Destiny Challenge Mode Hullabaloo Thoughts

DestinyYesterday with the weekly reset in Destiny, Bungie started rolling out the new Challenge mode bosses in King’s Fall. And with that came a whole hell of a thing in the online community. So I thought I’d offer up my thoughts on everything that’s gone down in the last 24 hours or so.

We’ll start with the actual challenge mode Warpriest fight. I’m not exactly the most dedicated raider anymore – I’ve only actually ran King’s Fall once, mainly because my play group has dwindled with Halo, Fallout and Battlefront. But now knowing what the actual challenge is for Warpriest, I totally get why the more dedicated PvE players are maybe a little disappointed with it. That challenge – having multiple players gain the aura during the damage phase – is probably something that a lot of raid groups already do. That, to me, kinda defeats the idea of it being a challenge. And here’s where I think the issue lies – it’s not so much that it’s an elitist mentality, I think it’s more that Bungie just chose the wrong word to describe the new fights. I think a lot of streamers and YouTubers were going in expecting challenge to mean difficult – not specific circumstances in a fight. That’s not on the community, or even Bungie, I just think it’s an unfortunate poor choice of wording.

The Taken King Logo

Now, what I do like with the challenge mode is that it does exactly what we’ve been asking for from a loot standpoint. It gives us a direct path to specific loot – in this case 320 Light artifacts and weapons. It doesn’t totally move away from RNG though, there’s still the actual talent grid to roll. That is what we’ve been wanting from the end-game loot table for a while. The previous raids kinda had it, with each boss dropping specific gear – but were a little too RNG based. The problem now is that now top Light level gear is tied to a rotational boss mode – it’s Prison of Elders bosses, in Raid form. What I actually would have preferred is Bungie put that top level artifact into Oryx’s Hard Mode fight as a possible drop. Then the challenge mode fights should just have dropped cosmetic gear – emblems, shaders, ships that sort of thing. That keeps the loot progression in the “normal” raid runs, and would have opened Challenge mode to be more of actual difficulty boosted fights, with loot that is more of a status-shower-offer.

Destiny Oryx

Which now brings me to the whole hullabaloo that showed up yesterday. In the greater community, there seems to be this notion that because the players who play Destiny for a living took issue with Challenge Mode, they were attacking the “normal” community. And the “normal” community responded with some pretty nasty comments and Reddit posts. What I think is more accurate here is that because of the semantics of the new fights, the “hardcore” community was expecting true difficult fights. And because the fight wasn’t really that different from normal, they were let down. Unfortunately, the wider community took that to mean that they didn’t want that loot out there. It became a “elitist V. casual” fight. The problem I have with that idea is that if you’re on Reddit checking out posts every day, watching streams and YouTubes – you aren’t a casual player. There’s been a pretty major disconnect between play-dedication and skill, and how they “classify” you as a player. Casual isn’t skill related – it’s time dedication. If you only play Destiny a few hours a week – that’s Casual. You can be a really skilled player and still be casual. Elite is a little trickier, but with this whole nonsense, they’re more talking about players who play for pretty sizable chunks of time every week. That only has bearing on skill in that if you play a ton, you should naturally get better thumbskill and decisions in-game.

I’ve written a few times in the past about player entitlement and community frustration based around it. Just because we buy a game doesn’t entitle us to complain and shout into the void about every little perceived slight. Instead we need to take advantage of the fact that we can so much more easily communicate with developers now to provide actual constructive comments. With Destiny, it shouldn’t be us just bitching on Twitter about a bad loot drop to Bungie. It should be us reinforcing the things we like, while telling Bungie about the issues that the game definitely had – story, progression and connection issues. It’s a wider problem than just in Destiny too – I see a lot of it with Call of Duty, and somewhat with Fallout even. That said, there is one thing about this whole Challenge mode nonsense that I think is a good thing is just how much I’ve seen the community as a whole react. That to me shows off that the Destiny community is still really strong, even though every couple weeks I see a comment or post about how the game is dying. Is Challenge mode good? Sure. Is it what I think the Raid needed? Not really. I find myself more in the “I’d like harder fights for personal gratitude” camp. I like hard games that push execution and punish poor decision, not arbitrary silliness. Maybe we’ll see it still – we’ll wait and see.

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Destiny: The Taken King – King’s Fall Raid Thoughts

The Taken King LogoLast night I had the opportunity to finally run through the new raid, King’s Fall, that Bungie gave us in The Taken King. I, honestly, wasn’t sure when, if ever, I would be able to run through it this year. My usual fireteam only maxes out at four players, so we were at the mercy of finding two others; but I caught a break last night, with another buddy inviting me into his group. I may have made us go a little slower, just because I had no clue how anything worked since I stayed blind on the mechanics, we managed to finish the raid in just a couple hours – and only a couple wipes. So today I want to talk a little bit about this raid as it compares with the other two previous raids.

Top to bottom, I think that King’s Fall is certainly the second best of the raids available so far. I still think that Vault of Glass is the best one out of the bunch – mainly because the entire raid is built around different mechanics that all make sense. Once you learn how Oracles and the Relic work, you’ve got the foundation to win, but you still need to pick up on the more minute details – like how best to max the DPS on Atheon. With Crota’s End, the mechanics were all streamlined – and generally had a built in margin of error. If you screwed up with the Relic in VoG, you wiped. If you mess up the lanterns in CE, you just move slower. In King’s Fall, fight mechanics return and they’re more varied than before. There’s a bunch of different things that you have to keep in mind – from the totem encounter to the Warpriest and so-on through the raid. What I like is that they’re easy to grasp, but there’s still a high emphasis on execution. If you slip up on any number of parts, you wipe. Screw up the order on platforms in the Daughters/Oryx fight? Wipe. Die too much to Golgoroth? Wipe. I like that there’s a bit more difficulty to this one. It’s a much more execution based raid. Crota had a lot more wiggle room.

Destiny Oryx

The mechanics behind the encounters in King’s Fall are where I think the raid shines – especially compared with Crota’s End. Each fight has its own feel to it. The Annihilator Totems and Warpriest both have your fireteam splitting up to handle the debuffs and glyphs. Golgoroth is the opposite – your fireteam will be bunched up in the pool of the reflective light to DPS him, with one other member holding his gaze. The final two fights – Deathsingers and Oryx – combine both parts, you have to split up to spawn the platforms, then group up for DPS. That makes the fights a lot more engaging than just DPS battles – as a community we’ve complained about bullet sponge bosses, and these bosses help combat that feeling with their mechanics. We were able to burn the Warpriest in two damage phases last night. Weapons of Light and Shadowshot turn high HP bosses into a lot more manageable numbers with their major damage buffs.

Where I think King’s Fall isn’t as strong as the other raids is the reward phase. I like that you open the chests instead of just getting them dropped into your inventory. But I think the weighting on certain items is a little strong. Moldering Shards drop like candy. I thought I made out well with two weapons and an armor piece, but there were multiple people in my group that got another reward in addition to that – four raid drops in one go. That’s a bit more in line with what I think raid rewards should be. When you did VoG, you knew that you were getting – rewards after each major encounter. Sure the loot table was a lot more spread out, but you knew you were getting a good chunk of raid loot. I just think that if you’re doing this difficult, end-game level activity with unique loot, you should be guaranteed to get that unique loot.

All things considered, I think King’s Fall is a really good example of how Destiny can really shine. The building blocks are what really make the game so fun – the weapons, the abilities, the movement – that when they have a well designed environment like the raid, they really show off. Just like Vault of Glass made the rest of the vanilla story look silly, King’s Fall really just makes me wish that the entire game was that polished and fun – and that with The Taken King being way more put together in general.