioned games competing for all my time. But the sense that I could do it, and have a damn good time in the process, makes me feel okay about wherever I end up at the end.