Destiny 2: No, Shattered Realm is Not Good, Actually
In Season of the Lost, Bungie introduced a new activity called Shattered Realm. I'm not a fan.
First, some background details, for those not in the know: Shattered Realm is on a weekly cycle, exploring one of three different regions. The regions are fairly sizable, and somewhat labyrinthian. Your objective is to align three beacons, which involes two forced defend-the-objective encounters that stretch on for about two minutes each, and a boss.
As the season has gone on, we've unlocked more and more abilities with our Wayfinder's Compass — the seasonal artefact — which allows us to get through additional barriers, or spot new secrets in the Shattered Realm. They're called "mysteries," from trivial to ascendant. Basically, it's just a bunch of chests all over the place, each one giving a triumph.
What Went Wrong
So, why am I not a fan? There's sizable regions to explore, there's encounters, there's secrets everywhere... Well, there's a few reasons for that:
The Encounters are Painfully Boring
It's trivial to solo these encounters. It's not even necessary to have champion mods, the enemies don't have enough health to be any semblance of a threat. And they go on for so. long.
And, like... Bungie knows how to do encounter design. Look at all of the strikes they've done. Dungeons. I'm obviously not going to hold seasonal content to the same bar as those, but you'd think they could design something slightly more interesting to overcome than like 20 waves of easy enemies in a row.
The "Mysteries" Feel Incredibly Samey
If you've done a trivial mystery once, you've done them all. It's literally just a chest, generally hidden behind a Barrier Breach barrier. Some of the mid-tier mysteries are chests that require True Sight, and walking on the ascendant platforms that appear. And there's waaaaay too many of them. It's not my idea of a good time to track down like 12 chests for each rotation, that all just give a triumph and some seasonal currency.
The highest tier of mysteries — ascendant mysteries, I'm pretty sure — are better, but it leaves me wondering why the lower tier ones exist at all. Rather than a bunch of hints leading towards a couple actually interesting "mysteries," it's a whole bunch of filler mysteries distracting you from the interesting ones.
The Three Rotations are Also Incredibly Samey
The three regions of Shattered Realm may look different, and have different enemy types but they all function basically identically. In each, it's two defense encounters, a boss, and doing it all again to collect all the secrets. And once you've done it... is there even a point anymore besides the weekly pinnacle? I have literally zero interest in running Shattered Realm again, and that's even before I've gotten all of the secrets.
Clearly, something has gone very wrong here. Why would you make content that isn't fun? Why would you make content that forces the player back in, rather than making the player want to go back in?
Backseat Game Designer Advice Time
Okay, maybe this is less advice and more just... a vision for Shattered Realm that I would have enjoyed. Because I do love the aesthetic of solving mysteries in the ascendant plane. That's rad.
Little side tangent, before we start. I promise this is important. So... last season we had Expunge, right? Four different expunge missions. They all had the same start, a little mini-labyrinth and parkour puzzle that you eventually could skip half of, but then after that, it was four completely different missions, followed by four completely different bosses. (Okay, so the last mission was a mixture of the other three, whatever.) These missions had completely different mechanics. One was a parkour mission, one was a mission where you avoided hazards while breaking those vex box things, and one had you deliver an orb through a gauntlet of enemies. That's very varied, and it's something that you can get faster at as time goes on.
Are you seeing what I'm seeing here?
- In Expunge, gaining skill and mastery meant getting through faster.
- In Expunge, each version was meaningfully, mechanically different. It wasn't just a few defense encounters with a different enemy race each week.
So here's what I would've done:
Shattered Realm: Forest of Echoes
You enter the Shattered Realm. Your first task: Getting through this parkour section. Dev time is saved by copy-pasting stuff out of one of the ascendant challenges in the Dreaming City. Those haven't been relevant in a while, so you don't really mind going through bits of them again.
You arrive at a set of three doors. One set of doors opens. It's the ascendant plane... but it looks almost, vaguely, like... the EDZ. Through a gauntlet of enemies, then... Taken enemies and champions, in cramped spaces, with lots of places for you to get booped into a wall or out of the map entirely. This is the parkour gauntlet. This section doesn't need to be long.
You finally arrive at the beacon, and align it. A boss spawns. It's a Taken Techeun, and its shield can only be broken by throwing orbs at it. Many more chances to be booped off of the map or into a wall. It's maybe only half as chaotic as the boss of Harbinger, but that's still perfectly servicable.
You've cleared the Realm, and Aligned the Beacon... but there are still mysteries to solve. And by that barrier you could not overcome, in the centre of that gauntlet... Next time, you'll know just where to look.
Shattered Realm: Debris of Dreams
You enter the Shattered Realm. Like last expedition, your entry point is not your destination. First, you must make your way through the short parkour section.
You arrive at a set of three doors. One set of doors opens. It's the ascendant plane... but it looks almost, vaguely, like... the Tangled Shore. An arena, in fact, with huge pipes and spinning, fiery gears. In the middle of the arena, you see the beacon. It's not accessible, though, it's far in the air above you.
There are two counterweights in the arena, guarded by Scorn champions. Your goal is to push down these counterweights, to make the beacon accessible to you. Thing is, though... this are a lot of enemies, and not enough places to hide. But you're a Guardian, and you have a Ghost.
You will survive. You will win.
You finally arrive at the beacon, and align it. A boss spawns. It's a Scorn Spider Walker. You'd focus all your bullets on it, but unfortunately, it came with friends — an abomination, two chieftains, and a lot of ravagers.
You survive. You win.
You've cleared the Realm, and Aligned the Beacon... but there are still mysteries to solve. And by the things you saw in the sky, high above the arena... Next time, you'll know just where to look.
Shattered Realm: Ruins of Wrath
You enter the Shattered Realm. Like last expedition, and the expedition before, your entry point is not your destination. Parkour, and then arrival.
You arrive at a set of three doors. One set of doors opens. It's the ascendant plane... but it looks almost, vaguely, like... the Moon. And... in the room in front of you... you have already seen your foe.
A boss, a Hive Knight with an immune shield. A champion and adds come with, followed then by a Severing Knight. His sword can be used to break the boss's immune shield. The Hive Knight goes down. Through the archway, and...
A boss, a misshapen Hive Ogre. A champion and adds come with. When the Ogre reaches half its health, a wave of cursed thrall spawn, and any that explode at the Ogre's feet heal some of its health. Not enough to matter to you, though. The Ogre goes down. Through the archway, and...
A boss, a Hive Shrieker. It's massive, and it's above... your beacon. You align it. The Shrieker opens its eye.
It's a fight, but one you've seen before. One you've mastered before. You're a Guardian. The Shrieker goes down.
You've cleared the Realm, and Aligned the Beacon... but there are still mysteries to solve. And by the corruption here, just past the shrieker, the barrier, and the vague outline of things in the distance... Next time, you'll know just where to look.
Shattered Realm: Forest of Echoes Part 2
You go back in, this time with an upgrade to your Wayfinder's Compass. You've gained a new ability, the ability to breach barriers. You make it halfway through the gauntlet again, finding a wall that you previously could not access. In here is a chest, and a cliff. Far off the cliff, in the distance... You see something. You don't know what it is, but... you will remember it.
Shattered Realm: Debris of Dreams Part 2
You go back in, this time with an upgrade to your Wayfinder's Compass. You've gained a new ability, the ability to see the unseen, to touch the untouchable. This time, you see platforms, high in the air, spiralling out of sight. You climb one, and find a chest. You cannot climb the rest, as that same, strange corruption keeps you trapped on the ground, unable to make full use of the light. You don't know where that pathway goes, but... you will remember it.
Shattered Realm: Ruins of Wrath Part 2
You go back in, this time with an upgrade to your Wayfinder's Compass. You've gained a new ability, the ability to ward off that corruption. Your light is stronger now, strong enough to surpass anything that the Shattered Realm can throw at you. Past the Knight, past the Ogre. You Breach the Barrier, you See the Unseen, and you Ward off the Darkness. You follow the pathway, and find...
A key. No... a fragment of a key.
And you have a feeling that you know where the others are.
Shattered Realm: Forest of Echos Part 3
You Breach the Barrier, you See the Unseen, and you Ward off the Darkness. You follow the pathway, and find...
The key. No... a fragment of the key.
And soon, you will have the third.
Shattered Realm: Debris of Dreams Part 3
You Ward off the Darkness, you See the Unseen, and you Breach the Barrier. You follow the pathway, and find...
The key. The last fragment of the key.
But to what? A key to what? Why are these things happening? Who is controlling the Taken? Who is uplifting the Scorn? Who is leading the Hive?
Whose side is Savathun really on?
Shattered Realm: Week 9
You enter the Shattered Realm. The same as every expedition before, your entry point is not your destination. But... where is your destination? Where is any of this going? Parkour the same, and then arrival.
You arrive at a set of three doors. The first door... does not open. The second door... does not open. The third door... does not open.
You have a key. You turn around. The fourth door opens.