Destiny 2 is coming, and it is making changes. Some - like the new Guardian subclasses, and the expanded roster of interconnected Patrol activities - are big and obvious. Others - such as the recategorisation of weapon types and tweaks to existing supers - are big and not so obvious. But, Destiny being the throbbing mesh of tangled, deeply-connected systems that it is, they all add up to a rather different player experience. And nowhere will such tune-ups and changes in focus be felt more cleanly than in the exacting, competitive environment of Crucible PvP.
Destiny 2’s across-the-board changes are going to have a big impact on the art of vs. multiplayer, but there are also a bunch of Crucible-specific updates that will make a big difference. Especially when you factor in the new, smaller, four-player cap for Crucible teams. So, now that we know the overall shape of Destiny 2, I felt it was time to dig deep into PvP and work out specifically what the future holds for the competitive-minded Guardian. Forget your old K/D and resign your favoured weapon-set to the bin. The fight just changed.
The new weapon categories will fundamentally change our strategies
Here’s perhaps the main area where the flow of Crucible combat is really going to change, as Destiny 2’s recategorisation of weapon types takes some of the hard-hitting PvP staples out of regular rotation. Kinetic and Energy weapon slots replace the old Primary and Secondary shelves, both accommodating the exact same array of Auto Rifles, Pulse Rifles, Hand Cannons, and Scout Rifles, with the latter category also sporting elemental damage. The potential one-hit kill guns, however (ie. sniper rifles, shotguns, rocket launchers, and the new grenade launchers) are now classified as Power Weapons. That means they replace the original Destiny’s Heavy Weapons, which in turn means you’ll get significantly less ammo for them.
In practice, this boils down to a more consistent, attritional, medium-range game, where spacing, cover, and team-play take precedence over shotgun rushdowns and sniper camping. A more intimate, engaged back-and-forth game, pretty much, designed to avoid the intermittent meta-dominance that has led to a fair bit of ‘me too’ Secondary weapon choice over the three years of the original Crucible. As a dedicated shotgunner, it’s initially going to feel weird to not have buckshot available as a standard part of the game (in hindsight, perhaps Bungie’s recent removal of Secondary ammo on respawn has been an attempt to acclimatise us to the upcoming changes), but if the end result is a more ‘conversational’ combat model, with a steadier pace, and a greater awareness of player interplay and strategic cause-and-effect at its core, then the shake-up might very well be worth it.
As side-note, it’s also worth mentioning that Energy weapons will do bonus damage to any Guardian in a super state. A great bit of balance, given the super-dominance in the original Destiny, and a move that makes even more sense of the new prominence of extended, roaming supers. But more on that in a moment.
The new four vs. four set-up could have a big effect on game modes
The only brand new mode we know about so far is Countdown, an objective-based, attack/defend game-type in which one team must plant (and then protect) a bomb at one of two set locations. The opposing side is tasked with stopping them from setting the payload, and then defusing the explosive if it is set. It’s a leaner, more demanding take on the Crucible than many of Destiny’s existing modes, the new four-versus-four team set-up and multiple objective points forcing a fair number of tactical gambles based on rationing players between bases, misdirection around routes taken, and good old-fashioned cross-fire preparation.
As the first mode we’ve seen specifically designed for four-versus-four, its strategically taxing focus makes total sense in the context of Bungie’s new, more team-focused Crucible ambitions. Though it does raise the question of which existing modes we’ll see return in Destiny 2, and how they might have to adapt in order to fit the new set-up. Rift would make a lot of sense with smaller teams, for example. The current, 12-player version slightly too often results in massive, messy firefights clustered around the Spark spawn point, before one forthright player runs off with it, leaving the pack flailing against each other in the dust. I know, because I am often that player. Smaller teams will mean more onus on clarity, careful spacing and maintaining specific, tactical roles in order to craft effective offensive and defensive plays.
Control might be a trickier prospect if map sizes and objective-counts remain the same as they are now, with less players available to split between defending two out of three control-points while also maintaining the required offensive. Though at the same time, the greater onus on resource management, and knowing when to defend or push for kills, could make for a much tenser game. The return of Zone Control (where held flags progressively accrue points) would make a lot of sense too, and revive-focused, small-team modes like Skirmish, Salvage, and Elimination should fit brilliantly. But don’t expect Combined Arms to come back. Sorry, all six of you who really like riding Pikes.
The smaller team sizes should have a noticeable effect on map design too
So far we’ve seen precisely one Destiny 2 multiplayer map, which we used to test out the new Countdown mode. A tight, tactical affair, set on ground level in the Last City, Midtown is a warren of streets, alleyways, small town squares, and shortcuts through buildings. Imagine the sort of flow found in The Taken King’s Memento, only with a much rangier spread and less elevation.
Obviously it’s too early to say whether this sort of layout will be typical of Destiny 2’s Crucible maps – the first game sports a wide variety of sizes and styles to fit its many, eclectic game modes - but it does make a lot of sense in terms of the more intimate teamwork Bungie is touting by way of the game’s smaller, four-player Crucible fireteams. While the original Destiny’s six-player squad standard – outside of the three-versus-three Trials of Osiris – allows for a freeform mix of communicative, tactical play and lone-wolf roaming, Destiny 2’s push toward the former model will probably shine brightest in more intricate environments. As such, it wouldn’t be a ludicrous bet to expect more intimate, pathway-heavy environments in the vein of Midtown and the first game’s Pantheon and The Burning Shrine, rather than, say, First Light and Skyshock.
Super abilities will require more thoughtful use in the face of bigger risks
Supers are an interesting point to consider, given the more puristic angle Destiny 2’s Crucible looks to be taking. Long the chaotic, random factor in PvP, these apocalyptic instigators of multiple insta-kills can technically be part of a thoughtful, strategic game if a full team is communicating and ‘cycling’ its supers in order to make the most of the cooldown-reducing Light orbs each attack spawns. Most of the time though, supers get used as a knee-jerk panic button, triggered by lone Guardians who haphazardly run into trouble while carelessly sprinting around corners. And ‘trouble’, it seems, often translates to ‘a single opponent I wasn’t ready for’. So yeah, a lot of supers are currently wasted, just as a lot of Guardians suffer ‘questionable’ deaths by way of thoughtlessly triggered, one-on-one Fists of Havoc.
Clearly, this seems at odds with Destiny 2’s more tactical focus, but when I talked to Bungie back in September, just before the release of the Rise of Iron expansion, I was told that it was highly unlikely that a ‘no supers’ mode would ever be added to the Crucible. So how is this all going to gel? As I see it, there are two means of reconciling supers, one self-correcting, and one that Bungie seems to be working on deliberately. First up, there’s the fact that the reduced team sizes could mean a slower kill-rate per player, which in turn would mean slower super generation. Similarly, the theoretically more tactical bent of Destiny 2’s Crucible should by its very nature encourage smarter, less spontaneous use of supers. With less availability and fewer potential targets, making them count will be more important.
But there’s also the design of Destiny 2’s new supers to consider. Because based on current evidence – taken from the Warlocks’ flame-swording Daybreak super, the Titans’ Captain America aping, shield-throwing Sentinel subclass, and the Hunters’ Arcstriker – Bungie is now putting a greater focus on ‘roaming’ supers (ie. those that allow multiple hits during an extended active time period) than big, one-hitters like the Nova Bomb. Even the Titans’ Fist of Havoc has been modified in Destiny 2, to allow multiple fist strikes or shoulder charges. Theoretically this should mean less incentive to fire off supers for one quick, opportunistic takedown, with more careful timing encouraged by the need to maximise them for spree-kills. There’s nothing worse than the feeling of triggering a powerful, roaming super, taking out one Guardian, then being unable to find anyone else. Smaller teams will exacerbate the chances of such situations, so thoughtful planning is going to be needed to avoid wasting the power when it eventually does come around.
And of course, unless supers are used with care, the additional new threat of Energy weapons is going to cause all sorts of problems for the player who triggers one. It seems that Bungie has put a lot of thought into this one.
Trials of Osiris is coming back, but possibly not as we know it
Is Trials of Osiris’ hardcore, three-vs.-three elimination mode set to return? So far, it’s only a ‘maybe’. That might sound odd given that Bungie explicitly referenced a Trials mode during the Destiny 2 reveal event, but there’s an interesting point to note about wording here. The thing is, we don’t yet know whether the mentioned mode will be Trials of Osiris or Trials of Something Else. There’s a rumour going round that the new set-up will be a replacement called Trials of the Nine, obviously themed around Exotic trader Xur’s mysterious employers.
There’s a good narrative case for that, in that we already know that Destiny 2’s first expansion will be Osiris-themed. If the long-lost genius Warlock – and one-time apprentice of the Speaker – is set for a full return in the expansion’s campaign story, then it would make sense for the Trials to be handed over to a new owner. After all. ToO is run by the remaining members of the dwindling Cult of Osiris – itself set up after the exile’s disappearance - in a bid to spread the word of his teachings. With Osiris likely making a full-blown comeback, the narrative landscape around him is eventually going to change rather radically, and Bungie isn’t going to want its evolving story to mess with one of its most popular, ongoing Crucible events. Nor is it going to want to hold off until expansion one before launching it.
How would a hypothetical Trials of the Nine work? At the moment, we have no idea. But it might well feed into that ‘bigger’ role Bungie has touted for Xur. Don’t be surprised to see him hosting, while dropping major lore hints about his so-far unseen, cosmic paymasters, and possibly handing out trials-exclusive Exotics as prizes.
Connectivity is getting an overhaul, and games should run a lot more smoothly
Here’s a (hopeful) upgrade we have pretty firm information on. While Destiny 2 will still utilise a version of a peer-to-peer connection system for Crucible multiplayer – as opposed to the server-side handling of social areas like the soon-to-be-gone Tower – Bungie has pledged improvements. Now, physics calculations will be hosted in Destiny’s big, magical cloud, meaning that matches should run more smoothly, with less unpleasant, unfair surprises, where hits don’t land properly and physical interactions with the environment go all wonky at the worst possible time.
At the moment, a match host with a bad connection can easily bring about such unwelcome glitches in the Matrix, and after three years of Guardians tangling with ineffective gunfire and feather-light melees as well as each other, it’s going to be very good to see the back of that stuff. At the same time, host migration will no longer be a thing, meaning that a host’s connection completely crapping out – or the player in question simply leaving the match – won’t result in a stalled or cancelled battle.
We’ve also heard that matchmaking is going to change in order to bolster these improvements, prioritising opponents based on strength of connection rather than purely their experience level. Overall then, hurrah.