Destiny 2 Season Of The Lost Is A Slow Burn

Three Destiny Guardians standing in front of an Ascendant Glyph

Image: Bungie

Possessed witches, talking crystals, and bugged missions—Destiny 2’s Season of the Lost has it all. After a small respite toward the end of Season of the Splicer, I’ve dived back into the deep end of Bungie’s loot shooter with the unofficial start of year five. And there’s a lot to love and even more to grumble about. Same as it ever was, but there’s a lot of fascinating, moving parts to break down as Destiny 2 heads toward its next ambitious evolution.

The game’s cast has never been so varied or fleshed out, and the stakes for them reckoning with old foes and new revelations have never been higher. Players are back in the Dreaming City, a source of so much joy, magic, and mystery at Destiny 2’s height. And there are plenty more nodes to upgrade, loot to unlock, and mission bars to fill up. My initial time with the new update hasn’t wowed me like some past ones, but I also have the sneaking suspicion that the best parts of what it has to offer are hidden in the coming weeks and months.

Osiris’ fate revealed

Season of the Lost sprints out of the gate with a mission that finds you searching for the missing Warlock Osiris in the Dreaming City, the dazzling Tolkien-esque locale first introduced in 2018’s Forsaken expansion. Saint-14, Osiris’ lover, tags along, as does The Crow, Forsaken’s emo bad boy turned good samaritan amnesiac after being resurrected by space magic. You shoot a bunch of Hive and eventually track Osiris to a secret hall on the other side of the Ascendant Plane where Queen of the Awoken and The Crow’s sister, Mara Sov, also returns from Forsaken. Then, Osiris drops the bombshell: he’s actually been the Hive god Savathûn this whole last year.

The Witch Queen Savathun as a statue in Queen Mara Sov's hall.

Screenshot: Bungie / Kotaku

It’s the kind of payoff I was hoping to end Season of the Splicer on, but it’s no less effective here. Savathûn has Osiris hidden away, and you need to help free her from a magic spell cast by her sister that’s encased her in a giant crystal obelisk. She’s also voiced by the excellent Debra Wilson. While Mara Sov and her lieutenants are the main quest givers this season, I foresee lots of cryptic exchanges with the Hive god rock in the weeks to come, and I’m pumped for it.

Astral Alignment doesn’t always align

I’m less pumped about the prospect of continuing to grind out Season of the Lost’s new centerpiece: a six-player matchmade activity called Astral Alignment. Like just about every other new seasonal mode from the last few years, you teleport between a handful of different environments, mowing down enemies, filling up progress meters, and escorting the occasional orb to take down mini-boss shields.

It’s fine…when it’s working. Season of the Lost has launched with a fair few bugs (something that seems increasingly common with the game these days) that can grind progress to a halt. Twice I’ve had to back out to the main launcher and restart it from scratch because orbs that were supposed to spawn to bring down enemy shields simply never came. The first time, my group encountered the problem halfway through. The second time, I was dropped into another group’s purgatory after their players bailed. It took me several minutes of accomplishing nothing to realize what was going on.

A team of Guardians fighting Taken in Astral Alignment.

Screenshot: Bungie / Kotaku

Bungie has since turned off matchmaking in those glitched situations, but it’s not Astral Alignment’s only issue. Rewards for completing the activity also take an incredibly long time to drop. And in one of the half dozen runs I’ve done so far, they never did. It was a bummer, especially since opening the unique trove at the end of the mission is required to complete the weekly powerful gear challenge. Forbes’ Paul Tassi has a rundown of other issues some players are encountering, including progress for the Ascendant Ballast weekly challenge resetting randomly.

Wayfinder’s Troves are bleeding me dry

While we’re on the subject of treasure chests, I’m also not a fan of the new secondary currency required to open them. Astral Alignment has two chests at the end. The first one you open and get familiar world drops. The second one requires 150 Parallax Trajectory (please never change Destiny) to open and gives you new Season of the Lost gear, AKA the stuff you actually want. Recent seasons have had similar mechanics but didn’t require so much of the seasonal currency or the same currency to open the chest as to upgrade your main seasonal hub. It’s a drag when new content drops and you want to play and earn the new stuff but find yourself turned away because you emptied your pockets and came up a dollar short.

A view of Destiny 2's new Shattered Realm: Forest of Echoes location.

Screenshot: Bungie / Kotaku

If this all sounds extremely granular and picky, it is. It’s also the kind of classic Destiny bullshit that I have less patience for the more repetitive and stretched out seasons become, even if for completely understandable reasons. On the positive side, Astral Alignment is the best looking seasonal activity since Season of the Dawn’s Sundial. I’ve come to prefer open area modes that more organically integrated into the world, like Season of Arriva’s Contact public event. But the Dreaming City remains Destiny 2’s most beautiful sandbox, and for all my current gripes, its breathtaking vistas still have me wanting to return for more.

Welcome to the Shattered Realm

Season of the Lost’s other big addition is Shattered Realm. Like Season of the Splicer’s Expunge missions, expeditions to this new part of the Ascendant Plane involve some light platforming, a few mobs of enemies, and a boss fight at the end. While linear at first, upgrading the Wayfinder Compass unlocks new areas and ways of interacting with the glyphs you find there. This makes the exploration a lot more free-flowing than the Expunge missions. but so far, it’s been a fair grind to unlock the tools needed to get the most out of it.

A Techeun Savior rescued from the Shattered Realm.

Screenshot: Bungie / Kotaku

There are some cool visual flourishes like an abandoned church and gothic stone ruins, but being in the Ascendant Plane, it’s also shrouded in darkness. It seems promising so far, and I’m sure the mode’s best tricks will come in future weekly rotations. For now, the time investment to loot ratio makes subsequent runs feel like a bit of a chore.

New Stasis guns pack a punch

What else does Season of the Lost have to offer? Two new exotic weapons so far starters. The first is the Lorentz Driver. It feels like the Graviton Lance in linear fusion rifle form warping enemies into blobs of exploding energy, and it’s a lot of fun.

I spent one especially tense Lost Sector run melting through waves of Taken with it and had a blast. All of Destiny 2’s recent seasonal exotics have been on point, and Lorentz Driver is no different.

Ager’s Scepter is another story, though I don’t have it yet because it’s part of an extended exotic questline. The first step in acquiring the weapons requires activating and collecting artifacts in the Dreaming City’s patrol area and any reason to mess around there is fine by me.

A screenshot of the Vulpecula hand cannon stats.

Screenshot: Bungie / Kotaku

There are also four new legendary weapons that drop with Stasis elemental properties. By far my favorite so far is the precision frame hand cannon Vulpecula. It’s well-rounded but also rolls some really fun new perks like the returning Shoot To Loot. Put a bullet through a heavy ammo pack on the other side of the arena will not only pick it up but also reload your other weapons.

A big patch brings other changes

A lot of Season of the Lost’s bigger changes are at the systems level. Balance changes have made subclasses, like the Warlock’s Voidwalker, fun and powerful to wield again. Primary weapons now have infinite ammo. Buffs to certain exotics have led to amazingly overpowered new builds, at least in the short term. Plus, cross-play is finally here for real, and players are celebrating by forming cross-platform conga lines.

Other additional content is further down the road. Bungie dramatically re-worked Trials of Osiris with a solo-queue and vendor reputation system that will make it a lot easier (and hopefully more fun) to farm its unique gear. New anti-cheat software should also help address some of the competitive mode’s woes. But that doesn’t go live until the second week in September.

Iron Banner will also return at some point with new weapons and armor, a refresh that was long overdue. And players have the annual Halloween and winter solstice events to look forward to, not to mention Bungie’s own 30th-anniversary pack that will add more unique gear and a new dungeon when it arrives in December as a mid-season pick-me up.

A Destiny 2 Guardian driving through the Dreaming City on a Sparrow hover bike.

Screenshot: Bungie / Kotaku

The long wait for Witch Queen

And Season of the Lost is going to need it. With Witch Queen already delayed to February 2022, season 15 will be one of the game’s longest, clocking in at roughly six months. On the back of Bungie’s annual Destiny 2 showcase, which outlined some big exciting changes coming next year like new maps and reworked subclasses (Voidwalkers will soon be able to summon black holes that leech life from enemies), there’s a lot of hype among the community right now.

But my first week with Season of the Lost has brought me back down to Earth a bit. It’s not the normal annual expansion players have become accustomed to receiving this time of year. And in keeping with the new cadence Bungie’s established for Destiny 2 over the past couple years, it’s going to be a real slow burn. I don’t see myself grinding it as obsessively as I did playing Season of the Splicer (probably my favorite season ever), but what it may end up lacking in loot and replayability it seems well positioned to make up for with big story beats. The Crow’s collision with his past misdeeds has been in the works ever since Forsaken’s late 2018 stinger revealed he was alive again, and I’m more than happy to embark on my fourth tour of the Dreaming City to see how it all plays out.

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