It has been extreme amounts of doom and gloom at Bungie and in the Destiny 2 community after a wave of sudden layoffs and nebulous plans about the game’s future, hinging heavily, I’d argue too heavily, on the performance of the soon-to-be delayed Final Shape expansion.
One thing that keeps coming up about this situation is that it really is not tied to the current season of the game. Usually when things are “bad” in Destiny it’s because of an off season or a sub-par expansion (*cough* Lightfall). Now? That hasn’t happened, and I think it’s important to take stock of what exactly Season of the Witch got right for the purposes of A) giving Bungie credit where it’s due but B) raising this as a bit of a cause for concern if even what I would consider probably a top 3 season in Destiny history exists in the middle of such a massive downturn, and is unable to reverse declining trends. Whoops, I was trying to be positive, but yes, I think it’s an issue.
Ultimately, Season of the Witch has a lot of elements that I think really stand out in terms of what makes a season great. More so than practically any other season before it, as even “glory days” seasons like Opulence may excel in one category (good activity!) but completely lack in other ways (did that have a narrative at all?).
Savathun’s Spire – Destiny is often accused of not bringing us enough strikes in new content, which is very much the case as of late. Instead, it’s been subbing in “Battlegrounds” enemy-dense zones that often reuse old areas and jam them with enemies. I don’t mind them, but it’s far from the same thing. Enter Savathun’s Spire, which I would consider the most interesting version of a modular strike I think we’ve seen in ages, with many different encounters for each phase culminating in different final bosses. It’s kind of like three strikes wrapped into one, and it feels like an evolution for the concept in a way Battlegrounds were not.
Altars of Summoning – Again, I love the move away from six man activities for the most part, as new enemy density plus a lower playercount means more engaging combat. Here, Altars of Summoning serves as a sort of blend between Court of Oryx, Sundial and Menagerie, some of Destiny 2’s all-time best activities, and I think it’s been extremely underrated as a seasonal activity, at least based on past nostalgic standards. The one issue I’d say exists is the “players randomly choose difficulty” issue that means a lack of communication can result in bad instances, but overall, it’s a great activity.
Aesthetic – The art direction here is on point in every way. Returning to the sweeping halls of Savathun’s Throne World has been welcome, infused with the Hive-infested magic of Eris. From exotic weapons to exotic armor to the tree-based armor sets we get in the battle pass, this is the best overall aesthetic we’ve seen for a season in quite some time.
Eververse Concession – This one is minor, but at least they did it. They took the armor set out of Eververse this season and made it a playlist drop. Perhaps not the greatest thing to grind for ever, but it’s something, a cosmetic pursuit that means playing the central playlists of the game can feel rewarding, as otherwise we would have been paying $45 for this set across three classes. It’s small, but a significant gesture, and I wish things like this would happen more often.
The Narrative – Immaru may be the most genuinely funny character I think we’ve seen in Destiny history. I think when Cayde-6 was the comic relief, looking back he’s a little Joss Whedon for my taste at this point. Like he’s specifically “the funny guy” while Immaru is just hilarious for his brutal honestly and constant takedowns. But on the more serious side, this being the culmination of a decade of Eris’ storyline, becoming a literal Hive god as revenge for all they’ve done to her, was excellent. The only issue here was the final, somewhat aborted cutscene and what was shoved into a lore page instead of being realize on the screen. But that was more of a budget issue than anything, and the narrative itself was still on point (read that “Saint-14 kills Savathun” lore page, for instance).
Festival of the Lost – You know what, it’s a good event this year. Why? Because it made me go after something I actually wanted. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the “superblack” Festival memento being a pursuit, as it felt a bit like the consumable shader days of old. And yet after farming for it, acquiring it, and applying it, this really felt like a meaningful pursuit of a cosmetic, something we haven’t seen in a long while, I’d say. Getting the memento and picking which of your favorite crafted guns “deserved” it is fun to me, and even if the activity itself remains repetitive from past years, I think it was a good new driver for a seasonal event, and I would not say no to a similar memento for future events.
There’s more. The tarot cards, a few great new weapons, there’s a lot to like. A few areas miss but I fully believe this is one of Destiny’s best seasons. But…that’s a problem if the state of the game can be this deep underground, not tied to its current quality at all. More on that later, but I wanted a break from the gloom for a bit.
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