Destiny 2’s Season of the Chosen is a major turnaround

After Season of the Hunt, I’d been sure we’d settled into a down-period for Destiny 2. Beyond Light had brought little new content, despite being priced as a full-blown expansion, and Season of the Hunt offered half-baked activities to Destiny’s solar system. It was now that Bungie needed to deliver a win to give fans hope for the game’s future.

Enter Season of the Chosen. When I first heard this would be a Cabal-focused season I harkened back to Season of the Worthy with its endless bounty grind and prepared myself mentally for more of the humdrum. Imagine my surprise when getting into the new season’s activity and saying to myself “wow… this is actually really fun!”

Seasons have followed the same basic outline since their introduction. Whether it’s the Drifter tempting you into Gambit prime or a Vex incursion on the moon, you’re served up a story beat in the Destiny world and it’s go forth and conquer from there.

This season is a testament to how well that can work when done right. Previous seasons, like Season of Worthy, took us back to a chapter that felt like it had already been closed. With the Cabal flagship, The Almighty, careening towards Earth it was hard not to feel something along the lines of “uh, didn’t we beat the Cabal in the Red War?”

Season of the Chosen on the surface flirts with the same recycled content the game is sometimes justly called out for but manages to skirt it with some clever writing, a solid new activity, and a little meme magic.

First off, the story. We begin Season of the Chosen with a new Cabal Empress, Caiatl, daughter of Calus, come to claim the throne Gaul has left empty and rally the Cabal Empire under her banner. In the past, this would have happened totally outside of the control of the Vanguard and be a threat to guardians from the word go.

But here Bungie does something novel and opens the season with a negotiation. Caiatl comes to Commander Zavala under a flag of truce to fight their common enemy: the Hive. She offers humanity a place in the empire under one condition: the guardians kneel and pledge their fealty to her.

This is actually great because it borrows from real history. In 492 BC when King Xerxes of Persia offered the Spartans to either submit to him or die, the Spartans, led by Leonidas I, chose the latter and along with the Greeks rallied at Thermopylae to resist the Persian invasion. It remains to be seen if we’ll get a cutscene of Zavala kicking a Cabal emissary into a well while screaming “THIS IS…EARTH!” but one can hope.

All-out war with the Cabal can only be averted by disrupting a ritual where warriors are elected to the Cabal War Council through trial by combat. It’s by you jumping into the mix and taking out would-be lieutenants that will prevent the rise of a new Cabal empire.

It really helps that said jumping in is quite fun. Battlegrounds is the new activity and it works like a strike playlist. You’ll go to a multi-stage arena that ends with a Cabal baddie at the end followed by a chest packed with loot – classic Destiny. These encounters play out like the finale of a Marvel movie with tons of enemies and just the right balance of challenge and chaos.

I can remember getting my face stomped in by overpowered NPCs trying to defend the Seraph towers during Season of the Worthy and I’m glad Bungie has learned a lesson when it comes to designing their activities: the fun lies between making the player feel powerful while still offering an adequate challenge.

In Season of the Worthy, we grinded all the way to the bitter end in order to get the Fourth Horseman exotic shotgun, a gun designed specifically to fight the Cabal. Seems a bit strange to put the gun at the END of the season rather than at the beginning, no? Would have been nice to have that handy while fighting Cabal all season…

But here again, is where Season of the Chosen shines. Both the Fourth Horseman and Skyburner’s Oath make returns to the armories of guardians worth their salt. Both exotics get a new lease on life (or in your enemy’s case, death) by being very useful tools in Battlegrounds. It feels fantastic to slide up to a yellow-bar enemy and unload four rapid-fire shotgun blasts directly into their face or double jump over a crowd of enemies while raining down explosive slugs from Skyburner’s.

Speaking of exotics, Bungie has frontloaded the season pass with an exotic bow, Ticcu’s Divination. You’ll also get No Time to Explain pulse rifle, courtesy of the Exo Stranger, which previously only went to Beyond Light Deluxe Edition owners. Giving guardians a couple of new toys is like striking a match over dry wood. And just yesterday we found out there’s a secret exotic quest that offers up the Dead Man’s Tale exotic scout rifle.

The quest itself is again a great example of Destiny living up to its potential. You go aboard a derelict Cabal ship and without giving anything away it manages to be creepy, fun and challenging all at once. Every exotic should get a quest this good.

All of this is really surprising because no season I can remember offered up this much content or delivered it so well. Season of the Hunt had one exotic, Hawkmoon, and even Beyond Light’s exotics weren’t as good as this (except Cloudstrike and the Lament). It really feels like Bungie has hit all the right notes with this one.

Season of the Hunt’s Wrathborn hunts are still available but of my weekly milestones, that’s likely the one I’ll do last. The tedious multistage monster hunt is a perfect example of what a half-baked Destiny activity looks like. Complicated quest item? Check. Weak rewards? Check. Vague story beat? Check.

Season of the Chosen suffers from none of these drawbacks and it even manages to refill the legendary loot pool back up after it was drained in Beyond Light. Now that Bungie has hammered out the blueprint to what a good season looks and feels like we can only pray to the Traveler they keep it up.

Now I did mention meme magic before and so I’ll leave you with Lance Reddick (Zavala’s voice actor) reading out a meme written by a fan: