Destiny: The pedantry of King’s Fall’s challenge modes is no end-game solution

By Patrick Garratt, Monday, 11 January 2016 14:16 GMT

Bungie needs to broaden its end-game or risk losing Destiny’s old guard, says Patrick Garratt.

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Bewilderingly, the Vault of Glass and Crota’s End raids didn’t receive a new level of difficulty in year-two, rendering them irrelevant to character progression. It’s King’s Fall or nothing. For many, nothing is the way it’s going.

Finally. While The Taken King (TTK) was a brilliant update to an already brilliant online shooter, Bungie’s insistence on forcing players into a single end-game activity has drained Destiny of juice. I play with some very hardcore people (I’m not one of them, I hasten to add), and one by one they’re slamming into the wall. Chucking in duffs like Sparrow Racing or a few new armour sets isn’t disguising the fact that the content’s run out. If you aren’t into PvP things are looking grim. You can only be cheated out of your Harrowed helmet for so long.

All that’s left now to keep PvE players interested are the King’s Fall raid challenge modes, as this is the only way to guarantee 320 drops. Bewilderingly, the Vault of Glass and Crota’s End raids didn’t receive a new level of difficulty in year-two, rendering them irrelevant to character progression. It’s King’s Fall or nothing. For many, nothing is the way it’s going.

The challenges certainly are challenging, and the rewards are good enough to keep people coming back for a certain amount of time, but what we’re looking at now is a game being pedantic about its hardest content because it has nothing left to offer end-gamers.

The Oryx challenge in particular is nightmarish to complete with anything other than highly experienced players (although beating it is a unique experience and brings with it appreciation of nigh-on perfect modern game design). The only way of winning is via a perfect run from all six members of the fireteam and any mistake means a wipe. My usual raid group has only ever completed it once, and that was with external help. Bungie’s taking liberties with the concept of “fun” in this instance.

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To give you an idea of how picky this encounter is, and how it exemplifies the malaise setting in over late-game guardians at the moment, let’s run through its basic sequence. This is an over-simplification of what actually happens (check out Paul’s complete guide for all the details), as evidenced by the indelible tear-stains on my sunken cheeks.

The challenge requirement is that 16 explosive orbs need to be detonated at once, taking Oryx’s health to zero in one hit. The orbs are generated by shooting ogres that spawn next to the area’s four platforms at the start of each damage cycle (guardians have to stand on the plinths to form platforms in the air so a runner can climb up to reach an aura). After each ogre is downed, a corresponding knight spawns on the opposite side of the map and runs towards the ogre’s orb with the intention of destroying it, so it’s a necessity that all four knights are killed, either by the platform residents or by floating shooters in the centre (this isn’t the only method, but this is the only one we’ve used with success).

After the ogres and knights are dead, the team has to stand in an aura and shoot adds until Oryx drags everyone into a bubble to fight the Shade, a sub-boss who darts around in mist on the edge of the area and occasionally charges in to slam the ground with a sword. Once the Shade is destroyed the ogre sequence starts again. You have to repeat this cycle until a total of at least 16 bombs are available at the ogre spawn-points before four guardians run out, stand in the proximity of all four bombs in that area, run back to the aura in the middle and, hopefully, watch Oryx’s health bar vanish. Then the whole fireteam walks towards the stupid horny twat, shoots him in the tummy et voila, you get 320 loot, including a guaranteed 320 Harrowed primary weapon, a nice ship, a yellow emblem and some other gubbins.

The infuriating element of the encounter is how easy it is to fail. Any of the following will result in a wipe:

  • Anyone dying for any reason.
  • Any bomb being detonated accidentally by a player (each bomb is surrounded by a large ring of black light: stand in it for long enough and boom).
  • A glitch preventing the relic-runner picking up the aura.
  • Failure to take down the ogres quickly enough (the ogres can glitch forward into the map’s central avenue, helpfully).
  • A glitch taking players out of the bubble into a permanent dead state (nope, Sunsinger Warlocks can’t revive from this, even with a charged super).
  • A player being teleported into the bubble to be immediately slammed by the Shade. The solution to this is to jump as soon as you’re beamed in, but sometimes there’s nothing you can do about it and you instantly die.
  • One of the platform guardians leaving their plinth for any reason (this includes jumping) before the relic-runner has the aura.
  • Players forgetting to crouch at the back of the plates and getting whacked by the tomb ship.
  • Not enough bombs being detonated.
  • So many other things, but mainly people dying.

I completed the Oryx challenge in its first week after putting in at least 15 hours of “learning” (as we politely call abject failure in our clan). The encounter is ridiculously annoying on almost every level, including the one on which you beat it and are left spellbound by its genius. When the team hangs together and there are no glitches, it’s such a fine piece of work, so slick and effortless, that you’re proud to have ever been a part of this game. But the road to victory is horrible, a test of endurance made so often impossible by factors beyond your control (such as needing to sleep) that it’s unfair to even offer it. Many will never complete this until the cap’s raised, and that means many will never hit 320 until the next expansion. Maybe that’s the point. Or maybe it isn’t. I don’t know. You’d have to ask Bungie.

We’re going to run the Oryx challenge tonight as there are still players in our group that haven’t done it, but until the old content’s relevant again or we see additional missions, strikes and raids Destiny as a leisure pursuit is done for me.

What I am sure of is that the completion of this challenge brings Destiny’s post-TTK PvE to a brutal close. There is nothing left to do. I still don’t know why the old raids haven’t been upgraded to TTK levels (please, Bungie: sort it out!), and I have no idea how it can be justifiable that players who’ve invested thousands of hours here are on essentially exactly the same footing as those with play-counts in the hundreds. This feels like the end. You can’t just make make the hardest thing in the game so hard most “normal” players can’t do it and expect everyone to stay interested. The enthusiasm isn’t faltering. It’s cratering week by week.

We’re going to run the Oryx challenge tonight as there are still players in our group that haven’t done it, but until the old content’s relevant again or we see additional missions, strikes and raids, Destiny as a leisure pursuit is done for me. I can’t believe I’m writing that, but there we are. You don’t even need to add more content, Bungie. Just give us the old raids back and stop solely relying on convolution and hairsplitting. Seriously, before it’s too late. The dissent is real. No one likes a pedant.

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