Destiny 2's Leviathan raid: how to conquer its ultimate challenge

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We've taken our first run at Destiny 2's raid on console and made our way through its first encounters. If you're stuck, don't panic, we're here to help. Here's everything we know so far about how to beat the Leviathan raid - we'll soon update this as secrets and techniques spill out, so keep checking back, too.

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Make sure you've got some of Destiny 2's exotic weapons equipped when raiding. 

Destiny 2 raid release time

The Destiny 2 Leviathan raid is now available on console. It's expected that the PC version of the raid will release around a week after the initial launch on October 24.

Destiny 2 Raid preparation

The raid has a power range of 260-280, but it recommends at least 270. For the best advice on how to gear up, see our Destiny 2 leveling guide.

When you've completed the campaign and reached the minimum required power level, you'll be able to access the raid from the Director. You're off for an audience with Calus, the former Emperor of the Cabal, whom Ghaul overthrew. He's grateful for what you did in the campaign and wants to reward you, but first, you face a number of trials...

Leviathan raid stage 1: the Castellum

There are four triangular plates in front of the large doors in this area, each of which is marked with its own sigil. One of these plates has the ghostly outline of another sigil floating above it - this is the plate you have to activate in order to progress. This changes each week, depending on which of the three trials (Royal Pools, Pleasure Gardens, or Gauntlet) is first. You'll return twice more to the Castellum to open doors to the next two, unless you find a shortcut.

You unlock doors by placing three banners into the plates, and their ghostly outlines indicate which you need next. For the Sun door, which leads to the Royal Pools, the Hound banner should be the first one you need, followed by the Axes and the Chalice. 

Banners are carried by Standard Bearers - marked Cabal who will spawn at the doors near each plate. The Standard Bearer who spawns near the Hound plate will drop the Hound banner, for instance. Look around the arena and make a mental note of each door and its markings.

There are two complications. When you've placed a banner, Standard Liberators will spawn - these are marked Cabal who will reclaim banners if you let them reach the plate. Then there are the Councillors: special Psions who can protect Liberators with invulnerable shields. You'll be notified when a Councillor has spawned, at which point you need to go find and kill them. They're easy to spot, floating in their little bubbles, and they die in just a couple of shots, but you have to enter the bubble to do it. Someone on the defending team should call out for this job. As long as everyone goes to the right place promptly, this stage is pretty easy. 

Destiny 2 Castellum strategy:

  • Start at the plate and split into two teams. One team (the one with the best DPS) defends, the other goes to get the current standard.
  • It's easy to stay alive if you're running about, so once the standard bearer is down, just send a solo runner to bring it back to the plate (invisibility through Vanish in Smoke or Rat King can help, if you're struggling). Whomever is going to do this can cash their Super or power ammo to help kill the standard bearer - the other two should save theirs.
  • The remaining two members of the standard team should get ready to get the next standard - we can't (yet) tell if they spawn in a predictable order, but if so, they should go straight to the next spawn. If not, they should be equidistant between the next two spawns, and the plate team should call out the next banner as soon as possible - it'll be revealed when the first banner is in the plate. 
  • The first banner runner returns to the standard team, who bring down the standard bearer and send another runner back to the plate. The standard team now moves on to the last sigil's spawn point.
  • All this time, the plate team are getting swarmed by adds, but three people should be enough to handle it. Orb-generating and add-clearing Supers are recommended here, as are Warlock rifts for healing. Prioritise the standard liberators, and don't be afraid to bring out the big guns if they get too close.
  • Either a defender or the banner runner should kill every Councillor as soon as you're told they've spawned. It's basically up to whomever sees them first - in either case, call out that you're doing it, so no-one moves out of place who doesn't need to be.

Leviathan raid: Royal Pools

Destiny 2 Raid Royal Pools

There are five plates - four surrounding one in the central bath house. Each has a charge of 60 seconds of psionic protection on it, which will all respawn quickly as long as you're not on the plate. Without psionic protection, the water in the baths will damage you. There are also three sets of three purple censers on chains in the bath house; your goal is to destroy all nine censers, but they're invulnerable, at first.

You can expose them by standing on the four outer plates for long enough. You'll know you're making progress because the chains at each outer plate will slow and eventually stop, whereas they'll gradually reset whenever you're not on the corresponding plate. The damage phase begins when all four chains are stopped; a Force of Will buff will activate on the central plate, which enables you to damage the censers.

Staying alive on the plates is the challenge, given the toxic water, and the regular appearance of powerful Gladiator reskins named Bathers at each outer plate. Also, your revives are limited, and if you leave anyone dead for 25 seconds, you all wipe. (This restriction is applied in each of the raid's following arenas. Yeah.)

The solution is to use the psionic protection at the central plate and rotate it through the team, to ensure everyone stays protected and everyone has help killing Bathers. 

Destiny 2 Royal Pools strategy:

  • Four players begin at each of the four outer plates. The two remaining players start in the bath house, and take a pair of the outer plates each. Let's say A takes plates 1 and 2, and B takes plates 3 and 4. 
  • Begin the encounter by jumping on your plates and taking the first psionic protection. 
  • A takes the central psionic protection and carries it to plate 1. It will respawn in a couple of seconds, at which point B should take it and carry it to plate 3. Bather spawns are staggered, so let plates 1 and 3 be the ones where they appear first - in our experience, these were the two 'upper' plates, furthest from the arena entrance. A and B should go here first to help the players on those plates kill their Bathers. 
  • When the Bathers are dead, the players replaced by A and B at plates 1 and 3 go to take the central psionic protection, and carry it to plates 2 and 4. They should be just in time to help kill the Bathers. When that's done, the players they replace go take the protection back to plates 1 and 3, where they replace A and B again.
  • Continue the cycle until all four chains have stopped. You'll hear a bell toll, heralding the start of the damage phase.
  • Everyone goes to the central plate to either DPS the censers or clear adds. Add control as important, as there are Bathers among them. Strikers and Stormcallers are good for add control, Mercilesses, Coldhearts, and Voidwalkers are good for nuking the censers, and Nightstalkers and Gunslingers should be able to generate enough orbs to get everyone a new Super as soon as their first is done. 
  • After Force of Will expires and the damage phase ends, at least two Projections will appear inside bubbles, like the Councillors from the Castellum. We killed them so quickly that we never worked out what they did, but if it's like the Castellum, they might project invulnerable shields on the Bathers. Which would be bad.
  • Reset, and repeat the cycle. You should aim to finish this in two damage phases, as there's an enrage mode - if you see the message 'Pools of Sol corrupted', you're taking too long. 

One or two deaths in the damage phase is forgivable, but dying while in the plate phase is not - you'll lose almost all progress on two chains while someone else comes to pick you up. It's far better to step off your plate momentarily to get away from a Bather, so don't be afraid to do that.

When you're done, you'll get a chest, some loot drops, and the aqueduct key (more on that later), and you'll have to find your way forward. You can return to the Castellum for another trial much like the first - and some more loot - except now you have to unlock a different door. Or you could skip all that with this shortcut.

Imagine yourself entering the Royal Pools area, and check the walls near the top-right and rear-right plates. You're looking for levers disguised as Cabal worms (or elephant trunks). You have to pull these in a sequence - if you flip the correct one, it will stay down for longer than the others, while an incorrect choice will reset them all. In our experience, it went: top-left, bottom-left, bottom-right, top-right, but we have reason to believe the sequence is randomised.

If you find the right sequence, you'll see a message saying 'the way is opened'. Look at the grates near the top-right plate that have been venting purple steam. Now look for the one that isn't venting. It leads down into a series of pipes, which will lead you to...

Leviathan raid: Pleasure Gardens

The pleasure gardens

Dogs and beast handlers roam the gardens. Kill them all to spawn a pair of prisms on top of a metal vault. This vault is the safe room. The encounter begins when two players grab the prisms - six much tougher dogs named Royal Beasts are released into the garden, and the trapdoor atop the safe room opens. Your ultimate goal is to kill all six superdogs.

The four players who aren't carrying prisms can each claim an orb of Royal Pollen from the safe room. There are a number of flowers dotted around the gardens, any of which could be giving off a purple glow (we'll call this 'blooming'). The prism carriers should note the pools of golden light shining on the rocks - stand in one, and you'll be able to fire a beam of light with your prism. 

Pollenators should gather around a flower when it's in bloom, and a prism carrier should fire their laser at it. This will cause it to release empowering spores, which will boost your damage. You'll need this when it comes time to kill the dogs, but even then, this is a rough DPS check. Merciless is recommended. All four pollenators should be close to the flower when it's fried, to ensure you gather the maximum number of spores per flower, which is 12. If you stay near a flower for too long without getting it fried, it will cause you to drop your pollen, wasting time while you go get it again.

After a flower is zapped, more beast handlers may appear from doors in the sides of the chamber. Prism carriers should watch for these and kill them, because they can wreck the pollenators if they get into the garden. They are, however, your only source of power ammo once the encounter gets started. 

You have a fixed period of time for your spore-gathering phase - a message saying 'the dogs are growing restless' will warn you when it's nearly up. When it elapses, or if the dogs detect you, they attack - and so do you. Your pollens and prisms are forcibly dropped and your guns pop up. This is your damage phase, and it lasts for 30 seconds, after which the room is flooded with gas and you wipe. The safe room is your only escape, and Emperor Calus only lets you use it three times, for a total of four damage phases.

Your task, then, is for the pollenators to gather enough spores to hurt the dogs, and then to kill all six before the end of the fourth damage phase. You should also know that killing dogs will cause them to get restless much quicker, shortening your future gathering phases, but it also means there are fewer of them to detect you. On balance, we think it's better to have a longer phase than fewer dogs, but it's up to you.

Destiny 2 Pleasure Gardens 60-spore strategy:

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Probably the easiest strat is to gather 60 spores at once and use the huge damage boost to kill all the dogs in a single phase. Check out YouTuber nKuch making it look easy in the video above. Here's how to do it:

  • Assign a dog to each player. When the dogs howl at the start of the attack phase, they run to fixed points on the map, near specific flowers. Have a few dummy runs so everyone can pick a dog and learn where it goes.
  • Gather as many spores as possible during the first gathering phase. Go for at least 60, though more can't hurt. You have quite a lot of time, so be patient (but not too patient). 
  • When the attack phase begins, all players run to their dog's flower and hammer it: a grenade followed by all your Merciless ammo and then your Super should get you most of the way there. When you've finished your dog, ask if anyone needs help on theirs.

Destiny 2 Pleasure Gardens strategies:

  • If the 60-spore strategy isn't working for you, we suggest you weaken all six dogs in the first three damage phases, and finish them off in the fourth. Killing dogs early shortens your gathering time, as we've noted, and in our experience this made it too hard to gather enough spores to finish the job.
  • For this approach, aim to gather 36 spores before you attack. 24 is permissible in one or two phases, if your DPS is excellent.
  • Either assign dogs to individual players as in the 60-spore strat, or focus down two different dogs in each of the first three attack phases. You know they'll each run to a specific flower, so nominate two dogs with flowers next to each other - prism carriers are best-placed to call this.
  • You can either split the team, with three players focusing one dog for the whole phase, or everyone can hit one until it's weak and move on to the next. If everyone in the team has Rat King, the latter approach can work wonders.

Check the top of the safe room for the chest after you kill all six hounds. You'll also get a chest key. After this, it's back to the Castellum for one more round, but you'll find some switches on the pipes just outside the room. Find the right sequence as before, and you'll open a shortcut to...

Leviathan raid: The Gauntlet

The tunnel in Destiny 2's gauntlet, viewed from inside the arena. Note, and shoot, the triangles.

This is a room with four plates marked by sigils, encircled by a tunnel. The encounter begins when a player stands on each plate - adds will spawn, and then finally Centurions. Kill the Centurions to spawn psionic charges at the Hound and Chalice plates.

The two players not assigned to a plate should grab these charges, which will teleport them into the tunnel and begin a hidden countdown to the charge's detonation. At each of the four plates, the tunnel is blocked by a grid of circular holes. The people in the room - let's call them 'shooters' - can unlock these grids and spawn new charges to refresh the runners' timer, preventing them from blowing up. The timer is very slightly longer than the travel distance between two grids, so if the runner is quick, they might make it despite a miss.

Inside the room, there are three inverted triangles at each grid, which correspond to its three rows. To unlock the grid and spawn the charge, the shooters must shoot the arrows in the rows where the red hole isn't. When the runner grabs the charge, a Councillor Psion spawns beneath the three arrows - one of the shooters must kill him immediately, or he wipes everyone. 

At the end of each runner's lap is another charge that teleports them back into the room. They now dunk their charges in the recepticle at its centre - you want charges for everyone in the team here, so that means two more laps. When you have six charges stored, everyone should grab one and attempt a lap of the outer ring. This time, the grids are unlocked, and four charges will spawn randomly in their holes. Only three of you need to finish the lap (and dunk your charges again) to complete the encounter, but the death timer can still wipe you, so you can't afford for anyone to die until one or two grids into the run.

A grid in the gauntlet tunnel. The top-left hole is marked red.

Destiny 2 Gauntlet strategy:

  • Assign four players to the plates and two as runners. The two runners start on the Hound and Chalice plates, meaning they can help with the Centurions, so put your best individual fighters on the Sun and Axes plates.
  • Assign each runner a pair of shooters. Their job is to get their runner through each grid by getting on the plate in time, shooting the correct triangles, and then killing the Psion before moving on.
  • Start the encounter by standing on the plates. The charges will spawn when the Centurions are killed - the runners should grab one each and call out when they're doing so, so their shooter team can get ready.
  • One shooter stands on the plate the runner is about to approach. The other stands such that they're able to get on the next plate, while also able to easily shoot the triangles on the current plate.
  • Runners run clockwise around the outer tunnel. A shooter is on the coming plate, so its grid is lit up, and the runner can call out which row contains the red circle. For example: "Axes, middle," or "Chalice, top." It may be helpful for shooters to mute the runner they're not covering.
  • The two shooters shoot the triangles for the other two rows in the grid. Agree that one of you will always shoot the topmost, and the other will always shoot the bottom-most. If you hit the wrong triangles, the charge won't spawn, so accuracy is important - scout rifles are recommended.
  • The runner can now go through the hole and grab the charge. The shooter on the current plate must melee-attack the Councillor that spawns, while the other shooter runs to the next plate. They should get there well in advance of the runner. The shooter that just meleed the Councillor gets in position for the plate after next.
  • Repeat the last three steps until runners finish their lap and dunk their charges in the centre of the room. Repeat the whole thing until there's a charge for each player - that's three perfect laps in total. If a runner dies, it's not the end of the world - they'll just need to be revived and you'll need to run another lap.
  • Runners should note that pieces of the floor will disappear on laps after the first, but don't panic - if your shooters can deliver you a charge at every grid, you'll have more than enough time. Warlocks: don't use Blink. Makes it harder.
  • When you've got six charges in the centre, everyone grabs one and heads to the outer ring to attempt a lap. Grids are unlocked now and each has four orbs. Only three of you need to make it, but the death timer can still wipe you, so you can't afford for anyone to die more than 30 seconds away from the end of the run. 
  • Hence, the whole team should call for charges as they approach each grid, and anyone who doesn't get one should take the easiest path through and call for the easiest orb in the next grid. Calls should go: "top left," "dead centre," or "bottom middle." It's possible for all six of you to make it with this method (we just bet that's the stipulation in Prestige mode), but that's tough - you only need three of you to dunk in the middle less than 30 seconds from your first death.
  • Note that pieces of the floor will fall away during this lap, which can screw you.
  • When three players finish a full lap, run to the middle and dunk your charges again. Job done.

No need to visit the Castellum this time; you can go straight to Calus, though the corridor that leads there does have some more levers in it, if you fancy a visit to the tunnels.

Leviathan raid stage 5: Calus

Destiny 2 Calus

Note the four plates in the room, as Calus lounges on his throne. The encounter begins when you shoot the cup from his hands - he'll send some adds at you, including some gold-bar Incendiors. When they're dead, Calus will clap, and everyone is teleported to a weird nether plane with a giant projection of his face. The face will inhale, drawing players toward it - the purple barrier on the floor is your lifeline here as it stops you from getting sucked into oblivion, but it's less than a foot tall, so you must stay grounded. Your goal is to move the barrier toward the giant face.

To do this, you'll need to send three players back to the throne room - they can return by grabbing the orbs just beyond the barrier. Four Councillor Psions have spawned in bubbles above the plates, each of whom is marked with a sigil. Players in the nether will notice that these sigils appear on the giant face's forehead - each sees a different sigil. You must call them all out. This leaves one sigil that is not called, and the Psion in the throne room with that sigil must be killed to advance the barrier. If you're too slow, the barrier disappears, and the players in the nether become chow for a giant purple head.

The nether team have other challenges. Normal Psions and floating Projection Psions spawn here, too, and they can both ruin your day - the former can send their psychic rifts at you, which will bounce you over the barrier when they detonate. Projections, if left, will blow themselves up and just wipe everyone. (Sniper rifles are a good choice of power weapon to bring down Projections quickly while still doing good DPS on Calus later.) Finally, when the barrier advances, you're drawn irresistibly forward by Calus's breath - this can pull you into a hole in the floor or up a ramp, which, again, will launch you over the barrier.

You need to avoid all of that while killing Psions and calling out the sigils. Assuming everything goes well, the barrier ends up in front of the giant face after four marked Councillors are killed. The face now starts spitting very damaging skulls. You need to shoot as many of these as possible, since they'll determine the duration of the shield-busting Force of Will buff in the coming damage phase. 

Back in the throne room, Calus's hands start glowing. This means he's charging a nuke that will wipe everyone - you need to take down his shield to stop him. As soon as you do so, Force of Will is applied and starts ticking, so wait until the whole team is back and ready for DPS. 

You need to group up on one plate, so call one out and lay into Calus, targeting his face. When you see him raise his hand, he's about to blow your plate up, so that's the signal to jump off and regroup on a new plate. Repeat until you've exhausted all four, then do the whole thing over again.

You should be able to kill Calus in three damage phases, but it's perfectly possible to get a fourth if you're struggling. When his health is exhausted, he gets another shield, and will go for his nuke one more time. Bust that shield again to finish the fight.

Destiny 2 Calus's giant face. Note the Beast sigil.

Destiny 2 Calus strategy:

  • Agree who's staying in the nether and who's going back to the throne room. Anyone good at killing adds, generating orbs, and staying alive should go back. Agree beforehand which orbs to take, so as not to waste time, and divide the Councillors' plates between you - we suggest one player covers each side, and the third goes roaming according to need.  
  • Players in the nether should each agree on a lane - left, middle, and right - and a fixed order for calling out the sigils on Calus's forehead, so they're announced as quickly as possible.
  • Shoot the cup from Calus's hand to start the encounter. Kill adds until the team is teleported to the nether (this should happen soon after the Incendiors are down). If you need power ammo, you can kill the Councillors before you're teleported, for some free drops.
  • The throne room team take their orbs. Stay near the back of the room to avoid Calus's laser - there's no need to go forward unless it's to kill a Councillor (you need to melee them in their bubbles). If you see the air around you start glowing, Calus is dropping a bomb on you - move before it explodes, as it can one-shot you. He likes to do this just after you've killed a Councillor.
  • The nether team get into their lanes. Check ahead to make sure you won't hit a ramp or a hole when the barrier moves. When it comes to killing Psions, prioritise regular ones first, then Projections. If a Psion casts a rift at you, move laterally to avoid its detonation, or it'll launch you over the barrier. 
  • The nether team call out the sigils in their agreed order.
  • The throne room team kill the Councillor marked with the sigil that was not called. The purple barrier advances.
  • Repeat the last two steps until Calus's face starts spewing skulls. Kill as many as possible - they don't have much health, so spraying with auto rifles and SMGs can work. We also recommend you gather all three players in a Stormcaller's rift for three Arc Souls and thus, three extra attackers (seriously, this helped us a lot). Make it a healing rift if you're struggling with the skulls' damage. Some teams use Coldheart to hose down the skulls, but you should probably save its ammo to DPS Calus.
  • The throne room team take out Calus's shield before he nukes everyone, but ideally not too long before the nether team return. 
  • When the skulls finish, the nether team return to the throne room, and everyone groups on one of the plates to DPS Calus. Shoot his face. 
  • When Force of Will runs out, or Calus raises his hand to blow up the plate, get off it, and move on to the next. Repeat until all four are exhausted.
  • Repeat the whole cycle until Calus is dead. When a third of his health bar goes, his crit spot is now the glowing hole in his stomach, so shoot it instead of his face.

Tips for the DPS phase: Nightstalker, Golden Gun with Celestial Nighthawk, Voidwalker with vortex perks, a full group of Rat Kings, sniper rifles, Merciless, Coldheart, and Sweet Business, buffed where possible with empowering rifts and rally barricades, are some of the best tactics. Rocket launchers are good but only if paired with a rally barricade - they're too slow otherwise. The Warlock's Lunafaction Boots add a reload perk to their rifts, which can fill in for rally barricades.

Congratulations on beating Destiny 2's raid! There's now a hole in the floor with a chest at the bottom of it. Go take a look. There's quite a surprise waiting for you.

Where is Benedict 99-40?

Destiny 2 Benedict 99-40

This is probably the number one question on your mind if you've just finished your first raid. You'll have gathered some Emperor Calus Tokens from your adventures in the Leviathan - their UI tip advises you to bring them to Benedict 99-40 to increase your reputation with the Emperor. The catch: unless you've completed the raid, you don't know who that is.

Benedict 99-40 is the sweeper frame underneath Hawthorne in the Tower, near the New Monarchy faction house. You can't speak with him unless you've beaten the raid, but you can go take a look. He works like any other faction vendor, dropping raid loot engrams (at very high power levels) with each rank. Like most other vendors, it takes 20 tokens to level him up. 

Destiny 2 Raid Checkpoints and Underbelly

These are the people-cannons in the foreground, and the tunnels are in that dark space

Go to the floor above the Cabal people-cannons that fire you up to the Castellum. Stand between their barrels (see image above). That dark space right ahead is the entrance to a labyrinthine network of tunnels, which encircle all the raid's arenas, and grant access to each and every one of them. This enables you to skip the Castellum stage which you'll otherwise have to complete to get back into the raid at your checkpoint.

The passages to each arena are marked with sigils - the Sun for the Royal Pools, the Hound for the Pleasure Gardens, the Axes for the Gauntlet, and the Chalice for Calus. The passages are still a pain to navigate, but with a bit of practice, they're a much faster way to get back in after a break than the Castellum.

The tunnels are also where the raid's secret chests are hidden. There are nine of these, whose keys drop randomly from each of the raid's three main encounters.

In the outer walls of the ziggurat, we also found two rooms, each with six switches. One is right underneath the place where you spawn into the raid, and one is on the left-hand side of the ziggurat as you stare at it. The switches in the latter room must be flipped simultaneously, while in the former, they must be flipped in a sequence. Numbering the switches from left to right, this sequence is 1, 5, 3, 2, 4, 6. Assign every member of the team to a switch and call them out as they're flipped: the switches will stay down if you're doing it right. 

In each case, you'll get a notification if you've opened a door. These doors provide different points of access to the underbelly. 

Destiny 2 guided games

During the sequel's reveal event, Bungie admitted their approach to endgame content in the original Destiny had caused half its players to never complete a raid. This is being addressed through the clans and guided games systems.

Clans were technically present in Destiny but served as little more than another line of text on your player card. In the sequel, they're integrated fully into the game, with their own reward system, customisable banners, and other features. Most importantly, they're the basis of the new guided games.

Clans who are about to attempt a new activity, but need more players, will be able to advertise as such in-game. Players wishing to do activities without automatic matchmaking - like raids - can browse clans who are looking for more players, and apply to any that appeal to them. You can part ways immediately afterwards, but Bungie are hoping you'll get invested enough to stick around and make some friends.

Essentially, it's an in-game 'looking for group' system, much like the one that exists now on Bungie's Recruitment site. Guided Games aren't active for the raid yet, but will launch in beta next week. Check out our guide to Destiny 2's clans for more, or come and join our own, PCGuardiansN, for regular Nightfall, Raid, and Trials parties after Destiny 2's PC launch.

That's what we've got from our first run at the raid. We'll scour the internet for more intelligence and update this guide soon.

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