Almost every week brings something new destiny 2, whether it’s story beats, new activities, or interesting new combinations of elements that players can use to crush each other in the Crucible. Iron Banter is our weekly look at what’s going on in the world of Destiny and an overview of what’s grabbing our attention across the solar system.
After weeks of trawling the mysteries of the Leviathan for answers to Calus’ intentions, we have come to the end of the Season of the Haunted storyline. The season has spent a significant amount of time building and exploring the personalities and traumas of characters we’ve engaged with in the game for some time – in some cases for years – while giving us direction for where the story of Destiny 2 is goes into the future.
As far as seasonal storytelling goes, I would rank Season of the Haunted as one of Destiny 2’s stronger outings. Although slightly shorter than some of the more recent episodic stories, it used its time to pound many emotional beats while also expanding on the larger world in many important ways. We’ve learned a shocking amount of Season of the Haunted backstory while watching plenty of character development – not just among members of the main cast and current villain Calus, but also among Destiny characters who are long dead.
First the sever missions. The weekly missions each focused on a single character, and while not particularly extensive, they delved directly into the psyches of Crow, Zavala, and Caiatl. This was a huge win for Crow in particular, whose arc in the final year and transformation has been coming to terms with his past as the Uldren Sov. I’ve said in the past that Crow has worked really well as a semi-protagonist for Destiny 2, giving us a point of view character who hasn’t done the whole Guardian thing in hundreds of years and therefore spends time tying the ropes learn and challenge the status quo. Crow has come out of that role as he’s aged, but he’s still shouldering a lot of emotional baggage and a complicated storyline that’s unfolded since the Beyond Light expansion. Season of the Haunted put a poignant twist on everything that has happened to Crow over the past year, allowing us to watch him deal with his inner turmoil, on-screen and in missions.
This same approach is also reflected in Caiatl, a generally gruff and withdrawn character who has hinted that there is a lot going on beneath the surface, but for whom much of that combat was covered in Lore Drops. We know a lot about Caiatl’s backstory, but she’s only spoken in spurts about it. Sever gave Bungie a chance to show Caiatl’s vulnerability, and that opportunity greatly expanded her character. It seems like Caiatl is staying here to remain a key member of the cast, which serves to deepen the overall story of Destiny 2 as we take a closer look at the alien races and their cultures – humans we used to only know about on the barrel of our understood weapons now take on three-dimensional forms.
Speaking of characters that mostly existed in lore, Sever did quite a bit to humanize Zavala, something his character badly needed. The stoic leader of the Vanguard has obviously been crushed by Destiny 2 in recent years, but again, that’s something that rarely appears on screen. We got a few knowing lines of dialogue or deep sighs from Zavala, but much of what happened to him, like Caiatl, has been treated as text lore. So it was great to see Bungie actually throwing some emotional beats at Zavala. The guy is absolutely crushed under the weight of his responsibilities, and it does a lot for Destiny 2 to bring that to the fore.
However, aside from the stories presented directly in Sever, I was surprised at how much story was delivered through the gameplay and how much even smaller moments added to our better understanding of what is going on. Throughout Leviathan, as you play, you can learn about the strange Eregore Mushroom, the inner thoughts of Calus, and the beliefs and personalities of the Nightmare characters. All of the “Behold” patrol missions are edifying in terms of story and lore – each takes you to a point in the Leviathan where you scan the environment and then hear from Calus himself what’s going on aboard his corrupted ship. Red blobs of energy in various patrol zones give you glimpses of characters like Ghaul and Safiyah, further expanding the personalities of the people the Nightmares are attached to.
And even as you complete the many, many Nightmare Containment activities required to take down the Seal of Season of the Haunted, you’ll be constantly showered with interesting tidbits of history in the form of conversations between the season’s characters. Add in the Duality dungeon, a mindsteal that’s literally about stealing memories from Calus, and that’s a whole lot of lore you don’t need to read about in lore books, something that storytelling in Destiny 2 means to me opinion makes it healthier.
If there’s one place I think Season of the Haunted falls flat – and that’s true of a lot of Destiny 2 storytelling, seasonal or otherwise – it’s because there’s not really a clear path set for the future becomes. Seasonal stories have gotten a lot better at making sense from one to the next than they used to be, but with Season of the Haunted rumored to be done with story beats, it’s not clear what’s next.
Destiny 2 often suffers from a “threat” issue where the story is less proactive than reactive. Most of the time, a new season is about a villain doing something scary, and the players and characters are struggling to deal with it. Seasons often end with characters standing around and saying, “Glad that’s over – but who knows what [Savathun/Xivu Arath/Calus/The Witness] is really Planning,” and Season of the Haunted feels similar. We defeated Calus on the Leviathan, which eliminated that threat to some extent – the story ends with the idea that we’ll be spending money over the next few weeks, we’ll be cleaning up Nightmares like we’re dealing with an insect infestation . But of course the threat remains, and we’ll have to wait until August to find out who’s going to take the next blow against us so we can track them down and shoot them in the face.
It’s an area that I hope Bungie finds a way to address in a satisfactory manner, while acknowledging that this is something of a video game problem; Each season is generally about fighting an enemy and in order to use that enemy they must be up to something that we must stop. There is also a desire to withhold information and surprise players; Keeping details close to the vest ended up working exceptionally well with Season of the Haunted.
Especially now that we’re getting closer to Lightfall, I’d like to see some of these seasons end on a slightly more active note. In Eris Morn’s last transmission, we got some clues as to where things are going next: the Drifter is in the Reef executing an unknown plan, and Eris made discoveries in the Pyramid of the Moon that sound pretty important. But I wish we were privy to more of this information, or actively investigating aspects of it, even if it’s just in some sort of background knowledge. Especially recently, Bungie has done a great job of making it feel like the world of Destiny 2 is changing and responding to what’s happening in the story. This approach would be even more powerful if history indicated that we act on information we from defeating Calus or completing the duality dungeon, taking some time to prepare for the next chapter but actively helping to shape it.
Still, Season of the Haunted did an excellent job of not only advancing Destiny 2’s story and building its character, but also doing it on screen and making players feel like they were playing an active role in it – too when we’re all able to shoot stuff. We shot the demons and that allowed the Destiny 2 characters to deal with them, and the helped make Season of the Haunted one of the best stories Destiny 2 has ever told – a high bar considering how strong seasonal storytelling has been, especially since Beyond Light. If there’s one area to improve on, it’s in finding ways to make players feel responsible for taking the story to the next beat, rather than waiting and reacting to that, but given the fact , as compelling as Destiny 2’s stories continue to be, that’s a nitpick of a complaint.
As we near the end of the season, we’re going back and trying to give Season of the Haunted a holistic look that covers storytelling as well as gameplay content and mechanics. In the meantime, though, that’s my take on Season of the Haunted from a story perspective, but feel free to offer your own opinions – areas you felt were strong or particularly resonant, elements you felt weren’t worked well – see the comments below.
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