Destiny 2’s 17th season, Season of the Haunted has arrived today (24th of May) and it’s already shaping up to be a pretty special season.

Compared to other seasonal offerings, this one definitely seems to be stepping up in terms of the sheer quantity and quality provided. From the free revision of the Solar subclasses to the new seasonal activity aboard the recently returned Leviathan, to the upcoming dungeon, and some of the best gear the game has ever seen.

It’s very early days, but season 17 is looking really good so far.

Destiny 2, Bungie

Narrative Shadows: The Story of ‘Haunted’

Even leading up to this season was special considering that… well, we knew very little.

Bungie decided that they were going to keep their cards especially close to their chest this season, not releasing any trailers or overt pieces of information outside of vague patch notes. It was strange and for some, a little unsettling. They almost managed to keep it air-tight too, until a leak from PlayStation’s Japan branch where a shiny new seasonal trailer awaited us.

They had good reason for their secrecy, it seems, as what they were hiding is the return of a fan-favorite destination: the Leviathan. The story of this season revolves around Calus, the previous Cabal Emperor, crashing his prized ship into the Moon in hopes of seeking the power of the Moon’s Pyramid. He has become a Disciple of the Darkness (capital D Disciple, just like Rhulk) and wants to show off his new power.

Now his ship’s in ruins, infested by phantoms and remnants of the past that we must hunt down and destroy in order to cease Calus’ growth into the Darkness.

This season’s story seems like it’s taking a much darker turn than others before it. With the appearance of Zavala’s wife, Uldren Sov, and even Ghaul as phantoms that haunt the central characters of the season (Zavala, Crow, and Caitial respectively), themes of loss, shame and regret will be playing a key role. In the first of a set of weekly story missions, we try and help Crow sever that connection between himself and Uldren but it fails due to Crow’s own shame and anger. This is a story of loss and of moving past your mistakes, which is something quite different from what we’ve seen before in Destiny.

Following on from what occurred last season, this entire year seems to be going into even more serious territory regarding the story and it’s a direction that many of us are excited to see.

A Leviathan Undertaking: The Return of a Raid Space

As previously stated, Calus has bought the Leviathan back to Sol after a hiatus.

In the lore, this disappearance was attributed to the Darkness. In reality, it was a necessity to keep the game up and running.

Now though, it’s back and creepier than ever!

Destiny 2, Bungie

The Leviathan used to be a space exclusively for Raids and the Menagerie activity from season of Opulence, but Bungie has managed to change it into a fully explorable patrol space since its time in the DCV. What once were golden halls of glamour and avarice has succumbed to the grime and corruption of the Dark: plant growths not unlike those found on the Glykon litter its walkways, and invincible monsters stalk through the underbelly.

The seasonal activity Guardians will be undertaking here is called Containment. This is a scalable PvE Public Event, much like Escalation Protocol or Altars of Sorrow, where players fight against waves of enemies and Nightmares in order to contain the dark energy within. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it is a nice change of pace from isolated match-made activities with the added bonus of exploring the new play space. Bungie also has not repeated history by allowing players to matchmake into instances of the Leviathan with the event active, escaping the dire circumstances of previous scalable events where players could wait very long periods of time without allies.

Destiny 2 has literally never offered a whole new patrol space for a seasonal offering, even back during the Forsaken era where they had the support of High Moon and Vicarious Visions. Even if we have seen the Leviathan before, seeing it come back transformed as a patrol is so special. It’s amazing and gives hope to those wanting to see vaulted content return. Not only has the Leviathan returned, but the work put into it to make it feel new and fresh is great and gives the play space a massive facelift.

I’ve missed the Leviathan a lot and getting to walk around its filthy halls once more has filled me with a lot of joy this season.

Coming In Hot: Solar 3.0

Another big addition, perhaps the biggest, for Season of the Haunted is Solar 3.0.

Following Void 3.0 last season, it was Solar’s turn this season and Bungie has worked their magic yet again. Like with everything, this is only the impression after a day of play, but I’m confident. When all was said and done, Void’s rework was one of the best things about The Witch Queen and bought some much needed life back into the older subclasses. Solar has achieved the same.

While some things have been stripped back and some things have been altered massively (the Warlock’s Phoenix Dive has now become a replacement for Rift for example), it’s overall a great facelift. The ability to focus in on the core fantasy of each class is now finally able to be fully realised and it gives the chance for some great build crafting.

Destiny 2, Bungie

Titans are able to become these beacons of destructive chaos, their hammers wreathed in fire. Sunspots, while they have had their damage buff removed, have had their uptime increased massively: now they can be spawned from Solar ability kills, super kills and any kill from Scorch (one of the new elemental verbs). Additionally, they have a new melee attack where they slide on the ground before rising in a flaming uppercut and slamming down in a wall of flame. Titans can now embody destruction more so than ever with Solar 3.0.

Hunters have had their sights focused a bit more than before: instead of the analogous ‘Gunslinger’, now they have a multitude of options at their disposal. Arguably one of their best additions is the ‘Acrobats Dodge’, a new class ability option which spawns a small pool of light under the Hunter when cast. This gives the player, and any other players nearby, the Radiant buff – a buff that increases damage – allowing for the Hunter to take on a support role between all of their dodging and shooting. They also have a new ability called Gunpowder Gamble, an aspect which allows them to throw a group of tripmine grenades in a bundle that is easily exploded out of the air. The Gunslinger fantasy is high in the new Hunter, and it feels so good.

Finally, Warlocks. With the strongest burning and healing properties of the classes, they can take on a multitude of roles. One, is that of the dangerous pyromancer – the new melee ability Incinerator’s Snap has the Warlock stylish click their fingers, which spawns a series of small homing fire bolts that seek out targets and detonate. With it, you can live out your own Colonel Roy Mustang dreams.

The other side of Warlocks, and the one I am personally using, is that of healing. Instead of it feeling like an arbitrary addition to the class, now you can go all in on heals. I have healing grenades, Phoenix Dive which heals me and all around me in a pinch, Well of Radiance and my fragments all revolve around Restoration or Cure in some way. Now, I’m able to fully live out my support, White-Mage fantasy.

While Solar does have its kinks and its flaws – some people will be disappointed to see fan favourites leave or be reworked – I think it has been a large success so far. Solar was the element I was most looking forward to, so seeing it in the shape it’s in has made me very happy.

Related: Destiny 2’s New Event Card Is Kind Of Anti-Consumer

Bright and Shiny… with Skulls: Loot and Gear

Why do we play if not for loot? And Season of the Haunted as some of the best in the whole series.

The armour design team at Bungie has gone above above and beyond with this release, with the universal ornament set from the season pass being the most beloved. The red skull designs with the harsh, bone like chitin armour is just superb: it screams edgy and it’s great.

Other armour sets such as the regular seasonal armour is also top notch, with the upcoming Trials armour set to be just as sought after as the last. Eververse is once again stocked with a set of incredible ornaments with Solar as their focus, which once again is just top class.

Destiny 2, Bungie
Destiny 2, Bungie

The guns cannot be ignored either, though. The seasonal offerings of Nightmare killing weapons have a unique, cutting design that sets them apart from other weapons: they also glow when near Nightmares, just like the old Dreambane weapons from Shadowkeep. The upcoming dungeon weapons are also viewable and while I will not show any in case anyone wants to see them at the dungeon launch (May 27th) but they are absolutely superb, even Raid level of designs.

A Much Needed Uplift: Quality of Life

While they can be buried in all the shiny new toys and activities, quality of life updates are vital for the health of the game and Destiny 2 has brought some good ones this season.

The primary one being that there is now a weekly Raid and Dungeon rotator: each week, alongside the most current Raid and Dungeon, one of the old endgame activities from each category will be available with pinnacle rewards. This week it is Last Wish and Shattered Throne. These activites have been left abandoned for quite some time, with no real reason to do them… well, ever. Now though, with challenges fully enabled and pinnacle gear on offer, there is very good reason to revisit.

Alongside the usual suite of balance changes that come with every season, Iron Banner is set to have a massive rework with a complete overhaul. The game mode is changing to Rift, there’s a new title and seal (‘Iron Lord’), and alongside that a whole new Crucible map is coming after almost 3 years of waiting.

The UI has had an adjustment to make it more accommodating, 100 new available slots of the much needed vault space was added (after basically 4 years), Grandmaster Nightfalls can be re-joined if someone disconnects, and Gambit has had its reputation rate bumped up to make it in line with other core activities. While not mind blowing, these and many other smaller changes are what makes Destiny tick, so they are always very pleasant to see.

Early Days

As I have said multiple times, these are all impressions from only a day of play. Things can easily go wrong, certain skills or guns can be proven to be insanely broken (or extremely underpowered), the game could break, the story may be ruined. A lot of bad can happen.

However, I have faith in Bungie.

This last year of both storytelling and seasonal gameplay has easily been the most consistent and some of the best content Destiny has seen in a very long time: Season of the Chosen bought a great strike and some great weapons with a compelling story, Season of the Splicer had some of the best art design and bought back a lot of characters into the fold, and Season of the Lost delivered on mystery led gameplay and a good story that bought us nicely into The Witch Queen.

Bungie has bought themselves a little faith, and from what I’ve seen from Season of the Haunted so far, it is well deserved.

Season of the Haunted is available from May 24th to the 23rd of August. More information can be found on bungie.net.

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Jack Carson

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