Destiny 2: Season of the Deep Impressions — On stranger tides

Season 21 of Destiny, Season of the Deep, has now come to a close. In terms of content, Season of the Deep technically offered a number of “new” activities, story beats, rewards, and quality of life changes. However, the Destiny 2 seasonal model is showing its age now more than ever. Player sentiment is lower than it has been in a while, mainly due to the staleness of the seasonal activities, underwhelming loot, and a story that moves at a snail’s pace.

Season of the Deep wasn’t exactly set up for success, coming hot off the heels of the critically panned Lightfall expansion and the decent Season of Defiance. Being the second expansion of the content year is no easy task; usually these seasons are somewhat dull in terms of narrative and intrigue. Season of Defiance was no exception to this. One of the main draws of the season was the return of the previously content-vaulted Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. The location was removed during Season of Arrivals, and players were excited to revisit the ocean-themed planet. Personally, I thought Titan would return as a patrol space, similar to the Leviathan in last year’s Season of the Haunted. I was disappointed to learn that Titan would really only be used as a backdrop for the seasonal activities, story missions, and dungeon. It would have been nice to be able to fully explore the location again, but I digress.

The story of Season 21 centered around Titan’s return. Xivu Arath, the Hive Goddess of War, invaded the planet with her Lucent Brood as soon as it showed up. Deputy Commander Sloane, previously thought to be lost during Season of Arrivals, returned alongside the blue moon. Having lost half of her body to the Taken blight of the Darkness, Sloane was in a fight for survival during her time away. However, she befriended a massive sentient sea creature named Asha that had unique ties to both the Traveler and the Witness. Using the power of Asha’s visions and Sloane’s ability to communicate with the creature, a group including the Guardian, the Drifter, Zavala, and Saint-14 filled in the blanks as to why Xivu Arath and her forces were interested in Titan in the first place. 

Story missions this time around were exceptionally bland, choosing to focus on dull exposition dumps and vague prophecies from Sloane, Xivu Arath, and Asha. There were no real spectacle moments to speak of, and each mission was a rinse and repeat of the prior. You dive into the depths of Titan’s methane ocean, fight some Hive or Fallen, find or defend some MacGuffins, and fight a weak boss at the end. Each week continued the breadcrumb trail of exposition, never giving too much information as to where the story was leading or why we should be invested at all. 

However, at the end of the seasonal story, there was a cutscene. This was no ordinary cutscene, no; this one in particular detailed how exactly the Witness came to be, why it is feuding with the Traveler in the first place, and how it wields the Darkness. Arguably the most important piece of story we have received in months… relegated to a black and white slideshow cutscene (albeit a beautiful one – Destiny’s artists stay winning). This pretty much sums up where Bungie’s priorities are at the moment in terms of narrative: dragging out the little interest we still have in the 10-year story of Destiny in order to justify weekly logins. As you can probably tell, I was not a huge fan of this season’s narrative.

Two seasonal activities were added this time around. Salvage, a six-player matchmade activity, was easily the weaker of the two. Salvage consisted of a checklist of busywork split up between members of the fireteam. Most of it is standard Destiny fare; use the wrench to repair this, defend these objectives, defuse these bombs, and so on. The final bosses for Salvage utilized some light mechanics, but usually fell pretty quick. 

The second seasonal activity, Deep Dives, were infinitely more interesting. Deep Dives were a roguelike activity made up of a few different objectives, enemy types, and arenas. After surviving each arena against a time limit, the next encounter would up the difficulty slightly, all the way up to level four. If you successfully completed the fourth round, you were rewarded with bonus loot after one of three final bosses. Deep Dives introduced players to a level of innovation Destiny 2 has not yet seen in the form of random tile sets and encounters, and proved to be a refreshing activity. 

A secret exotic mission, titled Whetstone, went live about halfway through the season. In order to access this mission, one player on a fireteam had to meet a few special requirements through the charming but trite fishing public event. Once the requirements were met, the player could load into a Deep Dive and find a few hidden statues to activate the mission. A challenging time trial followed, made up of a few boss fights and puzzle rooms, and culminating in a difficult battle against a Tormentor. The exotic reward for the mission was the Wicked Implement stasis scout rifle. Wicked Implement released wickedly underpowered, leading Bungie to promise a buff to the weapon in Season 22. However, the Whetstone exotic mission overall offered a real challenge for skilled players. It would have been nice to receive a proper reward, though.

Season of the Deep also introduced Veil Containment missions on Neomuna. These narrative-heavy levels offered a nice break from the grind of the seasonal activities, and provided some much needed context as to what the Veil is and why it is important. A few changes were made to how seasonal vendors worked as well, alleviating some of the pain of unlocking seasonal buffs in order and letting players unlock at their own pace. The seasonal artifact offered mods centered mainly around arc and void builds, expanding on the buildcraft of those subclasses greatly, which was great. 

The Ghosts of the Deep dungeon released alongside Season 21, though it is not technically part of the seasonal offerings, as it requires the separately-sold dungeon key to play. Since I actually never attempted this dungeon, I cannot speak on how it played, but I know the community at large was satisfied with it.

All in all, I would generally consider Season of the Deep’s activities a letdown. Story missions were monotonous and largely uneventful. Salvage was especially boring to complete, boiling down to a series of objective markers spread out by lengthy runs to each area. The exotic quest was fun to do the first few runs, but became pointless once you realized the reward was not worth the challenge. As for Deep Dives, these were definitely the silver lining. The roguelike structure of the activity gave it some replayability while also offering a lively challenge. In the future, I hope Bungie learns from the success of this activity and builds on it later.

Crucible saw the return of Meltdown, a previously content vaulted map this season. I can’t really get excited about the return of a piece of content I already paid for and was then robbed of, so I will not talk about this “addition”. Iron Banner and Trials are the usual competitive albeit frustrating romp, and Gambit feels more like a distant memory at this point.

I am usually a fan of the season pass rewards for Destiny 2’s seasons, and this time around was no exception. New shaders, emotes, plenty of bright dust, and the new Deepsight Resonators (consumables that allow you to make pattern progress on any craftable weapon) gave me a reason to grind to level 100. Additionally, Centrifuse, the season pass exotic arc auto rifle that charges when sprinting or sliding, was my favorite season pass exotic in some time. A true compliment to any arc build, this thing shredded. Solstice of Heroes also came and went; this event is typically my least favorite of the bunch, so I did not pay it too much mind during my playtime this season. However, extra content is extra content, and it gave those who enjoy it another reason to log in.

If you could not tell by now, Season of the Deep was not exactly the best season Destiny 2 has put out. A painfully slow-moving seasonal story, stale activities, exotic letdowns, and a chronically-dead PvP scene did this season no favors. However, the engaging Deep Dive activity and the excellent Centrifuse auto rifle gave me plenty of reasons to dabble in Season 21. Nevertheless, I am hopeful Bungie can right the ship in Season 22 and start building anticipation for The Final Shape, Destiny 2’s most important expansion to date.

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