Destiny’s Raid is its final end-game activity. The barrier of entry is steep: you need six people to attempt the Raid and they all have to be at least level 26 to stand a fighting chance. But if you sink enough hours into the game to reach that level, convince some friends to do the same, and organize all of those people to get online at the same time, then you will have earned the right to beat your head against the game’s most brutally difficult activity for the next seven to twelve hours. Believe it or not, those will be the most satisfying hours you’ve ever spent with a video game.
Destiny’s Raid, entitled The Vault of Glass, is the single greatest thing about the entire game. Whereas the rest of the game is a repetitive slog made engaging by a well implemented progression system, the Raid is wildly imaginative, completely original, and incredibly difficult. Though you need to be level 26 to stand a chance against the enemies in the Vault of Glass, your character’s abilities have remarkably little to do with your success or failure. Instead, success hinges on your own ingenuity, problem solving skill, and ability to work with your team.
I’m going to sound like a hypocrite here for a moment, but one of the Raid’s greatest strengths is its minimalist approach. There’s no crappy story telling you what to do and trying to convince you that what you’re doing is important. You have to learn on your own what it is you need to do and what you’re doing is inherently important to you because you figured it out yourself. Your accomplishments aren’t a contrived series of plot events, but instead are real moments of realization and discovery. Compared to the rest of the game, this is a radically different approach, and man is it refreshing.
Instead of constantly being pointed towards the next thing and told what to do by crappy dialogue, your team has to come together as a cohesive unit to discover what needs to be done. You have to figure out where to go, what to do, and how to do it. These moments of discovery are what make the experience so rewarding. It’s the difference between the shallow feeling of accomplishment when you level up your character, and the true feeling of accomplishment when you succeed in the face of great adversity.
That adversity takes many different forms in the Raid. Unlike the rest of the game, the Raid is packed with puzzle elements and cooperative focused mechanics. Sometimes you’ll have to split up into groups of two to defend certain areas from enemies. Sometimes your buddies will get cursed with imminent death and you’ll have to run over and cleanse them. Sometimes the game will unexpectedly separate you and force you to fight your way back to each other. I’m being deliberately vague so as not to spoil anything, but suffice it to say that doing all of this is hard, especially since you have to do it while fighting off endless hordes of robots. How do you accomplish all of this? It’s quite simple: you fail until you figure it out.
Shocking right? A game that doesn’t feed you an IV drip of victories? It’s almost like we’re back in the 80s and 90s! Think about it: old 2D games were brutal. 2D games didn’t care about your feelings. 2D games weren’t afraid that you’d give up and stop playing if they were too hard. If you wanted to have fun with a 2D game you had to work for it. They didn’t tell you the rules. They didn’t tell you how to win. You had to play the game and figure it out. Only by repeated, grueling, infuriating failure could you acquire the skills needed for eventual triumph. You learn the visual cues, you find the rhythm, you get into that zen of gameplay where thought doesn’t exist and there’s only action and reaction, and somehow that little retro jingle that plays when you finally succeed is far more satisfying than any story climax or action packed cutscene could ever be. Destiny’s Raid delivers this experience, only better. You get it in a modern game, with all the pretty bells and whistles, and you get to share it with your friends.
For the love of God, don’t play the Raid with people you don’t know. Play it with your friends. If you don’t have any friends playing Destiny, blackmail some friends into buying the game. Buy the game for them if you have to. The camaraderie is what makes the failure bearable. It’s you and your buddies versus the hardest thing Destiny can throw at you. It may be grueling and difficult, but deep down you know you’re going to beat it, and when you do, there’s no experience in a modern game quite like it.
Next up: The Development