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Bungie is overhauling Destiny 2’s Nightfall strike and Prestige raids

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Could this be a turning point for the game?

Destiny 2 - turret in The Arms Dealer strike Bungie/Activision

Destiny developer Bungie made some major changes to the weekly Nightfall strike between Destiny and Destiny 2, but they haven’t quite worked out. The studio said yesterday that the Nightfall, one of the toughest activities in the game, “has been the subject of a lot of feedback since launch.” Now Bungie is hoping to revitalize the Nightfall — as well as Prestige difficulty for raids — over the course of multiple planned updates to Destiny 2.

The biggest change in the Nightfall from Destiny to its sequel was the introduction of a timer, and new modifiers designed to prevent players from simply running through the mission avoiding enemies. It was a controversial decision, and Bungie acknowledged in its weekly blog post yesterday that the setup has many inherent issues. Game director Christopher Barrett laid out Bungie’s new goals for the Nightfall:

Nightfall should be a challenging test that only the bravest Guardians dare face. Fireteams of any size should be able to participate, from organized clan groups to skilled solo players. Players should be able to determine their own challenge level, by going slow and steady or fast and wild, with elective modifiers to test the most hardcore veterans. Your final score will separate the best from the rest, and with high risk comes high reward. Each terrible villain that players face should have a very rare and powerful unique item, themed to them, that tumbles to the ground as they collapse into a pile of bones. Conquering Nightfall should be a badge of honor, with the best players able to show off their achievements with new dynamic emblems and exclusive auras.

Barrett said Destiny 2 players will see the first hints of this new direction in the game’s version 1.1.3 update, which is scheduled for Feb. 27. The studio is revising Destiny 2’s strike scoring system, looking to give players a reason to kill enemies (instead of running past them) while still rewarding speed. Here’s how it will work:

  • Your fireteam members’ individual scores will add up to your group’s overall score, which is what will appear in the strike leaderboards.
  • Kills are the main contributor to the score, although the orbs you all generate (i.e., how frequently you use your super abilities) also factor in.
  • The longer you take, the lower your score will be. Once you get 15 minutes in, you’ll only earn half the points; after the 18-minute mark, you won’t earn any new points at all. At that point, the goal is simply to finish the strike as quickly as possible.
Destiny 2 - Nightfall Challenge Card
Taking on a tougher Prestige Nightfall strike will get you a higher score — if you can succeed.
Bungie/Activision

Bungie is also introducing a new mechanic, Challenge Cards. You’ll get your first one for completing a Nightfall after the v1.1.3 update, although Challenge Cards will apply only for the Prestige version of the Nightfall. They’re tied to the new modifiers in the Prestige Nightfall, which allow players to manually tune the difficulty to suit their desire.

Three different modifiers will be available at first: Void/Arc/Solar Singe (25 percent boost to damage input/output for the element in question), Extinguish (if your whole fireteam dies, you get booted back to orbit, just like with the original Nightfall in Destiny) and Power Modifier (you do less damage, but you get a higher score). Bungie said it wants to listen to player feedback before it adds more modifiers.

Another drop tied to the Nightfall is a special emblem, which will trigger the display of an aura around your Guardian’s head if your score surpasses a particular threshold. Reaching that mark will also unlock a buff that raises Vanguard token drops by 25 percent, and the buff will apply for your entire fireteam.

Destiny 2 - strike scoring legendary emblem for The Inverted Spire, granting purple crown aura Bungie/Activision

Bungie also addressed players’ concerns about the development roadmap that Barrett laid out last week — in particular, complaints about the five-month lag between the Leviathan, Eater of Worlds raid lair (which launched in December) and its Prestige version (which isn’t coming until May). The studio said that it “didn’t want to release [the Prestige raid lair] in its current form,” because it wanted to “add some more flavor to this special activity that will make it worth the wait.”

“Over the past few months, we have been prototyping a new way of adding difficulty and replayability to raid activities,” said senior designer Joe Blackburn. Players will always be able to jump into raids or raid lairs on normal difficulty, and for Prestige mode, Bungie will choose a different raid activity each week and apply a “curated loadout mode” to it.

“This new version of Prestige requires players to complete raids filled with deadly enemies using a curated loadout of weapons and a special modifier that enhances the way you play,” said Blackburn. For instance, you might have to play Eater of Worlds with a modifier called Marksman — under which precision hits do more damage and each one returns one round to the magazine — and a loadout consisting of a kinetic hand cannon, a scout rifle in the energy slot and a linear fusion rifle as your heavy weapon.

“The goal of the new Prestige mode is simple: provide new ways to engage with raid content each week, new ways to engage with different weapons in your vault, and new rewards to chase,” said Blackburn.

This new Prestige mode setup is scheduled to go live for all Leviathan raid content in May, alongside Destiny 2’s second expansion. However, Bungie noted that the feature may be delayed because it’s a “major overhaul.” Either way, the response to both the Nightfall and Prestige raid revamps has been overwhelmingly positive among Destiny fans so far. If Bungie can get these changes right, it could bring people back into the fold.