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Destiny 2’s latest event is great for loot boxes, bad for everyone else

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This was designed to cost you money

Destiny 2
Bungie/Activision

It’s Christmastime, and that means it’s loot box season in Destiny 2! Well, it’s always loot box season in Destiny 2, but Bungie’s festive new event, The Dawning, is the first major holiday event since the game launched. New loot boxes! Special loot boxes.

This is your guide to exactly what you can get for free during this event, and what you can get if you want to buy boxes.

What’s in the box?

Bungie declared the start of “season 2” of Destiny 2 with the release of the Curse of Osiris downloadable content on Dec. 5, 2017. That mostly meant that the bright engram loot boxes got their names changed. Now, they’re illuminated engrams, and they have new stuff in them.

Only the heaviest spenders have collected the new goodies, since that was only a couple of weeks ago, and Destiny 2’s reward system makes it very difficult to earn more than a few free loot boxes per week.

You can’t earn these through regular play
Bungie

But the Dawning pours on more loot to collect during its three-week run, which began on Dec. 19, 2017 and will end on Jan. 9, 2018.

During the event, special dawning engrams are available from Tess Everis, the loot box vendor who runs the game’s Eververse. These dawning engrams draw from a smaller pool of items than the main bright engram loot table, but you can get duplicates of items other than emotes.

The items exclusive to The Dawning event boxes are:

  • A cosmetically-unique legendary armor set for each class.
  • Four emotes: A rare-quality emote that causes your character to pantomime slipping on ice, two legendary-quality dances and an exotic emote that causes your Guardian to conjure a hologram gift to present to another player.
  • 10 ghost shells: Nine legendary, one exotic. The exotic ghost shell has a unique visual model, but has the same perks as an exotic shell available in the regular illuminated engram.
  • 12 Sparrows. Two are exotic.
  • 10 Ships. Two are exotic.
  • Four event-exclusive shaders.
  • Six event exclusive transmat effects. Five are different color variations on a festival lantern. The legendary transmat causes your character to emerge from a giant snowball when they spawn.

Most players consider legendary sparrows, ships and ghost shells to be box-fillers; they’re after the exotic emote, the exclusive armor, the two dances, the exotic shell and the exotic ships and sparrows.

The good news is that Bungie has promised to rotate all the exclusive items through Tess’ weekly featured-items inventory, thus making them all available to purchase directly with bright dust. Players aren’t solely at the mercy of random loot boxes, at least.

The bad news is that the items aren’t cheap; an exotic sparrow costs 2,500 dust, and an armor piece costs 1,200. By comparison, an unwanted legendary item from a box yields 110 dust when dismantled.

Maybe buying one or two of the new items with dust is feasible, but the dust price is too high to plausibly cherry-pick the armor set and most of the exotics. You’re going to have to gamble with the loot boxes.

Each Dawning loot box contains two items: The first item will be a ship, sparrow, shell, armor piece or emote. The second will be a transmat effect or some shaders.

I opened $50 worth of boxes, in the interest of science. A fifty-dollar spend yields 5,000 silver — Destiny 2’s in-game premium currency — plus an 800 silver bonus for buying the largest bundle. A stack of five Dawning engrams costs 800 silver.

That means $50 buys 35 engrams. From that many boxes, I got the entire armor set for my warlock, the rare and legendary emotes, the exotic ghost shell and both exotic ships. I’m still missing the exotic emote and the two exotic sparrows. That means I got an exotic or an armor piece out of about one in three boxes, while the remaining two out of three contained legendary sparrows, ships or shells. Filler items, in other words.

Based on personal experience of opening Destiny 2 loot boxes and watching box-opening videos on YouTube, there appears to be duplicate protection on armor pieces until you have the whole set, but engrams will start giving you duplicate armor pieces once you’ve got one of each piece.

If you are interested in collecting this armor set, getting a piece saves you from having to make a 1,200 dust purchase from the featured sale list. But once you’ve got the set and engrams are giving you duplicates, getting an armor piece is only worth the 110 dust you will get when you dismantle it. The expected value of your next loot box plunges once you have your set of armor.

Of course, if you want to collect the Dawning sets for multiple classes (a very expensive prospect), you can switch characters and start buying boxes on another class.

Although Dawning engrams can contain a gift of bright dust, I did not receive a single one in my 35 engrams. Gifts of dust seem to be much more common in regular illuminated engrams than they are in Dawning engrams. A gift of dust is a much better result from an engram than a duplicate armor piece or a legendary sparrow, ship or shell, since those items all dismantle for only 110 dust, while a Bright Dust gift contains 250 dust in a small gift, 500 dust in a medium gift and 1,000 dust in a huge gift.

You’ll want to maximize value by not spending money on these Dawning loot boxes once you’ve got the armor set or sets you want. At that point, you should have several of the Dawning exotics, and you should be able to just buy any other items you want with dust.

How much of this can you get for free?

Bungie is being pretty stingy with the event boxes.

You get one free one box for logging in and visiting Tess. You also get a weekly milestone called Spreading Holiday Cheer. This milestone has two steps: Complete five matches in Mayhem Crucible and then run five strikes. Mayhem gives you credit toward your weekly Crucible milestone and heroic strikes for your regular weekly strike milestone, and the weekly Nightfall Strike counts toward the second step, so you can get these while you are doing your other milestones.

Each step awards a Dawning engram. That means you get one free engram the first time you visit Tess, and two engrams for the milestone each week. You’ll get a total of seven engrams during the event.

The rewards ARE pretty cool
Bungie

While the event is ongoing, the engrams you can earn for experience points are still illuminated engrams, so the milestone rewards are the only way to get Dawning engrams for free. That means that there’s a hard cap on how many event boxes you can earn, and no way to grind for extras.

These rewards are per account. If you complete the milestones a second time on another character you will not get more engrams; only some shaders. The event has been designed to avoid giving you much for free.

For example, you can pick up a schematic from the pile of presents behind Ikora Rey in the Tower each day during the event. This starts a quest to craft a gift for an NPC like Zavala, Asher or Rahool. Generally, the quest will involve collecting some planetary materials and killing some enemies. If you complete the quest, you end up with a gift that you can give to the NPC, and they’ll give you a special kind of engram.

Unfortunately, these gifts have a different loot table than the dawning engrams you get from Tess, and they will not give you your Dawning armor set or any of the exotic cosmetic items; only legendary ships, sparrows, and a cosmetically unique sword and a class item that are specific to these boxes. Also, the items in these boxes do not yield any bright dust when dismantled.

Even the shaders that you get from these gifts, which have the same names and color palettes as the shaders in the premium event boxes, are coded as different items and stack separately from identical shaders from the premium boxes, occupying additional vault space. Bungie did this because the shaders from the premium boxes dismantle into very small amounts of bright dust, and Bungie doesn’t want to make that currency farmable. Items from free boxes dismantle into legendary shards and glimmer. Bungie really doesn’t want to give away its premium event goodies for free.

Finally, there is an item called a Boon of the Dawning, which you can randomly earn when completing a strike or a Crucible match. If you use the boon during a Crucible match or a strike, everyone is supposed to receive a Dawning gift at the end of the event. Similar boon items sold by Tess Everis do have a chance to drop exotic Eververse loot, but those boons cost bright dust to purchase and are labeled as legendary quality, while the Dawning boon is rare quality.

I haven’t been able to confirm that anyone has gotten an exotic Dawning item from one of these, though I did find people complaining that they got nothing for their boons, so the item might be bugged right now. If you’ve received an exotic Dawning item from a Boon of the Dawning, let us know in the comments.

The bottom line though, is that you only get a few of these engrams, there’s really no way to get the exotic items for free unless you’ve already done enough grinding to earn a huge stack of bright dust.

Is there anything to this event other than loot boxes?

If you don’t buy loot boxes or don’t care about these items, there are a still a couple of reasons to log into Destiny 2 during this event.

First of all, Bungie has unlocked the Mayhem PvP mode in the Crucible. Mayhem dramatically increases the spawn rate of power weapon ammunition and decreases the cooldowns for abilities and supers. It is looser and faster paced than ordinary Destiny 2 Crucible, and it is worth checking out for some silly fun.

Second of all, Bungie has added piles of snowballs to patrol zones and strikes, including Nightfalls. If you hit an enemy with a snowball, it blinds them and deals significant damage. A snowball in Destiny 2 is as powerful as a grenade, and you can use these on a 10-second cooldown. They’re fun to use, and they make Nightfall strikes a little bit easier. This is a great opportunity to earn the Rat King if you haven’t done so yet.

Also, there is snow and some holiday decorations in the Tower and at the Farm. But this event is mostly about the loot boxes.

Not a happy holiday for Guardians

The Dawning is not encouraging if you’re looking for hints at how future events will work. The bulk of the new stuff is contained in loot boxes, the loot boxes remain very expensive and packed with undesirable filler items. There is no way for players to earn more than a few boxes in the game without spending money.

If you want to collect the exclusive armor set and some of the exotics, this is a $50 event. The Destiny community is unhappy with the state of the game right now, and Bungie needed to do something to get people excited about their game again.

This may achieve the opposite reaction. At least the forums are pretty excited about things.

Happy holidays!
Destiny 2 forums