After a bumpy, but ultimately successful start, Destiny is taking major steps to become the MMO-inspired shooter experience that Bungie promised years back. Year 1 of the game, also known as "Vanilla Destiny," was extremely divisive - full of undercooked gameplay systems that made it easy for casual players to set Bungie's new enterprise aside in favor of more polished experiences. However, in spite of lackluster story presentation, overly-complicated game economies, and a frustrating leveling system, die-hard fans stuck with the game - pressing past the problems and acknowledging the title's potential.
Thankfully, in addition to minor refinements throughout 2015, Bungie instituted a number of sweeping changes this past month, marking the beginning of "Year 2," that streamlined many of the core game's convoluted design choices for an all-around more approachable experience. Weeks after release, many of the most faithful players are still hard at work completing end-game quests as well as grinding for high level gear - and now, six weeks after The Taken King expansion launched Bungie is opening the door to Destiny's most challenging PvE activity yet: the "hard mode" King's Fall raid.
The release date of the King's Fall raid comes on the heels of a delay for Year 2's Trials of Osiris PvP mode - which was postponed due to a game-breaking exploit that enables Nightstalker Hunters to fire-off unlimited Supershot tethers (which would have allowed Nightstalker players a very unfair advantage). Still, alongside the bad news came the exciting announcement that the Destiny raid team was ready, one week ahead of schedule, to unleash the King's Fall hard mode.
Bungie held-back the full details, leaving players to go into the hard mode encounter without spoilers, forcing guardians to build off normal mode strategies and determine what new challenges have been added. Still, the developer did have a few basic guidelines for future hard mode raiders - while promising that more details will be available prior to the raid's launch:
If you’ve managed to slay the Taken King aboard his own fortress, you’re off to a good start, but your fight is far from finished. That battle is about to get a lot harder. Originally, we’d planned to introduce King’s Fall Hard mode on October 30th, but the Raid team is ready to go, and we’ve decided to launch a little bit early.
King’s Fall Raid: Hard ModeFriday, October 23rd10 AM Pacific
Right about now, some of you are wondering what you can do to prepare. We won’t give you hints, but we’ll plot the difficulty incline. Recommended Light for Hard Mode is 300 – 320. The loot that will drop will be between 310 – 320. Gear up and mark your calendars. Before the race for World First begins, we’ll share some more insights from the Raid design team that’s about to bring the real pain.
It'll be interesting to see exactly what Bungie does choose to share in the coming week; however, unlike the previous two raids, the developer actually designed the entire King's Fall's hard mode first and then removed challenges to tune the experience in normal mode. This means that while experienced King's Fall raiders will certainly have an upper hand in defeating hard mode, the more difficult version has been, from inception, the definitive King's Fall experience. Since Bungie will be reintroducing challenges that were removed from normal mode, the mission has the potential to significantly mix-up established raid strategies - rather than simply increase the difficulty of each encounter.
This isn't to say that Vault of Glass or Crota's End hard modes didn't include new mechanics that required fresh strategies but King's Fall could be a significantly tougher jump from normal to hard. Adding to the challenge is the required light level "recommended" for hard mode: 300 to 320. Given that the normal King's Fall raid has been notoriously stingy with armor and weapon drops - complicated further by the fact that items can drop at a lower light level than previously acquired raid gear, many dedicated Destiny players are unlikely to have reached 310 before entering hard mode.
Specifically, previously, players only needed to acquire a full (leveled) set of raid gear to be max level ahead of a hard mode release - four pieces total (while allowing one exotic to take the place of a missing raid piece). Now, gamers will need a full set of raid gear, along with a class item, artifact, and ghost, all near 310 light, to be maxed out (at 310) for the raid. A player who was lucky with armor and weapon drops might still only make it to 305 or lower - if the randomly-assigned light on their raid drops were on the lower end of the spectrum.
As a result, gamers will be entering a more difficult activity with a potentially lower level relative to the enemies and challenges they'll encounter. That all said, with a light level recommended of 290 to 310, most players felt that a 295 level guardian was okay for the normal mode King's Fall - so 305 could be an equally serviceable entry point for hard mode. Once a player can complete portions of the hard mode version, there's the chance of weapons and armor drops at 320 - which should help boost player levels further - allowing them to take and deliver more damage.
We'll have to wait to find out exactly what Bungie has in store for players with the hard mode King's Fall raid but it's encouraging to hear that the raid team is "ready" one week early - and exciting to know that new challenges were part of the original vision for the mode (rather than arbitrary hurdles that have been added to hike the difficulty).
Additionally, with three missing calcified fragments, and the possibility of entire new rooms and encounters, to be found in hard mode players have a lot to look forward to as Oryx rallies for a second fight.
Destiny: The Taken King is now available. King's Fall hard mode releases October 23rd.