October has rolled around again, and in the world of Destiny 2 that means the return of the spooky in-universe event, the Festival of the Lost. In the grand scheme of things, these kinds of seasonal events are always charming in their own way, helping give players something else to enjoy other than the ongoing seasonal narrative activities or trying to finish Raids, Grandmaster Nightfalls, or getting really sweaty in Trials of Osiris.
But Festival of the Lost 2021 takes a few extra steps beyond to make the whole event feel more than just reskinned leftovers of Festivals long past. Better still, it may be thanks in part to the Destiny Content Vault.
Destiny 2 Festival of the Lost 2021 - What's Different?
On the surface, Festival of the Lost 2021 is yet another string of activities for Guardians to enjoy: alternate currencies to collect (candy), seasonal bounties to complete for a higher form of currency (spectral pages), and interacting with the Tower's very own holiday-coordinating grandmother, Eva Levante. As per tradition, the Tower is fully decorated with Halloween-flavored decor like spooky trees, glowing paint, floating candles, and jack-o'-lanterns. Finally, the Eververse Premium Store is now packed with new cosmetics for the occasion, like novelty Ghost shells, Sparrows, emotes, and costume-flavored cosmetic armor for all three classes.
The first notable difference is how Bungie chose these cosmetics. Earlier in the year, Bungie staged a poll with the Destiny 2 community and asked them what sort of themed costume they would like to have for this year's Festival of the Lost. This is a big deal since prior years themes have been with no input from the community at all. In this case, the community at large went with a dinosaur theme, so now players can work their way up to unlocking a Jurassic-flavored look for their Light-wielding godslayer.
It's a small but important change where Bungie is having a more productive dialogue with its player base, making them feel included with the ongoing story of Destiny 2 as well as having a say in the more lighthearted events.
The second big change is found in the requisite holiday event. For the longest time, Destiny 2's Festival of the Lost included a three-player activity called the Haunted Forest. It was basically a speedrun of Mercury's Infinite Forest location with some Halloween appropriate changes. But Mercury and the Infinite Forest are currently vaulted. So what exactly has replaced it?
Enter Festival of the Lost 2021's event: Haunted Sectors. You are sent to a Lost Sector somewhere on the game's map, either The Moon or Europa from what I've played, with two other players and are tasked with clearing it. This isn't exactly new in Destiny 2. One of the biggest pushes for more powerful Exotic items are that some can only be found in Legend and Master Lost Sectors respectively.
What really helps elevate these Haunted Sectors into a campy delight is presentation and context. By now, the Destiny 2 community has settled into a certain rhythm when it comes to digesting the narrative and greater world building.
Major events are heralded by premium expansions, character development, and ongoing faction intrigue, which are emphasized in the seasonal stories. In addition to the direct plot expressed in cutscenes and voice-over dialogue, there are also lore books which help players understand what is going on in the greater world of Destiny outside of the player's activities.
This year's Festival of the Lost plays around with this structure for a chance at fun filler. While Eva Levante is still the master of ceremonies, she has somehow managed to reverse engineer reality-altering Vex technology for the sake of Halloween entertainment after all, the unexpected star of the show this year is Crow's Ghost, Glint. Every single time you enter a Haunted Sector, Glint tells a spooky story about Exos who have lost their heads and yet carry on with murderous intent like space fantasy dullahans.
Lo and behold, the unique enemies you fight in these sectors are Hive Knights with their heads replaced by glowing jack-o'-lanterns. Killing one causes them to explode into a shower of candy and spawns another one. This continues until a timer ticks down, at which point a boss spawns and more of these knights spawn. At this point, you can pick up glowing pumpkins from these knights and throw them at the boss. Once the boss is defeated and rewards are given out, Glint continues on about these Headless Ones, his tone switching from serious to jovial at the very end to say, “Happy Festival of the Lost, Guardian.”
It is because of Glint's tongue-in-cheek presentation and turn of the heel that the Haunted Lost Sectors take on their real identity: novelty spook houses. Simple thrill rides of local folklore played out for easy scares and immediate catharsis, the latter in this case being our Guardians blasting them into ash then spending the candy they expunge for novelty masks.
Then there's the Lore book pages this year introduces. While doing activities with a Festival of the Lost mask equipped, you can collect pages. Completing a Haunted Lost Sector converts them to a different page which can be spent at a lectern near Eva Levante in the Tower to unlock additional entries in this year's Lore book. The entries so far show Glint doing research into the “story” of the Headless Ones, consulting with various characters throughout the world of Destiny for information.
It's a cheeky look behind the curtain at how Festival of the Lost leans on universal recurring horror tropes and motifs while keeping the fantastical cosmic scale of the setting. Admittedly, I doubt this Lore book will hold any secret insights to what the future holds for Destiny 2, but it helps showcase just how comfortable Bungie's writers and the players have become with this game's means of delivering story and exposition.
The only real blemish on the whole affair is how the Festival resolves the Ascendant Lens item. During last year's Festival, players were able to earn this item through playing various activities, but it seemed to have no apparent use. This year, you can turn the Ascendant Lens over to Mara Sov at the HELM. Your reward for sticking around from last year are three different rolls of the new Jurassic Green pulse rifle, 21 Spectral Pages, and an Enhancement Prism. It's not exactly as involved as the now infamous Ascendant Raisins situation back in Destiny, but at least it's something.
Festival of the Lost 2021 is a marked improvement from past years. The horror cosmetics are adorably cheesy. The new Haunted Sectors help mix up the format in novel ways. And the community gets to dress up like dinosaurs as part of a theme. It's a great little respite from the ongoing story of Destiny 2 and a fitting way to celebrate the spooky season.
Happy Festival of the Lost, everyone.