We’re in the last week of Destiny 2’s Season of the Drifter, the Annual Pass content update known as Joker’s Wild. On June 4th, we head into the Season of Opulence, the content known as Penumbra. In reviewing Season of the Drifter, we wanted to try to tackle things a little bit differently. Because content unfolds progressively over the course of the three month season, and has things for both the paid Annual Pass and just owners of the base game, it felt a little unfair and premature to issue a review of the season just a couple of weeks in.
Of course, every time we thought there was a lull in content and started to write up our review, Bungie came up with something else for players to do, earn, or chase. That in and of itself speaks volumes about Season of the Drifter. It managed to keep things interesting and fresh, never letting players get bored. From seasonal events to secret quests, there was lots to do in Destiny 2 over the last three months.
One of the biggest things Season of the Drifter did better than the previous season was to seed it with lore that I actually cared about. Black Armory’s lore was interesting enough, but it came completely out of left field and really didn’t play into existing lore. Season of the Drifter offered additional details about one of Forsaken’s most intriguing additions: The Drifter and his mysterious game of Gambit. The story seeded throughout this season not only followed up on mysteries that were previously introduced, but it sets up a lot of things that people have been theorizing will be happening in Destiny 3. I loved the lore for Season of the Drifter, especially with how it expanded the universe and our understanding of mysteries. Of course, it created a lot of new mysteries too.
The primary content addition for this season was the cycle between Gambit Prime and The Reckoning, with rewards that led into each other and provided a gameplay loop that could be repeatedly ground out. The theory behind the activity loop was a solid one, and for the first little bit, I was really excited to grind out motes to take to Reckoning which could be used to earn armor that improved my abilities in Gambit Prime. What wasn’t exciting about this loop was the excessive amount of fluff that it came with, including unnecessary lower tiers of armor (which were actually separate armor pieces) that we had to grind out. It also ended up packing our already overflowing vaults super full of duplicate gear. If you account for all classes, all Gambit Prime roles, and the three tiers of armor, that’s 180 pieces of armor to collect.
Bungie already solved this problem with the Solstice of Heroes armor last summer, so it was a huge shock to see as such an issue this season. Each armor slot should have had a single Gambit Prime armor piece with unlockable nodes for the four different roles and three unlockable upgrade tiers to get the better perks. There’s no reason that we needed to collect 12 separate helmets on each character. It was overkill. It destroyed an already bursting vault. But, the theory behind the gameplay loop was a good one, and it kept me coming back for more week after week.
Gambit, but Better
Season of the Drifter focused on the man with no name and his game of Gambit, with some fundamental changes coming to the main game mode and a new pinnacle version called Gambit Prime. Prime created a good bit of variety for Gambit with slightly different rules and the aforementioned armor perks that let players really lean into the specific roles that people naturally played. It brought two new maps to Gambit that were desperately needed, but it also couldn’t be played on two of Gambit’s original maps, which means that the variety was lacking as the mode rotated through only four maps.
Reckoning, on the other hand, was far from the “Raid replacement” that many players felt it was trying to be. As the big endgame activity of the season, it suffered from leaning into the meta far too much. The bridge encounter had such tight timing that one small mistake could screw up an entire run. Though it had random matchmaking, very few of my clears came with blueberries. I always preferred to play this one with friends where possible. Eventually it got to the point where I was sighing whenever the gameplay loop sent me over to The Reckoning. As opposed to the Raids, which I could easily play over and over again, The Reckoning didn’t quite capture that same energy and excitement.
Still, Bungie made sure that there were plenty of things to do. The Invitations of the Nine weren’t totally new content. They were glorified bounties that revealed some cool lore surrounding the Drifter and the Nine. The Revelry spring event was a good surge of power, and while it may have shaken up Crucible a little bit too much, it was a fun experiment that shifted the meta of the game for three weeks while players found ways to get near infinite grenades, melees, or class abilities. The Revelry brought back the excitement of The Reckoning because I didn’t feel funneled into one build, and that tight window of time got a little more lenient.
There were also plenty of secret Exotic weapons to earn throughout the season, from the quest for Thorn that tied in with the Drifter, to getting Arbalest during the Revelry, to the secret Whisper-style mission to earn Outbreak Perfected, its catalyst, and a junker Exotic ship while revisiting the ruins of the old tower. Each of these new additions kept punching up the excitement for the game for a good few weeks, and the pacing of new releases was consistent enough that I never got bored of playing.
Can You Miss What’s Not There?
One of the biggest omissions from the Annual Pass method of releasing content comes in form of missing new Crucible maps and strikes, which puts a strain on any player’s desire to keep playing that content. Sure, Bungie came up with a bunch of reasons to go into those. The Invitations of the Nine required various strikes be completed. Pinnacle weapons prompted players to play these playlists. But there was no new content here to play. We played the same old Crucible maps. We played the same old strikes. Even one or two new maps or strikes can help keep these playlists feeling fresh, but the Annual Pass method of delivering content means a laser focus on the new activities while older ones go stale.
I really don’t miss the traditional story campaigns of previous Destiny expansions. I tended to play those once through (per character, so technically three times through) and then never touch them again. Those aren’t what I play Destiny for, and I love the narrative being woven into the repeatable activities and things to do over time. I love getting my story through the grind. Season of the Drifter accomplished this aspect really well, even if it didn’t do a lot to keep many of the older repeatable activities relevant. There was enough to do during the last three months that it didn’t matter.
Bungie’s Destiny 2: Forsaken Annual Pass has been an experiment in content delivery in a game that’s designed to be played on repeat. Season of the Drifter, while not perfect, made a lot of strides in maintaining interest from players, and staying interesting itself. Bungie’s been learning a lot from this experiment, and being able to rotate the game’s focus every three months has allowed them a lot of freedoms to take some risks. For everything it gets right, Bungie can cultivate and evolve those aspects. For everything it gets wrong, it can shift away from those things as the game moves on to what’s next. Joker’s Wild taught a lot of lessons, but mostly, it’s shown that it is worth it to experience all of things live in real time, rather than joining in after the fact. Something big is coming, and Season of the Drifter began paving the way for the future.
Destiny 2’s Season of the Drifter and Joker’s Wild content were reviewed using review codes provided at the release of Destiny 2: Forsaken. For more information, please see our Review Policy.