The Solstice of Heroes has returned to Destiny 2 bearing another month-long grind and a suite of gorgeous armor. The annual event has become a staple of the game's summer activities, and it's especially important this year with the Season of Arrivals getting a six-week extension following the delay of Beyond Light. It's certainly given us plenty to do over the next few weeks, and the rewards are surprisingly good, but there are definitely some troughs to its peaks, and many of the event's problems are disconcertingly familiar.
Let's start with the good news; this year's Solstice armor looks amazing. It pretty much always does, but the art team really knocked it out of the park this year. As a Warlock main, I'm over the moon about the 2020 Solstice set, and I may end up getting the armor on my Titan and Hunter just for the sake of it. After all, unlike last year's armor, this stuff will be good for another year. This makes the Solstice another source of good-looking, high-stat armor to bring into Beyond Light, which is always welcome. And on top of that, once you get one set done, the armor on your other characters levels twice and then three times as fast, which is a big quality of life upgrade for three same-y grinds.
The event is also a fantastic fashion opportunity. This year's armor ornaments are universal, meaning I'll be able to wear them for as long as I want. The position of the Eververse store continues to hover ominously over Destiny 2's events, but compared to the previous Solstice and holidays like The Dawning, this year's offerings aren't as skewed towards real money purchases. Most importantly, everything apart from one emote will be available to acquire with Bright Dust. I've almost got enough dust saved up to buy the Solstice ornament kit for my Warlock, which is the only one I really care about, and I can probably earn enough for at least one more set before the event ends (assuming that Bright Dust bug is fixed (opens in new tab) and players are compensated for the downtime).
This is way more appealing than last year's event, where many players spent real money on ornaments for armor which was almost immediately rendered useless by the release of Armor 2.0 in Shadowkeep. I still don't think the Eververse store is quite where it needs to be, mainly because Eververse engrams are incredibly rare and Bright Dust only flows at a trickle and never in bursts, but it's better than it used to be. I can't speak for everyone, but I've been able to get the thing I really care about without spending any money.
Those are the high notes for me, and I've been enjoying the Solstice so far. I was able to finish my first blue armor set in one good session, and it felt pretty well-paced. But now that I'm working on my Legendary armor, it's becoming clear that this year's event has stumbled at some of the same hurdles as previous ones.
Just one little problem
With almost every grind like this, from Iron Banner quests to Exotic quests, it feels like there's always one objective that totally outweighs all the others. This time, I've finished everything else apart from those damn Gambit games, so now I have to single-mindedly grind it out to progress. It's the kind of thing that you'd think would be spotted in the first wave of testing or feedback – the rocket launcher kills in a previous Iron Banner quest are an especially infamous example of this – and this instantly makes the grind less fun. In my case, that's because this kind of outlier changes how I perceive the grind.
Playing games efficiently is fun. In Destiny 2 specifically, gathering up a whole mess of objectives and then plotting an efficient plan to complete them simultaneously is satisfying. It gives me a sense of control over even the most arbitrary grinds. Even if I've got a laundry list of fairly repetitive things to do, as long as I'm doing it my way, I can enjoy the process for what it is. As I've said before, I play Destiny 2 because it's fun, but I keep playing Destiny 2 because I want a sense of progression, and I can get that through upgrading my character or completing specific challenges. For me, a plan that condenses daunting grinds is a good enough challenge sometimes.
For the most part, this year's Solstice grind is OK about this. I finished the objectives on my blue armor set at around the same time, which felt good. A lot of objectives overlapped, like getting certain elemental kills while doing an activity type with a given subclass, so I was able to plan, and it felt like my plan was working. But for steps like completing 10 Gambit matches or getting 100 kills with X weapon element in the Crucible, it's easy to run out of other things to do and wind up farming one specific thing. This is where the grind starts to drag for me, because now it feels like this one stubborn objective is inefficient, and it's standing between me and the plan that I want to follow.
This ties into another way I think these kinds of grinds could be improved. Destiny 2 has a habit of locking players to one activity. Sometimes it's a flavor thing, like getting Crucible kills for The Last Word, but it often feels unjustified and heavy-handed. It doesn't help that there's a perception among players that some modes are neglected and have grown imbalanced or unrewarding, yet we're still required to play them. Not to name any
A little Solstice for everyone
I get that the Solstice is a celebration of everything in Destiny 2, so Bungie wants it to touch on everything, but I would love more options to make things more accessible for different types of players. For example, could I complete 10 Crucible games or 10 Gambit matches? Could I complete seven Trials of Osiris matches or win three? Could I substitute a raid completion for a pinnacle PvP activity? Could I do Lost Sectors or Patrols on my assigned planet? Could I clear high-tier Nightfalls to progress playlist Strike requirements more quickly? You get the idea.
If anything, I think these kinds of flexible objectives would add more of Destiny 2 to the Solstice, while letting everyone choose what they want to do and letting players like me build more of a plan. Some of these would also let PvP and PvE enthusiasts flex their talents a bit, which is always fun.
I don't think this year's Solstice grind is unreasonable, don't get me wrong. The fact that your second and third armor sets go way faster is a huge help, and the rewards are good enough that it feels worthwhile. But while Bungie has definitely improved on the value of participating in the Solstice, it hasn't really changed or enhanced the feel of participating. It's pretty much the exact same grind as last year. The carrot's looking great - here's hoping they work on the stick next time.