Destiny 2: Season of Arrivals Review — More than Worthy
In a parallel universe where COVID-19 never existed, Destiny 2 players would already be sweeping across the frozen wastes of Europa in the game’s latest expansion, Beyond Light, but our reality has pushed Beyond Light’s release back to November 10. Forced to pick up the unexpected slack, the once-tightSeason of Arrivals has fallen into a stalemate.
Unlike previous seasons, where Bungie drip-fed players new content announcements in the lead-up to the official reveal, the company kept everything about the Season of Arrivals under wraps until the very last moment, which happened to be a 45-minute Beyond Light reveal stream. Although the focus was on Beyond Light and what the next three years will hold for Destiny 2, Bungie also announced and detailed the Season of Arrivals.
Benefitting from the cold release, the Season of Arrivals made an immediate first impression. A crisp cutscene starring the Warmind and a drastic skybox change over Io set events in motion, the ominous vigil of a Pyramid loomed over activities and a remixed soundtrack created a haunting new ambiance for an old location. As the weeks passed, Titan, Mars and Mercury also received the same skybox and ambience updates, foreshadowing their imminent removal to the Destiny Content Vault come Beyond Light.
Up first in the Season of Arrivals’ content offering is the excellent Prophecy Dungeon, which is available for free to all players. Set in the realms of The Nine and featuring some phenomenal geometry-based design matched with neon-soaked ‘80s ambiance, the Dungeon offers unique Taken-themed challenges and a new mechanic that requires the literal use of Light and Darkness. Players will also find new armour, reprised weapons, and some bunny-themed cosmetics to chase after. It’s a fantastic offering all up, but due to some poor design choices on Bungie’s part, Prophecy will be unavailable for a short time when Beyond Light is released.
The season’s new story content comes in the form of weekly “Interference” missions that take the player to brand-new locations, with all-new visual assets and a weekly dose of lore delivered by Eris Morn. The new locations include the Cradle, the Tree of Silver Wings, and the Court of Savathûn — which pays homage to the Dreadnaught from the first Destiny game and sees players experience a three-week cycle of challenges. Unfortunately, the extension to the Season of Arrivals due to Beyond Light’s delay saw the Interference rotation stagnate with no new development each week; we did finally get to play the epic finale after the October 7 weekly reset, and I can’t think of a better way to finish off a year of Destiny than to remove the last of Oryx’s blighted children from the cosmos. Those who haven’t played through it yet still have a chance, as it appears that this final showdown is repeating each week until Beyond Light.
In order to play the weekly Interference missions, players have been required to engage with Destiny 2’s new public event, Contact. Fortunately, this event has largely removed the issues we saw in last season’s public event; it does still employ instance-based matchmaking, but Bungie adjusted the difficulty curve to reflect the player’s loadout and Power Level rather than their ability to be in two places at once. Following the recent trend of re-used mechanics, Contact mirrors Gambit in that it’s an exercise in collection and drop-off before you fight one of four unique bosses. The event did suffer from a bug affecting the Triumphs, but the bug wasn’t game-breaking by any stretch of the term. Other than that, though, Contact is a fun little blast of horde-clearing that’s always welcome.
Also of note was the developer’s heart-warming tribute to developer Matt Helsom, who “worked closely with teams at both Bungie and Vicarious Visions on various projects during [their] partnership” and sadly passed away last year. Bungie “[memorialised] his contributions in the Destiny universe” by putting together a brief quest on Mars in his honour.
The Umbral Engram system is an almost-perfect attempt at tailored loot design that fans have long been demanding, allowing players to prime their Umbral Engrams to ensure that they’ll receive a specific weapon or armour type. Although it does create a far more player-friendly experience that leans towards power-levelling and “god roll” farming, the system isn’t without its issues: the Engrams themselves are a delight, but they drop so frequently that travelling to claim them and make space for other drops quickly becomes a chore; and the Engrams themselves drop such obscene quantities of Shaders — a.k.a., cosmetic items — that players end up spending more time clearing their inventories than actually enjoying the gear they get from these drops. Bungie did reduce the amount of Shaders players would pull from the Umbral Engrams in Update 2.9.2, but the issue of excessive meaningless gear still remains.
The Season of Arrivals’ biggest victory, however, is in the one area in which Bungie always delivers: gunplay. The new exotic and legendary weapons marry inspired, original design with nostalgic favourites. The Witherhoard is a delightful damage-over-time grenade launcher that launches a lingering blight that serves well for both casual and end-game play, Ruinous Effigy is the trace rifle that literally turns your enemies into a versatile orb of death, and the Traveler’s Chosen sidearm keeps your abilities procced so long as you keep on killing. The pulse rifle and auto rifle archetypes had some lovely additions as well, but the true winners are the Falling Guillotine and Temptation’s Hook swords — the former creates a whirlwind of void death while the later launches a discus of lightning for some impressive DPS. Each weapon fits the game beautifully and benefits from Bungie’s incredible talent in gunplay development, making the Season of Arrivals’ entire arsenal a welcome addition to Destiny 2.
The Season of Arrivals featured three community events: the end-of-year celebration known as Moments of Triumph, the Solstice of Heroes, and the hastily-added Festival of the Lost. Moments of Triumph is, as noted, an end-of-year event that offers both in-game rewards and incentives to spend real-world money at the Bungie Store. Aside from the usual activities, 2020’s Moments of Triumph encouraged players to revisit the five raids that are set to vanish into the Destiny content vault come November 10; the Leviathan, Eater of Worlds, Spire of Stars, Crown of Sorrow and The Scourge of the Past raids also received a farming update due to their impending removal.
Unfortunately, the other two events didn’t go so well. The Solstice of Heroes is, to be blunt, the wet blanket of the Destiny events — an unashamed grind-fest that rewards players with gold-trimmed, reused armour that can also glow. Among the lengthy tasks for the event armour are the painful goals set in the re-used horde mode arena, the European Aerial Zone (EAZ). The first iteration of the Solstice of Heroes offered reprised story missions with different outcomes from the main campaign; these missions had issues with difficulty, but their originality would have made for a far better send-off than the faulted European Aerial Zone. It did set a precedent for future quests by boosting the completion rates for alternate characters once a player reached a certain threshold with their main character — a kind development for addicts like myself who clear everything with every class — but it suffered from the main reward, those glowing armour sets, being a whole lot duller than advertised. Bungie rectified that issue with Update 2.9.2 as well, but this is yet another instance of the company’s turbulence with regard to content delivery, an issue that it desperately needs to work on.
Finally, the Halloween-style Festival of the Lost should have been the first seasonal event after Beyond Light launched, but Bungie decided to squeeze it into the end of the Season of Arrivals in order to line it up with actual Halloween. As such, there’s not much to say about the event itself — it’s a copy-paste of last year’s event: wear a colourful mask representing many friends and foes of the Destiny universe and jump into the Haunted Forest, a procedurally generated Vex arena that has been spooked up for Halloween. The new addition for this year is another type of event currency, the Cipher Decoder, which brings the total up to three currencies and also had such miserly drop rates that Bungie had to patch it… twice. Even after those patches, players can only grind for a Cipher Decoder outside of the Haunted Forest, which inexplicably keeps players away from the new content. If you want to play inside the Haunted Forest, you’ll have to settle for generic loot and a 20-25% chance of finding the unique Festival of the Lost weapons (but no guarantee that it will be a role worth keeping, so back to the grind with you!). The Festival of the Lost will continue for the rest of this week, up until the November 3 weekly reset.
Bungie also showed off its ability to turn a bug into a feature during the Season of Arrivals. Early in the season, the developer patched a Nightfall activity that was awarding double loot, and ended up adding double Nightfall rewards as a weekly feature — along with triple Infamy (Gambit) and Valor (Crucible) — after fans praised the bug, in order to keep the extended season fresh. This wasn’t the only bug that Bungie had to deal with throughout the season, though, as almost every great idea it added to the game came with a bug that impacted the player on some level, which became rather tiresome. These issues mean that the questions surrounding whether the studio should stay committed to this four-season content cycle rather than dropping to three seasons have never been more valid.
Overall, though, the Season of Arrivals has been a much better season of content than the Season of the Worthy before it; it’s definitely been one of the best seasons we’ve had story-wise, but given that it was meant to end two months ago, it’s now limping over the finish line with the Festival of the Lost kicking on for a little while longer and then a mystery week of nothing before Beyond Light comes out on November 10. It’s going to be interesting to see how Bungie plans to balance the length of the future seasons now that this one has gone on for so long.
Although it’s been one of the better seasons, if not the best so far, the Season of Arrivals has been in no way perfect. Destiny 2 as a whole is in desperate need of a Season of Polish, but for now we can only hope that Beyond Light will bring all of its wondrous new toys to players without the plague of bugs.
Tom reviewed Destiny 2’s Season of Arrivals using a digital Xbox One license.