With the coming of October means the beginning of the spooktacular Halloween season. Horror movies, plastic skeleton decorations, and costume parties are a plenty... at least they would if it weren't for the whole “global pandemic” thing. Destiny 2 is no different with its themed event, Festival of the Lost.
Speaking as an avid player since The Taken King expansion in 2015, I do enjoy how Bungie manages to channel the kitschy atmosphere of Halloween decorations, trick or treating, spooky houses, and impish pranks into their space-opera setting. But as I played through the new seasonal content, something about the whole thing felt lacking, stretched too thin over the game's current content. The reason for this becomes obvious when you recall Bungie's development schedule. The new premium expansion for the game, Beyond Light, was supposed to be out by now.
On the surface, this year's Festival of the Lost seemed like the same as previous years. After going to the Tower and speaking to the game's very own festive granny, Eva Levante, you get yourself a festival mask and a simple goal of completing game activities to collect candy and chocolate strange coins, which can be exchanged for rewards. In addition to the rewards of horror-themed masks, vehicles, and Ghost shells, there were noticeably more opportunities to get Bright Dust, the in-game alternative to premium currency, and more generous prices in the Eververse cosmetic store.
It wasn't until I got into this year's star attraction, the Haunted Forest, that things stopped feeling right. Essentially a repurposed version of Destiny 2's Infinite Forest event, you and two other players run through randomly generated rooms and locations, fighting enemies and boss monsters while on a strict time limit. Once time is up, you are brought to several treasure chests for some well-earned loot... except now some of the chests are locked.
In order to open these chests, you will need cipher decoders. The problem with getting these fancy keys is that obtaining them happens completely at random, and the drop rate is quite stingy. In two hours of me doing everything from Nightmare Hunts to Vanguard Strikes, I only managed to get one decoder. On top of that, the rewards for opening these chests appear to be new rolls for older weapons given away during prior Festivals.
All of it reeks of half-hearted recycling of old content until you recall that Beyond Light was scheduled to come out in September. However, due to complications regarding COVID-19, Bungie pushed the release date to November. Considering the fact that Bungie is a large studio working perpetually on new content for Destiny 2 months in advance, it would make sense that this year's Festival was meant to complement the swath of new material Beyond Light introduced.
This is made clear with the event's collectible masks. Characters like Variks and the mysterious Exo Stranger, who hasn't been a major player in Destiny since the original game way back in 2014, have masks modeled after them. THese characters play a big role in Beyond Light's marketing.
There's even a bit of dissonance going on with the resolution of the game's ongoing questline during Season of Arrivals, how the delay artificially extended things. The quest called Interference reached its conclusion the week of the Festival's start, revealing the evil space pyramids that appear to be the true villains of this universe (yes, really), offering new sources of power on Europa, the newest location in Beyond Light.
The thing is every major character in the Festival of the Lost content keeps alluding to things getting so bad but hoping that the festival will take your mind off of it. This basically happens in conjunction with the game telling you to get ready for darker and more sinister things to come, undermining the joviality of the occasion.
But above all, the Festival would have worked fantastically with all of Beyond Light's new content. New locations and activities to tuck into on the moon of Europa, the brand new stasis subclasses, the return of Earth's cosmodrome along with new PvP maps and Strikes to enjoy. Getting those randomly spawning decoders and stopping into the Haunted Forest would be less of a chore if it meant you were also experiencing brand new activities at the same time, and the recycling of old Festival content wouldn't have been a big deal since the expansion would be picking up the slack with brand new exotic weapons and armor.
This isn't to berate Bungie or to get angry at the grind going on in the newest content in Destiny 2. The fundamental loop of fighting aliens on different planets, finishing quests and getting into cosmic shenanigans is still why I come back to this game and enjoy it so much. It just seems that whenever certain characters are talking about a dark shadow looming over the festivities threatening to take the fun out of things, it feels like they aren't just talking about evil pyramids.