Thursday, November 30

Iron Banter: This Week In Destiny 2 – A Review Of Solstice 2022

Just about every week brings something new to Destiny 2, whether it’s story beats, new activities, or interesting new combinations of elements that let players devastate each other in the Crucible. Iron Banter is our weekly look at what’s going on in the world of Destiny and a rundown of what’s drawing our attention across the solar system.

Solstice is probably my least favorite of Destiny 2’s annual events. The summertime celebration originally kicked off alongside the Moments of Triumph, marking the end of a Destiny year and helping players commemorate all the cool stuff they’d done with a nice set of glowing armor to boot–but it tended to be a heavily grindy event that lacked the fun personality of Halloween’s Festival of the Lost or The Dawning of the holiday season. Solstice also tends to be an intense grind, and if there’s one thing I’m not a fan of in the Destiny games, it’s grinding content over and over.

For 2022, Bungie made some significant changes to Solstice, however. It altered the way its special event armor works, adjusted the special EAZ location and the events that take place there, and introduced a new “Event Card” system, both for ticking off objectives and for earning premium rewards as part of the event. Solstice looks very different in 2022, and now that it’s over, we can take a look at the three-week summertime celebration to run down what worked, what didn’t, and what we might expect from additional annual events as Destiny 2 goes forward.

The improvements

Overall, my impression of this year’s Solstice was that Bungie identified some significant problems that hold the event back and addressed them to make it better. The biggest and most important of them: Solstice armor.

Armor earned during the Solstice event is always special. It has its own unique design and can take on “glows” that give it a unique, incandescent look. The thing about Solstice armor, however, is that it takes a lot of work to make. The entire celebration event is usually about putting in the work to upgrade your Solstice armor from low-level, common gear to high-level Legendary stuff. Most of the time, that grind is about the glow at the end–although generally, you have to pay extra to achieve the coolest looks. This year, however, Solstice armor was made a lot better through Bungie’s continued improvements to gear-targeting systems.

The ability to tune your Solstice armor to your personal specifications almost makes the grind worth it.

With the Candescent armor you could earn in this year’s Solstice, eventually, you could tune each gear piece with the specific stats you wanted. The system allowed you to pick one stat with a “spark” that guaranteed it to have at least 20 points invested in it–a pretty significant number, since a single stat for legendary-type armor tops out at 30. In addition to that, with the Ghost mod system that allows you to generally target armor toward a specific stat, you could further tune your Solstice armor in a different direction, with the Ghost mod guaranteeing 10 points in a different stat from your spark. That meant you could get a guarantee of 20 Resilience, along with a guarantee of 10 Discipline, for instance, with randomness contributing the rest of your gear’s numbers to a possible total of 68. With lots of Solstice armor dropping throughout the event, that meant players had pretty good chances of making pretty close to exactly the kind of armor they wanted during Solstice.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the armor system this year was a major improvement for Solstice. It made the whole event feel very worthwhile by providing what is basically the best gear-tuning opportunity in the game. Even if you weren’t particularly keen on Solstice’s activities, it was worth it to engage with the event for the cool armor. Worthwhile rewards are always a big plus in Destiny 2, and Solstice dished them out.

It did so similarly by adding a new weapon to the game, the hand cannon Something New, which carried a new special trait called Dream Work that rewards you for working closely with teammates. The trait was bugged for a bit, making it very special, but even without that add-on, Something New feels special (as does Compass Rose, a shotgun that was reworked for this Solstice). Bungie is making very good use of the new Origin Trait system, especially as seen here: Something New is a gun that comes from exactly one source, with a unique element that makes it feel special. It’s another good reason to jump into Solstice.

Bungie did away with the old EAZ event, which had players chasing down hidden treasure chests after fighting waves of enemies, in favor of a new activity called Bonfire Bash. Generally, I was a fan; it’s not especially different from the old EAZ, still requiring killing waves of enemies, but at least it freshened things up a bit and didn’t require running around the map to find those treasure chests at the end. Overall, the EAZ still gets stale in a hurry (more on that in a bit), but Bonfire feels like a better version of what we’ve played in the space before, at the very least.

Adjustments to the EAZ make it more fun than in the past, but it still gets stale in a hurry.
Adjustments to the EAZ make it more fun than in the past, but it still gets stale in a hurry.

Finally, the Event Card system is a pretty decent one. It puts all your objectives for the event in one place, and if you want to spend a few bucks to upgrade it, it dishes out some premium cosmetic rewards as well–without adjusting how Solstice plays in basically any way. The Event Card system is a good one for keeping things organized, although it’d be nice to see some better rewards, as I’m not sure anyone really cares about Ghost projections or transmat effects, but maybe that’s just me. It’s a minor addition, but a useful one, in any case.

The drawbacks

Solstice saw a lot of improvements this year, but its major drawback remained: it’s a grind, and not an especially fun one. As usual, it takes a lot of work to improve your Solstice armor to its best possible levels. Not only did you have to play a large number of competitive matches and a whole lot of Bonfire Bash, but you had to mess around with a lot of public events and playlist activities. It wasn’t as grindy as in past years, but it was still a significant grind, when Destiny 2 has, in a general sense, moved away from lengthy requirements for making numbers go up to generally more meaningful engagement (although the infernal grind persists, for sure).

I’ll say that the work to get your armor up to its best levels wasn’t nearly as annoying as in last years, which included requirements like raid or dungeon completions–which aren’t a high bar for some players, but which can be extremely frustrating for others. The worst of it this year was probably the 25 competitive matches played requirement for either Crucible or Gambit. It didn’t help that boosted progress for alternate characters was broken for most of the event. Still, though, 25 matches is a lot to ask of anyone, period. I’d like to see Bungie find ways of making these requirements feel more meaningful, maybe by tying some light story elements to them so it feels like you’re seeking out pieces of armor from around the Solar System, or doing something to pay homage to the triumphs Solstice is meant to celebrate. Regardless, the armor grind is an annoying one, and once I’d finished on my Titan character, which took me about half the event to complete, I gave up for the rest of Solstice and abandoned my alts to their non-glowy fates.

Bonfire Bash, too, suffers the same fate as previous EAZ events. It’s fine for a bit, but not terribly challenging or interesting. Of course, we have to take into account that annual events like these are designed for wide engagement among the player base, and are therefore kept casual, and I think the adjustments this year made Bonfire Bash less of an irritation than it had been in past iterations. But you still end up playing it a ton, and it’s basically the same every time.

The Event Card system is useful for keeping the event organized, but it could stand some better rewards.
The Event Card system is useful for keeping the event organized, but it could stand some better rewards.

There’s potential in the EAZ as a space–it’s more vertical than maybe anywhere else in Destiny 2, and navigating in three dimensions to complete the event is a cool idea. New environmental items to launch you around are also really useful. But the event itself doesn’t use the space in a way that adds much to it. Mostly, the tall buildings and distant floating islands are just annoyances in your way as you try to race to the next thing to kill, so you can finish the event as quickly as possible. That’s also a function of the grind, really, because everyone wants to knock out Bonfire Bash as fast as they can, since they have to complete so many of them. It makes the event feel like a chore, but even if you weren’t sprinting through it, once you’ve done four or five runs, they’re all pretty much the same. And that makes it tough to stay engaged with Solstice for the entire three weeks.

The verdict

I’m pro-Solstice 2022, at least in the frame of the other Solstice events. Generally, it was a major improvement. The issues that make Solstice one of the weaker annual events persist, however. Though Bungie added some really great premium cosmetic items to the event this year, of which I bought several, it still feels like Solstice lacks personality compared to the other events.

The worst element, however, remains the grind. I’m glad Solstice armor was improved to the point that it felt like it was worth chasing, but it still required a high degree of effort to earn–and not the fun kind of effort, like taking on a challenge and defeating it, but the annoying kind of effort, like running 25 Gambit matches just to get them done. For me, I think the answer is either to decrease the grind, which feels like a general mandate for Destiny 2 overall these days, or to enhance Solstice armor even more, so that the reward feels commensurate to the work involved in earning it. Solstice 2022 definitely got closer to that balance, but it’s still not enough to elevate Solstice among Destiny’s other annual events.

What’d you think of Solstice this year? Did you like the changes? What would you like to see Bungie do with it in the future? Am I completely wrong about it? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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