“BECAUSE IT’S THERE… ITS EXISTENCE IS A CHALLENGE. THE ANSWER IS INSTINCTIVE; A PART, I SUPPOSE, OF MAN’S DESIRE TO CONQUER THE UNIVERSE.” –George Mallory, who died in 1924 on his third attempt at scaling Mt Everest
Destiny’s raids represent the most challenging cooperative activities I’ve been a part of in 20 years of console gaming. There have of course been many properly hard games in that time, with Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts and Earthworm Jim from the SNES era springing readily to mind. Multiplayer adventures like The Secret Of Mana and Zombies Ate My Neighbours also had their rage-inducing roadblock moments, but those obstacles fade into obscurity compared to the challenges that unfold in Destiny’s premier endgame content: raids.
Challenge number one is simply getting six players online at the same time. Easier perhaps than in a purebred MMO like Utopia or World of Warcraft, but difficult nonetheless. Challenge number two is understanding each stage of the raid well enough to play your role effectively when the heat is on. Usually this involves being in particular places at particular times while keeping waves of enemies at bay.
Remember the old DOTA 2 adage: ‘Don’t Die, Don’t Suck’.
Challenge number three is utilising voice chat well enough to precisely coordinate your team of six through the various movements and actions, especially when the plan is inevitably derailed. The final challenge that I struggled with in the previous half dozen raid attempts was achieving all of the above whilst fatigued and under the inherent time pressure of late night gaming. Apart from gradually building the experience required to fail less often and thereby succeed faster, there appears to be no way to mitigate this one.
For the uninitiated, here are a couple of clips from calmer sections of Destiny 2’s Leviathan raid.
And now for story time!
Last Monday night I had entered the Leviathan with an experienced team and breezed through the first three quarters in an hour or so. We then hit the boss fight and it all ground to a halt. This is the most accountable I’ve ever felt in a team gaming situation, and I have to admit that on the attempt in which we came closest to success it was me punching the wrong bad guy that caused another agonising team wipe. That sinking feeling as I realised my mistake was thoroughly disheartening despite my teammates being kind enough to move on almost immediately. Good gamers, those. There were a few more tries after that but by 12:20am we had conceded defeat. This was a bitter pill to swallow. I then lay awake until some time well after 2:00am, painfully aware that Tuesdays are a BIG work day and I would be more zombie than human. I consider it a blessing (perhaps the result of having been through first-child boot camp?) that when the alarm sounded at 6:30 my body and mind felt surprisingly functional. My feelings towards Ex-Emperor Calus and his Leviathan ship were much less positive, however. In fact were someone to say that Bungie had decided to remove the raid from Destiny 2 I would have been content to let it remain unfinished forevermore.
As such it was with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation that I agreed to reconvene for another go the following Wednesday night. I had a couple of ideas in mind to help lift my game in that final battle and came equipped with new weapons to try. It came as a shock to all of us, however, when we encountered an unexpected and malicious new enemy within the Leviathan…
Oh, the things that we saw. Cabal warriors appearing out of thin air. Enemies perishing only to reappear a moment later with their health miraculously restored. Pits of instant death where solid ground appeared to be. Throw in some patchy voice chat connections and it starts to make sense as to how those ‘easy’ initial encounters extended to take over an hour and a half. Improving the network conditions required swapping fireteam leaders, resetting routers and re-entering the raid, which afforded plenty of time in which to consider being a responsible adult and leaving the final boss fight – a long and fruitless endeavour two nights earlier – for another time. With an impending birth (37 weeks and counting) I realised that this could be the same as admitting total failure and accepting that I’d be the last clan member to reach the finish line. But such is life.
Now at the risk of spoiling this epic tale, for once I am glad that foolish perseverance overcame responsibility.
Armed with a fully charged headset and more reliable knowledge of the boss encounter I committed to ‘just a couple’ of goes. Maybe we’d nail it first time?
Those that have run the raid will know that half of the six-player fireteam is transported into a separate room for portions of this fight and that swift, clear communication is vital. My warlock reprised his now familiar role in Calus’ throne room, killing minions and triggering barriers to keep the teleported team safe. The call-outs were quick and after a little tinkering we had our group of three working well enough to be dealing damage to Calus himself. Given the brain-fades of two nights earlier, I’m pleased to say that not once did I punch the wrong enemy and send the other half of our group careening to their deaths. We ended up going through the ‘kill minions, teleport, damage Calus’ cycle three times, but everyone held their nerve and the resulting victory was indeed sweet.
At 11:58pm, exactly three hours after boarding the Leviathan, our fireteam flew back to the tower with pride.
Someone observing from outside the gaming fraternity may justifiably question why I would pursue this digital goal when the necessary sacrifices impact on the real world. My response would be that the sense of accomplishment, camaraderie, and in this case utter relief that arise are equally real. If the only reward were earning the ‘Belly Of The Beast’ achievement trophy I’d say that raiding is a teenager’s errand. But I’m confident that there are enough positive factors overall to lift this whole raiding caper from ‘folly’ to ‘worth it’.
Once at least…