Destiny 2: Season of the Seraph Impressions — Before the Fall

Lightfall is here, which means Destiny 2’s 19th season, Season of the Seraph, has come to a close. Improving upon many of Season 18’s faults, Season of the Seraph delivered some much needed quality-of-life changes, a brilliant difficulty spike, and a story we will not soon forget. However, some areas of Destiny 2 felt more neglected than ever, and while Season 19 has made me very excited for Lightfall, I can’t help but brace for some inevitably disappointing news when it comes to the Crucible and Gambit.

Season 18, dubbed Season of Plunder, was a disappointment for many Destiny 2 players. A storyline with virtually no importance, a brainless seasonal activity loop, little to speak of in terms of new content, and a completely dead PvP scene cemented Season of Plunder more as a season of “blunder”. This was a shame, as though I enjoyed the tonal shift and overall seasonal theme, I too was more than ready for it to come to a close in December of 2022. Fortunately, when it did finally end, we were treated to a very solid Destiny 2 season in Season of the Seraph.

Shifting the tone of Destiny 2’s story yet again, Season of the Seraph grounded the game’s storyline from the bombastic quest that was Season 18’s pirate adventure. Season of the Seraph focused on the Clovis family, namely Clovis, Elsi, and Ana, and their relationship with the Warmind, Rasputin. The Witness, along with Xivu Arath, were up to their typical no-goodery, turning the Eramis’ House of Salvation Fallen into brainless, hive-worshiping soldiers known as the Wrathborn. 

The forces of the darkness aimed to regain a foothold on Europa by taking control of the Bray Exoscience facility and capturing Clovis for their own nefarious purposes. Clovis was saved and transferred to a prototype Exo body in the H.E.L.M., where he “helped” the Vanguard and his granddaughters steal submind data, this season’s MacGuffins, to rebuild Rasputin’s damaged neural network. One thing leads to another and Rasputin is restored, replacing Clovis in the Exo body in a pivotal moment for the Bray lineage. After a spacewalk on the Seraph Station in Earth’s orbit, along with many more Seraph Heists to acquire more submind data, and a handful of weekly story missions, the story concludes with a bombshell of a cutscene that involves a heroic sacrifice by Rasputin and the repositioning of the Traveler in Earth’s orbit. 

The story of Season 19 was undoubtedly pure set-up for Lightfall, and what a set-up it was. Family dramatics were the name of the game in the seasonal tale. Things are looking quite dire for the forces of light heading into Lightfall, as the Witness has arrived and humanity has lost its greatest defense in the form of Rasputin. It is known that Destiny 2 seasons released right before an expansion have somewhat of an advantage over the other three annual seasons, serving both as an epilogue for the previous expansion and a prologue for the next. Season of the Seraph was no exception, providing plenty of weekly backstory and plot twists.

Without entirely spoiling how the season ended, it is hard to talk about Season 19’s story without mentioning the final cutscene. For hardcore story followers, it was arguably the most important cutscene since Destiny 2’s Red War final cutscene, hurling the overarching plot forward and preparing us for what is to come.

For the first time in quite a while, Season of the Seraph’s new activities were engaging, fun, and best of all, challenging. Called “Seraph Heists”, the three different seasonal activities were chalk full of enemies and objectives. Each heist takes anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes to complete, similar to a strike. Each activity is filled with lore-rich dialogue throughout, and enemies are plentiful and difficult to take on. For the first time in a long time, a default difficulty Destiny 2 activity actually felt challenging, and in turn, incredibly rewarding. There were some light puzzles to solve, parkour challenges, and challenging boss fights, and when the difficulty gets cranked to Legendary, the activities truly shine. Additionally, compared to other seasonal offerings, Season 19 was not filled with an overwhelming amount of currencies and vendors; a welcome change coming off the heels of Season of Plunder.

Seasonal activities eventually became a grind, as they do. However, this time around, it took much longer to become monotonous. Much of the Triumph’s grind was reduced this time around, focusing on different areas of the game instead of pure seasonal activity runs. Rewards were more plentiful as well, since midway through the season, blue engrams were removed from the loot pool for players at the soft light level cap of 1530. This was an unexpected game changer. Suddenly the pressure to keep constantly stocked with legendary shards was greatly reduced, and high powered loot flowed like it never has. Around the same time all base weapon and armor mods were unlocked for all players as well, serving as encouragement for newer players to try their hand at buildcrafting and help those already adept at fine-tuning their builds. Sprinkle in some balance changes to Grandmaster Nightfalls to taste, and Season of the Seraph made endgame content as accessible as ever.

The new dungeon, Spire of the Watcher, was a unique, western-themed three-player activity added during the season. Though not explicitly a feature of Season 19, it feels worthwhile to mention that it is a fun mechanic-filled experience that offers some unique rewards and hectic encounters. Though some mechanics and a boss are reused from earlier Destiny 2 content, I believe it is still worth experiencing.

Season 19 also offered an exotic mission – our first since Season of the Risen – called “Operation: Seraph’s Shield”. The mission saw our Guardians infiltrate the Warmind’s Seraph Station, an orbital defense platform infested with Hive and Fallen, to stop House Salvation from stealing important submind data. Similar to the Seraph Heists, the mission could be played on default difficulty or legendary, with rewards to match. But the main draw of the exotic mission was of course, the exotic pulse rifle on offer: Revision Zero, a pulse rifle/sniper rifle hybrid that proved to be a viable option in both PvE and PvP activities.

On the topic of the PvP Crucible, Season of the Seraph did not bring anything new to the table. Arguably the biggest addition made to the Crucible was the increased reputation gain in Iron Banner week two, which alleviated some of the grind for those pursuing the Iron Lord title. Other than that, there were no new maps, no new modes, no new nothing. Crucible felt as neglected as ever, which is a shame. The Destiny 2 PvP scene is far from inactive. Yet Bungie refuses to acknowledge this half of Destiny 2. Those looking for new PvP content, unfortunately, had to keep waiting. Lastly, the PvEvP mode, Gambit, is a forgotten one. Bungie understands this, has not cared, and continues to not care. Moving on.

The Season Pass provided a great stream of rewards, including exotics, cosmetics, and currencies to chase. The Season Pass exotic weapon, the Manticore, felt more spectacle than substance, as its exotic ability to levitate its user upon hits seemed better at getting me killed than getting me kills. The holiday event, The Dawning, was a fun and warm experience as well, providing an easy title to acquire and some jolly holiday laughs to boot. The seasonal alleviation of the grind was present during this event as well, thankfully. In my retrospective of Season 18 I called out Destiny 2 for a punishingly long grind. Luckily, it seems Bungie has listened to their community in this aspect, and with Season 19 has begun respecting players’ time a bit more.

Season of the Seraph was an enjoyable season full of increased accessibility options, powerful story beats, and long overdue changes to the Destiny 2 sandbox. An unforgettable seasonal story and some grind/endgame obtainability worked wonders for the season, but the absolute neglect of Crucible and Gambit should not go unmentioned. In the end, Season 19 has left me extremely excited for Lightfall, and hopeful for the future of Destiny 2 as a whole.

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