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.

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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.

Destiny Vault of Glass Raid Impressions

DestinyIn a surprising move, today will actually be a double post day, since not only have I been playing Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, but over the weekend me and my fireteam was finally able to tackle Destiny’s first Raid, the Vault of Glass. Bungie talked it up, both before launching the game and also in anticipation of the Vault of Glass’ unlocking. Before I had even played it, I had a bit of a feeling that they did a great job with it – if it takes the first groups an entire day of playing to beat it, with over 1,000 deaths total, that’s a success. Now that I’ve completed the Vault once, I want to get my impressions on the whole deal put down.

One of the bigger issues with the Raid is that the level requirements mean that you have to mess around with the post-level 20 gameplay. Really that amounts to a lot of grinding to get gear drops, Vanguard or Crucible rep and marks, finishing up Exotic bounties, and in general getting a full set of Legendary or Exotic armor and weapons. Depending on your luck, or how quickly you grind out the rep and marks, this can take a little while, and that’s just to get to level 26. We did the Raid with all of us at least at level 28, and we still struggled. Doing it at 26 is a really hard proposition – it’s the only point in the entire game where enemies actually grow in strength over the course of the mission. In all the story missions, if you set it to level 22, everything is level 22; bosses will just be majors or ultras based on that level. The base Raid is set at level 26, but Atheon, the final boss at the end is level 28, and a lot of the enemies at that phase are 27. So that delays entering it even more, since you really need to upgrade your gear.

Vault of Glass Entry

Once you’ve actually gotten to a level that you feel comfortable going in with; it’s time to launch the Raid. Which is where we get to what I think is the real strength of the Raid. Not only is there really no direction during the course of the mission, meaning that unless you go in with an expert or you look online for tips, there’s going to be a lot of trial and error. Which is totally a great thing – this is supposed to be the capstone, endgame event – it should be difficult, and ultimately rewarding, and I think it totally is. It’s tough, but once you get the hang of it, it’s beatable – there’s no cheap tricks that have no counter, you can learn its means, then beat it. It’s got varieties of enemies that only appear here, unique mechanics that only exist within the Vault of Glass, and a true boss battle that the “story” is lacking.

Atheon Grimoire Card

After playing through the Raid, which took us about 6 hours or so, spread over two days, one of the bigger takeaways I had relates to those points I just laid out. Some of the mechanics that are in the Vault of Glass, which are so totally unique within the course of the game, fit so brilliantly with the game mechanics, that it just blows my mind that they didn’t include them in the “story” missions. Part of that I think comes from the fact that the Raid team was separate from the main development team. But in practice, going forward, I really want to see some of those things come into the main portion of the game. It got me thinking about the high points in the game – I can think of three right away: The Sword of Crota mission, the Black Garden mission and this Raid. The Black Garden doesn’t really have any crazy mechanic, but I love the detail put into that level design – the Vex having a total different design because of the time gap, the vistas you see looking over it, and the fun of the final rush of waves of enemies. The Sword of Crota has a totally unique mechanic at the end, which I love – and then doesn’t appear again in the game. The Raid is full of them. I want to see more stuff like this in DLC going forward.

How cool would it be to have an entire mission based around the Time Gate mechanic from the Vault of Glass – visiting the same area at different points in time, facing the growing challenges of an enemy that has emerged victorious. You can take out the Aeon’s Shield relic and build missions around that as well – with or without the Mark of the Void debuff. You can bring that platforming into the missions, it works alright. The stealth section…well, that might need a bit more ironing out before you build a mission around it. I love that there are boss battles with multiple phases, I just wish they occurred more than just in the capstone Raid. Finally, the Vault of Glass is the one mission that has rewards that are guaranteed to be appropriate, with the possible exception of the Nightfall Weekly Strike. Since you get four loot points after checkpoints, in addition to a few Raid chests that contain high level loot, you should come out of the Vault with plenty of Ascendant material and legendary weapons/armor.

Ultimately what the Raid really represents to me is a glimpse at what might have been. The Vault of Glass is what the story missions could have been, with a more clearly defined focus. Take the detail that is in the level design for the Raid, apply that same level across a full, fleshed out story and I think we all would have been talking about Destiny in a totally different manner. It was that close to being one of those transcendent games – like Half-Life 2, Halo: Combat Evolved, System Shock 2, BioShock, or Skyrim. Instead we just have a shell, a still incredibly fun and addictive shell, but a shell nonetheless. Hopefully going forward Bungie can grasp at those moments that are genuinely fun and exciting and build around them for the DLC.