Destiny 2’s first raid, Leviathan, feels alive and playful. The item rewards have become minimal now that I’ve finished it multiple times, but I’m hoping to join another team tonight. Why?
Because it’s fun.
Hardcore players already have the solutions to the raid’s puzzles down pat, but the communication required to execute keeps every encounter fresh. The raid feels different when you play with different people, and that’s the mark of design that exceeds expectations.
Bungie ignored the advice of so many skeptics, myself included, who asked for a raid that was more “traditional” and less puzzle-based. It instead pushed deeper into the harder to define “Bungie-ness” of the first game’s raids, and came up with something bizarre and unique.
The Leviathan raid is one of the best things Bungie has ever done, and it’s worth the multi-hour time investment to see the whole thing. What makes it so special? To answer that question, I’m going to have to walk you through each section, but don’t worry; we’re going to have a good time.
Running a raid completely blind is a magical experience. When those big, glorious Nude Boys — known officially as the Ceremonial Bathers in the raid — spawned in the Pools, it was weird as hell. It was also very exciting. If you have yet to play the raid, you’ll know this moment when you see it.
The Pools is a purely mechanics-based encounter that teaches your squad how to execute goals on an individual level. You are required to split your team in half and rotate the map as squads of three before regrouping in the middle. You have to be strong both together and apart as you break into smaller fireteams.
The entire fight is essentially one, big public event, a system where a group of players jump into a space together to fight enemies around a central objective. These events highlight what the Destiny series does so well, which is getting people together to shoot at shit. It’s a good foot on which to start a raid.
And while public events rely on chance run-ins with other players, the Pools force you to constantly help your friends, leaving no one behind. You’re going to rely on each other, you’re going to have to figure out how to split the team and you’re going to love it.
The ideas behind this encounter teach you a lesson you will need for the rest of the raid: You need to be strong both together and apart, and you need to be able to quickly and effectively communicate what the hell you’re doing.
Which brings us to the next, slightly less successful portion of the raid.
The Pleasure Gardens
This fight takes place in a beautifully lit jungle enclosure and features stealth, shooting laser beams at plants and lot of screaming. Yes, the Dogs is a stealth encounter, something that Bungie is not particularly well known for or, frankly, good at.
This fight is chaotic and shows that Bungie is trying to make unique experiences in Destiny 2, but good stealth sections rely on clear communication from the game and this is where Bungie stumbles.
Why did that dog randomly turn around and spot my squad? I don’t know. Why did that dog just sprint off its usual walking path when none of us were close to it? I don’t know that either.
There is an upside. Watching someone discover this disaster for the first time is beautiful for the same reason that people watch NASCAR for the wrecks or hockey for the fights, but without the actual carnage.
If there is any battle in this raid that will get old with time, it’s this one, but it’s nothing if not memorable. This is the moment to bust out the popcorn if you’re watching a stream.
After years of the same kind of boss fight over and over in Destiny, I will happily take clumsy but unique moments over more of the same. I just hope some of the odder behaviors are patched out sooner rather than later.
If the Baths help to teach you communication, the Gauntlet is where that lesson will be put to the test.
Players clear the room of enemies in phase one. Two players grab an orb and run around a racetrack while their allies shoot gates to open them and allow the orbs through in phase two. Everyone runs the track at once in phase three. And that’s it.
While it sounds simple enough, the runners’ communication with their shooters has to be on point. In fact, I recommended in our guide for this fight that the two runners should have voices that sound very different from the other, as both of them will be shouting instructions at the same time. If someone in your fireteam has a very low or very high voice? You’ve found your runners.
The Gauntlet requires more communication than any fight the Destiny franchise has ever seen. It makes playing with friends feel like a distinct advantage, as you already know each other’s voices and personalities well enough to push through any issues. It’s rare that a game rewards intimacy, but here we are.
The Gauntlet forces you and your team to bond with one another before you face the final boss. Everyone has to look out for everyone else in the final phase, when everyone is running.
I find myself yelling compliments and encouraging my allies every time I play this section of the raid. Not simply because I want to win — although I very much do — but because I know that this situation is stressful for everyone involved, especially if anyone is new. The loot chest is a welcome sight when the section has been completed.
The Gauntlet is so focused on cooperation and communication that success always feels shared. This is not a place for armies of one. You help out your allies every second of the fight, and each time the runner reaches the finish line it feels like a group effort.
Make sure you take the time to celebrate, because you’re on your way to the real shit.
Calus is a Destiny raid boss. You go through a puzzle to gain a damage buff and then you shoot him when he is vulnerable. Classic Bungie.
I told myself that I never wanted to see a boss like this again, but the variety around the rest of the raid makes this battle seem like the perfect culmination of everything we have learned thus far. Bungie has learned to make its bosses more than just challenges of execution or a puzzle. Calus is both.
Everyone has to be working together for the fight to work, and if anyone miscommunicates it can spell death for the squad. Destroying him is almost always a close call.
Instant death is not necessarily new for Destiny, but the level of difficulty has been amped up quite a bit, making failures even more punishing. You have to rely on each other, and trust in the skills of your fireteam.
The difficulty of this fight works both for and against it. You’ll be covered in sweat if you trust your team, but I would never want to play this with players I don’t know. Be prepared.
So why is this so good?
It was easy to drag bad or inexperienced players through the raids in Destiny. Hell, everyone just told me to stay inside the room with the big crystal when I fought Crota for the first time so I wouldn’t slow them down. It took me several more tries on my own to actually learn what to do.
Calus doesn’t let you get by that easily, as everyone is always needed.
This is great news because the secret about being carried is that it sucks. The loot is oftentimes a great incentive, but the process is boring. Players will need to teach Leviathan to their friends, just as their friends must learn it. You’ll only find success when everyone works together, and that thrill makes the flawed portions of the raid much easier to live with.
The difficulty does gate the content somewhat, but those who tough out the raid will re-enter the community as productive raiders rather than baggage. This raid will chew up players and spit out Guardians, and that’s what a good raid is supposed to do.
This raid feels like an intense challenge for new players and a big hug to veteran, hardcore Guardians. I can’t wait to play it again.