If there is one thing Destiny has got right from the beginning, in spite of all the problems it has had over the years, it is nailing their cooperative raid experiences. There are few games out there that can match the level of polish and complexity of the raids in Destiny. That said, the raids in Destiny 2 have been due for a bit of a shake up.
Over Destiny 1’s lifespan and continuing on into Destiny 2, the raids have become more and more mechanic heavy. It seemed like with each passing raid, Bungie has felt the need to outdo themselves in terms of complexity.
In Destiny 2, Leviathan was quite unforgiving to those that can’t nail mechanics but it really peaked with Last Wish, which is one of the most mechanic heavy (and punishing) raids that Bungie has ever released. The difficulty was dialed back a little with Scourge of the Past, but then returned again with Crown of Sorrow.
Let me be clear, it’s not a bad thing to be mechanic heavy. You need mechanics to make raids feel like raids, and not just glorified strikes or something like that.
It was starting to feel a little suffocating and repetitive after a while though. A lot of encounters, one way or another, would break down into doing a mechanic dance, then coming together under a Well of Radiance to rain down fire on an exposed and immobile boss with whatever the flavor of the month gun is. Last season it was grenade launchers.
Garden of Salvation though, introduced in the Shadowkeep expansion, is a breath of fresh air… literally since you’re outside most of the time in a beautiful “vault of grass” but also in the way that it has been designed.
Spoiler warning: We’re going to talk about Garden of Salvation raid encounters in some detail now.
Destiny 2’s raids are at their best when it’s equally important to master the orderly & creative mechanics that Bungie has come up with and also to have the FPS/RPG skills to manage some chaos. For most of Destiny 2, it has been more tilted towards rewarding the former.
Garden of Salvation though sits right at that sweet spot while bucking some of the trends seen in Destiny 2 raids over the last two years.
In Garden of Salvation, the mechanic that’s the most prevalent early on is the tethered beam mechanic.
Throughout both of the first two encounters, guardians need to create a line of sight for a beam that goes from a key (a floating Vex…box or something) that will then bounce from guardian to guardian to go wherever the beam needs to go.
In the first encounter, you’re unlocking doors that will allow you to safely escape (more on that in a second), while in the second encounter you need to power up a beacon that grants nearby players a buff to harm shielded Vex enemies.
While the tether mechanic is rigid in the sense that if you don’t do it, you will wipe, the actual mechanic isn’t difficult to do or understand. Rather the difficulty is having enough PvE skill to carve yourself out a few seconds of reprieve to be able to set up the tether amidst the chaos while remembering to communicate with your team.
The first two encounters of Garden of Salvation both do not have a traditional boss, and there is far more mobility and room for creativity than usual.
At the start of the raid, you’re actually running from the eventual third encounter boss that wants to expel you from the Garden as quickly as possible.
You’re initially locked in a small area with the boss and there’s an ability that the boss has that can kill your whole team in seconds.
It will create something called a Voltaic Overflow that if it is not absorbed by someone on your team quick enough, will destroy the entire raid party. A player only handle one charge of this, so players must take turns taking on this burden.
As long as you’re communicating, this isn’t difficult to manage.
The goal is not to hang out with this boss forever though, you eventually will have to venture further into the Garden. So the fireteam splits into two teams of three. One team babysits the boss and this mechanic, while the other team has to push forward to find an escape route.
By the time the escape team has charted the way, the team that was with the boss will not be able to absorb any more of that Voltaic energy. The teams then swap, and this pattern repeats until both squads leap frog each other far enough into the Garden to eventually discover a route that allows you to make your climatic getaway.
After escaping down through the brush and vast underbelly of the Garden of Salvation, your fireteam will emerge into what seems to be a place of worship for the Vex.
Once again, there is no boss, instead, the players need to defend four key points on this massive location long enough to disrupt a ceremony of some kind.
Players need to use Vex Time Gates to warp around this massive area and help each member of the team use the tether mechanic to keep a key buff on everyone that is needed to defeat special enemies.
When my clan did this the other day, it wasn’t smooth.
Some people died and/or forgot to communicate key information but we had the ability at least to make some on the fly adjustments, and have higher skilled players pull off some heroic moments to save the day.
That’s not always the case in Destiny 2 raids. During the Calus fight in the Leviathan raid for example, if one person in the shadow realm makes a mistake, the party wipes. In Crown of Sorrow, you’re boxed into small areas and forced to do the mechanic dance perfectly, or the party wipes.
There is zero wiggle room for adjustments or creativity, and while there’s a certain appeal and sense of satisfaction with getting all the plates spinning at once, it can get taxing after a while.
It also turns the process of teaching new people these raids into a miserable experience since there’s no way to help pick up some of the slack while someone is learning.
When raids are so reliant on all six members being perfect, it creates a culture where players that don’t jump into the raiding scene right away are unwelcome.
Only three percent of Destiny 2 players on PS4 have cleared Last Wish according to the trophy statistics. Last Wish isn’t so difficult that only 3% of the player base is capable of beating it. But it is a bear of a raid to explain to someone who has never tried it, and not every clan/fireteam has hours of their life to spend every week dying over and over waiting for one or two new people to understand the raid as well as the veterans do.
This isn’t to say Garden Salvation is easy, or doesn’t punish you. It’s a tough raid, it just values other skills aside from memorizing mechanics, and there are ways for better players to minimize the mistakes of struggling or inexperienced players.
When you finally you do get the third encounter and actually have to kill a boss, it’s not this super imposing figure that will blast you away if you even get close to it.
It’s highly mobile, tries to avoid getting hit by you in damage phases, and you need to use a mix of traditional boss killing weapons and enemy-clearing weapons to master all the aspects of this encounter.
Once again, this is uncommon in Destiny fights, and it makes Garden of Salvation that much more memorable and refreshing.
Without turning this article into a full description of every encounter in Garden of Salvation, once again there are ways to divvy up the members of the team to let players that are more comfortable with the encounter do the heavy lifting.
While I have yet to clear the final boss of Garden of Salvation – perhaps another weekly reset under my belt will push me over the edge – I have had a fantastic time with what I have been able to do so far.
Garden of Salvation just feels so different from any other raid before it. I love the mobility, how balanced it is between mechanics and PvE skill, and how unique and foreign the tether beam is.
While raids need to be challenging, they also need to be fun.
Garden of Salvation may not be the best Destiny raid ever, but what it brings to the table is arriving at just the right time with the influx of New Light players that are going to eventually look to try their first Destiny 2 raid out.