Checking out: Difficulty changes in Destiny too wide

Last week Tuesday night my Destiny 2 clan and myself entered the Root of Nightmares Raid for what would be my third fresh run of the Raid.

Only, while we were in the Raid I was eating dinner, chatting with folks on WhatsApp and just generally not 100 percent focused. We completed the Raid in our fastest time yet.

As Destiny’s premier activity, Raids require a well co-ordinated team of six players to complete puzzles, damage checks and other challenges in the promise of acquiring unique and powerful loot. These activities are often complex and incredibly challenging, but Root of Nightmares feels different.

Since its launch the Root of Nightmares Raid (RoN from here on out) has drawn criticism. The activity was the most widely completed Raid in Destiny’s history and the first completion took a little over two and a half hours.

Before jumping into the Raid for the first time a week after its launch I was nervous. The Vow of the Disciple was a tough cookie to crack, especially the Exhibition encounter which demanded the team understood and executed the various mechanics of the Raid, without a hitch.

Vault of Glass, while a breeze for veterans from Destiny, still gets me during the final fight with Aetheon and I’ll admit that I still don’t fully understand how the Templar fight works. Even Destiny’s oldest Raid, The Last Wish, still inspires fear when we enter Riven of a Thousand Voices’ lair.

The opening encounter of RoN is so simple one person can complete the mechanic. Sure, you need five other players to dispatch the Tormentor and the Barrier Champion that spawns, but various content creators have shown, at most you need about three people to complete this activity.

The second encounter requires two people to understand what is going on while the other four simply acquire a buff by standing in a certain spot so as to be able to damage certain enemy types. This is repeated and the enemies pose little to no threat. The threat is so low that a challenge in the Raid for the second encounter directs players to leave all enemies alive until the Light and Dark energies are fully linked.

The Planet Room is challenging in that there are more enemies than the previous two encounters, but with a team where four members are aware of what’s going on, this damage check encounter is a laughable joke.

The final encounter is a cakewalk. Nezarec’s attention can be easily diverted. Even after changes to how Nezarec behaves when a fireteam is in a Well of Radiance, the final boss of the Raid is easy, requiring just two damage phases to dispatch him for most teams.

RoN’s difficulty is just jarring when you look at other Pinnacle activities in the game. Despite running three fresh, complete runs of RoN, I am yet to complete a single Legendary Lost Sector in the game. How can it be that I can’t complete content that is intended for a solo player but I can take that same build into a Raid and be over performing.

Even after changes to the enemy damage scalars, enemies in Legendary and Master content hit far harder than they do in Raids and Dungeons Pinnacle PvE activities.

Further tuning required

At Lightfall’s launch, Bungie took the chance to change difficulty. This saw a litany of changes being brought in rather than one big change. The crux of the matter is that with power level disadvantages as well as Power Level caps, things are tough.

As per a blog post, the power levels for Destiny activities are:

  • Hero – 1770 (Maximum effectiveness 1765),
  • Legendary – 1830 (Maximum effectiveness 1815),
  • Master – 1840 (Maximum effectiveness 1820),
  • Grandmaster – 1840 (Maximum effectiveness 1815).

In all honesty, the person who signed off on these numbers must have been worked to the bone because we can only think of fatigue as a reason for this making sense.

The gap from Hero to Legendary is too vast given how popular the difficulty is for Seasonal Content, Dares of Eternity and Lost Sectors. More confusingly, the gap from Legendary to Master requires two weeks, maybe three, of grinding out pinnacle rewards.

This is ultimately the real problem with Destiny, Bungie is far too stingy with how it rewards players when it comes to increasing power. At present these are the Pinnacle reward sources in Destiny 2:

  • Avalon,
  • Legend Dares of Eternity,
  • Vanguard Weekly Objectives,
  • Crucible Weekly Objectives,
  • Gambit Weekly Objectives,
  • Weekly Lightfall Story Mission,
  • Raid Rotation,
  • Dungeon Rotation.

Some of these activities demand that 1830 power level while others don’t, but the problem here is that the path to hitting 1830 is blocked by random drops so if you already have a Pinnacle head slot and get another, you’re stuck waiting until next week to power up.

But why is this even a problem? Just Git Gud

At Lightfall’s launch, over 300 000 people logged into Destiny on Steam, just a month after release and that number has fallen to below half.

Destiny is a game of always having something to do whether it’s a Raid, a Dungeon or the Legend Version of a seasonal activity. However, the changes made in Lightfall make simply reaching the point where you can do a lot of those activities tougher.

Something as simple as completing a Legendary Lost Sector, a month after launch, is made impossible given these new difficulty scalars. This then makes it tougher to do Master content which ultimately inspires a feeling of “why should I even try?” and that’s bad.

We understand that members of the Destiny community were begging for the challenge of Destiny to return, but as it stands, the slog to get up to the relevant power level to take on that challenge is too extreme for the average player.

Bungie said this week that once players reach the power level content will become easier but we aren’t buying it. If two months of a season are required just to get up to the relevant level needed to complete certain challenges, Bungie’s going to push more folks away than it did with its horrible storytelling in Lightfall.

How can this problem be fixed? Well quite simply, player-based difficulty.

There is no point to power level as it’s no indication of skill, it simply means that you have more free time than other players. As such we propose that when it comes to solo and matchmade activity, the difficulty scales per member at a rate of -5 (Adept), -10 (Legendary) and -20 (Master) with Grandmaster at -25.

Yes the jump from Legendary to Master is larger than it currently is, but that’s the point right? The best of the best in-game want to be recognised as such and so, Master and Grandmaster difficulty should showcase this gap.

This has the benefit of making Legendary content more accessible to the wider player base and ultimately, making the game more enjoyable while maintaining some of the challenge at higher difficulty tiers.

We’re not privy to the mountains of data Bungie has access to behind the scenes, but the exodus of players so soon after release and the constant queries we see about difficulty mean this problem needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Make no mistake, we are sure that content will get easier as players progress through the game, but we can’t have a situation where a large portion of players are locked out of content for the first two months of a new release, every year.


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