Simply Mechanics

Simply Mechanics: Destiny’s Leviathan Raid

Oh the mechanics of Destiny. Where to even begin, huh?

I mean, I could spend literally all day talking about drops, legendaries, “Power”, or more accurately, “Light” Level, and all the different aspects of multiplayer, whether it be cooperative, competitive, or the raids, the thing that Destiny is known for, and still have more to say. It’s a game that is built around both an intimacy of mechanics and an obscurity in understanding those same mechanics. It strikes such a particular balance that it layers things out in a way that is maybe the perfect balance of frustrating and absolutely intoxicatingly fascinating. It makes you pursue, question, and follow up on any and all hints and possibilities, an air of mystery not really found in other multiplayer games. Honestly, mechanically, Destiny bears the most resemblance to From Software’s offering of intriguing than any other video game franchise.

Nowhere is this more true than in the Raids.

Destiny, the original, had four raids in its time, and I played to completion three of them. While all different, they bear similarities in that they often have your group of six guardians, as all Destiny raids are six-person fireteam required, split into small groups, often three groups of two, or two groups of three, in order to execute on specific required mechanics. King’s Fall, the third Destiny raid, especially leaned on having one player split from the other group of five to complete certain tasks.

Leviathan, Destiny 2’s first raid, is already very different. It’s exceptionally more demanding, and I love it’s mechanics and the theory behind them so much that I am going to explain each major section of the raid, and some more layers on top of it that I find interesting.

This has turned into more of tutorial-esque piece, and while that may be boring to some, I think the concept of Simply Mechanics is already one you should take with a grain of salt. While I love going through each mechanic, it’s not for everyone, so as I said in the last Simple Mechanics piece, bear with me: we’re about to go in deep.

Chapter One: The Bathing Ritual

The first section of Destiny 2’s Leviathan Raid is The Bathing Ritual, which is maybe the most spread out part of the raid. Leviathan has a tendency to split the group into one group of four, and one group of two, with two players doing one thing to support the main group of four, and this holds true almost to the end.

The Bathing Ritual is actually a really great way to open up the raid. I’m gonna reference some maps throughout this piece because I think it’ll be easier to understand things with some kind of visual reference. Essentially the baths of Calus’s ship are wide and open, and there are five key points in the waters. They are represented by the four corners of the map, with one central point focused in the middle, in an enclosed building. Your fireteam has six players, which means if each player has their own platform, you can see one extra player.

The idea here is this section of the raid has two phases: a waiting phase and a damage phase. If anyone has played a raid in any game before, a “damage phase” probably is familiar, but I’ll break it down as I go so as to not leave any questions behind. The waiting phase is essentially the part of the encounter that requires the doing. It usually, in Destiny specifically, means you’re killing a lot of dudes, while some task is slowly progressing forward. The damage phase is the window of opportunity to do damage to the enemy, boss, or whatever it may be that must be triggered by completing some amount of tasks, or tasks in a specific order, or by surviving through the “doing” or “waiting” phase. In order to achieve and execute on that small window of opportunity, you’ll need familiarity, patience, understanding, and precision, and nowhere is that more true than in Leviathan.

The Waiting Phase

The idea of execution in The Bathing Ritual is that there are four stone platforms, big buttons, in each of the four corners of the room. They have to all be kept depressed, pushed down into the toxic baths, until a chain (located in front of the platforms) is completely lowered into a slot and locks in, which only occurs when all four chains in the room have met the bottom. The trick is, a player can’t stand in the water of the bath without taking damage, but they can if they receive a type of enhancement, or buff, called “Psionic Protection”. When received, it lets them stay in the water for about 50 seconds, and that time doesn’t go down when they’re standing on the concrete around the baths. The buff can be picked up on all five platforms at first, but after the round begins, only the middle platform can be used to get the buff, which it can be used for perpetually.

Here is a very simple map outlining the area (thank you to Destiny 2 Guide).

The idea is to create two rotations, one on either side of the map. Two players will float around the center, supporting the far platforms from the entrance first, then the close ones, and then using the buff they’ve picked up to relieve the folks protecting the bottom platforms. It’s this order because when the round starts, from the top platforms, right where the chain we’re all waiting on are moving from, big, naked Cabal enemies called “Bathers” spawn, and they charge the person on the button. They’re tough, and without support, it may be hard for solo platform players to take them down on their own. Two Bathers will spawn, one at the top two platforms, and then after a while two more will spawn, each at the bottom two platforms. This is actually a good indicator of timing, because when the bottom bather spawns, that’s around when the bottom two platform protectors should be relieved. To start the momentum of swaps, it’s good to swap out the top two platform holders right after their bathers are killed too, jumping right into the rotation.

From there, the bottom folks touch base in the middle platform, get a new buff, and then relieve the folks at the top two platforms. Each half of the room should be working in perfect tandem with one another. This phase isn’t too hard, because people who float around the middle, waiting to relieve their fireteam members, can stay on the concrete areas and help support other players from afar, keeping their buff high meaning they can swoop in and get on that button without much worry.

The Bathers attacking. Via YouTube.

What’s key here is timing. Those buttons need to stay depressed, because when they aren’t, the chains will move back up, knocking back your progress. There is a hidden time limit, which there kind of is with every aspect of the raid, and while it’s pretty generous, wasting ammo here is not a good idea.

Once all four buttons of pushed for a certain amount of time, they lock into place, a music sound tones, and it indicates the beginning of…

The Damage Phase

Luckily this first damage phase is very easy to understand. The sound tones and all players move to the center. There are three groups of censers that open in the center, totaling to nine censers. They have to be destroyed. Now that they are open, they can be damaged, but they can only be hurt from the central platform that everyone has been referencing back to to renew their Psionic Protection. The central platform is imbued with Force of Will, a buff frequently used in this raid to indicate damage can be dealt from that position, or increased damage can be dealt. With everyone gathered on that central platform, they begin shooting down the censers as fast as possible.

There are only two major wrinkles to this plan. The first is that this platform is still submerged in the poisonous bath fluid, and once your psionic protection runs out, you have to move off the platform or you’ll start to take damage. The other wrinkle is that under the three groups of censers will now spawn Ceremonial Bathers, the tough enemies from before. This means at least one player needs to move off the platform and focus on removing them, or they’ll demolish the whole group.

Now, after the damage phase ends, there is a change that a floating psion, called a “Psionic Projection”, will spawn around the censers. It doesn’t happen for sure every time, and I think one will spawn for every death during that damage phase, but they must be shot down, otherwise the entire team will die instantly. It was inconsistent, but still worth mentioning.

Usually, depending on your power, this will take multiple phases. The censers will eventually close and the waiting phase will begin again, making everyone return to their platforms and start once more. It’s the same game plan though, only with renewed vigor to destroy the censers for real this time.

And so completes the first fourth of the Leviathan Raid!

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It’s worth noting here that there is a series of sections between all the major Raid fights that have you collecting banners to enter each of the locations, but that execution is pretty simple, and this piece is gonna be long enough as it is. So I’m skipping them.

Onto the next part…

Chapter Two: The Pleasure Gardens

This may be the most disliked part of the raid, by my accounts and from what I’ve seen, but it’s also one of the coolest to be laid out, mechanically, and maybe the simplest part of the raid altogether.

It begins by entering the gardens and clearing out any loose enemies in there, and once they’re gone, two special weapons will spawn on a raised platform. Once more, maps will be very necessary here, and I’ll use some in a bit.

The idea here is the group is once again split, this time officially into a group of four, your spore carriers, and a group of two, your spotters. The idea here is that this is sort of a stealth section: two spotters hang up on higher platforms, carrying Prism Weapons that can reflect sunlight at either enemies, or these enlarged spores hidden in the gardens. The other group move together, silently through the gardens, speaking to the two spotters standing up higher for information on the beasts that they’re trying to avoid. The spotters guide the spore carriers through the gardens to specific points where plants can be shot with the reflected beam of light in order to produce a spore that the spore-carriers can absorb, and that generates a buff that’ll be used to do damage in the damage phase. Given what I’ve explained, this all should generally make sense, so let’s get into the nitty gritty shall we?

So there is a lot going on in this map, I know. Thank you to Planet Destiny for the map, we’ll kind of go through things one by one.

  1. First we have to reiterate: the team is split in two. One group “on the ground” and one are “in the weeds”, so to speak. While two folks take the special items, known as Prism Weapons, and hover around up top, the other four stay low to the ground and carry the “Spore Relic” to where the spotters direct them to.
  2. There are eight spots where spores are released. On the map, you can see there are four on either side. I’ll explain the jargon that my team used to describe them: on the outside on the right side, it’d be first right, second right, and far, or third right. On the left side it’s first left, second left, and then far or third left. The two more central plants are located in enclosed areas, and are the only areas where the enemies patrolling don’t fully enter or pass by. We called the left “Tree”, since it’s in the middle of a big multi-root tree, and the right area “Rock”, for similar reasons.
  3. Two plants will activate at a time, so the spotters have to survey the area, see which spots are open and assess what the best course of action is. When both spots have been used, two more open, and this repeats until time expires. There is always one open plant on each side.
  4. The group of four on the ground must be guided, all together, to each plant. When approached by any of the spore relics, the plants will open. They only open for a few moments, so the team needs to move together. I’ll get to why in a moment. When the plant is open, the spotters up top can stand in one of several beams of light, and, when standing in these beams, can then fire the prism weapon as a beam of light at the plant, which will release spores. Each spore relic near the spores will give a 3x stack of a buff called “Empowering Spores”. Since there are four folks on the ground, assuming they group up together, they can get 12 stacks of empowering spores from each spore shot at a time.
  5. After this, it’s worth noting that from the above area, two Cabal Beast Handlers will spawn out of two of the six doors on the upper level (three on each side, so one Cabal spawns on each side) and the folks up top need to deal with it. Luckily the prism weapons can make quick work of it, but if the Cabal get down on the ground with your spore runners, they can help alert the prowling beasts of the gardens to the presence of your team. Oh did I mention prowling beasts?
  6. So here is the skinny: six beasts are patrolling the gardens, and the gardens are foggy and confusing. The beasts move slow, unless they are frightened by the sight of a Cabal Beastmaster dying in front of them, which will send them in a brief frenzy, but for the most part, their paths are predictable and manageable. You can see their drawn paths up above. The spotters are up top not only need to keep an eye on the spores, but keep an eye on the beasts as well. Telling the team when to go and when to pause, the team of spore runners try and grab as many stacks within the time limit as possible.
  7. The trick is the “damage phase” can be triggered anytime, manually, or more likely, accidentally, when the beasts spot your team. This means, within the time limit of a few minutes, your team can get as many stacks as they can handle so long as they don’t get spotted.

There are quite a few more layers to this. Each beast corresponds to one of the plants, save for two, as there are eight plants and six beasts: the one inside the rock, and the second left spore. When the damage phase begins, the same room doors, the room where all the spore runners start and leave from, close, and the roof above it opens. The beasts all run to their corresponding spores, and begin a deathly howl. From here, the team has about half a minute to do as much damage to the beasts as possible before running back to the safe room and waiting for the next phase to start. If you’re caught out of the safe room before it closes, you die.

There are, of course, more layers to this on top of that. When a beast is killed, their spore will no longer activate. Also, the total time limit you have for the “sneaking phase” will lower. This means, when everyone splits off to do damage to their corresponding Dog (the system that seems to have worked best for my team), they need to be sure to not kill it, and to allow enough time to return to the safe room.

With all this in mind, you have four attempts of this cycle to kill all the dogs. In an ideal world, you can get 78x stacks of your spore buff in the first run, meaning you each can run to a dog and simply kill a dog all on your own, with plenty of damage to spare, and knock out the entire run in one phase. If not, getting around 30-40x of the buff will guarantee you can kill the beasts in three phases or less.

It’s harder than it sounds though. My team spent many tries just learning the beasts’ patterns, movements, or learning specific moments where the top two spotters can be seen, failing to be stealthy enough time and time again. It is exhausting when the reliance is on stealth, and things can be finicky. Any time a plant is shot, two Cabal Beastmasters spawn from the three doors above the arenas, and the top two spotters need to use their prism weapons to kill them quickly. If not, they’ll get down on the ground and start attacking your spore runners, and if one is then killed in sight of a dog, it runs around like crazy for a few seconds, and that moment of unpredictability can make it easy for your runners to get spotted.

But patience is key here. With all dogs alive you do truly have plenty of time to get spores. With the dogs defeated, it’s time to move to the next section of the raid, which is the most fun in my opinion…

Chapter Three: The Gauntlet

Enter The Gauntlet with your friends and prepare to make the race. That’s the setup for the circular arena that is The Gauntlet, the third section of the raid, and the final challenge laid out before you by Calus.

The Gauntlet, much like the majority of the raid, is split into two phases, a waiting phase, and a running phase. There is no damage to be dealt in the Gauntlet, which makes it different then most raid challenges. For folks who played Destiny 2, this is very similar to the relay race part of Destiny’s King’s Fall raid.

There are a few ways to do this section, but I’m just gonna stick with the one that I preferred, and we can go from there.

The Waiting Phase

To give a little bit of information on the room, it’s a giant circular room, with the elevator used to reach the Gauntlet in a small building in the center, and four towering platforms around it. Past those four platforms is a glass window that lets you see into the actual race that is the gauntlet itself. The four platforms correspond to the symbols we expect at this point, and the same ones we saw in The Bathing Ritual. I’ll name them now, since I didn’t before: Beast, Chalice, Sun, and Dual Axes. Right in front of the Chalice and Beast platforms is a small portal where a Psionic Charge with drop, and this is important later because this is where two folks will enter the gauntlet itself. In front of every lifted platform are three blinking arrows, pointed down, like big buttons you’d see in a gameshow. These too, will be important later.

The waiting phase begins when all four platforms are stood on, and sink into the ground, which causes a steady stream of enemies to start pouring out around each platform. This is the majority of the waiting phase, which is just killing additional enemies until a certain point when four colossus spawn, and after a certain point when these tough enemies spawn, the psionic charges will spawn by the Cup (Gauntlet) and the Dog (Beast) sections, and the gauntlet’s race will begin.

The Running Phase

Once more the team is split into two and four, this time two runners who run the gauntlet, and then four folks outside who need to help make sure they get through the gauntlet. Like I said before, there are a couple ways I have done this, but I’ll stick to the one I prefer, and leave the other out.

I’ve found the easiest way to accomplish this is to split into two groups of three, two folks with one runner, two folks with the other. This way you’ve got your group that’ll help you get through the gauntlet. What I mean by that is that barricades will pop up for the runner as they maneuver through the gauntlet. Everywhere there is a platform, as in the dog or axes platform, the two folks assigned to that runner’s team outside need to meet him or her there on the outside, and then shoot specific targets on the outside that kind of correspond to what the runner sees on the inside of the gauntlet.

The runner picks up a psionic charge, a carried item that switches that person out to third person, much like the other relics that were grabbed throughout the raid. Unlike psionic protection from the bathing ritual, there isn’t a visible timer of stacks that slowly decrease as you move; instead, there is an invisible timer that slowly decreases as you hold the charge, and when you run out of time, the charge explodes, killing the runner holding it. This means you have a short period of time to recharge yourself, with the goal of reaching the end of the gauntlet, and returning to the main area where the fighting phase was happening.

The runner runs to either the Chalice Platform or the Beasts Platform in order to pick up the charge, and are warped into another area of the stage. This outer ring is blocked by a translucent wall, a race track of sorts, and when both runners pick up their chargers and enter the track, the race begins.

Within the track at four specific points that correspond with the four pillar platforms in the main fighting stage (Beast, Chalice, Axes, and Sun) there is a blockade that the runner will hit. The blockade looks like a three by three grid, almost like a Connect-Four game in appearance. The nine total holes will be blocked out, but when someone stands on the platform corresponding outside the race track, one of the rings will light up. It may be the middle left hole, as in the middle row, left column, or the top right, but what’s important here is that this visual information needs to be conveyed to the two supporting fighters outside the race track. Right across from the pillars they are on are three arrows, stacked on top of one another.

This is where things get kind of complicated, but this mechanic is later reimagined for the final boss fight, so it’s very important to completely understand it.

If the runner sees the red ring anywhere in the middle row, that means the two shooters outside the track need to shoot the two arrows that correspond to the rows without any red highlights.

Here is an example:

What the runner sees: a red circle around on of the rings in the grid they see. What’s important here is the row, not the column at all.
Here the outside player and his or her companion have to shoot both the top arrow and the bottom arrow, the opposite rows of what the runner sees inside.

Shooting the two opposite arrows will clear the blockade for the runner, and make a black orb spawn where the red circle appeared in said blockade. Grabbing this orb resets the timer on their Psionic Charge, meaning they now have more time before it explodes and they fail to impress.

The runner continues to run around the track, clockwise, and their fireteam follows them as they rotate, only after the runner gets his or her orb that resets that timer, a Psion spawns outside the track, and the outside team must run and melee them, or else the whole team is killed instantly. This is certainly one of the oddest mechanics in the raid, since it seems almost nonsensical, and may be there to prepare the fireteam for the later mechanic with the same kind of Psion in the final battle, but I’m not sure.

In addition to this Psion, my attempts in the past have been plagued by additional Psions that seem to sometimes spawn when a player dies, but sometimes that doesn’t seem to be the case. It’s an odd situation, and I’ve seen a lot of wipes of my team because of this before. I don’t really know what the cause is every time, but I think it’s worth mentioning, because there are likely fail or death-based mechanics at work in the Gauntlet to make it more challenging, I just haven’t pinned them down. In my opinion, the Gauntlet is the easiest section of the raid, so this may be to up the ante and the risks when maneuvering outside the race track.

Once the runner and their team makes a full rotation around the course, they are warped out of the track back into the main field of the Gauntlet, and then run to the center elevator they arrived in and slam their charge into it. The elevator needs nine total charges in order to complete this section of the raid. So to correspond with this, all these facets repeat two more times for a total of three phases of running, gunning, and slamming.

It’s worth noting that while the process as a whole remains the same, some slight changes happen on the second and then third run of the Gauntlet to make it a bit more challenging. On the second run in the Gauntlet, some of the flooring falls out of the raceway, which makes jumping and timing slightly harder. On the third run, the platforms the shooters outside the raceway stand on start jerking up and down slightly. In the grand scheme of things, these things don’t go very far to make the encounter more difficult, but the changes seem out of the blue if you’re not expecting them. Overall, the Gauntlet is the easiest encounter in the raid, but you can see there are some attempts to make the long fight more difficult.

Then, after three completions of the race, that’s when things change.

The Final Phase

The final phase changes things up quite a bit. A haze runs over the entire fireteam, and six psionic charges spawn in the center, prompting the entire fireteam to enter the Gauntlet, and the final race to begin.

Now things are a bit different here. Not only are the changes from the previous rounds going to take effect, like the platforms in the racetrack dropping away after a while, but since everyone is in the racetrack, everything is a bit more hectic. Everyone has to worry about their own countdown timer, and, assuming all the previous rounds went off without a hitch, at least half the team needs to complete the race in order to win the Gauntlet.

The whole fireteam will run the entire four-leg race, and at each three by three grid of blockades, there won’t be any waiting for folks outside the track to shoot arrows, but there will only be four recharges for your six-person team to use and prolong their inevitable explosion. This means you need to find a way to delegate who skips a charge at which round, and make sure if you do skip a charge, you pick one up at the next blockade, otherwise you’ll explode. What my team did was have the two runners skip the first round, and get the second and fourth sets of charges, and have the folks that need charges call out which ones they’re grabbing, as they’ll spawn in four random spots of the nine available.

Another trick to keep in mind is that because the track is so long, and you only have 30 seconds to revive someone if any of your team members explode, fall, or die, you have to make sure no one dies within the first couple legs of the race, otherwise you’ll time out before your first member leaves the track. If you keep your coordination up, you’ll be okay, but it’s certainly something to be cautious of.

If three members escape the track in tact and dunk their charges on the central elevator, then the Gauntlet ends, fireworks blaze, and the team moves onto the final challenge.

The Final Chapter: Calus Himself

Oh Calus.

This fight is complex, combining all of the aspects of the previous fights, leaning on the symbolism of the Leviathan up to this point, and challenging the team’s coordination to the final and ultimate degree.

The fight begins with the reveal of Calus sitting on his throne, drinking wine and contemplating your accomplishments. By shooting his goblet, you trigger the beginning of the fight, and everything goes to hell.

First, to introduce a few things, a simple map of the room, also thanks to Destiny 2 Guides.

The room is composed of five major, elevated platforms. Four of them have the same symbols you’ve been seeing up until this point through the ship, and the fifth has Calus himself on it. He doesn’t move, so it’s pretty easy to gauge what he is up to at any given time.

Now you can see this map is marked by arrows pointing from pme platform to the next, and we’ll circle back around to this. It’s important, but there are a lot of “stages” to this fight, and understanding all of them and the intricacies of those mechanics is far more important.

The Opening Phase

Instead of a strict waiting or ad phase before damage phase begins, Calus has basically three steps, and a lot of things going on in between. The fight starts when Calus loses his goblet, and an onslaught of enemies fill the room. The team generally just plays it safe, kills the ads (enemies), and holds their ground for now, with nothing specific around that. Calus himself will shoot a beam from his eyes at anyone who is within sight, so it’s a good idea to have the players move around the four pillars of the room, which are all connected to the four labeled platforms you can see in that map, and just try and stay fit and alive, without burning too much of their big guns quite yet.

Eventually, the ads will stop, and the team will have a moment before Calus stands and claps his hands together. This is what initiates the second phase, and this is where things get crazy.

The Waiting Phase – Inside (Shadow Realm)

The team is all brought inside what my team affectionately call “The Shadow Realm”. It’s a massive and narrow lane, wide enough for about three players to fit comfortably.

Here is when things start to get complicated, and they only increase from here.

Three people have to stay in this shadow realm, and three of those psionic orbs from the Gauntlet will appear over a small barricade, so three members of the team can take those orbs and leave the shadow realm, returning to the throne room. Their role is different, and that half of the team has a completely different responsibility that I will mention when we get to The Waiting Phase – Outside. So for now let’s focus on the team inside the shadow realm.

The team designates three sides of the lane to stay on: left, center, and right. At the end of the lane, there is a massive shadow version of Calus’s head. He will begin sucking in like Andross from Starfox 64, and the team needs to stay pressed up against the small barricade to prevent themselves from getting sucked up into Calus’s mouth. There are also ramps that pop up along the lane, so so when you’re pulled forward later on in the phase, you could get bumped up and into the mouth.

Now the responsibilities of the inside fighters is a lot. Each person on the inside team will see a different symbol glowing on Calus’s forehead, and this is a picture of what that looks like:

Via YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yW5RYElzIWQ

Each player in the shadow realm sees a different symbol, and in some organized order they need to call out what they see on his forehead. Since there are three people in the shadow realm, and four symbols total, they’ll be called out, and the fourth symbol that has not been mentioned is the target for the outside team. We will loop back around to that, but when the outside team kills the enemy that corresponds to the missing symbol, a new barricade slightly ahead of your inside team will spawn, meaning when their current barricade drops, Calus will pull them forward, and they won’t be sucked into death, they’ll be stopped at the next barricade.

There are four rounds of this, calling out symbols to your outside players and then moving forward. While that is the primary cause of stress for your shadow realm team, they also need to destroy Psionic Projections, like ones from the Bathing Ritual and the Gauntlet, that if not dealt with will cause the team to wipe immediately. They also have regular psions that behave a little differently: when they spawn, they immediately attempt to launch their void grenade that blasts any given player into the air. It’s extra deadly here because if they’re launched into the air, the player is just immediately pulled forward by Calus. Sometimes if the outside team is fast enough, they can get caught by the next barricade, but usually this is far more optimistic than is likely.

This inside mechanic is, by far, the most stressful part of not only Destiny 2’s Leviathan raid, but any raid in Destiny to date. It’s the cornerstone to this fight, because of the mechanic I’ll get to in a moment, but leaves almost no room for error. If any of your inside fighters are bumped up by their enemy psions, or make a mistake, or if the outside team doesn’t get the barricade up and any of them die, the likelihood of survival for the team is pretty much zero. Players outside will have to spend a precious revive token on the person knocked out to be revived, and the players inside will be down one fighter for killing the psionic projections that can wipe the whole team in a few seconds. It’s tight, and with having to focus on all of your enemies, the symbol you see, and the weight of what happens when you mess up, it’s rough. It means, and forgive the pun, but a lot of folks need to “stay in their lane”. The people calling out symbols in the shadow realm need to call and then focus, and the people outside need to hear, and then focus on what they need to do. It leaves little room for discussion outside of the brief windows of downtime, and that makes the whole experience far more driven and serious, which is both good and bad.

At the end of the symbol phases, the inside team is left with one round of psions and psionic projections before Calus’s shadowy head stops sucking, and they can initiate their next phase of action.

Calus will open his mouth and begin bursting out glowing purple skulls. Each skull shot and destroyed adds a stack to a buff, again called “Force of Will” accessible in the damage phase, so the inside fireteam huddles up and tries to destroy as many skulls in about 30 to 45 seconds as humanly possible. A minimum would be between 50-60, and a preferred would be 70-90. There is a trigger that the outside team causes that makes three more psionic orbs spawn, allowing the inside team to leave the Shadow Realm and return to the throne room, and also causes the skulls to stop pouring out of Calus’s mouth.

Then the damage phase can begin.

But let’s rewind first, and find out what the other half of the team is doing during this time…

The Waiting Phase – Outside (Throne Room)

The outside team grabs their Psionic charges from the Shadow Realm and returns to the throne room with their new best friend Calus. Here is when the tension and stakes are high.

The outside team needs to survive several waves and onslaughts of additional enemies, and Calus’s attacks himself, while listening for the cues from the inside team. The four platforms with the four symbols on them will now be occupied by four different psions, each within a protective barrier that makes them immune to arms fire, and only susceptible to melee attacks. The psions also have their corresponding symbols (Chalice, Beast, etc) floating above their head, so they’re pretty easy to identify. The inside team will callout the three symbols they see on Calus’s forehead, and the outside team will then run and melee the symbol not called, kind of like how I elaborated before.

What the psions in the throne room look like. Via Polygon.

While not directly and overtly stressful, there is a lot going on in the throne room. Anytime a psion is killed by your players, Calus will attack any random player with a big explosive sun, so not only do you need to focus on where you are and what target needs to be hit, but on constantly moving so you don’t stand still long enough to be flavor blasted by Calus’s attacks.

After four rounds of this, and fighting off what feels like endless waves of ads, which is where saving your super abilities comes in handy, the “skull wave” will begin in the shadow realm and things change in the throne room. At this point, Calus will erect a glowing shield as he charges a powerful blast to kill the folks in the throne room. It takes a bit to charge up, and the outside team just needs to damage him until the shield is broken, but there are tricky things to keep in mind here.

One. The shield does constant damage to anyone in the throne room. Having a warlock around with a healing rift is handy here because it can essentially counteract the constant and small damage over time the shield deals.

Two. When the shield is broken, that’s when the skulls stop spawning for your inside team. This means you want to kind of hold off as long as you can until the last possible second to pop the shield so your inside team can stack as strong an attack buff for our upcoming damage phase as possible.

Three. When the shield is popped, that’s when the charges to return your inside team to the throne room spawn, so your inside players can return from the shadow realm and rejoin the team.

The Damage Phase

Once your team is back together, this is when the movement pattern on that map becomes important again. The team needs to huddle up together near the top right platform, the one on the right side closest to Calus. The goal here is to hop on all together, because that’s where the team is going to do damage. The buff only lasts on each platform for a certain amount of time so if someone were to get on too early, the buff would run out faster, and not everyone would be able to do maximum damage.

The team hops on the platform and shoots Calus.

Uh… That’s kind of it. I mean, well not it, but that’s the gist.

I know it sounds anticlimactic, so let me spice it up. Calus will eventually do his big flavor-blasting area of effect attack on the platform, and the whole fireteam, causing everyone to have to jump off. This is where those arrows on the map come in handy. The team, as a whole, will move clockwise across all four platforms, stopping to do as much damage as possible, and waiting to jump off until Calus primes his attack for that platform.

After the first third of his health is gone, he will break away to reveal he is a machine, and what’s important here is his weak spot will move from his head to his chest. He’ll also just aim and shoot a rocket gun at each platform instead of his standard area of effect attack.

What’s really important here is having the whole team rotate around the platforms and focus in, doing as much damage to Calus in as tight a window on each platform as possible. Things like Empowering rifts from Warlocks, popping damage dealing ultimates like Golden Gun, and blasting out all that heavy ammo you can spare is crucially important here. It’s also important that when Calus is stunned and shifts from his main form to his half-robot form, that even though eventually he’ll become immune to the team’s attacks, they wait on the platform until he aims his attack at the platform. This avoids activating a platform too early and also any off straggler on the team being singled out by Calus’s attack. It helps keep his focus on a known position, making it far more predictable and easy to dodge.

The amount of damage the team can do across the four platforms is based on the number of skulls the inside team can destroy, each creating another stack for the Force of Will buff that is active when you stand on any of the four platforms. It all comes together with the team divided across two completely separate rooms, one shooting skulls, the other biding their time long enough to make sure the inside team can get as many skulls destroyed as possible. It’s the most intricate and team-based activity a Destiny raid has ever demanded of a fireteam, and while it’s incredibly rewarding to see all of these pieces come together, it’s also unendingly frustrating when they don’t. This is especially the case when the cause of failure, and inevitably a whole team wipe, is from a small error on someone’s part. Tensions are high during this whole fight, and for the most part, comms clear.

The most difficult aspect of this fight is that, above all else, it makes the margin for error essentially zero. Folks can maybe die in the throne room, but the throne room team needs to also make sure they hit the respective psions called by your shadow realm team, otherwise someone in the shadow realm may die, and if they die, it’s basically game over. At the very least, even if they make it to the skulls, they typically won’t be able to destroy enough skulls to get a significant amount of damage done to Calus.

Again, almost zero margin for error.

The Changes

Over the course of the fight, some aspects will change. Like I said, Calus will at some point burn away and reveal a chest-based weak spot instead of his head, like it is up until that point. With those changes he’ll also get new attacks, like a spread of napalm he will drape across the floor for 10+ seconds at a time, making traversal in the throne room even more difficult.

Holes will also crop up in the lanes in the shadow realm, meaning if you don’t pay close enough attention, you may find yourself falling to your death, ending your team’s attempts. This only happens in the second phase and beyond though.

In Closing

After Calus is defeated, an opening appears, leading the team to their last piece of loot, and closure to the most intricate Destiny raid to date. It also culminates to be the most frustrating. Unlike the other raids, communication, specifically vocal call outs are not just recommended, but an actual requirement. Without vocal communication, the Pleasure Gardens, the Gauntlet, and especially Calus would be impossible.

(It’s also worth noting some incredibly gifted players have found ways around this, and I think that’s super rad.)

What’s cool about this is that it’ll lead to fireteams creating their own internal jargon, and running with the same team over and over again, like I did, will prove a much deeper and more intimate experience. You’ll develop your own way of saying things, whether that be referring to the chalice symbol as “cup” or the royal beast symbol as “dog”, whatever it may end up being.

I love this raid, and there are aspects to it I adore, but the con to all of this is that it’ll make it even harder to jump into any given or random game with folks, and having a team that both knows what they’re doing but also are compatible with one another is critically important.

Anyway… This was a long way to say, if you read this? Well, now you’re raid ready. But also please be 280 Power at least please lord…

Simply Mechanics is a column on IrrationalPassions.com by Alex O’Neill that dives into the deeper and more specific gameplay aspects of video games from all over. If you like this kind of thing, let Alex know on Twitter @ALFighter27.

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