Destiny 2's current season, the Season of Dawn, has thus far been a weak follow-up to the double whammy of Shadowkeep and the Season of the Undying. I mean, obviously. It is, after all, just a $10 season, and not a $35 expansion. It was never going to measure up to Shadowkeep, and I never expected it to add as much stuff as a full-fat expansion, but I also never expected it to remove as much as it has. And it really does feel like the Season of Dawn and Bungie's new seasonal model are actively removing reasons to play Destiny 2.
I play Destiny 2 because it's fun. The raids are inventive, the missions are exciting, and the gunplay beats basically every other shooter on the market. Yep, it's a good video game. But the reason I keep playing Destiny 2, the reason I put in hundreds upon hundreds of hours, is that I want to progress. I want to min-max my character. I want to set and achieve goals, almost all of which are loot-driven. When I run out of goals, I stop playing. And I understand that Destiny 2 isn't meant to be played all day, every day, and that Bungie could never produce enough new content to satisfy that kind of player appetite. But while it took me a solid two months to run out of goals in Shadowkeep, I lost all motivation on day two of the Season of Dawn. Destiny's been a big part of my life, both personally and professionally, for over five years, and I've never dipped out quite this quickly in the past.
I've been trying to figure out why Season of Dawn turned me off so hard, and I think it comes down to conflicting compulsions. Under the new seasonal model, current loot and activities vanish at the end of each season. This makes me want to play the game right now to collect and experience the new stuff while I can, and this worked in the Season of the Undying. That FOMO hook was set deep. But now that we're on the second season of this "evolving world" model, its downsides are starting to come into focus.
What am I grinding for?
The Season of Dawn added a suite of gear which, for my money, is among the best-looking stuff in the entire franchise. Yet I have no desire to get any of it, and for one reason: none of it will matter next season. Most of the weapons I get this season won't be eligible for Artifact mods in a few weeks, and the armor I get now can't use next season's special mods. So why don't I just wait until next season to gear up? That would be a better use of my time, right? But then I'll just be asking the same questions next season, and then the next season after that, and that's precisely how I wound up here, whinging in this feature.
It feels like Destiny 2's new seasonal model is soft-resetting my character every three months. If I want to min-max my Guardians – which, as we've already established, is why I keep playing – then Artifact mods will force me to use specific weapons, and seasonal armor mods will force me to use new armor. This means that a solid chunk of the available weapons are irrelevant, and good armor – gear with a high stat total, a good distribution, and the right elemental affinity – is already so hard to get that I absolutely cannot commit to grinding out a new set every three months. Destiny 2 is all about getting new loot, but for me to want to chase it, it has got to feel worthwhile, and right now it doesn't. I can't justify spending dozens of hours getting hold of something that I'm going to throw out fairly soon.
Well, if guns and armor are out, what about Power levels and the Pinnacle grind? Maybe that will satisfy my lizard brain's desperate urge to Make Numbers Bigger? Sadly no, because Power is even less important. Firstly, nothing in the game requires Pinnacle levels of Power apart from Ordeal Nightfalls, and even those can be completed well below the cap. And secondly, the 10 Pinnacle Power levels I could gain this season will basically be handed out for free next season, and now I'm right back where I started, perpetually betting on next season. At that point I have to fall back on the sheer kinetic fun of playing Destiny 2, but quite frankly, most of the Season of Dawn isn't terribly fun to play.
What else is there to do?
The new hotness this season is the Sundial, which, like Vex Offensive before it, is basically a slimmed-down version of the Menagerie. It's another boss rush, horde mode, thing. You shoot the dudes, fill the meter, shoot a big dude, and get some loot. The difference is that the Sundial's encounters are more repetitive, its loot pool is much smaller, and its underlying currency system is tedious and limiting. The last point is what really kills it for me. I can chalk the other two up to the difference in development time between the Menagerie and the Sundial - and the Sundial is not a bad activity - but the currency thing just feels like a step backward in design. Where the Menagerie's rune system reinvigorated the game by adding bonus rewards to every activity, the Sundial's Polarized Fractaline has pigeon-holed the Season of Dawn into a slog of bounties.
I need to upgrade my planetary Obelisks if I want to improve my Sundial loot, and to do that I need Polarized Fractaline. The best way to get Fractaline is to grind Obelisk bounties, none of which set my soul on fire. Their objectives range from the basic, like "Kill Vex" or "Get rapid Scout Rifle kills," to the truly mundane, like "Kill 20 Fallen Captains." I've been playing Destiny for a long time, so I'm used to killing dudes in caves for hours on end. The trouble is that this time around, the reward doesn't justify the grind. More importantly, Obelisk bounties feel more intrusive than previous bounties because they're positioned as this season's primary pursuit.
I don't want to play Destiny 2 to do bounties; I want to do bounties while playing other things in Destiny 2. In the past, I'd run Strikes to get reputation and materials and other loot, and I'd complete bounties on the side to support that goal. The bounties were secondary; my focus was on the Strikes. But most Obelisk bounties can't be completed in a reasonable amount of time - reasonable for a bounty, anyway - unless you do specific, repetitive things, and the most efficient method often comes down to killing dudes in a cave. Strikes, Crucible, Gambit and other activities aren't rewarding on their own, and they don't work well with Obelisk bounties. So now I'm just grinding bounties every week because they're the thing that actually matters. That sucks, and it feels like the total opposite of the complementary grinds I had in Shadowkeep with things like Essence weapons.
As it stands, Destiny 2 is telling me to play limited-time activities which I don't enjoy in order to earn loot which I don't care about, and the reason for this seems to be a story push which I'm just not seeing. I'm really struggling to find the positives in Destiny 2's new seasonal model, because in my experience, all it's done is remove content from the game and neuter my reasons for playing it. At least there's always next season?