With Destiny 2’s 20th latest season now completed, it is time to take a retrospective look at all of the changes, story beats, and additions that defined the Season of Defiance. Though the seasons offered little in terms of game systems and new content, it was still a largely positive experience and will surely be remembered as one of Destiny 2’s better seasons. Lightfall, Destiny 2’s most recent mainline expansion, had a somewhat rocky release and reception, generally garnering more disappointment than praise. Season of Defiance has given the game some much needed consistency and stability.
Launching alongside an expansion is always a tough break for Destiny 2 seasons. In the past, seasons that accompany major in-game releases always come off a bit lacking, as the bulk of the yearly content is distributed with the expansion. Season of Defiance doesn’t exactly buck this trend, but it also doesn’t fall quite as victim to the trend as say, Season of the Hunt.
Season 20’s narrative demonstrates what I mean. It concentrates on the war against the Darkness on Earth. While the Cloudstriders and some key members of the Vanguard fight Calus and his Shadow Legion on Neptune, Earth is simultaneously under attack by the forces of the Witness. Mara Sov, Amanda Holiday, Devrim Kay, Mithrax, and Crow share the spotlight for the majority of the season, giving the narrative a more human, mortal tone that we haven’t seen since the launch of Destiny 2 back in 2017. The Shadow Legion is taking human prisoners on Earth, launching attacks in the EDZ, Cosmodrome, and the planet’s orbit. Armed with new Strand abilities, the mysteries of the Ascendent Plane, and the powers of Mara Sov’s Queensguard, the Guardians must hold the line against the Witness’s offensive.
Since Season of Defiance had the difficult task of beginning at the same time as Lightfall, the story was very short. Seasonal story quests only lasted for around five weeks, with a final mission launching after the main quest wrapped up. Having the focus on the “war at home” so to speak was a great way to take a break from the neon-soaked streets of Neomuna and fight on more familiar turf. The story beats of the opening weeks were fairly inconsequential, emphasizing the human toll the Witness’s war is taking on the people of the last city. The weekly missions themselves were also a bit “meh”, never really pushing the envelope gameplay-wise. However, the final seasonal quest saw the death of a major character, taking the story for a dark turn and sending ripples throughout the Vanguard. The final mission then becomes a revenge quest alongside other Vanguard members, providing some well-earned retribution at the end. All in all, this seasonal story was solid, pulling at the heartstrings where it needed to and offering a much needed change of subject after Lightfall’s dizzyingly disappointing campaign.
Season 20’s activities were enjoyable, though they did feel samey pretty quickly this time around. All three of the Defiant Battlegrounds are pretty interchangeable, and can get old fast when you’re grinding for a specific weapon or seasonal quest. They each offer their own cinematic fights and moments, but overstayed their welcome by the time the season came to a close. Mechanically light, these missions feature the new Shadow Legion enemy types as well as Taken forces, creating an interesting mix of bosses and fodder to tear through.
One mechanic I disagreed with entirely was featured during each Battleground final boss battle. Lightfall introduced us to all kinds of crazy Strand movement techniques, right? Well, each final Battleground boss forces you to remain in one spot while killing ads and whittling down the bosses shields. A bit counterproductive, if you ask me. However, in all fairness, the Legendary versions of the missions are a real challenge, and reward skilled players using teamwork.
This time around, I found the seasonal quest grind a bit more forgiving than seasons past. As for the Triumphs grind – yep, still a pain. The dated and downright questionable seasonal vendor upgrade system also made a disappointing return. A few of the upgrades were incredibly useful, however, one of which doubled the total seasonal engrams reaped from seasonal activities and playlists. The artifact of Season of Defiance also overhauled how seasonal mods work, making them easier to equip and letting players focus more on concentrated builds. This change worked in tandem with Lightfall’s revamped armor system, which some found restrictive. I think it is nice to have a streamlined armor mod system that is welcoming towards new players.
The new exotic quest, //node.ovrd.AVALON//, was one of the highlights of Season 20. The mission brought back a character we previously thought deceased: Asher Mir of Io. Asher invites the Guardians to infiltrate the Vex Network and defeat Brakion, a hobgoblin boss not seen since the disappearance of Io and the Pyramidion strike back in Season of Arrivals. The quest was very engaging, with a simple yet challenging puzzle system and gauntlet-style combat encounters. The reward for completing the quest – Vexcaliber, a heavy-ammo glaive – is well worth the trouble, serving as a powerful heavy melee option.
Like most seasons at this point, the Crucible has stayed stagnant with the exception of a few playlist updates and light meta-balancing. Trials feels unbalanced and punishing (I’m probably just washed up) and provided access to one of Destiny’s most broken submachine guns in a while, the Immortal. And to nobody’s surprise, Gambit remains a rotting corpse of a game mode. N-n-n-n-next.
The season pass for Season of Defiance was rewarding, with some new shaders, purple and gold transmog regalia, plenty of currency, and the Verglas Curve exotic Stasis bow. The Verglas Curve makes an excellent addition to any hardcore Stasis enjoyer’s loadout, creating ready-to-shatter crystals left and right. Admittedly, I did not participate in the Guardian Games this year, though I do recognize that most players were happy with the changes Bungie made to the event and were satisfied with the grind at the end of the season (also, go Titans – we did it for Zavala!).
To summarize, Destiny’s 20th season, Season of Defiance, was an inconsequential yet generally positive season. The season provided a short but impactful story, reasonably fun Battlegrounds activities and an exotic quest, and a rewarding season pass. All in all, Season of Defiance was a satisfying experience, and one of Destiny 2’s better seasons.