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The Last Wish is Destiny’s best raid yet

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Epic encounters, solid mechanics and few bugs cement Destiny 2’s new raid as the best in the franchise

Bungie/Activision via Polygon

Raiding has always been a core component of the Destiny franchise, and that remains true in Destiny 2: Forsaken. Despite being a first-person shooter, with MMORPG elements coming second, Bungie never shied away from the hardcore elements of the genre. Players raiding single fights for hours, getting in arguments with friends and persevering until the entire team accomplished a goal that was once thought impossible. But with Destiny’s newest raid, Bungie has not only raised the bar for all future content, they’ve created something that players will never forget.

Last Wish is nearly two weeks old at this point, and is still fairly difficult for first-time crews. As teams gain more power, they’ll be able to stiff-arm the fights much easier than day-one raiders did. But no matter how easy Last Wish gets, it’ll remain beautiful, fun and truly epic.

My first time through the Last Wish raid took easily 20-plus hours. While my team breezed through the first encounter, Kalli, the second gave us a great deal of trouble. We raided for about eight hours on day one and only got one kill. But after the reset, when we were able to increase our team’s power and brought in higher level players, we were able to clear all the way up to the final boss, Riven, in a matter of hours.

Riven is a different beast, unlike anything Bungie has ever made before. The fight took us about nine hours to beat the first time. But unlike previous Destiny raids, we weren’t just going for that “one, lucky run.” Instead, we perfected our Riven strategy. We pulled her over and over again for hours, slowly making progress as we went along.

It was beautiful. When we beat Riven, I didn’t cheer with my team because we got lucky; I cheered because we had mastered the fight. The next time we killed Riven — the very next day, in fact — we killed her after only four attempts. The third time, we got it down to three. Now we’re running the entire raid in just over an hour.

Destiny 2: Forsaken - Titan using a super attack in the Last Wish raid Bungie, High Moon Studios/Activision via Polygon

With all of Last Wish’s fights, starting with Kalli, the game asks you to play skillfully above everything else. The fights have complicated mechanics as usual, but they won’t always be your greatest obstacles. In Last Wish, you’re just as likely to wipe to your team not hitting enough of your headshots as you are to the boss’ wipe mechanic. Running through with inexperienced players won’t be easy until a few weeks have passed, when you can compensate for a lack of skill with higher Light.

Part of the reason the raid was so hard for day-one-raiders was because of the high Light requirement. But this doesn’t change the boss’ mechanics. Instead, it just makes all the enemies deal more damage to you. But it was never impossible; players just needed to prove their skills and play Destiny as well as they could, even when they were at a disadvantage. During the race to be the world’s first, second and third place — huge achievements on their own — didn’t lose because they couldn’t figure out the boss puzzle, they were simply outplayed by the first-place team.

The entire raid is a skill check, just as it should be in this kind of end-game situation. Your first time through the raid will be a struggle, but it won’t be because you’re waiting for that one random player to figure out what the hell to do. You need to rely on everyone to play with skill. It’s a different kind of raid for Bungie, one that prioritizes playing the game over discovering it.

But beyond the sheer difficulty that this new approach adds, it simply makes each encounter more fun. What’s fun about Destiny — what’s always been fun about Destiny — is the beautifully crafted gunplay. The game feels incredible to just mess around. So when the raid is focused around simply killing enemies while juggling a boss, it feels satisfying every time, even when you’re over-leveled.

Having run through the raid three times — with intentions of going in three more times every week for the next few months — it’s hard to imagine the same tedium as other Destiny raids have had setting in anytime soon. Leviathan was an awesome raid in Destiny 2, but it had fights like Gauntlet, which my team couldn’t speed up no matter how powerful or skilled we were. Instead, we simply had to put the same puzzle pieces together every week.

That old-school design was fun for the first few raids, and simply became a loot piñata where my raid members chatted about our daily lives or things we wanted to see the Bungie development team do better in the future. While each run of Last Wish we do becomes more chill, the intensity of the fights remains the same.

Destiny 2: Forsaken - fighting Riven, the final boss of the Last Wish raid Bungie, High Moon Studios/Activision via Polygon

At a high level, I can still get beaten down by some random Psion, even if I do every mechanic in the fight perfectly. When it’s time to raid, the game wants us to fight and focus, and that’s what it feels like we actually have to do this time around.

By this time next year — even by the time the first raid lair opens in December — I’ll be ready for a new raid. But it won’t be because I want to leave Last Wish behind. Instead, it’ll be fun to see how Bungie moves forward, and whether this skill-over-puzzle design philosophy will stick. I’m also looking forward to that first raid adrenaline again, something that you can’t get after weeks of playing the same fights, no matter how good they are.

There are so many amazing things about the Last Wish raid. It looks beautiful throughout, and the final fight has a scale to it that few games have ever matched, let alone anything else in Destiny. Beating Riven was truly one of the coolest gaming experiences I’ve ever had from both a visual and gameplay perspective.

After my time with these fights, I know them perfectly. I had to get familiar with them in order to beat them the first time. It sounds so simple, but Last Wish marries the best parts of every Destiny raid before it: the difficulty of Vault of Glass with the complexity of King’s Fall.

But it’s the slight tweak in the fight philosophy that’s made Last Wish my new standard for Destiny raids. I’ve been waiting years for a Destiny raid that challenged my skills as a player more than my ability to repeat puzzle solutions four times in a row. Last Wish is hard now, and it’ll still be hard next year. But the blood, sweat and tears it took from my team to take down Riven the first time will be felt in every raid drop from now on. I’ve earned my loot from now until my last time doing this raid.

Those 20 hours weren’t for just one sloppy pull to go right, they were so we could become a perfect raiding unit. Creating something that forces players to come together like that isn’t easy, but five raids and two raid lairs later, Bungie has created something that managed to do just that amazingly well.