Last night I had an experience with Destiny that has changed the way I look at the game. I think I understand what's going on here. It is an experience that changes it from just another shooter into something far more.
What I did was die. I died every minute. And unlike the other times when I had died in Destiny I did not automatically respawn after three seconds. Nor did I automatically respawn after thirty seconds. I died and stayed dead, with enemies pounding my dead corpse with energy weapons and swords, until my teammate could revive me. Half the time, when I was revived by my teammate, she died immediately after and so I had to double back and revive her. Your instinct is to run away. You cannot.
We were participating in the Weekly Heroic Strike at level 26. Two of us were already 26s, I had just barely become a 25. We were two hunters and a warlock, a sunsinger, a bladedancer and myself a gunslinger. We battled the Phogoth in the Summoning Pits. We beat Phogoth before, all of us had battled all of these enemies before, and as the narrator said, we sent their souls screaming back to hell. But during this particular battle, things were different. Immediately we recognized that even the level 6 flunkies at the beginning of the strike were stubbornly difficult to kill. We ignored them and kept plowing through the Hellmouth, but just after we bounded down the stair where the meathooks hang from the ceiling, things got ugly.
We started to die. This was way too early and these enemies had been familiar to us, why are they able to kill us? Our tactics were not working. The weapons we usually used to dominate seemed puny now. The combination of armor we were wearing, didn't seem to protect us as well. The super power we used to blast through foes now simply didn't. I used my golden gun on a level 26 wizard and the thing didn't go down in two shots. Usually it just takes one. Two, and it was still up! What fresh hell is this? Our go-to powers were gone.
They say that only a fool keeps doing the same thing and expecting different results. We were being fools, for a long time. We kept saying. "This sucks'", "This is hard", but we kept trying. We got through the second room finally after about 20 minutes. Fortunately, or unfortunately as the case may be, we didn't have to restart the whole room. You see what goes on in Destiny at this level is that while your team of three may have infinite respawns individually, if the three of you are killed, the room restarts. You have to begin that part of the adventure all over again. It doesn't matter how close you come to unlocking the next door or how long you have been trying. If you all die, Destiny exacts its toll without remorse. Start over. You're doing it wrong. After a while, 15 minutes or so into this second room and dying many different ways we started realizing a couple things. The first, is that these wizards will 'puppy dog' your dead body. If you are killed by a wizard, it's going to stay there and make it that much harder for you to be revived. The most important thing I realized was that my teammate has Radiance. When she's fully powered up, she can raise herself from the dead.
They say that the noose focuses the mind. In Destiny's Heroic Strikes, you get a lot of focusing. But most of the time, you want to focus on blaming the game for just upping the level of you enemies, and making it so damned difficult. It's not a simple matter of 'if you do this, then that will happen'. There's chance - there are slim chances. The strike will challenge you beyond your ability to remember. It's only after having failed continuously for an hour, at midnight, when you want to quit, quit, quit, but you don't. THEN you start trying something different. Well, what if I use this gun instead? What if I go gunslinger instead of bladedancer. Well that means I'll be able to triple jump onto those platforms. Maybe if we take out the yellow-bar enemies then the ordinary red bar enemies won't come out. What if we concentrate fire on those guys first? What if we try to all hit the Phogoth at once. What if we switch off, two of us against the rats, and one against the boss? What if we all hide? Will that stop enemies from respawning? What did we do to get the Phogoth off the chain so soon? How do we handle all three of those wizards up on that platform? What is the safest part of this area? Should we stay together or split up? What if we get rid of all the rat enemies and then concentrate on the boss?
It took us about two hours. We had to retry the room at about a dozen times. We lost count. But we kept charging in. We kept saying, damn this is hard. We're never going to forget this. Each of us wanted to quit. But then one of us would run through the door and then start the whole thing over, and the rest of us would follow. We persisted. We changed strategies and tactics. We tried everything. Finally we figured it out.
Destiny is a no-excuses game of hardball. Nothing you do in it makes sense until you and your team are tested at the level of a heroic strike. Yeah you can get cool gear, you can farm loot, but no matter what you do, you haven't played Destiny at its deeper level until you have faced your own anger and frustration at not being able to kill all the baddies that you used to kill. As they kill you and your team, you have to figure out their behaviors because when everything they do doesn't kill you, you don't pay attention. When suddenly it takes three of you to figure them out, then you must pay attention. Or you quit.
You may not like what I'm going to say next. There's a lot of quitters out there. There's a lot of quitter in all of us, as gamers and as people. I have to say that Destiny actually tests you character. If you want to win at this game, you have to make sense of deadly chaos and face it. What is Destiny's tagline? Be Brave. Yeah. You have to, because the game will kill you. The only way to win at this game is to forget what you think you know, and make something work. And there are millions of choices in Destiny and you are going to die for the consequences of your choices, over and over again, until you rethink and retry. The right combination is persistence, flexibility, humility and courage. And trust your teammate with your life. That a video game brings this out is no accident. The battle mechanics of Destiny are damn near perfect. There are no excuses for you to say you pushed a button and nothing happened. The game executes your will, and the game can be won, but it's hard. That's what makes it great.
So Destiny is a test of your will. I think you can only discover that one way, which is to succeed against the odds. Then and only then will you understand what this game is all about. Until you have pushed yourself to you limit and then beyond, you're just playing around and being cute in your little Guardian suit. There's plenty of that kind of fun in Destiny, and I'll be doing it merrily. But then I'll have to steel myself for some PvP in the Crucible and then warm up for a Strike like this one. One day soon, I'll be ready for the Raid. lt's a frightening prospect. There's something deep going on here, and I know I'm not the only one that feels it.