Destiny has proven itself a versatile shooter over the years; it has a campaign for those who just want a single-player romp, multiplayer modes for those who aren’t afraid to mix it up with others, and cooperative strikes for those who want to shoot some baddies while hanging out with friends. All of these modes are tied together around an ever-evolving loot grind, which lets you jump in and do any of these activities and be rewarded.
There are also raids, MMO-style encounters that test six players’ ability to work together. Across Destiny and Destiny 2, Bungie has delivered 10 raids, each with their own quirks, themes, and memorable moments. We’ve decided to pit them all against each other and determine which raid delivers the best mix curious puzzles, intricate mechanics to synthesize, and bosses that test your ability to play at your peak.
Leviathan, Spire of Stars
Our third trip to the Leviathan had us helping the opulent Cabal emperor Calus curb a Red Legion invasion from Ghaul’s successor, Val Ca’uor. As the second “Raid Lair” on the ship it’s a short ride with some fun concepts at play, but ultimately suffers from a lack of unique ideas. Tossing a ball among a six-person group is fun and all, but we’ve done this song and dance before. The short platforming stint gets interesting when you introduce the optional objective of making sure a ball makes it all the way to end, but is too short and lacks the visual flair to stand as a good breather from the action.
The last two fights are surprisingly nuanced, however, with a number of different phases and sequences which teams must work through in order to succeed. It can be a little too hectic at times, as randomly assigned buffs can lead to some ambiguous roles and can quickly make things fall apart in ways that don’t feel fun. And again, most of the concepts at play here aren’t all that new; even the main Leviathan raid had its share of symbol call-outs and plate-guarding. The layering of multiple elements works well and still makes for some rewarding moments, but the familiarity of its encounters (as well as its loot being recolored versions of the Eater of Worlds sets) make it the raid we ran the least.
Leviathan, Eater of Worlds
The first abridged raid since Crota’s End, Eater of Worlds provided the perfect complement to the proper Leviathan’s massive size and languished pace. Kicking things off with a platforming segment is a bold move, but the focus on making sure everyone is in the right spot at the right time instead of having each player conquer the challenge on their own is a step forward. The waves of enemies that follow lack any sort of interesting mechanic or twist, however, and feel like busywork. Shooting things in Destiny is fun in and of itself, but expectations for how that shooting is contextualized are a bit higher.
Eater of Worlds’ final arena, however, is an inspired locale that not only showcases how gargantuan of a ship the Leviathan is, and also has two solid encounters that push your team’s coordination without having multiple layers to overwhelm you. “Cooking” vex skulls ahead of when you’ll need to grab them, run over to color-coordinated targets and shooter laser at them means running around a trio of arenas in a way that feels frantic, but just barely within your control. Having to avoid being captured when facing off against Argos (along with exploding harpies) can make the damage phase among the most frustrating in the series, but that’s also what makes it so satisfying when you’re able to pull it all off without a hitch.
Scourge of the Past
Bungie came out swinging with some novel concepts as it took the fight to The Last City for the first raid after Destiny 2’s move to more a more seasonal approach to content.
We’re introduced to the Berserker, a new enemy which requires two separate players to shoot its weak points and bring down its shields. This is also the first time we can fly Sparrows in a raid, which makes for some fun twists. The race against a giant, flaming servitor is an exciting change of pace; it’s basically co-op Mario Kart, and it works surprisingly well.
It’s once you clear a fairly short maze and platforming segment and reach the final arena that Scourge starts to lose some momentum. Tearing into Insurrection Prime with a trio of tanks is a great catharsis to an encounter that has one team mostly clearing enemies, while a second runs in circles clearing enemies while looking for charges needed to power the tanks.
The final encounter against a giant mech has a buff mechanic where players have to position themselves correctly to avoid killing each other as they damage Insurrection Prime, but this means looking at the side of your screen to make sure you have right set of buffs instead of actually shooting the thing. As a whole, Scourge of the Past lacks the epic scale of most other final bosses. Its brevity actually works in its favor, as being able to clear the raid in about an hour or so, as opposed to a night-long gauntlet, has its appeal.
Destiny’s second raid came as a relatively quick follow-up to Vault of Glass, and its reduced scope undoubtedly put it in the shadow of its larger sibling. But Crota’s End delivered some marquee encounters that still stand strong today.
Dropping into the Hellmouth for the first time, for example, is a terrifying experience. As soon as you land, you’re blinded and literally weighed down by the pervasive darkness around you, unable to double-jump and eventually unable to sprint as you’re attacked by legions of Hive, turning Destiny’s power fantasy into something out of a horror flick.
From there, a bridge-building exercise where one team member at a time crosses a gap as the rest of the team keeps the bridge intact has a fun action-movie feel to it. The final encounter against Crota is a challenging one, as his very presence prevents you from regenerating health unless you’re holding a chalice that can only be passed around so many times.
These encounters all keep you on your backfoot for the entire raid, which drives home the feeling of being deep into enemy territory, out of your depth as you confront terrors you don’t fully understand. It’s eclipsed by some of the encounters in other entries on this list, but Crota’s End delivers an experience markedly different from other raids, and it mostly works.
The Leviathan’s gargantuan underbelly and shifting nature were attempts to help the spaces in which raids took place feel less like guided tours and more like real locations. In hindsight, the experiments are responsible for some of Destiny raids’ lowest lows. But the Leviathan also houses some highpoints in its halls.
To support the three encounters whose order changes week to week, the Leviathan hosts a central area with an encounter most teams will either have to clear three times, or find hidden tunnels to circumvent – and trust us, you’re going to want to find those tunnels, as this encounter can get downright boring after doing it multiple times. It doesn’t help that while you can’t outright “lose” the encounter, your progress can regress, which can make tackling it with a new team strenuous.
The underbelly, while an ambitious concept that had players using keys they earned in other encounters to explore a maze for additional loot, quickly lost some of its luster after it extended early raid nights far past many teams’ curfews.
The four encounters at the heart of the raid, however, are a pretty strong lineup. The stealth sequence in the pleasure garden can be frustrating, of course, as the royal beasts can be unpredictable foes for all the wrong reasons. But the royal pools, which has teams coordinate both as split-offs cells and as whole, is one of the most well-crafted encounters in all of Destiny. The gauntlet, which has you running through a game-show like obstacle course, remains a fun and unique encounter. The final encounter against Calus is still a great challenge, and also has one of the few bona fide narrative surprises in a raid encounter.
The Leviathan is far from perfect, but when you’re not working through its bloat, it’s an absolute blast.
Leviathan, Crown of Sorrow
It might just be recency bias speaking, but the latest raid delivers four great encounters without any weak moments, something that’s hard to say for many of the longer raids on this list.
The centerpiece of Crown of Sorrows is the time-limited Witch’s Blessing buff, which gives the entire raid an Ikaruga-like dynamic. This lynchpin gives every encounter a sense of urgency, and lets teams delegate roles within each two-person team as they can only kill certain enemies, but must coordinate to have two players, one blessed and one not, shoot crystals or punch bosses. The mechanic is pretty flexible, too, which means one death doesn’t have to completely sink your team.
The buff-swapping really comes into its own as your team figures out how to slowly infect most of the team with buff over the course of one encounter, alternates punching a boss in order to squeeze in multiple damage phases, then works together to have a big bad smash a smaller bad with their giant club.
Crown of Sorrows also has one of few platforming encounters most players can actually get behind. Taking a cue from Eater of Worlds and making it a collaborative effort, this sequence has you splitting up and shooting crystals as you traverse a series of platforms, with a couple of hard checkpoints along the way. It’s not punishing, but it requires the right mix of spacial awareness and shooting prowess to make you feel like an active participant, since you’re never waiting for one final teammate to cross the finish line.
Vault of Glass
As Bungie’s first attempt to corral six-player teams into a single unit, Vault of Glass was incredibly successful. It tops plenty of players’ personal lists due to it being the first time they’d ever encountered something like it. Over time its weak spots have only become more glaring, but its stronger encounters show Bungie had a firm grasp of creating meaningful co-op experiences right from the start.
Vault of Glass has some of the strongest thematic trappings of any raid, tying into the greek mythology naming convention of the Vex; working through a palace described as the underworld of the robotic species, you trudge through a Gorgon’s maze to avoid being instant death (likely from being turned to stone); to expel a debuff that sullies you to the point of death, you must “wash” yourself in baths of light. It’s loose, but that sort of narrative thread makes it stand out for more than just the puzzles and gameplay at hand.
The mechanics behind this strong thematic framing are solid, but some weaknesses do poke through. The Gorgon’s maze made a strong case for why co-op stealth sequences aren’t fun, as the encounter went from being frustratingly obtuse to an afterthought once you nailed down the “correct” path through it. And the extended platforming segments became a low point early on. However, the combat-oriented setpieces still shine, as the time-traveling mechanic of the last two encounters remains a novel, fun experience, five years later.
After two fun-but-short raid lairs, Last Wish had plenty of strong encounters to dig into, which Destiny 2 needed after a rocky first year. From the initial bout with Kalli which had players hide in safe rooms to avoid being obliterated, to the final escape sequence in which your team slowly fades into another realm in the hopes the last person left will make it to end (and a room full of treasure chests), Last Wish is one of the most consistently engaging raids yet.
The symbols players must decode and interpret here are more numerous and difficult to discern than those in the Leviathan, but they’re used for more clever ends. Mastering them allows you go solve a quick puzzle as you run a swat-like raid on a multi-floored temple, provides a powerful mix of action and puzzle-solving as you work to crack open a vault, and lets you poke final boss Riven’s eyes out without being murdered.
As you work your way through each encounter, the scale of the raid continues to amp up until you’re facing down a god for control of an ethereal city and the fate of mankind. And once you win, you find out that’s not the end of the story, setting in motion Destiny 2’s new path forward when it comes to delivering interesting stories in more nuanced, exciting ways.
Wrath of the Machine
Plenty of raids have teams splitting off into smaller groups while working together, but Wrath of the Machine’s encounters, while complicated to explain, function so smoothly you barely notice all the pieces you have to put together to ace them. Coordinating bomb throws against Vosik while keeping an eye on the TV monitors behind him to make sure they’re not about to kill you is just a great bit of teamwork, and is a trademark of the kind of collaboration raids should strive for.
Any raid worth its salt has players put together everything they’ve learned in previous encounters in the latter ones, but Wrath of the Machine’s deliver what might be the tightest, most coordinated encounters in all of Destiny. The enemies you fight are tough, teams are split up but still make call-outs that affect everyone involved, and Aksis’ tendency to teleport around the arena keeps everyone on their toes during the crucial damage phase. Turning your rag-tag team of Guardians into a cohesive unit is what raids are all about, and these encounters push you to your limit, making victory hard-fought but all the more rewarding.
And though it doesn’t have to universe-bending stakes of other raids, it does manage to deliver some amazing setpieces. The fight against the siege engine – a giant, rickety wall of fire and steel that bears down on your team as board – feels like something out Mad Max: Fury Road. Then once inside the thing, putting the contraption back together only so you hop off its top and see it hurtle off the edge of a cliff is as great a finale to an encounter as we can think of.
Separate from their functions as cooperative puzzles and challenging combat trials, raids are a moment in time, a culmination of narrative arcs that bring everything to a satisfying climax. Bungie hit an early peak with this kind of storytelling in 2015, when it concluded the Oryx arc it had been building for a good while with a spectacular finale.
The Dreadnaught, Oryx’s ship, is gargantuan, otherworldly, and menacing, and is the best raid locale Bungie has crafted. It immediately sets dire stakes for the encounters at hand, and these are some ambitious encounters. The three-person relay mechanic was improved upon in the Leviathan’s royal pools, but it’s still well-executed here. Having one player hold Golgoroth’s gaze as everyone else shoots down bubbles and huddles around their light to lay into the giant ogre hasn’t quite been replicated since, however, and remains a fantastic, unique encounter.
The extended platforming segments slow down King’s Fall’s pacing, but they’re more than made up for later on. The scale of the final two encounters, first against Oryx’s daughters and then Oryx himself, is tremendous; the spacefaring arena, the interweaving roles of each player on the fireteam, having to deal with a dark copy of Oryx inside an obscured dome, and Oryx’s sheer size as your team rallies to wear him down for the last time all contribute to the feeling that when you finally felled the Taken King, you’d accomplished something worth all the effort, and make it Destiny’s best raid.
Author: Game Informer Staff
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