Destiny: The Dark Below – Crota’s End Raid Thoughts

Destiny The Dark BelowIt’s been just about a full week since the release of the first Expansion for Destiny, The Dark Below, and within that week my fireteam was able to squeak out a completion of the new Crota’s End raid late last night. I went over the Vault of Glass after our first completion of that raid, so I thought the same idea was in order for this new raid. There’s still stuff to learn with it, including whether there’s a third raid chest that appears, but in terms of the general content of the raid, I think there’s some good stuff to talk about.

Let’s first hit the level requirement – in order to really have a chance at beating the raid you need to have a team that’s at least on the track to level 31. Bungie had said that in order to launch the raid your fireteam leader had to be 30, but you can enter it at lower levels – I entered the raid at 29, but I don’t know quite what the low end is. The nice part is that the first checkpoint (actually entering the dungeon) is incredibly quick – just create the bridge and jump down. The real good part about this is that the first raid chest is just beyond the landing – meaning that you can grind it on three characters really quickly. While it is a raid chest, the current thought is that the chest doesn’t have raid armor in it, aside from the class item; but it is able to drop radiant material as well as possible exotics. With that in mind, and taking into account how easy it is to grind, there’s really no reason to not grab it on all three characters, if you’re able.

Moving on to the meat and potatoes of the raid itself, I think that the Vault of Glass had more in the way of novel gameplay ideas. The first major section of that raid – inside the dungeon – is the Templar fight. You’re tasked with defending confluxes, then clearing Oracles before using a relic to fight the actual boss. With Crota’s End, the first section is much more straightforward. Your team must make their way through massive section of darkness – which adds the debuff Weight of Darkness, limiting your mobility – while being onset by waves of thralls. To combat the debuff, your team can use large lanterns to pull the darkness off you, before the lanterns explode. The best way ultimately is to just keep pushing forward – watch out for holes in the floor, but just always move forward. After you finish the lanterns, you’ll have to group up and extend a bridge – this is where a Defender helps to give you a bit of a break from the onslaught coming your way. Finishing up this part grants you the first true checkpoint, and loot drop.

Crotas End Darkness

Which brings us to the first real puzzle section of the raid. To cross the expanse, you’ll need the bridge extended – but to cross the bridge you’ll need to carry a sword across. This requires you to kill a Knight Ultra with one, cross the bridge and kill the Gatekeeper Knight that spawns, all within the time limit for the sword. At the same time, your team has to keep two totems from flipping red and wiping the team – while watching for swordbearers, and making your way across the bridge, one at at time. It’s a section that is pretty intense from start to finish – and every enemy is level 31 now, so you might start seeing some damage drop off. But it’s a super cool area, visually, and the actual puzzle/challenge isn’t super difficult, once you’ve got a pattern down. It’s all about team work and communication. After everyone is across the bridge, two Hallowed Ogres spawn – killing them gives you the checkpoint, and a loot drop. While you’re in transit to the next section, you’ll fight a couple Shriekers along with tons of Thralls. There’s some discussion as to whether the second Shrieker or a specific Cursed Thrall triggers the door closing, which shuts out the second chest. Either way, as you progress through the hallway, you should have someone sprint forward toward the chest in order to grab it and open the door for the rest of the team.

Crota

Which now brings us to the final two sections – first we have to clear out Ir Yut, the Deathsinger. There’s not really anything too clever with this fight – you essentially just have to kill everything, and kill them quickly. Ir Yut will sing her Deathsong after 3 minutes, wiping the team. The timer starts when you first shoot at any of the enemies in the room. You’ll need to kill her two wizard guards, two shriekers that open after the wizards die, then kill Ir Yut, all while dealing with the other enemies too. This is where you’ll want lots of level 31 players, since enemies have reached 32 now. Maxed out weapons are all but required here to deal enough damage to Ir Yut – she had a massive amount of health. But once you’ve cleared out the enemies, you’ll be ready to finish the raid. Your team gathers around the crystal, which then spawns Crota – who has a few tricks to deal with. First, he has a shield that protects him, and when it drops, he drops to a knee and can only be hurt with a sword picked up off a Swordbearer. Second, should any player die, he will summon the Oversoul – the huge planet looking thing behind him – which wipes the team after 10 seconds. The good news is that a level 31 with the sword can deal just about a quarter of his health in one attack phase – which is good because you probably will only manage four rounds before his enrage timer ticks off and it gets unwinable. The final issue to deal with, which currently does have a workaround, is that Crota prevents you from regenerating health. In order to do that, you’ll need to hold the Chalice of Light – which only one person can hold at a time.

All in all, I think Vault of Glass is a more complicated raid, which requires a bit more outside the box thinking in certain parts; while Crota’s End is much more combat focused. All section in Crota’s End put you up against ridiculous odds, and the margin for error is pretty slim. Both raids in general are the shining elements of Destiny‘s game design, and continue to be a lot of fun. While the RNG for loot can be a bit frustrating, the actual content of the raids make it fun to still play them.

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Destiny – The Dark Below: Launch Impressions

Destiny The Dark BelowToday marks the release of the first major expansion for DestinyThe Dark Below, bringing with it a whole slew of new stuff to play with. From cosmetic items like shaders and ships, to actual player gear, the additions hit all the major points in Destiny. The DLC also brings with it a few new story missions, strikes (1 for Xbox), some new Crucible maps and a raid to test all your new items out on. There’s a lot to take in, so let’s hit some of the highlights now, that way you’ll have a head start on your friends when you jump online.

Eris Morn

First off, when you land at the tower, you’ll notice a new face – Eris Morn – has landed and acts not only as a vendor, but also provides you with The Dark Below missions. You’ll need to visit her to grab the missions the first time, then they’ll unlock on The Director. It seems like Bungie is trying a little more with story this time – the opening cinematic that has been in game for a week or so now helps set the stage for Eris’ arrival, and she has more dialogue giving you the missions than the Speaker ever did. But she’s more than just a mission-giver. She also acts as a vendor, selling items unique to the DLC – primarily related to the Hive. Not only does she have unique bounties, and a reputation to gain tied to them, but she also has new emblems, shaders, and class armors. Just looking at the previews for them, they all look really quite cool – I especially like the Mark of the Hidden for Titans and the final armor shader. Eris also has a new set of consumables to look at – two items that are necessary for upgrading weapons that you earn through the DLC; ammo synthesis pickups, and the final items she has are the coolest ones. With the DLC’s new raid you need Radiant materials to upgrade that gear – well Eris offers a way for you to essentially swap you materials. If you get Radiant Shards in the raid and you need Energy, you can go to her, and for an extra fee, you can switch them one at a time. This helps eliminate a huge chunk of RNG in running the raid.

Just based around the first mission that Eris gives you, it looks like Bungie has definitely been playing with their tools a bit. While the general flow of the mission wasn’t terribly different from any other mission in Destiny – spawn in, fight waves of bad guys, find boss, kill boss; little parts of it were varied enough to feel fresh. The most obvious is that the missions are using parts of the world that hadn’t seen much play before. The first missions spawns you in on Earth where the Fallen Devil Walker is in the Sepiks Prime strike, and you move backwards through portions of that strike. There’s a continual boss character that appears in multiple missions – Omnigul, the Waker of Crota – a Wizard with an Arc shield that has a mountain of health at this stage. In the final boss fight for that first mission though, you encounter Sardoc, an Ultra tier Knight. Nothing out of the ordinary, except for the continual debuff that removes your double jump ability – and his very aggressive attack pattern using a sword of Crota against you. It’s a tough solo fight at level 28, and the fight also has periods where Hive Darkness pools open and there are poison zones to avoid. It’s really unique compared to the vanilla missions, especially on Earth.

Crota

There’s still a lot to see – I’m working my way through the story missions, and plan on running the strike and possibly the raid tonight with my fireteam. I haven’t yet gotten one of the new weapons, although I did buy a shiny new set of gauntlets from the Crucible Handler to help me break level 30. One thing that I’m not particularly pleased with though is that Bungie didn’t add in any new achievements, even though they’ve added in plenty of content that would lend it to some. Between the Tumbler Sparrow, the Sword of Crota, new missions and dead Ghosts, I’m sure they could have come up with some achievements in there. Still, it’s a pretty substantial breath of fresh air for Destiny, the new content feels good, and is just what the game needed to bring back players that may have gotten tired of it. Just in time for the Christmas rush too.

Destiny Update 1.1 – The Final Push to The Dark Below

Destiny The Dark BelowOn Monday, Bungie put out the 1.1 Update for Destiny, following up on the last patch from a couple weeks ago – while this patch doesn’t really add anything particularly substantial, the little tweaks it added are really nice and help set the table for next Tuesday. So in advance of The Dark Below, I thought I’d offer my take on the 1.1 Update and what it means for Destiny players going forward.

First off, the major bulk of the 1.1 Update is focused around upgrades and behavior for Exotic weapons. A number of Exotic weapons got tweaks that impact not only their upgrade nodes, but also their stats and behaviors. For example, Thorn got some attention – the Mark of the Devourer perk does more damage over time, and the clip size and reload also received buffs. In general, Exotics that needed buffs got them, and the ones that needed some nerfs got them too. The other major change to Exotics comes in the form of them no longer needing Ascendent materials to upgrade. Instead, the later damage upgrades just need weapon/armor parts, as well as a destination material; until you reach the final upgrade. That final, max upgrade requires a new item – an Exotic Shard – which can be acquired from Xur for 7 strange coins, or by dismantling unwanted Exotics. Legendary items will still need the Ascendant materials.

Destiny Invective Shotgun

Another small, but very noticeable, change relates to the destination materials. Instead of having to go into patrol for hours to grind chests and material spawns, you can now obtain them in a number of other ways. First, completing the Daily Heroic mission will give you materials, based on what level you do it at – and what planet the mission takes place on. Secondly, completing the daily patrol mission bounty also gives you a stack of materials (I think it’s 10) of whatever planet the bounty was for. Doing this bounty also lets you get a bunch more while doing the patrol missions. Finally, going to either the Vanguard or Crucible quartermaster, you’ll see that you can now purchase destination materials for 10 respective marks, in exchange you’ll get 20 of whatever you’re buying. This just makes upgrading Legendary and Exotic items that little bit easier. They’re eliminating part of the grind, but the experience requirements are still going to mean you’ll be grinding away.

Finally, Bungie today released a little bit more info about how gameplay will be tweaked a little next Tuesday with The Dark Below. Some of the points the mention were related to the Exotic changes that they put out Monday, but there was one new bit of info as it relates to Exotics going forward. With The Dark Below, the light level will be raised up to 32 – that means our current weapons will eventually be outclassed. As such, Xur will offer an upgrade for Exotics at the price of one Exotic Shard – and all the progress in the item be reset. I saw a lot of people getting worked up about it – and on one hand, I get why. Exotics take forever to get maxed out, and wiping all that progress seems kinda cruel. But on the other hand, this isn’t being forced on the items, and ultimately it behooves players to upgrade them to 32. Whether they make upgrading them easier or not, I don’t really think it’s too huge of a deal – not needing Ascendant material will make that much easier.

Destiny

All told, I think Bungie is going about this first Expansion in a pretty good way. They put an intro cinematic into the game for the DLC in an attempt to perhaps add in some story behind it. Whether it translates to actually story content in the DLC, who knows. But it does look like they are actively listening to fans and adjusting the game based on what they hear. New Crucible content, including two new playlists should help flesh out a PvP that’s actually pretty fun when it’s balanced. Assuming the launch is smooth, I think there’s a good chance that The Dark Below will do well.