This week, I was given the opportunity to rate Destiny 2: Year 5 on a scale from 1 to 10 in terms of how much I liked it. I gave it a 9, and everyone promptly got mad. My defense is that a lot of people are looking perhaps a bit too fondly into the past, and not appreciating how far we’ve come, despite some clear missteps.
So, I wanted to take on the challenge of ranking all five years of Destiny 2 content as we head into the sixth here with Lightfall tomorrow. This is my ranking order, which I expect many will disagree with, but you can at least hear my justifications.
5. Year 1 – Red War, Curse of Osiris, Warmind
Yes, I would argue that Destiny’s first year of content, despite having the most pure landmass, was probably its worst. It’s definitely true that Red War campaign was miles beyond Destiny 1’s original vanilla campaign, and I do believe the game lost something by stripping it out as the new player experience for the current game.
However, this is before Destiny had a seasonal model at all, which meant there were these just massive, yawning gaps of time between release and its expansions, and those expansions were structured to effectively be one-and-done in many ways. You would beat the storylines of CoO or Warmind in maybe 90 minutes to two hours and were left with barely anything to do after. I did like Warmind quite a bit, ultimately, especially Mars, its strikes and Escalation Protocol, but it was kind of a lone bright spot.
I also don’t think we can forget the utter state of the game in that first year, which included such baffling concepts as double primaries, shotguns and snipers jammed into the power slot, and a complete lack of randomly rolled perks on weapons or armor mods. It was a bad, bad time for the health of the game, despite a few content highlights.
4. Year 3 – Shadowkeep, Undying, Dawn, Worthy, Arrivals
I’ll be blunt, Shadowkeep is my least favorite expansion in Destiny history. Including Destiny 1. As an introduction to the pyramids, it was cool, especially that first shot when you see the abandoned one underground on the moon when you round the corner. But that was the highlight. The entire storyline was assembling a set of armor and some underwhelming weapons to re-fight bosses that were reskinned as Nightmares.
The seasons were a mixed bag. Season of the Dawn was one of my favorite Destiny 2 seasons ever. I loved Sundial and the weapon collection was incredible, as was your ability to farm it with fractaline. The other seasons were…lacking. Undying is still the ultimate example of what resource starvation can do to an expansion-attached season, and it never got worse than that. Worthy was mainly just a badly made public event, albeit I did enjoy Warmind Cells and the Felwinter story. Arrivals was a pretty good season until it was extended to last far, far beyond its natural lifespan with a Beyond Light delay, and there was nothing to reinvigorate the game like Season of the Lost had the following year.
3. Year 4 – Beyond Light, Hunt, Chosen, Splicer, Lost
Now we’re moving into what I would consider inarguably good years in general. Beyond Light wasn’t my favorite expansion, probably second to last on this list, but I do like Europa as a zone, and overalls storyline was interesting. Stasis was pretty fun at introduction, minus the fact that it essentially blew up the Crucible for this entire year. Deep Stone Crypt is in the conversation for one of Destiny’s best raids ever.
Season of the Hunt was a very minor step up from Undying, where it at least had a good Crow/Osiris (Savathun) storyline, but the central activity was bad and the loot was bad. Harbinger was great though. Chosen is one of my favorite Destiny 2 seasons with its introduction of Battlegrounds, which were so successful as a concept we’re about to get our fourth batch of them. Great storyline with Caiatl, and solid loot too. Splicer had a fun mix of activities and good weapons. Lost had the interesting Ascendant Realm content, even if I didn’t much care for the weapons or playlist activities. We also had the Presage exotic mission this year, which is possibly the singular best mission in Destiny history.
It’s important to remember we also got 30th Anniversary content this year, as something to fill the gap with a Witch Queen delay in the middle of Lost’s extended season. Dares of Eternity remains an incredibly creative activity, and the dungeon and armor and weapons we got here remain some of the best in the game. The anniversary pack was stellar.
2. Year 5 – Witch Queen, Risen, Haunted, Plunder, Seraph
Here’s the year I’m defending against most people. While as a whole, I’m not sure The Witch Queen is a better expansion than Forsaken, I would definitely make the argument that the campaign, both from a gameplay and a story perspective, is the best campaign Destiny 2 has ever had, including vanilla D1 and Red War. An absolutely excellent evolution and one of the highlights of the year. Its raid, Vow of the Disciple, is top-tier as well.
I will say off the top here we cannot only take the seasons themselves into consideration. Even if it’s extra paid content, it’s still content, and so this year we got two very good dungeons with very good loot, Duality and Spire of the Watcher. Bungie also brought back King’s Fall in a way that seemed to satisfy nearly everyone.
As for the seasons, Risen is absolutely the best expansion-attached season we’ve gotten, even if Undying and Hunt set that bar pretty low. But having Witch Queen be that good, plus Risen being substantial was definitely an achievement. Season of the Haunted brought back an entire vaulted playspace in the Derelict Leviathan, though it was underused and the season revolved too much around a singular public event, albeit it did have decent story missions attached in the bowels of the ship.
Season of Plunder is the one season that everyone seems to hate, and it was definitely the weakest one. The Ketchcrash/Expedition loop did not work very well, even though the actual loot of the season was strong. The story missions were sort of nonsense, ending in the famed Nezarec tea moment.
But if Plunder was bad, Seraph was absolutely stellar, one of Destiny 2’s best seasons with its compelling, challenging playlist, solid selection of loot and one of the best missions Destiny has gotten in years with Operation Seraph’s Shield, a compelling mix of puzzles and combat encounters. All leading to one of the best season finales we’ve seen from the game.
I also think it’s important to note that this year brought all the Light subclass 3.0 updates, arguably the most substantial changes to the ability sandbox in the game’s history. While a few subclasses here and there could still use help, this overhaul was an overwhelming success and made gameplay the most compelling its been in a very long time.
1. Year 2 – Forsaken, Black Armory, Drifter, Opulence
Here it is, the ultimate winner, which may not be a surprise to many people. Forsaken was a truly excellent expansion that transformed the game in a number of ways, correcting a large number of mistakes Destiny 2 had made at launch with many of its gameplay systems. The story was haunting and compelling, and the campaign gave us two full zones, one of the game’s best raids (Last Wish) and a new type of mission, the dungeon, with Shattered Throne.
Two of its seasons are considered some of the best in Destiny history. Not only are Black Armory and Opulence remembered fondly for their central activities and selection of loot, but we have to keep in mind this was back when Bungie was working with Activision support studios, which resulted in both of those getting full-on new raids, Scourge of the Past and Crown of Sorrow, at the same time. If anything was lacking here it was story, as there was barely any seasonal story in those days, relegated to small lore books, but the rest of it made up for it.
Season of the Drifter, conversely, was one of Destiny 2’s worst seasons, in my mind easily the worst non-expansion-attached season. Gambit Prime was…okay, but the season introduced The Reckoning, which in its pre-nerf days was easily the worst PvE activity in the game’s history, designed badly around power creep in a deeply unfun way.
However, everything else besides Drifter was so good that ultimately, I do believe this was the best year of Destiny 2, and I’m even forgetting added bonuses like the fact that this was also the year we got Zero Hour, an all-time classic mission that’s one of the series’ best.
In my mind, years 2, 4 and 5 were all extremely strong and ranking them precisely is tough. Years 1 and 3 struggled, though ultimately were still good enough to keep me playing all this time, clearly, and they still had their highlights to be sure.
So, that’s my list. What’s yours?