Bungie’s Destiny 2 has been out now for a few days, and players and critics alike are lauding it for a much improved narrative, a more respectful and thoughtful progression system, and an all-around superior game world with more activities to perform, neat gear to collect, and secrets to unearth. One aspect of the game that has been left largely unexplored is the Crucible multiplayer experience, which pits human players against others in a variety of strategic game modes.
In my original impressions piece detailing the first 20 hours of Destiny 2, in which I played the game at a Bungie-hosted event in Bellevue, Washington last month, I didn’t have much opportunity to try out the Crucible in its entirety. We were playing with only other game journalists on the same closed network, and we weren’t even communicating over mic when we were paired up with others and not simply queuing into matches solo. The console beta earlier this summer, despite focusing heavily on Crucible, was also a very limited in scope, restricting players to a couple game modes and maps and removing the ability to earn new gear.
Now, with the full game out as of Tuesday, I’ve spent a significant amount of time playing Crucible’s two different modes, quick play and competitive, and can more reliably judge how Destiny 2’s multiplayer experience differs from its predecessor. The core takeaway from the first week of the Crucible is that Destiny 2’s multiplayer is more fair and balanced team shooter, promoting the kind of strategy and skill the original painfully overlooked or ignored. As a result, however, the Crucible has shifted away from a chaotic, free-for-all arcade-style experience and toward a more streamlined teamwork-based approach, at least in the absence of more varied game modes like the solo-oriented Rumble. That means it’s great for playing seriously with your friends, but less so if you just want to blow off steam, goof off for fun, or play solo.
The most immediate change players will take note of is the switch to four-versus-four combat for all team game modes, a drastic shift from the original’s six-versus-six paradigm. Bungie has said in the past that they strove to create a more balanced and teamwork-focused multiplayer experience, and 12-person games had an element of unrestrained chaos that could result in a chain of devastating, one-hit-kill “super” attacks — an ability players can charge up over time and unleash in a quick but effective burst — that left the game feeling unfair if you were on the receiving end of two or three in quick succession. Four-versus-four cuts down on that randomness, and Bungie went even further by slowing down the super charge rate.
More impactful is how Bungie has changed the original game’s weapon system was constructed. Now that there are two primary weapon slots for guns like pulse rifles, auto rifles, and hand cannons, the game’s most deadly firearms have been relegated to a single “power weapon” slot that can only be refilled in timed intervals throughout the match, and by only one player on your team at a time. Now, instead of being able to run around with a sniper rifle out and reloaded at all times, or with a shotgun and a rocket launcher at your disposal, you must choose only one of these more powerful guns to have equipped — and it will be out of ammo for around 80 percent of the match.
This decision has dramatically changed the range, intensity, and speed of combat in the Crucible. Firefights are now more tactical, slower cooking, and require far more teamwork to tilt the scales in your favor than before. Because you can’t flank an enemy team on your own with a shotgun or sit perched behind cover with a sniper rifle for the entirety of the match, there is far less lone wolf activity and one-shot kills being traded back and forth. Destiny 2 punishes players who don’t stay with their team and work together. If you’re caught flat footed by an enemy while off by yourself or, in a worst case scenario, caught by two or three members of the enemy team, you’re dead in an instant. This is especially true of competitive mode, where teamwork is paramount and you often have only one life per round or limited respawns.
This all results in a far more balanced approach. Very rarely have I felt like something was completely out of my control; my deaths feel more squarely on my shoulders, because I didn’t back away when I should have or because I was trying to take on too many enemies without adequate back up from my teammates. Because supers charge slowly and power weapons show up only now and again, I haven’t found myself frustrated by random one-shot kills from rocket launchers or players camping around corners with shotguns. The game also rewards and values working together over pure enemy team kills, with the status screen of a Crucible match declining to show a traditional kill / death ratio in favor of “efficiency,” which combines your kills, assists, and objective contributions.
This is big departure from the original Destiny, where more competitive players would tirelessly seek out the new “meta” weapon class and type — in other words, whatever guns the game’s internal systems were favoring over others — and abuse and exploit it until Bungie felt compelled to change it. Strategies like sliding around with shotguns out all the time, using a certain pulse or fusion rifle for every encounter, or relying only on ultra-fast sniper rifle headshots have been completely excised from the Crucible in Destiny 2.
Of course, the problem now is that Destiny may be too teamwork-focused to be fun for solo players. The first game felt well-rounded for groups of different sizes, and yet lacking in strategic depth because of this. Destiny 2’s Crucible can feel a bit oppressive when you can’t communicate with your team or strangers simply aren’t playing with the appropriate tactics in mind and choosing to run off on their own. I’ve found winning games solo to be a total coin toss, dependent on your teammates’ participation and the likelihood that you’re playing a premade enemy team, whereas playing with friends over a mic makes a far more noticeable difference with regards to performance than it did in the original Destiny.
Bungie will most likely add game modes for solo players, like the free-for-all Rumble mode, and create some special limited-time modes that are more chaotic and in the spirit of the original, like the Mayhem mode that charges every players’ super at breakneck speed. Until those modes are out, or until you have a group to play with, I wouldn’t recommend investing too seriously in the Crucible unless you have a dedicated group of two or three other friends to play with. It might not be worth the frustration, unless you’re a truly top-tier player who can hold their own in any shooter situation. But those players, I’m guessing, will be grouping up even more so now than before — especially for the ultra-competitive Trials of Osiris mode coming later this month. So I’d suggest doing the same if you’d like to level the playing field.