Hello darkness my old friend, please just give me the cool-looking Destiny 2 armour before I get too angry, tired, and full of regret.
Destiny 2 has all sorts of grinds, but the annual Solstice of Heroes event has always felt uniquely pernicious to me. It’s supposed to be an end of year victory lap for the game and its players, but instead of feeling like a rewarding celebration it feels like a list of chores I need to do before opening presents on my birthday. The list goes on, and on, and on, and there’s always a 50 per cent chance that no matter how bullish I was on finishing at the start I’ll just abandon the entire project two thirds of the way through.
This year’s Solstice of Heroes event, which started yesterday and runs until September 8, is basically the same as last year’s, with a few tweaks. EAZ, the set of floating ruins above the European Dead Zone, returns as a three-player matchmade activity where you hunt down mini-bosses in a set amount of time in order to earn treasure chests you can loot for solstice keyes and packages. Also back is a special set of Solstice armour that you need to slowly upgrade by killing enemies and completing tasks throughout the solar system. These tasks include such stimulating hits as “generate 200 EAZ elemental orbs,” “kill 600 strike playlist enemies,” and “earn 10 Solstice packages.”
The only major difference between 2019’s Solstice of Heroes and this year’s is that the fully upgraded Magnificent armour set players earn won’t be immediately made obsolete by any changes coming in this fall’s Beyond Light expansion. Last year, players spent the end of the summer pouring dozens of hours into getting a full set of Solstice armour only for it to become functionally useless when Shadowkeep launched and added big changes like a seasonal mod system.
This year, in addition to Majestic armour being usable for the next year, players can also purchase Majestic armour ornaments with either bright dust earned by playing the game or Silver, Destiny 2’s premium currency. These ornaments can be equipped to any piece of armour to make it look really cool and glow bright colours. It’s a drag that you ultimately need to go to the Eververse store for this fashion upgrade, and that players who purchased Solstice glows in past years for real money can’t use those to trick out their new armour sets, but such is the monkey paw logic that’s been governing Destiny since it launched.
There are also a lot of little wrinkles to the Solstice grind that make it frustrating and easy to abandon. In order to upgrade the armour sets, you need to have each piece equipped while you’re completing their associated challenges. That means more or less abandoning your favourite custom equipment loadouts for the duration of the event. Meanwhile, some of the Solstice challenges seem almost designed to be unfun, like needing to go rerun old planetary adventures or patrols just to fill up an arbitrary metre.
This time around, the final leg of the grind requires actually playing Trials of Osiris, the highly competitive PVP mode that’s not matchmade and is prone to cheating and arsehole teammates. To unlock the fancy ornaments that will make their armour glow pretty colours, players need to win seven Trials matches. I can already see myself toiling away for a couple weeks only to hit a brick wall when a .25 Trials win rate means I have to spend several nights hating myself to finally earn the right to look cool.
Earlier this year, Destiny 2 director Luke Smith said the team at Bungie was trying to fix the game’s current FOMO (fear of missing out) problem. Given the current underlying incentive structure of the game, I’m doubtful that’s really possible. This year’s Solstice is a good example: The event’s rewards are finally fixed and seem like they’ll be meaningful for the next 12 months (or longer given the game’s seemingly evolving update calendar). But at the same time, they’ve arguably never been more difficult to obtain, not just because of the number of steps involved in acquiring the loot but the range of them and the fact that a few are actually challenging. Just as I’m getting back deep into Destiny 2, I’m more likely than ever to fall back off hard.
But the whole thing also feels inescapable, sort of like the gaming equivalent of one of those “your meal is free if you can finish this heart-attack-inducing amount of food” challenges. Like TechRadar’s Samuel Roberts wrote on Twitter the other day, Destiny isn’t good or bad, it’s just “a thing that happens to me.” And so for the third year in a row I’m answering the call of Destiny 2’s Solstice of Heroes, despite my better judgement.