Since it was first announced, Destiny 2: Forsaken’s Gambit mode has been on my radar, but far down on the list of activities I wanted to play. It seemed to me like an attempt at merging two worlds: the PvE one that I liked, and the PvP one that I hate. Why would I play this when there are so many other strikes and other PvE-only activities for me to experience in Destiny? But at an Activision-hosted event at Bungie last week, I was proved wrong five minutes into my first match.
If you’re unfamiliar with Gambit, it’s a PvEvP mode where two teams of four drop into identical arenas and fight enemy combatants. The enemies drop motes when they die, which can be banked in a central location by players. Whoever banks 75 motes and kills the boss that spawns first is the winner. But players are also able to invade their enemies’ arena, and kill them if they’re good enough. Bungie described it to us as Halo’s Firefight meets Super Puzzle Fighter; a shockingly good comparison.
The mode itself feels unlike anything I’ve ever played in a shooter before. Because of its short, round-based gameplay and lack of external economy, it’s not particularly analogous to something like Halo 5’s Warzone mode. And its competitive nature differentiates it from most other wave-based modes in other games.
Instead, playing Gambit feels like playing something more complicated, deep and competitive. In fact, in an interview we had with Bungie, current Gambit lead Robbie Stevens compared it to playing League of Legends.
“It was like playing League of Legends or something in Destiny,” said Stevens. “All these people are focused on farming these creeps, but then somebody else was coming through and just annihilating them. And it forces players to use different parts of their brain than they normally have to use in some of our activities.”
At the time of the interview — weeks before my hands on time with Gambit — I found the comparison a little silly. How can anything in Destiny be compared to League of Legends, a game well known for its strategic depth? But upon sitting down and playing for myself, I found the comparison to be strangely perfect.
The same parts of my brain that I’ve had to use when playing a MOBA like League comes into play with Gambit. You have to focus on your task at hand while never letting the threat of the enemy team slip your mind. And just like a strategy-based game like League, I found myself feeling personally responsible for some of team’s successes, as well as our greatest failures.
Gambit is tight, both in time and space. You spend time like it’s currency, attempting to get as far ahead as humanly possible in a short amount of time. When you make a great play, collect a bunch of motes and bank it all in an instant, it feels incredible. You feel the impact that you just made on your team.
But when you lose 15 motes to a single, stupid death, you feel the same shame as you would in a highly strategic team game. During my time, I remember dying and losing 10-15 motes in a close match, and internally realizing that I had cost my team the round and the game all at once. It felt bad, but it was also my fault, and my fault alone.
In a Q&A at the same event, Forsaken game director Steve Cotton said that the biggest issue with Destiny 2’s base version was that it lacked depth. In my experience with Forsaken, Destiny 2 has found its depth and then some in many different corners. But nothing has surprised me the way that Gambit has. Without ever factoring in weapons or gear or new supers, Gambit has the kind of strategic depth that I never expected out of the Destiny franchise. Out of all the arguably more exciting things I played at Bungie, I can’t stop thinking about playing more Gambit.
Ultimately, Gambit is filling a hole in Destiny’s feature offerings that I never knew I wanted. I would have never expected to be so excited by a mode like this, but I’ve never been so happy to be proven wrong.