The Solstice of Heroes has just begun in Destiny 2. It’s the return of last year’s in-game event where you think back on how swell your time playing Destiny 2 has been as you play more Destiny 2. Much like the first Solstice of Heroes, which was held around this time last year, this one serves as a last hurrah before a big expansion – Shadowkeep in this case – a chance to earn some sweet limited-time armour if you’re willing to grind for it. Unlike last year, the Solstice this year is built around a new game mode, a “combat meditation” set in the new European Aerial Zone. It’s a pretty good time.
Unlocked by speaking to Eva Levante in the Tower, the European Aerial Zone will put your three-person fireteam (there’s matchmaking if you’re flying solo) on a map that resembles the European Dead Zone, except it’s been blown up with floating platforms and with plenty of buildings to leap your way to the top of. Once the match begins, you’ll have about five minutes to find and kill as many mini-bosses as you can before the main boss spawns on the map. Once you defeat that boss, treasure chests will randomly spawn on the map. The number of chests that spawn depends on how many mini-bosses you killed. You and your teammates have to find as many as you can before the time runs out.
After spending a couple hours with it, I’ve decided I like the European Aerial Zone a lot. It’s a good, mindless way to break up the rhythm of Destiny 2 and score some loot – although, you don’t get gear from the chests in every match. Instead, you get Solstice Packages that must then be unlocked with Solstice Key Fragments. It takes 15 Key Fragments to unlock one Solstice Package, and you will likely end up with about 5 Solstice Packages in an Aerial Zone match. You won’t necessarily have all the key fragments you need to open them, though, so the economy here is clearly out of whack. This is by design, since, most Key Fragments can also be earned outside of Aerial Zone matches by completing Solstice bounties. This is needlessly convoluted, almost to the point of hilarity. It’s also another lever in the Skinner box that is Destiny’s loot system, and therefore the perfect kind of shiny new carrot to hang at the end of this particular stick.
There’s one big caveat about the European Aerial Zone: You have to like platforming. Specifically, you have to like Destiny’s brand of floaty, first-person platforming. If you don’t, you will probably hate the European Aerial Zone. The map is surprisingly labyrinthine and vertical, so paths to certain areas where mini-bosses lie aren’t always clear. The time limit doesn’t help, either. Miss a jump and you will plummet either to your death or land way off target, wasting more time than you might have to fight whatever mini-boss or open whatever chest you’re trying to make it to.
Finally, like last year’s Solstice, the primary goal of this Solstice of Heroes is levelling up the new set of armour that you’ll get at the start of the Solstice. The armour is in an initially rough fixer-upper shape, but unlike last time, there’s a good reason to level it up. When Shadowkeep launches in September, every player who has the levelled-up Legendary Solstice armour set will receive a set that’s updated with the expansion’s new “Armor 2.0” features, meaning your swanky new Solstice armour won’t immediately be obsolete.
It’s still a steep grind, though, with five pieces of armour each having several tiers of lengthy tasks – enough to keep you busy for the entirety of the Solstice, which runs until August 27. It’s nice, then, to have a huge spread of things to do in Destiny 2 now, and there’s some hints in Eva Levante’s dialogue that this Solstice may have some surprises in store. Keep your eyes peeled, maybe we’ll spot a Gjallarhorn.