Destiny’s new social space, the Iron Temple, is full of wolves. The wolf is the symbol of the Iron Lords, whose story is finally told in the recent Rise of Iron expansion. The Iron Lord Saladin affectionately calls your Guardian character “Young Wolf” as you work to reforge an infamous rocket launcher that itself is adorned with gilded wolves. Yet the expansion’s new raid, Wrath of the Machine, kills the Guardian who plays as a lone wolf.
Wrath of the Machine is all about teamwork. Your team’s success is entirely dependent on each player’s ability to communicate effectively with his or her teammates, calling out positions, being hyper-aware of each other’s movements and changing tactics on the fly. There’s a lot of trust involved, and more than ever before in Destiny a bad team just isn’t going to cut it in this raid.
Raids are Destiny’s hardest, most fun, and best missions, and they’re all like that to a degree. Each one (there are four now) requires consistent teamwork and solid play. Although the most dedicated and skilled players are capable of beating them with fewer than the recommended six Guardians, for the vast majority a full team is required. Yet in every previous raid before this, lone wolves ruled.
In the Vault of Glass — Destiny’s first raid back in 2014 — one player would hold the “relic” during the pivotal Templar boss fight, responsible for downing the giant, floating robot’s shields so the rest of the team could damage it. The next raid, Crota’s End, doubled down on that with sections that required one player to cross a bridge or whack a giant alien with a sword while the rest of the team sat safe on a ledge shooting rockets. In King’s Fall — the raid that launched with the massive 2015 expansion “The Taken King” — one fight made a single player take a boss’s “gaze” and fend off all its attacks, while in the final encounter a lone player was forced to complete an elaborate jumping puzzle, confront a powerful enemy, and obtain the one item that would let the team damage the boss while everyone else huddled safe on platforms inside defense bubbles.
This is one aspect of Destiny’s raids that has often drained some of the fun, particularly for less dedicated, experienced, or skilled players who dread the pressure of having a pivotal role on which the whole team’s success or failure depends. Posts on Reddit and Looking-For-Game (LFG) sites, where players go online to form teams with strangers to take these missions on, would seek players who could fulfill these roles: “at the boss, need a runner,” one might say, or “need a swordbearer,” or “need someone to hold Golgoroth’s gaze.” Average players who wanted to play but feared the pressure were excluded. Wrath of the Machine will never have this problem.
Wrath’s first encounter, a two-part boss fight, involves multiple players charging up generators and throwing bombs as the whole team holds down multiple points and fends off waves of enemies. The second involves all six players riding a gigantic war machine down the top of a Game of Thrones-sized wall and, when the damn thing breaks down, taking turns carrying engine parts for repairs and fending off a formidable onslaught of enemies. The final fight, another two-parter, empowers every player on the team in turn to stun the boss while everyone damages him. Throughout the raid everybody is required to bring their A-game, but no single player is forced to do it all. There’s less pressure and more fun.
This leaves more room for organic hero moments — when one player pops their super and clears an entire dropship’s worth of enemies, or somehow survives a devastating assault and carries the team to victory in a clutch moment that will later be recorded, made into a GIF, and posted on Reddit. Wrath of the Machine shows that Destiny doesn’t need to force or script these moments for players to come out the other end of a raid feeling like champions, and these heroic feats feel all the more earned because they happen through pure skill.
Cracking the Vault
The original raid, the Vault of Glass, is widely considered to be the best, although it’s been irrelevant to Destiny’s high level players for almost two years thanks to the way the game’s expansions continuously push the level cap higher. Part of players’ reverence for the Vault can be chalked up to mystique and nostalgia; being the first raid, it shocked players how complex, challenging, and rewarding the experience was. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say the Vault’s existence singlehandedly saved Destiny from being just another failed shooter that arrived with a sputter and faded once the next was out. Don’t forget how confused Destiny’s initial reviews — most published before the Vault of Glass was available — were; without the Vault, vanilla Destiny felt hollow and pointless.
The best part of the Vault of Glass is the final fight: a battle with Atheon — a giant time-traveling robot mysteriously styled as “Time’s Conflux,” my favorite made-up video game phrase. Periodically during the fight, Atheon transports half the team forward or backward in time. The three players who remain in the boss room must open a corresponding portal while fending off flying suicide bomber robots long enough to give their teammates the time to fight their way back through the portal with a special item. Once reunited, the team gathers in the center of the room to do as much damage as possible against Atheon before the cycle resets.
It’s tense and demanding, with strict time limits and random floating light blobs that will kill your whole team if you don’t pump damage into them. It remains one of Destinys best missions, an overwhelming sci-fi time travel gauntlet where you and your teammates take turns saving each other from being “lost forever in the dark corners of time.”
Wrath of the Machine is great for all the same reasons. With less pressure on the individual, fewer players should feel too intimidated to give it a shot; with no need for lone wolves, every player can feel like the hero. Sometimes “becoming legend” is actually what Destiny is about.
Photos via Mike Rougeau, Bungie