Season of the Chosen went live in Destiny 2 today, and with it a whole new set of things to grind for. So far, these things—new armor, guns, and exotic gear—seem pretty cool, with interesting new perks to make them worth chasing. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t already feeling daunted by yet another set of artifacts, upgrade nodes, and season pass rewards to rank up.
The villains du jour this time around are remnants of the Red Legion, a faction that now controls the Cabal and is loosely inspired by the Roman Empire. Empress Caiatl, daughter of year one raid boss Callus, wants you and the Vanguard to pledge allegiance to her, but of course Zavala, Osiris and co. aren’t having it. And so the two sides are at war (again), providing a new reason to shoot legions of lumbering space Goombas in search of new rewards and lore dumps.
I’ve played around with the new content for about three hours now. So far most of my impressions are pretty positive, though I’m less hopeful about the larger existential questions swirling around Destiny 2 as it passes the halfway point of its fourth year. Here’s a quick rundown:
- The launching area for Season of the Chosen is called the H.E.L.M., which is an acronym for Destiny gibberish that exited one ear shortly after entering the other. It’s a big space full of hallways and closed doors that seem likely to open up later in the season or sometime further down the road. In the meantime it’s kind of empty and lonely, though I do love the Star Trek: The Next Generation-style polished wood surrounding the war table.
- The war table is where you grab seasonal bounties, upgrade seasonal nodes, and cash in seasonal currency for new seasonal engrams. It seems modeled after Variks’ upgrade nodes from Europa, which were nice and streamlined compared to seasons past.
- The H.E.L.M. is also where the Prismatic Recaster, brought back from Season 11, is now located. Here you can refocus Umbral Engrams, which have also returned, transforming them into Season of the Chosen weapons and armor or into random gear from the rest of the game’s current loot pool. It appears to be currency-based, rather than upgrade-driven like the original version, which is a relief, since grinding that thing the first time around was painful enough.
- The highlight of Season of the Chosen is the new Battlegrounds activity. It can be accessed from the surface on Nessus and Europa, or from the Strike Playlist after completing some initial story quests. You fight waves of enemies in a patrol area, then head deeper into one of the nearby underground caverns, fight more waves of enemies, and eventually end up at a Cabal boss in a small arena filled with still more waves of enemies. It’s short, varied, and a breezy way to burn through bounties—everything you’d want from a seasonal activity you might be running dozens of times a week.
- At the end of a run you get your normal Strike Playlist rewards chest, followed by a second Battlegrounds chest you can smash open if you’ve charged up your Cabal hammer artifact. This Hammer is like Season of Opulence’s Chalice. You insert gold coins you earn throughout other activities in order to unlock the extra chest, and the way you upgrade the hammer will affect what rewards are inside. Opening treasure chests is fun. Smashing them is even more fun. Again, nothing new here, but this loot loop feels better optimized than many of Destiny 2’s past ones.
- The Crow has finally left the Tangled Shore and is ready to hang. He’s even got a Phantom of the Opera mask Osiris makes him wear so that no one else in the Last City recognizes him and goes “Oh shit, you killed Cayde-6, aka Nathan Fillion.” It’s a nice touch. Hopefully he becomes more involved as the season progresses.
- There’s a new exotic bow called Ticuu’s Divination that reminds me of Gears of War’s Torque Bow. Fire it from the hip and three homing shots will whip around corners to hone in on a target. Hold down and fire a precision shot at that target and it will explode with a detonation that is both satisfying and perfect for ripping through Cabal mobs. I don’t normally like bows, but I like this one. The rest of the new exotic gear looks similarly powerful, which is good for providing new loot to chase but also makes the older stuff I already have feel boring by comparison.
- The new patch is live, and seasonal challenges have replaced weekly bounties. As someone who almost never finished weekly bounties, I’m looking forward to this change. In a game that feels increasingly transient, having season long challenges is both easier to keep track of and feels more substantial. Swords have been nerfed too, but I (and everyone else I see) are still using them just fine in Battlegrounds. Meanwhile, rocket launchers were buffed, but I’m still not sold on them. Bungie also boosted recoil for PC players ahead of the cross-play update planned in the near future. I imagine this will suck for PC players, but I don’t play on PC so I can’t say at the moment.
- Sunsetting is more of a bummer than ever. As some of my favorite weapons get closer to their power cap (I’ll never let you go, Gnawing Hunger), Bungie’s current approach to loot sustainability and sandbox balancing feels more misguided than ever. Philosophical disagreements aside, it is still completely bonkers to me that players have to grind for new versions of re-issued weapons rather than being able to infuse up the older but otherwise identical versions. Also I got another Long Shadow sniper rifle in one of my first few Legendary drops this season, and it’s still at an older cap than the current season’s. Why is this loot game wasting my time with arbitrary expiration dates?
- The Devil’s Lair and Fallen SABER strikes from Destiny 1 are back and I missed them. The more time marches on, the more I long for the comparatively simple and straightforward pleasures of the first game.
There’s a lot planned for Season of the Chosen according to its content roadmap, including new versions of Battlegrounds and a new strike based in the Last City called Proving Grounds. Based on my first few hours with what’s already live, Season 13 seems like it will have as many good reasons for Destiny players to keep playing Destiny as any previous season. But so far it hasn’t shown any signs of doing anything bold to change up the game’s underlying formula or how players interact with it. At times that’s enough for me, but increasingly I find myself hoping for something more, and disappointed when it never quite materializes.