Raids have always been the crown jewel of the Destiny series. These multi-part missions push players to their absolute limits. Each raid is different, and across them the high difficulty they are associated with is struck in a multitude of different ways, but one of the most common involves players facing off against a large, dangerous boss with a tough hide. Three of the four raids in the original Destiny included more than one of these scenarios, many of which follow the same rudimentary structure.
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While these encounters are well designed, such boss battles tend to unfold in a linear way - that becomes a problem when they are meant to be replayed over and over. There is rarely an opportunity to deviate from the core strategy, and when you can the wiggle room available tends to be minimal. Bosses also have a bad habit of encouraging a specific team composition and style of play, such as utilising damage-stacking abilities like the Hunter’s Shadowshot. Going even further, some weapons like the shotgun are just not viable since these enemies are almost always a sizeable reach from where you are required to stand for the damage phase.
If Destiny is about designing and playing your Guardian the way you want then the raids have often contradicted this in their design. Spending dozens of hours perfecting your Guardian’s loadout only to be told that it won’t be useful in a specific raid is, well, a bummer. This can produce unintended - and unnecessary - barriers to entry for players looking to take on these harrowing post-game activities. Yet Destiny 2’s newest raid, Leviathan, takes a different path and allows for more freedom in how players tackle the challenge and utilise their loadouts.
By removing bosses from most of this raid, Bungie have freed themselves up to create unique moments that do not revolve around a single, room-dominating focal point. The Gauntlet is perhaps the best example of this, as users are essentially required to participate in a life or death ‘game show’ for the amusement of their Cabal hosts. Despite having some enemies to kill, players will spend most of their time navigating an obstacle course that lines the outer portion of the arena. This section focuses less on how much damage a player can output and more on how effectively they can communicate as a team. It is liberating design that lends itself to a more entertaining challenge than the usual ‘shoot the big, dumb alien who dropped its shield for an arbitrary amount of time’ fare.
Even engagements that include ‘damage checks’ are more open to interpretation in the Leviathan raid. In the Pleasure Gardens players need to sneak around the map and obtain damage buffs without being spotted by roaming beasts. There are a lot of ways this encounter can be approached and it is that which encourages a high risk versus high reward mentality. This is a unique concept that the original Destiny never really played with, as teams can either play it safe or rush around the map trying to maximize their damage output.
In contrast, the Leviathan raid’s final and only boss, Emperor Calus, is another linear encounter and offers a very strict set of events that teams must follow. The mechanics are also punishing to the point that losing someone in a certain area pretty much requires the whole team to restart. Comparing this fight to the other three segments showcases just how limiting a boss fight can be. The Gauntlet, Gardens, and Royal Baths allow you to complete them in a number of different ways, while Calus falls into a sense of stale repetition.
Destiny 2’s raid is at its best when players have more ways to approach, engage, and complete a specific section. With more raids on the horizon, Bungie should focus on creating dynamic and new encounters that do not rely on shooting a large alien until it falls over. That is not to say bosses cannot be fun, but the Leviathan proves that they are not needed to make an entertaining raid.