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Destiny 2's Massive Pirate Update: The Good, The Bad, The Broken

Season 18 adds new Exotics, ship raids, and treasure maps and it’s good so far

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A Destiny 2 Guardian holds a shotgun in front of space pirate art for Season of Plunder.
Image: Bungie

Destiny 2’s Season of Plunder went live on August 23 and brought with it pirate ships, treasure hunts, and a bevy of new Exotic weapons and armor. The update is one of the game’s biggest since The Witch Queen expansion launched earlier this year, overhauling Arc 3.0 abilities and buffing a bunch of existing guns. Not all of it is perfect, and there’s some stuff Destiny is still doing that I really hate. Here’s everything you need to know about Season 18.

For starters, I have once again been staying up until 2:00 a.m. running on Destiny 2’s treadmill. That’s either a testament to Season of Plunder being really good or to just how loot-pilled my brain has become. Probably a bit of both. The new missions have you fighting space pirates, raiding their ships, and hunting down their buried treasure.

It’s a breezy change of pace from the heavier themes around trauma and betrayal in Witch Queen’s previous seasons, complete with 17th century-inspired pistols and blunderbusses. It doesn’t innovate on the existing seasonal formula nearly as much as it should, but between slick new lightning powers and some fun new Exotics, Bungie’s provided more than enough reasons to suck me back into the Destiny 2 vortex.

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What’s going on in Season of Plunder?

Season 18 kicks off with a mission to break into the old House Salvation Fallen base on Europa, rescue the blackmarket tycoon Spider, and take back his ship. In the process it’s revealed that House Salvation’s former leader, Eramis, broke out of her Stasis prison and is on the loose looking for ancient artifacts. Naturally, the only thing to do is to uncover her plan and collect the relics before she does.

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A Guardian, Drifter, and Eido raise glasses to one another.
Image: Bungie

One of the things I love most about Season of Plunder is the hodgepodge crew at the center of it. It’s you, the war profiteer Spider, the gambling rogue Drifter, the monkish Mithrax, and his just-happy-to-be-along-for-the-ride daughter Eido vs. a rogue Fallen leader with a blood vendetta and a knack for rallying others to her lost causes. It’s kind of like a classic mid-season roadtrip episode between the B-plot characters who almost never speak directly to one another, and so far it’s great.

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Ketchcrash is the name of the game

To stop Eramis you will first need to kill roughly 10,000 pirates, give or take a hundred. Season 18 revolves around Treasure Maps, which must be reconstructed from Map Fragments. Those fragments are earned in Ketchcrash, the new activity where you join with five other players to board an enemy ship, clear a handful of rooms, and kill its captain in a final showdown on the upper deck.

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In the first section you need to stand in one of four zones to aim and then fire cannonballs at the enemy ship. Once enough damage is done, you board and then basically just kill stuff for the next 5-10 minutes, occasionally hacking a zone or taking out some generators to bring down enemies’ shields. The environments are detailed—I’m a sucker for the Fallen’s steampunk tech—and the skyboxes deliver the sci-fi grandeur Destiny 2 is known for.

Destiny 2 players raid a Fallen Ketch.
Screenshot: Bungie / Kotaku
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I’ve completed about 10 runs and I’m not sick of it yet, though I can’t help but feel like Bungie passed, rightly or not, on some opportunities for more creative mechanics. Sea of Thieves this is not, and while the Master difficulty will keep players on their toes, there’s little to think about outside the standard prioritization of add clearing and boss DPS phases (also boss shields in-between damage phases are getting old). Still, getting help from a crew of Fallen NPCs in raiding the enemy ships is a nice touch.

Complete Treasure Maps and gain Repute

Now for how all of the quests, currencies, and upgrades fit together. Here is your average week in Season of Plunder:

  1. Visit the Star Chart in the H.E.L.M.
  2. Hear some dialogue and get your next quest step
  3. Collect Treasure Coordinates by playing any activity
  4. Earn Map Fragments from Ketchcrash
  5. Make a Treasure Map and load it into the Captain’s Atlas
  6. Use it to find buried Spoils of Plunder loot in an Expedition Playlist mission.
  7. Complete a Pirate Hideout to get a new relic

Look familiar? It’s the same basic structure as every other recent season, just with a few zigs where Bungie previously zagged. This time around the upgrade tree is your Pirate Crew, and each node requires one Repute to activate it. You can gain Repute from completing specific tasks from the Weekly Seasonal Challenge list, as well as from Spider during each new weekly story quest chain.

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Some nodes unlock special crewmates you can call into battle who give you special buffs for fighting alongside them. Others unlock new types of Treasure Maps, higher reward drop rates, and other bonuses. I opted to start by hiring Halsiks the Sniper because, in addition to increasing precision damage during Ketchcrash, he also increases the rate at which Treasure Coordinates drop. The obvious node to prioritize down the road is Hidden Compartment, since it guarantees a Deep Sight Resonance drop at the start of each week.

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All-in-all, I really like the flavor around hiring crewmates to make pirate raids more efficient and lucrative, but I still wish there were some actual mechanics around how crewmates and their corresponding buffs are deployed in battle. As it stands, it still just feels like you’re optimizing an excel spreadsheet.

Not all of this is working right now

As with every new update, Season 18 launched with a fair number of bugs, ranging from small annoyances to bigger bummers. First the Icefall Mantle Exotic Titan gauntlets were disabled because of an infinite super glitch. Then almost all heavy grenade launchers were disabled because of a double damage glitch. Arc Titans and Warlocks are also dying much faster then they’re supposed to.

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Progress and rewards for several activities aren’t always processing correctly either. Ketchcrash might not record your completion or give you Map Fragments if you leave to early after beating the boss. You also need to have room in your inventory (surplus Map Fragments won’t go to the Postmaster). Progress on the Delicate Tomb Catalyst quest isn’t tracking accurately either at the moment. There are a bunch of other bugs Bungie is currently keeping an eye on too:

Arc 3.0 has been worth the wait

Destiny 2’s lightning magic is the last set of older abilities to get overhauled and brought up to speed within the more nuanced and customizable framework of Aspects and Fragments. So far the general consensus seems to be that Bungie did a very, very good job. I’m certainly having more fun with it than last season’s Solar 3.0 reboot.

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Arc is all about speed and chain lightning, and the new abilities reflect that. Amplified increases weapon handling and sprint speed, and Jolt lets Arc damage leap from one enemy to the next. At its core, the philosophy seems to be “move fast and break things,” and it’s working perfectly so far. It’s always a good sign when I’m having so much fun with the synergy between my regular abilities that I don’t even realize my Super’s charged.

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Grab a free Thunderlord Exotic at the H.E.L.M.

To make sure old and new players alike can get the most out of experiencing Arc 3.0, Bungie stocked the H.E.L.M. with a Gift of the Thunder Gods chest at the start of the season. Open it and you’ll get a free copy of the Exotic Machine Gun Thunderlord, and a full set of 1540 gear, including an Arc-themed Exotic armor piece. Each armor piece also comes with a pre-equipped mod that compliments the set. It’s basically a free beginner loadout. It’s a great idea and Bungie should do more of them.

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What about Season of Plunder’s weapons?

I’m really liking these so far. In addition to the pirate-y aesthetic, they’re also a lot of fun and encourage a pretty aggressive playstyle. Here are the new Spoils of Plunder weapons that have been added and a few decent perk rolls they can drop with:

  • No Reprieve (Primary Shotgun): Pugilist / Swashbuckler
  • Blood Feud (Stasis Primary SMG): Pugilist / Frenzy
  • Tarnished Metal (Arc Scout Rifle): Rapid Hit / Explosive Payload or Voltshot
  • Brigand’s Law (Arc Sidearm): Feeding Frenzy or Pugilist / Voltshot
  • Sailspy Pitchglass (Arc Linear Fusion Rifle): Rapid Hit / Vorpal Weapon or Voltshot
  • Planck’s Stride (Arc Rapid-Fire Machine Gun): Killing Wind / One For All or Voltshot
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A Guardian points a blunderbuss at her AFK teammate.
Image: Bungie

The new Origin Trait this season is Right Hook which increases target acquisition and range after you melee an enemy. As a result, a lot of these weapons pair well with Pugilist, a new perk this season that gives you melee energy on weapon kills and bonus handling on melee kills. I don’t normally run Swashbuckler a ton, but if you’re already going to be meleeing a ton, why not grab the extra weapon damage buff? Voltshot is also new and will send electric sparks flying between enemies when you reload after a kill. As a result, it pairs very well with all of the Arc guns and is also just a ton of fun.

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Of all the new Spoils of Plunder weapons so far, Brigand’s Law is my favorite, both because I love sidearms and also because of the diversity of great perk loadouts. Pitchglass is a decent DPS option with Vorpal, and will clear adds fast with Voltshot. I hate that No Reprieve is a Pinpoint Slug Frame, despite looking like a Blunderbuss, but it’s still a solid primary slot shottie. Blood Feud looks cool but is kind of trash.

Crafting is still bad

All of the Spoils of Plunder weapons are craftable, as are the Bungie 30th Anniversary weapons from last fall that have now been updated. They each have a new origin trait called Hot Swap that increases handling after switching weapons when damaged. Unfortunately, you still need to attune five Deep Sight Resonance copies of both sets of weapons before you can unlock their pattern and start crafting them.

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Spider dangles loot boxes before the player.
Image: Bungie

This system remains the single messiest part of The Witch Queen. Destiny 2 is in a constant state of war with RNG mechanics, and right now the latter is winning. But because eight years with this game has left me a broken and disturbed individual, I will pull the slot machine lever until I get my craftable Brigand’s Law.

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Here’s every new Exotic in Season 18

  • Delicate Tomb (Arc Fusion Rifle): fires horizontal spread that generates more Ionic Traces and gives the next shot Jolt when you pick one up
  • Touch of Malice (Primary Scout Rifle): drains health to deal extra damage.
  • Fallen Sunstar (Warlock Helmet): Collects Ionic Traces quicker, gets more ability energy from them, and provides ability regen to nearby allies
  • Gyrfalcon’s Hauberk (Hunter Chest): Provides overshield and class ability regen to nearby allies when completing a finisher while invisible
  • Point-Contact Cannon Brace (Titan Gauntlets): Thunderclap restores melee energy and brings lightning down on enemies while attack is charged
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Bungie art shows Season of Plunder's new season pass Exotic.
Image: Bungie

Delicate Tomb is the season pass Exotic and it pairs very well with all of the new Arc 3.0 abilities. Touch of Malice is seemingly coming as part of the returning Destiny 1 King’s Fall raid (players adored it back in the day). And while I haven’t actually obtained any of the Exotic armor pieces yet, Fallen Sunstar is going to look amazing on my Warlock. It, Gyrfalcon’s Hauberk, and Point-Contact Cannon Brace each drop from the daily Legendary and Master difficulty Lost Sector. I ran half a dozen last night and got nada. Lost Sector drop rates remain dismal, especially as the loot pool keeps increasing. At this point at least one new Exotic per account should be guaranteed through a quest.

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Pre-order Lightfall to get the Quicksilver Storm Exotic auto rifle

But wait, there’s one more! In a big departure from the past, Bungie has made Lightfall’s bonus Exotic available six months in advance, at least for those willing to pay $100 upfront for a Deluxe Edition of the next expansion that includes content more than a year away. Quicksilver Storm is an auto rifle that fires additional mini-homing missiles and can morph into a grenade launcher. Tempting! Or maybe Bungie could just charge a subscription for Destiny 2 like a normal MMO.

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King’s Fall goes live on August 26 at 3:00 p.m. ET

The returning raid is a fan favorite and probably the best one Bungie has ever put out, despite being seven years old at this point. For the first 24 hours after release it will be in Contest Mode, limiting every player’s Power level to 1560 as they race to see which six-person team can be the first to complete it. Like Vault of Glass before it, there are some really spectacular moments, and I’m sure Bungie has thrown a few new tricks into the mix.

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What’s the Power cap in Season 18?

  • Soft cap: 1520
  • Powerful cap: 1570
  • Pinnacle cap: 1580

For returning players, this means the Master difficulty recommended Power level is 1600. The Nightfall Grandmaster recommended Power level (beginning October 4) is 1620. For everyone else, this means activities with Powerful drops will give you gear that goes up to 1570, while Pinnacle activities will give you gear that goes up to 1580. As always, leveling up the seasonal Artifact will give you another 20 points.

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Destiny 2 players look at Spider's Ketch off in the distance on Europa.
Image: Bungie

Eight years into Destiny, I’m not sure who this whole system is for anymore and I hope Bungie gets rid of it by the time Lightfall launches in February. All of the activities are already calibrated to remain in a certain band of difficulty, no matter what your actual Power level is. Gating hard difficulty modes behind a couple dozen hours of toil each season just end up burning a bunch of players out (yes, I am one of them).

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The rest of Season of Plunder’s Roadmap

  • September 6: First Iron Banner
  • September 16: Trials of Osiris returns
  • October 4: Grandmaster Nightfalls return
  • October 18: Festival of the Lost 2022
  • November 15: Second Banner
  • November 22: Fortnite-themed helmets go on sale for Bright Dust (earned in-game currency)
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