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Destiny 2 Unstable Essence | What do the red orbs do?

If you’re among the Destiny 2: Shadowkeep players that have been looking and shooting around the Moon recently, you’ve likely noticed large, red orbs dropping from certain enemies on death. Picking up these orbs applies the Unstable Essence effect to your character, but the game never explains exactly what this does. This has made many Destiny 2 players wonder: “What do red orbs do?” In this Destiny 2 Unstable Essence guide, we’ll discuss the red orbs’ effects, which seem to be as unstable as the pickup’s name suggests.

Destiny 2 | What does Unstable Essence do?

Destiny 2 What does Unstable Essence do_

When you pass through one of the red Unstable Essence orbs, you’ll see the “Unstable Essence” effect displayed near the lower left-hand corner of your HUD. As we mentioned above, neither Eris Morn, your Ghost, nor any other character ever explains what the Unstable Essence does, so you wouldn’t know its effects unless you paid close attention to your damage numbers. Simply put, the Destiny 2 Unstable Essence orbs buff your damage against Nightmares—the new, red-tinged enemies found around the Moon and other destinations in Shadowkeep. These enemies are normally pretty tough, requiring large amounts of ammo to take down. The Unstable Essence helps reduce that ammo cost, and can significantly increase the damage you deal to the Nightmares.

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It’s not quite as simple as “the orbs buff your damage,” however. Destiny Reddit user Murtag_Destiny conducted some testing of the Unstable Essence’s effects, and it seems the buff’s name rings true. According to their research, the damage increase can be as high as 80% or as low as 0%, giving you no buff at all. The amount of the provided increase changes each time you pick up a red orb, applying a damage buff somewhere in that range.

The red Unstable Essence orbs can be obtained by killing Lesser Nightmare enemies, which drop the orbs upon death. Picking up the orbs will grant you the Unstable Essence buff for 15 seconds. Since the only message you’ll receive is that “Unstable Essence” marker on your HUD, there’s no way to tell exactly how much of a damage increase you’re getting—unless, like Murtag_Destiny, you take note of how much your damage numbers have increased.