As Destiny 2 fans continue to settle in with the game’s newly launched Season of the Drifter, one great new feature provides a path to get lapsed players caught up with their friends: Surge Bounties.
I’m sure most fans can recall the many times they’ve had to repeat this awkward refrain to their underleveled buddies: “I’m sorry, you can’t play with us. Your Light is too low.”
Light is a numerical value that serves as an expression of power in Destiny. Your own Light level is determined by averaging out the individual rating of every weapon and armor piece you have equipped. That number helps you then figure out which activities you’re ready to tackle.
Say there’s a raid with a recommended Light of 600 but you’re only at 550. You might not even be able to join the raid at that power level, but even if you do, you’re going to be doing way less damage (or none at all) and taking way more — most enemies will take you out in one hit.
Boosting your character’s Light level is one of the core pursuits in both Destiny games. Loot drops as you play, and sometimes the Light on your new gear is higher than it was on your older stuff. In typical RPG fashion, the tougher activities drop better gear and that’s how you level up.
The longtime problem in Destiny: lapsed players need to catch up before they can keep up.
It sounds simple — and it is! — but the straightforward explanation belies the time investment required to really get your power level up. There are three weapons slots and five armor slots, so even a nominal change to your Light depends on multiple better-than-average loot drops across different slots.
Because of the days-long — really, weeks-long — process tied to boosting Light, the power difference between regular players and their less invested friends can become quite pronounced. This is especially tough when new content is added to the game, bringing those less invested types out to try the new stuff.
Dedicated fans want to get their Light up so they can get to the newest and toughest — but most rewarding — activities. Their returning friends want to play too, but their time spent away from Destiny leaves them at a Light deficit: they need to catch up before they can hope to keep up.
Since 2014, that’s just been the way Destiny works. New stuff comes along, so ongoing players chase those new rewards while also awkwardly blowing off their lower Light pals. It sucks! But Season of the Drifter — Destiny 2‘s latest content season — changed all of that on March 5 with the addition of Surge Bounties.
It’s brilliantly simple: one of the quest-givers in Destiny 2 now offers a set of specialized Surge Bounties. Each one sends players off to complete a set of straightforward tasks, such as killing a certain number of enemies or doing one type of activity a couple times.
The reward for each bounty? Two pieces of gear, both at Light 640 and for preset gear slots. There are four Surge Bounties in total, so doing them all gives players a full set of Light 640 weapons and armor to equip, and an overall Light rating to match. The pre-Season of the Drifter Light cap was 650, so the idea is to get returning players right up to the precipice of tackling new content.
In a game like Destiny, where gear has almost always been driven by a high degree of random chance, this guaranteed path to Light relevance is a huge shift for Bungie. And a welcome one, too, as I saw for myself on Thursday night.
I had gathered with a group of friends to take on the previous season’s new Scourge of the Past raid. It’s a Light 650-recommended activity that offered the pinnacle of Destiny 2 gear drops until the new season started. And now for the next few months, Scourge will be a weekly go-to for players seeking a reliable source of Light-boosting gear as they chase the new 700 cap.
I grouped up for a Scourge raid with five other friends, but one problem quickly became evident. One member of the group hadn’t played since late 2018. He’d missed out on the previous season’s Light chase and was hovering somewhere in the mid-500s when we first grouped up. He wasn’t even close to ready for Scourge.
All Forsaken owners can max out at the new Light cap, but only Annual Pass holders can do Surge Bounties.
So he went and grabbed all four Surge Bounties, with various members of our raid group pitching in to help him as needed. In the space of an hour or two, he completed all four bounties. It was even a fun process with all of us in our shared Discord chat cheering him on. And then, once he was done, we leapt right into the raid and had a blast.
The returning friend was a little bit underleveled and needed to be taught how the complicated group activity worked, but the point is he played. There was no tough moment where someone had to pull him aside and apologize for excluding him. Just a lot of laughs and shouts as our group of buddies all tackled the raid together.
It’s important to note that Surge Bounties are tied to Destiny 2‘s most current Annual Pass. The Forsaken update that launched in September is the baseline version of the game for most players, but the new content added in each season is off-limits unless you buy the pass. All Forsaken owners can get their Light up to 700 during Season of the Drifter, but only Annual Pass holders can do the Surge Bounties.
It’s an understandable barrier. There’s really not much reason for players to push for the ever-rising Light cap if they don’t have access to the new, higher-Light content that people pay for. New content additions to the game aren’t free, but the money Bungie makes from selling access via Annual Passes is what pays for all the new stuff.
Surge Bounties aren’t meant to get you to the new max level. Light 640 is best viewed as a starting point for Season of the Drifter’s added content. So it’s more a catch-up than a cheat, putting returning players on even footing with ongoing players as they chase a new Light grind together.
In that sense, Surge Bounties help to justify the cost of an Annual Pass. They ensure that you can leap in and enjoy the new stuff you’ve paid for almost as soon as it arrives, even if you haven’t kept pace with everyone else. They make it more appealing to buy into the journey side of Destiny 2.
It’s the boon to the social game that matters the most, though. Destiny depends on an active and invested community for its survival. Surge Bounties directly empower that community, giving dedicated fans a way to convince their lapsed friends to hop back on board.