Is Hard mode too easy or are we just looking at its challenges in the wrong light?
King’s Fall Hard mode released last Friday in Bungie’s Destiny and brought with it its fair share of challenges. For those unaware, King’s Fall is the new raid in The Taken King expansion and also takes advantage of the new Light level system. This means that if Light level differences, even by a few points, truly matter then it will be in the raid.
It was interesting when King’s Fall first came out since the Light level requirement alternated from 290 to 300 depending on which section you were in. Regardless, Bungie showed a return to mechanics, communication and teamwork as seen in the Vault of Glass and which it seemingly forgot along the way with Crota’s End (Skolas’s Revenge could count but it still had way too many enemies and paltry rewards). King’s Fall is especially interesting because while it’s not a case of one player being able to carry the others, it’s also possible to complete the raid when you’re under-leveled.
"The developer did promise to not artificially pump up the difficulty by introducing more powerful adds but it also did guarantee some new things that players would have to manage."
King’s Fall Hard mode was thus hyped up, as is usually the case when Bungie decides to release these versions later. Would there be a requirement to shoot down all the Orbs and stand in all the Pools of Light for Golgoroth’s Fight? Would there be two Relics to grab during the Daughters or Oryx phases? Would there be quicker enrage timers on bosses? The developer promised not to artificially pump up the difficulty by introducing more powerful adds but it also guaranteed some new things that players would have to manage. Things that would “upset the rhythm” that teams had down.
However, there’s been criticism of King’s Fall Hard mode for a number of reasons. The initial Relic phase is relatively unchanged. The jumping puzzles are also pretty similar, save for the midway platform in Portico that’s no longer present (meaning you start from the very beginning if you fail the jumps). Hallowed Knights were added to the Totems phase. Golgoroth simply adds more Cursed Thrall and Taken Thrall into the DPS phases along with a random debuff that causes players to explode if they stand in the Pool of Light. The Daughters of Oryx? Oh, every phase after the first just doesn’t have any delay in between. Oryx is also the exact same fight except for the addition of new Light Eater Knights that will walk into the Corrupted Light orbs and detonate them. The only really significant change has been to the Warpriest encounter wherein the boss gains a new ability with each monolith that goes down, thus keeping you on your toes and making you consider some new strategies.
This all may sound like its fairly complicated especially when you overlay it on top of the original fights. However, considering what Bungie did with Crota’s End Hard mode – which introduced Hallowed Wizards, an automatic enrage for Crota when he had 10 percent health left, a Gatekeeper in the starting room, no Chalice for health regeneration and more Hallowed Adds (on top of permanent level disadvantages), it’s easy to see how players were expecting more from Bungie. On the other hand, it’s important to note that Vault of Glass Hard mode wasn’t all that different from Normal. Enemies were higher levels, yes, and there were more Oracles on the Templar phase. Atheon was also capable of randomly detaining players during certain phases and there were more Gorgons in the maze but that’s it.
"However, considering that the design for King’s Fall Hard mode has more in common with Vault of Glass Hard mode – which is still universally loved – one can’t say that Bungie isn’t trying to do right by its players."
The philosophy was never to overwhelm players with a greater difficulty so much as introduce an additional wrinkle to the mechanics along with slightly tougher foes. It’s just come to a point now where Destiny players expect to be out-numbered, out-gunned and placed in high pressure scenarios that King’s Fall Hard mode feels like a slight step down. This isn’t a bad thing though. The Oryx Hard mode fight is still quite tough to clear. My fireteam hasn’t done it yet and we’re actually looking more towards running the initial sections again and again just so our respective Light levels can be higher for the end fight (which is difficult if you’re under 310 Light).
Similarly, I’ve been in teams which take time on the Warpriest and Golgoroth encounters. There’s also the fact that if you die in Hard mode, you can’t be brought back – which is a hilariously dumb mechanic at this point since it encourages simply resetting the encounter as opposed to shouldering on with a handicap. Why not simply have a longer respawn timer instead, something to actually promote managing under difficult circumstances as opposed to resetting the encounter? As such, the enrage timers ensure that teams don’t have much time to take advantage of this mechanic.
Regardless of how you feel about King’s Fall Hard mode, there’s no denying that Bungie has other challenges in mind. A quick look under the Advisors section in the app will show various challenges for Oryx, Golgoroth and Warpriest. These have been discovered to hold their own emblem rewards as well. Maybe these will be the hardcore challenges that seasoned Destiny players are looking for. And maybe they won’t be. At the end of the day, it isn’t about what the small population of Destiny raiders find difficult – it’s about what Bungie decides is best to properly balance and deliver. The past year has shown that the developer has a somewhat mixed degree of success in how it delivers. However, considering that the design for King’s Fall Hard mode has more in common with Vault of Glass Hard mode – which is still universally loved – one can’t say that Bungie isn’t trying to do right by its raiders.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.