Compare this with the stats of the King’s Fall raid from Destiny’s Taken King expansion — which 37,591 players were able to complete on its first day of release — and you may think that Bungie committed a serious error with this new raid. But Last Wish’s serious difficulty is something I’ve been waiting years for.
Playing Forsaken for about 100 hours prior to the launch of Last Wish, I was able to reach a power level of exactly 550. While that is technically the recommended power level for the raid, the first encounter is set at 560. This means that I — and the rest of my team — do less damage to enemies than we normally would.
The raid scales up as you progress through it, and the final battle, with a boss named Riven, sits at 580 power. For a while, there was a concern that nobody could beat Riven, that Last Wish was simply too overtuned for day-one raiders. But then the first crew beat the boss around power level 550, and it became clear that Bungie had done something amazing.
Raiding has always been my favorite feature of Destiny; I’ve completed each of the series’ raids dozens of times. But I’ve longed for one that was properly difficult. Since the original game’s first raid, Vault of Glass, these exercises have been more focused on solving each encounter’s puzzle, and less about playing mistake-free Destiny.
By the time players got through a raid, the biggest stumbling block for subsequent runs revolved around playing with people who didn’t yet know the fights or the strategies that a particular team liked to run with. The world-first race became a race to solve puzzles. And even the average Destiny player would be able to fell the boss after a few days of struggling and watching guide videos.
Last Wish doesn’t let players off so easily. Because of the difficulty — which is heightened by the intentional power gap — players need to organize and communicate flawlessly in order to beat each encounter. The first boss, Kalli, took my team a little over an hour to defeat. But Shuro Chi, the raid’s second encounter, had us struggling for multiple hours.
Unlike in previous Destiny fights, we knew exactly what to do and exactly how the encounter worked. And yet we struggled for dozens of attempts to beat the boss. Sure, we had some players in the low 530s, but we knew that our issues weren't damage-related. Instead, we had to learn how to make our way through the fight. By the end, all of us knew exactly when to use our specific supers, where to throw each grenade, and who was responsible for killing each individual enemy.
It was a feeling I’d been waiting four years to feel in a Destiny raid. Everyone knew precisely what to do; we just had to do it perfectly to beat the encounter. And eventually, we did it. Defeating Shuro Chi felt better than killing any final boss in a previous Destiny raid. I had spent hours meticulously choreographing the fight with my team, and all six of us collaborated like clockwork to beat her.
As much as I’ve always loved Destiny raiding, I’ve wished it could be more like raiding in something like World of Warcraft, despite how different the two games are. In World of Warcraft, Blizzard lets players test the raid beforehand, and even tells them all of the different abilities that a boss has. And yet, some raids can take weeks for the first team to clear. That’s not because the fights are overtuned, but because they’re about more than just figuring out what the boss is capable of. Each player has to play great — a feat that’s easier said than done.
Some folks in the Destiny community are angry at Bungie, and feel like the studio has made the raid too difficult for the average player. To that, I say “good.” There’s something pretty inspiring about watching a group of players at the same level as you triumph over something difficult through pure skill alone.
Despite all the hours I’ve put into Forsaken, I would’ve needed more to beat Last Wish on day one than a full crew of people who were just as dedicated to reaching 550 as I was — we would’ve had to execute perfectly as well. The game asked a lot of my team, and we weren’t able to meet it on the first day. In fact, we still haven’t completed the raid.
But I’m not a hardcore Destiny raider, although last weekend’s events have inspired me to work toward becoming one. Over the next several weeks, more players will beat Last Wish through sheer gear improvement alone. And that’s OK — great, even. A raid is the pinnacle activity for Destiny players, and it shouldn’t be something that everyone can complete on day one. The best of the best can reap the rewards first. But the rest of us will have to struggle for the next couple of weeks, until our gear or our skill catches up to the fights themselves.
There’s a difference between being beatable and being overtuned, and it seems like Bungie has managed to thread that needle perfectly. As of this writing, almost 200 teams have taken down Riven. Slowly but surely, players are able to overcome the odds and beat the boss. Why? Because they studied the fight and played their hearts out.
Completing the raid takes skill — not just now, but into the next several weeks. Eventually, the difficulty will even out with power, but until then, that raid emblem means something. It means that you have the group and the skill to take down a very difficult boss. That’s a first for Destiny raiding, and I hope Bungie continues with this level of challenge and complexity into future raids.