Destiny 2: Season of the Drifter Review
Is the Annual Pass finally hitting its stride?
Season of the Drifter (AKA Jokers Wild) is a big improvement for Destiny 2’s Annual Pass. While it’s still not overly exciting, this bag of new stuff does some interesting things that hit a sweet spot. You’ll get some interesting story pieces supplemented by some new twists on wave-based defense modes and Gambit to earn fancy new armor sets and other gear, plus you’ll make an actual decision with actual consequences. Some of the grinding gets to be a slog, but it’s otherwise a strong entry in this year’s Annual Pass rollout.
Reckoning’s arcadey, wave-based challenge is one of my favorite activities this time around. Its long-term replayability will likely wane similarly to how activities like Blind Well and Escalation Protocol have, but it adds one important tool these types of modes have needed for some time now: Matchmaking. While it’s definitely more of a challenge hopping in with random players, I still was able to successfully complete tier 1 and tier 2 of this event with randoms filling out the fireteam. Tiers will require leveling up a lot and Bungie had an unfortunate new bug at launch that may have caused armor and weapons to drop below your current level. This made hitting the level requirement a frustrating experience, but once you’re in it’s a lot of fun to clear out the Taken and collect your fancy new Gambit Prime armor.
I was able to successfully complete tier 1 and tier 2 of Reckoning with randoms filling out the fireteam.
Gambit Prime’s cool-looking new armor sets evolve the widely loved mode first introduced in Forsaken with pivotal new roles. For example, with the Sentry Armor on you automatically heal when you’re near the bank, while the Invader armor lets you lock down the enemy bank during an invasion and even drain motes for your team if you’re close enough. I chose the Reaper set, which allows me to drop special ammo for allies, keep motes on the field longer, and lets me mark yellow-bar enemies to make them weaker for my teammates. I hope Bungie continues this trend and opens up armor set bonuses more in the future as they did with the old raid armors. I also wish I could simply upgrade my Tier 1 armor otherwise it’s rather pointless to acquire it at all when Tier 3 has all the perks. Gambit Prime does seem to have a tricky balance issue with the boss phase, though – namely, it simply goes on far too long. After you’ve deposited the motes the envoys will spawn giving you a damage buff for each round cleared. However, it can become a tug of war where you and the other team continuously invade each other resetting your progress over and over again while waiting for your buffs to stack.
Season of the Drifter opens with these two modes at the forefront. Acquiring armor requires playing Gambit Prime to open The Reckoning, and then completing the associated bounties with the mode until you’ve powered up your synthesizer. Once you’ve completed three weekly Gambit Prime bounties you’ll be able to acquire a complete set of this coveted gear. My gripe with the system is that it feels awkward and unnecessary to convert your synths to a mote, deposit it, and then return to the device to collect your reward. Why not cut out the middleman and just let us put our synths in the device and receive a drop once the activity ends?
For the first time, there is actual weight to one of your decisions in the Destiny universe.
One of the most interesting additions by far is the Allegiance quest. After you’ve leveled up in Gambit Prime and The Reckoning the Drifter will present you with a choice: align with him, or rat him out to the Vanguard. This will affect how the Drifter NPC interacts with your character and it’s the first time that there is actual weight to one of your decisions in the Destiny universe, even if it mostly boils down to some new quips from the character. As an example, if you align with the Vanguard to discover how the Aunor story concludes the Drifter will still allow you to play his various game modes but call you a snitch as you do. Align with him, and you’ll uncover new information about his past near the end of the questline and be rewarded with Gambit Prime Synths and Gambit Gear. This divide makes it one of the most interesting questlines to date only because there is a consequence to your actions. It also has made the Drifter one of the most intriguing characters to date in Destiny lore. Again, a step in the right direction for the Destiny series.
Another way Season of the Drifter adds to your adventure is with weekly Invitations of the Nine from Xur. These not only reward you with a powerful drop for completing the quest but also add some incredibly interesting lore moments in the form of a cutscene. Time will tell how the full quest plays out, but for now these story nuggets – combined with the interesting allegiances you’re developing – have made Season of the Drifter exciting to play.
On the weapon front, Bungie’s finally brought back the Thorn. The quest itself does a lot right. It allows you multiple avenues to progress and has a few throwbacks to Destiny 1, pinging those nostalgia nodes in the brain with some interesting items you collect to advance. However, this quest hits a wall on the Void and Handcannon portion that progresses at a staggeringly slow pace if you’re as bad at PVP as I am. The weapon itself feels good in PVP as you get a buff after a kill making it feel like it’s former self at times, but in PVE it’s really fun as you can continually pick up orbs refilling your ammunition as you watch your foes melt at your feet. As much as I love Thorn, it would be nice to see what Bungie could do in the form of new exotics and exotic quests down the road.
As a note, after much feedback about my Black Armory review, I did want to point out that we can always revisit a review should some major new feature roll out that would impact it either way. However, in an effort to inform our audience about their purchasing decisions in a timely manner I will always wait until the majority of content has been revealed in a situation like the Annual Pass offers before making a recommendation. As Season of the Drifter only lists one more exotic on the roadmap I felt I was in a good place to make a recommendation.