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Destiny 2's Spire of Stars raid lair is short and alright, but I miss real raids

Destiny 1’s Rise of Iron set the bar for what a mini-expansion could do

Today marks the release of Spire of Stars, Destiny 2‘s latest raid “lair,” followed by the proper raidLeviathan, packed in the base game, and the micro-raid Eater of Worlds, released with the first disappointing Curse of OsirisDLC.

In case you haven’t heard, the core idea of “lairs” is to connect a specific environment together (in this case Leviathan, and the ongoing narrative of the Cabal lord Calus), which is a noble concept. Five months later and I still have the same opinion of Eater of Worlds, the first experiment — it’s…kind of cool. That’s basically the same feeling I got after running Spire of Stars.

The power level recommendation for Spire of Stars is 370. Let me repeat that — 370. Most players are currently stuck grinding it out at 340, if they’ve even reached that point, so it’s going to be a while before the average player can jump in and just finish this lair. It’s a huge point of contention right now but hear me out — it’s fine.

It’s an interesting development as Bungie tries to throw things against the wall to see what sticks. On one hand they’re making raids hardcore again, staving off the typical content droughts. Getting “raid-ready” actually means something now. On paper, there are also three endgame PVE activities to do (raid, raid lair, raid lair) each week now that Warmindis on the table. By that same token this uncharacteristically high power level for normal mode really seems like a gate, and once people figure out the lair and the most optimal setup it could became stale again. Hell, the prestige raid for Eater of Worlds still isn’t live yet and it’s been nearly half a year. Most progression systems allow for better leveling, then ease players into normal, then hard (Prestige). It feels backward here.

In typical fashion Spire of Stars begins with an activity rather than a major fight — and this time it’s hot potato. The popular method, and one our group used for our blind run, is to have four players each assigned to one of four pillars, and two Guardians on add duty. The pillar players pass around the ball, careful not to hold it for too long, then throw it in the middle once the “basket” has opened up (two rotations). Basically you need to survive, repeat the process four times, and not blow yourself up. The “hot potato” aspect of this battle is a debuff called “Greed,” and once you get to 10 stacks of it (roughly 10 seconds) you’re dead. You’ll net a cute little emote for your troubles.

After that it’s a jumping puzzle (with whirling blades to boot — a neat-looking area but a rather dull set of jumps) and some more tunnel running.All of the busywork getting from zone to zone isn’t nearly as cool as it was in Eater of Worlds, as much of it consists of holdover tunnels from Leviathan proper rather than the grand galactic-esque scale of Worlds.

Spire of Stars attempts to weave a tale of Cabal infighting, and the next encounter has you dealing with an intruder on behalf of Calus, the owner of the ship. Val Ca’uor is the main antagonist, hellbent on taking over Calus’ Leviathan. Before long you’re doing battle with more adds in an open area, repeating the hot potato concept; this time with a giant spire, a new goal to chuck the ball into (coupled with a neat symbol calling mechanic that’s been used to great success before), and even more adds and less structures to hide behind. This bit isn’t particularly tough, just tedious because the adds are so spongey — and it’s the same Cabal adds you’ve been dealing with since 2014.

Next up is the main event: a battle withVal Ca’uor. He’s protected by a shield, and to drop it you’ll need to, you guessed it, play hot potato. This is the toughest part, and it’s where my group is at now. Since most of us are in the 355-360 range, we’ll probably go at it again over the weekend. It’s fun, but it’s another skirmish with Cabal adds with a modified Centurion. The final battle of Eater of Worlds against a gigantic Vex with unique colorized puzzle elements was much more impressive. Spire of Stars is engaging somewhat because Destiny 2‘s gunplay and locomotion still feel top notch.

Yet,Destiny 2is still very much in a weird place as it continues to locate its identity. Perhaps the lowest point of any Destinyera so far for hardcore players was the past five months or so. Bungie gave us the short raid lair inEater of Worlds and said “have at it,” and never even provided a hard (prestige) mode in all of that time. It was the first instance they’d ever withheld a higher difficulty, and the prospect of running three characters a week for just an hour’s worth of raid in total became a real bummer after just one month — most of my group had quit the game entirely and never came back.

Bungie is attempting to “fix” that issue by making progression deliberately slower, but I really have to ask “why?” Destiny 1‘s progression system was vastly better than Destiny 2at the end of its lifecycle, and Bungie has regressed to the point where 90% of the game’s activities provide useless rewards. Look no further than Heroic Strikes — they ask for a Power Level of 350 but provide rewards far under that ask. This is after Bungie made them more grindy and enemies more spongey in them. I don’t think anyone, onlookers or the creators, know what to do with Destiny 2.

Many long-time players will be quick to point out that the first two expansions for Destiny only gave us Crota’s end, a shorter raid, and the Prison of Elders, which wasn’t a raid at all. My retort is that the first wave of DLC was nearly four years ago — the landscape has changed. Bungie learned from its mistakes and gave us the massively popular Taken Kingexpansion that turned the game around with a giant raid, followed by Rise of Iron, a mini-expansion similar to whatCurse of Osirisand Warmind should have been.

We shouldn’t be regressing with Destiny 2. “Raid lairs” are a neat idea, but in many games would be a bite-sized event that come in-between the main courses. Bungie needs to reevaluate the way it dices up DLC going forward, because these little chunks of two hours of story and “mini” raids aren’t keeping people engaged for months on end, especially when the hard mode for one of them is delayed half a year. Smaller teams have accomplished more and Bungie can do better — they proved that with the latter half ofDestiny 1.

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