It’s time for yet another season in Destiny 2. With the threat of Savathun and the Darkness looming in the distance, Guardians will have to face another foe seeking endless power. This “big bad” in Destiny 2: Season of the Chosen happens to be Empress Caiatl, the daughter of our tubby pal Calus.
Yes, at a glance, Destiny 2: Season of the Chosen seems disconnected from the reality of the universe being built around you. But, the more I played, the more I experienced qualms and doubts about Bungie’s newest offering.
The Empress of the Cabal
The moment you launch Destiny 2: Season of the Chosen, you’re treated to a cinematic where Osiris chides the Vanguard for resting on their laurels and neglecting to prepare. Next, you see Zavala and Osiris negotiating with Empress Caiatl. This Cabal leader was someone who betrayed Calus to Ghaul, the Guardian’s nemesis in the vanilla campaign. Her goal: make the Guardians bow down to the Cabal Empire much to Zavala’s and Osiris’ chagrin.
The narrative, once again, leaps from a potential catastrophe to an emerging threat. The key difference here is that we already know about the Cabal’s motivations. Their galaxy-spanning military is out to take systems by force. It’s as one-dimensional as it gets. To go from communing with the Darkness in Beyond Light to yet another villain with paper-thin characterization can be jarring.
If the term “jarring” applies to the narrative, then using it on the core gameplay loop would be an understatement. Given the Cabal’s penchant for dominance, the Vanguard aims to prevent all-out war by “challenging champions” and “proving your might.” This leads the player to partake in Battlegrounds, which are short romps through locations that you’ve seen before. The only difference now is that you’re contending with countless Cabal foes.
A Battleground run lasts around ten minutes, a mini-strike, if you will. The mechanics are the usual mishmash such as kill a lot of mobs, pick up balls and throw ’em, and shoot the thing so the boss loses its shield. And that’s just the first part of Destiny 2: Season of the Chosen‘s gameplay loop.
The second part combines the above with the Hammer of Proving. It has related mechanics such as Cabal Gold, Tribute Chests, the Prismatic Recaster, and Umbral Engrams (these last two were seen in the Season of Arrivals). Your tasks consist of completing playlist activities to obtain Cabal Gold for your Hammer of Proving, slotting a rune using that Cabal Gold, finishing a Battleground run to smash a Tribute Chest, gaining a charge for your hammer, visiting the H.E.L.M. command center, and, finally, using the hammer’s stored charges to focus an Umbral Engram via the Prismatic Recaster. Lather, rinse, and repeat.
Does that sound needlessly convoluted and disconnected? Yes. It doesn’t help matters that the previous iteration of the engram-focusing feature was more straightforward, even earning Bungie a bit of praise from the community.
Unfortunately, the current implementation leaves a lot to be desired. It’s like Bungie combined the runes from the Chalice of Opulence, the charges from Wrathborn Hunts, and the general “kill X number of mobs” tallies for exotic catalysts. And these are just to let you focus a single Umbral Engram type.
Likewise, it bears mentioning that Hammer of Proving’s upgrades are time-gated, with several perks requiring rank-ups via reputation from seasonal/weekly challenges. This, too, seems like a contrived method of presenting you with bounties. In a way, the grind feels even grindier than before. That leads to a situation where mechanics and features that ought to be simple turn into artificially-padded progression.
Weapons of war
Destiny 2: Season of the Chosen has one ritual weapon, the Salvager’s Salvo grenade launcher. It’s far from being the next Mountaintop, and I doubt I’d replace my energy slot with that in PvP. As for exotics, the only weapon that’s been released so far is Ticuu’s Divination, which is a bow with tracking shots that tickle mobs. Needless to say, it’s a disappointment.
As for other legendary weapons, dozens have been added to the loot pool. There might be a few that’ll become fixtures in the long run such as the Shadow Price auto rifle, Brass Attacks sidearm, Extraordinary Rendition SMG, and The Palindrome hand cannon. The main downside here is that too many of these items fill the aforementioned energy slot. I’m reminded of the Garden of Salvation raid from Shadowkeep when lots of drops were energy weapons.
It’s too early to tell if these will offset the effects of sunsetting. Moreover, several weapons are either from Destiny 1 or are “reprised” versions — you’re essentially redoing activities and praying to the RNG gods for the perfect roll even though the sunsetted version of the item might have been fine already.
What else can we look forward to in Destiny 2: Season of the Chosen?
Regarding Stasis, the subclass is still a nightmare in competitive play. Titans and Hunters maximize its effectiveness, and Warlocks can only look on in sadness. This season also has new Stasis aspects and fragments (and aspects are obtained rather quickly).
Lastly, Bungie did add a couple of strikes, but these (Devil’s Lair and Fallen Saber) are from Destiny 1. In fact, the Fallen Saber strike can’t be accessed at all. As for the strike that’s actually new (Proving Grounds), it won’t be live until March 23.
As of now, Destiny 2: Season of the Chosen neither excites nor keeps me engaged. The “core gameplay loop” might as well be called the “chore gameplay loop” owing to the mechanics involved. But, these are just my impressions from the first few days. I’ll see what else is in store in the coming week since the game will have another Battleground map. Likewise, since there are new and reissued weapons, I’ll be gunning for better rolls (pun intended) just to see if the loot pool is more vibrant.
After a couple of weeks (review update)
Folks know that Destiny 2 is an evolving game and its seasonal structure leads to further developments down the line. Season of the Chosen is hardly different in that manner. Still, the past couple of weeks gave Guardians plenty to talk about. The second week saw The Presage exotic mission which, upon completion, led to the Dead Man’s Tale exotic scout rifle as a reward. That’s followed by the master difficulty version that went live this week, awarding the catalyst for the weapon.
The Presage mission, which takes place aboard a derelict Cabal ship filled with Scorn, puzzles, and various secrets, is a treat from start to finish. It’s worthy of being heralded as one of the best and most unique world spaces, mentioned in the same breath as The Whisper and Zero Hour. But, it’s not something you’ll play every week (unless you’re looking for more random rolls for the exotic)
Outside of The Presage, the weekly experience I’ve had has been a monotonous, tedious slog. It was punctuated by the Empress Caiatl storyline and Battleground runs/Challenger’s Proving quests cited earlier, all for a few hammer charges just to focus a single engram. Funnily enough, you can complete your weapon tally kills and get five charges for each focusing action you’d do to get a single tier 3 engram. Even then, all your efforts won’t guarantee you the rolls, let alone the specific weapon, that you need. So, yes, my opinion from the first week until now hasn’t changed: Season of Arrivals had a better implementation of this mechanic.
Whether we wanted it or not
Now, do you want to farm for Nightfall-specific weapons? You can do that, but you’ll need to climb to reach the power cap once more (or boost your artifact’s XP) since, naturally, the mobs you used to beat up now have a higher power level. Will you actually get decent or even god rolls? Well, that’s still up to RNG. With more perks to choose from nowadays, these actually lower the percentage of getting the right combinations.
How about getting reissued items? I personally feel that the idea of reissuing gear is more of an insult. You’re farming again for the items you’ve obtained before, and the reason you’re farming is that they were made useless last season. Oh, and as for the PvP side of things, you’re not missing out. Trials of Osiris is home to a dwindling number of “sweats,” with more people jumping to their doom to get a weapon after three games. As for Iron Banner, you’ll be playing Control (again) and getting refurbished armor (again). It feels like we’re really stuck in a Vex time loop.
Yes, Destiny 2: Season of the Chosen, like all the previous ones, has its ups and downs. Sadly, once you’re done experiencing the rush of something new, you’re back to the grind that, many years later, hasn’t improved. Worse, if the umbral engrams mechanic is any indication, it’s as though Bungie can’t follow through with something that was once successful and well-received. Will the Proving Grounds activity change all that on March 23? Only time will tell. For now, you’re left with nearly a month of the same old stuff. In any case, whether you’re tired, disappointed, hopeful, or still giddy, you can check out our Destiny 2: Season of the Chosen guides and features hub.