After a surprisingly stellar outing with Season of the Chosen, expectations for the next stage of Destiny 2 were high. Season of the Splicer starts by introducing new characters and ideas teased in the background for years, brings an undervalued enemy faction into the forefront, and opens a large can of Hive worms in terms of a long-awaited feature.
Destiny 2 Season of the Splicer – The House of Light
The central enemy of Season of the Splicer is the time-traveling robot collective, the Vex. Using their complex information network and their reality-breaking world engine technology, the Vex have managed to trap Earth in a simulation where the sun has vanished. Naturally, the Earth and the Tower are starting to feel the effects of losing a fundamental part of their cosmic ecosystem; seriously, if you have even a cursory understanding of Earth Sciences, this should make you have a panic attack and give you an idea of the desperate struggle to stop the Vex simulation.
This is where an unlikely ally finally steps out of the lore tabs and into the spotlight: Mithrax and his House of Light. This is big since it ties back to the history of the Fallen. Once upon a time they received blessings and gifts from the Traveler much like Earth before The Darkness destroyed their entire star system. Ever since then, they have been trying to assault the Tower and take back the Traveler for themselves. Alternatively, Mithrax is a Fallen Captain who has been slowly building his own House all about wanting to work alongside the forces of Earth, to bury the bloody history of his people's countless assaults on humanity.
And in Season of the Splicer, Mithrax becomes a major ally. He is a rare Fallen known as a Data Splicer, which can hack into data streams and project themselves into the digital landscape to explore or destroy as they see fit. In other words, the '90s sci-fi idea of jumping into cyberspace and hacking the planet is here in full swing.
This is the focus of the season. You have Mithrax and his people slowly given sanctuary in the Tower under heavy supervision while your Guardian cyberdives into the Vex information network to track down the source of the doomsday simulation.
It's not a bad set up at all. Players have been waiting for years for some sort of alliance with the Fallen and the Guardians. With the rise of the Darkness in Beyond Light and everything surrounding the armistice with the Cabal in Season of the Chosen, there is plenty of thematic narrative sense to get as much help as possible with so many enemy forces at the front door. And Destiny 2 doesn't downplay the significance of this. There's an entire social area where you can see Mithrax's Fallen and learn more about their culture and get their perspective on Guardians and the Traveler. It's genuinely humbling and intriguing material, especially when it comes to the social awkwardness of trying to be friendly to a nigh-immortal superwarrior who can casually kill hundreds of your kind every morning before breakfast.
Destiny 2 Season of the Splicer – Override and Synthweave
This leads to the biggest new content for Season of the Splicer. First is Override, a brand new six-player mode. Your fireteam fights off waves of Vex enemies while hacking into a conflux to access the network. Once inside, your team goes through some platforming challenges before facing off against a major Vex boss at the end and getting your loot.
In a way, Override feels like a combination of different game modes. The beginning mixes mote collecting from Gambit, shooting Vex Oracles from the Vault of Glass Raid, and killing champions and banking data spikes like from Season of Arrivals. Even the structure of a six-man team working up to a boss fight has shades of Osiris' Sundial event from Season of the Dawn.
It leads to a genuinely chaotic and messy bit of co-op fun, but there are some issues. The constantly shifting objectives do keep things interesting, but the map layout and enemy configurations make combat feel like a chore. I've only played two Override location currently available that are on the Moon and Europa, but both of them somehow feel cramped and uninteresting. There are constant waves of enemies coming in much like Battleground, which is manageable in a fireteam of three but more of an annoyance with a team of six.
Things do pick up into a challenge once you get to the boss fight with multiple mechanics, more enemies, and an open arena to mess around in, but the build up to that fight can feel like busywork. Overall, it's a great seasonal activity to thread the central narrative around, but it feels lopsided right now.
Then there is Armor Synthesis: Destiny 2's long-awaited transmog system. I've already written about my concerns about the system as it was expressed in Bungie's TWAB post and I will not repeat them here. This is because not only were my concerns made real, it's worse than expected.
The system involves a lot of backtracking and busywork. Get materials, go to vendor, get bounty, complete bounty for different material, return to vendor, trade in different material for third material, use third material to get piece of cosmetic armor. This system is capped where you can only do 10 of them per character every season, greatly inconveniencing players further. If you want to skip all of this and have no limitation, just buy unlocks in the premium store with real-world cash. All of this is done to gain the cosmetic appearance of armor made by design to be less visually appealing than cosmetic armor sold in the premium store.
Worse still, the premium store already has an accepted economy of premium currency (Silver) and earnable in-game currency (Bright Dust) and a constantly rotating storefront with sales and discounts for both currencies. This new system can't help but be treated with disdain, it feels like it was lifted wholesale from a mobile free-to-play game and shoehorned in with the subtlety of a flying chainsaw.
What puts it over the top is that that all too crucial synthweave material needed to do all of this is distributed on a timer. Destiny 2, the action MMO that rewards you for setting and completing goals, actively wastes your time. Every two minutes or of playing, killing an enemy drops synthweave. You need 150 synthweave to get a bounty. The synthweaves caps out at 150. With some quick math, that comes out to five hours of active play where you can be doing anything from completing an endgame Dungeon or Raid to just sitting in a patrol zone and mindlessly killing fodder. It actively flies in the face of the very foundation the series has made for itself. The player base has been very vocal about their hatred for the system as it stands, and I do not blame them at all.
The only silver lining to this is that there is now an overhauled appearance menu for your character: a quick and easy menu where you can experiment with looks and apply shaders more easily. Is it nice? Yes. Was it worth the implementation of an excessively tone deaf that undermines the game's very design ethos? Not at all.
Destiny 2 Season of the Splicer Closing Thoughts
Destiny 2's Season of the Splicer is bittersweet for me. On the one hand, it is finally forwarding character arcs and plot points I've been waiting patiently for, and it handles its narrative dripfeed really well, building on the brilliant baseline of its predecessors. On the other hand, the armor synthesis system just feels wrong in its current state. These impressions may change once the Exotic Mission Expunge is released, and of course the return of the iconic Vault of Glass Raid on Saturday. But as it stands right now, too much of how Bungie has chosen to monetize its newest content has soured whatever merits that new content may have.