Honorable Mention – Prison of Elders
Destiny’s second expansion, House of Wolves, is the only one not to introduce a brand new raid. Instead, Bungie opted for a sort of challenge arena called the Prison of Elders. There were no mysterious caverns to run through, nor were there any mind-bending navigational puzzles to navigate. There were just rooms filled with powerful enemies, challenging objectives, and interesting bosses.
In fact, the Prison of Elders housed arguably the best boss encounter to ever grace the game: Skolas. This fight mixed tight mechanics that required teamwork and communication with a devastatingly powerful foe. If you faced him in Year 1 before the Light Level boost that came with The Taken King, you were in for the toughest challenge Destiny had ever thrown at Guardians. It will always be remembered as being fun and engaging, with some decent rewards, even though it wasn’t quite that raid experience players were expecting.
4. Crota’s End
Crota’s End was an interesting raid that came as part of Destiny’s first expansion, The Dark Below. Players had to dive deep into the moon to take out a Hive Prince, who wanted nothing more than to take out humans and all the Guardians along with them. On one hand, the dark tones and the intense hordes of enemies that were constantly being thrown at players added a nice heap of challenge onto players. But most soon felt that Crota’s End played more like a glorified Strike than an actual raid.
Other raids (including this one’s predecessor the Vault of Glass) had a healthy balance of mechanics and challenge that made everything feel truly epic. Crota’s End lacked that to the point where a clone of the final boss was used in the Court of Oryx, showing that it can fit just about anywhere. That hampered down the greatness in the end. Also, out of all the raid exotics, Necrochasm never really got its chance in the limelight thanks to horrible RNG, even though it was a pretty cool chain of events that led to obtaining the gun.
The final nail in the Crota’s End coffin was the fact that you can tell something greater was coming. Crota was the Son of Oryx, a powerful Hive emperor whose name inflicted dread. Fighting his kid just didn’t sound so cool.
3. King’s Fall
The Taken King is the expansion that transformed Destiny into what it is today. It organized quests, introduced new ways to power up your Guardians and their gear, stressed the importance of mechanics, included an epic story, and brought the game as a whole closer to that initial vision presented to fans back in 2013. Another component of that expansion was the incredible King’s Fall raid.
King’s Fall was different from Vault of Glass and Crota’s End in that it was very heavily focused on mechanics, sometimes to its own detriment. The raid required that a team work closely together in order to utilize the mechanics built around each fight. This included shooting down glowing orbs while you juggled the attention of a crazed ogre, stepping on panels and using columns as protection from a wipe, and jumping on invisible platforms as your team fought to protect you.
It was a good raid, though, with a story that took you through the very same dreadnought that put a hole in Saturn’s rings, and had you fight through Oryx’s inner circle. Plus, you got to face the real Hive threat, not the junior, and the difference in power was remarkable. And you can’t help but admit that Oryx was a badass villain worthy of our attention. If only a bit more of a battle of power took place, this raid could’ve took the number one spot for all of Destiny.
2. Wrath of the Machine
Wrath of the Machine is Destiny’s newest raid, included as part of Rise of Iron. It is unique in its simplicity, foregoing any real filler in exchange for wonderfully crafted, intense encounters. There are no long puzzles or difficult mazes, no need to find hidden doors or switches (although they exist, for those who are curious), and no fluff to pad the raid unnecessarily.
The opening sets the tone, with players getting a taste of the first boss before they even formally enter the raid, dealing with hordes of adds and chucking bombs like madmen. What follows is a descent into a mechanical prison – or fortress, depending on how you look at it – that continues to try its best to kill you. Unlike other raids, however, you will eventually see the light of day once more, if only for a moment, as you confront one of the most memorable raid sequences since Destiny launched back in 2014. The Siege Machine (or Death Zamboni, as fans know it) puts on the pressure without ever becoming cheap. Navigating trenches and dealing with crowds of Fallen on this bridge of death is as intense as it gets in this game, and it’s a shining example of what makes it all so great.
At the end is Aksis, an unforgiving boss. One that tests your power, patience, and skill as he and his minions systematically eliminate everyone in your fireteam. It’s a culmination of everything Bungie has taught players throughout the game, combining elements of previous bosses such as positioning, timing, the use of raid specific items, and coordination. At the end of it all, you can’t help but feel proud as you’ve triumphed over an evil that so many people are still slamming their heads against.
The Vault of Glass was Destiny’s very first raid, and it pit Guardians against the threat of the Vex, an alien species that bent technology and time to its will as it turned planets into living batteries and devoured worlds. While you got to see these mechanical beings throughout the game’s story, they became something more menacing once you stepped into the Vault of Glass on Venus.
The epic nature of the raid was sensed right from the beginning. It kicked off in a public space, with players fighting to survive while holding plates in order to charge the key to the Vault. Having strangers help out your fireteam to send you off on a harrowing journey was uplifting, which was a perfect prelude to having your soul crushed by what waited beneath the planet’s surface. Hydras, Gorgons, Goblins, Minotaurs, and more lurked around every corner, waiting to destroy every Guardian that set foot inside. Even better was that you could never really tell exactly where you were. At times you would be pulled into different dimensions that placed you on different planets or kept you on a Venus that existed both then and in a separate time.
The final boss, Atheon, was one for the ages. While there were some exploits that were soon fixed (no more pushing bad guys off of cliffs), when fought properly, you had a complex encounter that had everyone working together and separately at the same time. You literally had to traverse time and space in order to find a means to beat the powerful Vex being that stood before you. He made sure not to make it easy though, trapping your team in another dimension if you failed to hold down the fort outside, using Oracles to blind everyone, and raining down hell using his own powerful cannon along with his minions.
In the end, what made Destiny special was laid bare. The game may have lacked a bit of substance at launch, but after this first raid, it became clear what the purpose of the game was. Guardians were to come together to surmount seemingly impossible odds, facing down enemies most are afraid to mention, and battling through gauntlets that would erase lesser warriors. It wasn’t just some shooter, it was a challenge sent out to all who felt they were truly worthy to call themselves Guardians. Vault of Glass was the first time that Destiny provided a glimpse at its greatness, and we Guardians will forever be grateful to have battled through its corridors to snuff out the darkness.