With the recent launch of Destiny 2: Lightfall, the latest expansion for Bungie’s sci-fi action MMO, players have been diving deep into new activities, exploring a new elemental power in Strand, and discovering the secrets of Neptune’s hidden city of Neomuna. A new Destiny 2 expansion also means a new raid – Destiny’s challenging cooperative adventures designed for fireteams of six, built to test players’ skill, problem solving, and ability to work as a team. On March 10, Guardians all over the world delved into the latest – and arguably most visually stunning – raid to date: Root of Nightmares.
To celebrate the launch of Lightfall’s new raid, we recently spoke with three members of the Destiny team: Associate Designer Kailani Marrero, Staff Designer June Meyer, and Design Lead Brian Frank to get behind-the-scenes insights into what it’s like working on (and giving names to) some of the most mysterious, intriguing, and challenging content in all of gaming.
How does the Root of Nightmares raid move the narrative forward following the initial events of Lightfall?
June Meyer: Root of Nightmares sees players investigating The Witness’ pyramid in the aftermath of the end of the Lightfall campaign. In the raid, players get to see firsthand how the Traveler’s Light terraforms the landscape, bringing new life and disrupting the existing environment. We’ve never had a chance to see or influence this process, and the raid gives players the opportunity to transform the environment through their actions.
Kailani Marrero: It was important to ensure that the lessons the player (and the Guardian) learned on Neomuna translated to their journey in the raid. The Guardian spends some time learning to “go with the flow” – especially when coming to terms with Osiris and learning to wield Strand during the campaign – and we took that mentality into the raid encounter. Without spoiling things for those who haven’t experienced the raid yet, the Guardians know who the threat is, and they know that this entity must be taken out. Even in the face of overwhelming odds, there is work to be done and that confidence in yourself, and in your allies, still should remain true.
Q: What are some specific examples of Bungie incorporating narrative themes into the puzzle-like gameplay elements of Destiny 2’s raids?
Brian Frank: In Vow of the Disciple [from Destiny 2: The Witch Queen], the symbols and their meanings were designed as a system from which gameplay events would build statements about the places and characters in our world. Within the context of The Witch Queen’s themes of deception and illusion, they were intended to be evocative of truths, lies, or prophecies. They also help to illicit wonder from players in having to interpret and communicate them to the fireteam in order to progress through the raid.
KM: Narrative themes are often the bow on top of the experience that adds that extra “oomph” to a raid. Many mechanics are done ahead of time with the general narrative concept of the raid in mind and then more context is given by the narrative designer. The bones are there but then you get to build on top of it to make it even cooler and to give context where needed.
JM: The thematic goal with the mechanics of Root of Nightmares was that only through wielding both Light and Darkness can Guardians succeed in their fight against The Witness. Players begin the activity using solely Light and in the second encounter, both Light and Darkness are required but never combined. By the final encounter, players have learned how to combine these elements in truly meaningful ways.
Q: What are some of your favorite raid names from past expansions, and why?
KM: I’m sure that answer would change with every person you ask! I am completely biased and love Root of Nightmares over all of them. It took us a bit to get to a point of agreement – we had a good laugh about the unintentional “blank OF blank” formula – but Root of Nightmares won out because it was just too good to pass up.
This time around, we wanted a name that sounded both mysterious and sinister, and this was the winner by far. Some players may have also picked up on hidden messages in Neomuna hinting at who they might face in the boss fight, and we wanted to pay that off with the raid name. If you know your Destiny lore, certain names immediately come to mind when you think “Nightmares.”
If I had to pick my top three though, it would be: Root of Nightmares, Vow of the Disciple, and Last Wish [from Destiny 2: Forsaken].
JM: Deep Stone Crypt [from Destiny 2: Beyond Light] will always be a special one for me because of its simplicity. The name of the raid revealed everything about the activity and nothing at the same time. We knew that the most important piece for players was letting them know where they were going, but we thought it was critical to keep the player journey under wraps. This was the first name proposed in our discussion and we didn’t bother coming up with other options because we knew it was the best choice.
Q: What goals does the team keep in mind when naming a raid?
BF: Our goal is for the name to capture a sense of mystery, for it to be evocative of an adventure you can imagine your character embarking on, or of a challenge to endure and overcome with your fireteam.
KM: Naming a raid means finding that combination of words that really capture the essence of the activity. They’re usually meant to toe the line between giving you absolutely nothing and everything all at the same time. It’s a difficult-yet-fun challenge!
Q: What else would the Bungie team like players – new or returning to Destiny 2 – to know about how raids fit into the experience?
KM: For me, Destiny raids are such a unique experience. You see a lot of different raid experiences across MMOs, RPGs, and the combination thereof, but to see it in an FPS, for me, is so cool. It’s a challenge for players who are willing to meet it and as a reward you get cool stuff and more story. Wins all around.
BF: As pinnacle cooperative activities, Destiny raids are designed to foster player stories. We set a high bar for coordination and mastery of the challenges unique to each raid. It is very rewarding to succeed, which requires reliance on your fireteam, when at the outset to achieve victory may have seemed impossible.
Q: How can Lightfall players best prepare to partake in the Root of Nightmares raid?
BF: If you’re up for the challenge, the Legendary campaign is a great way to acquire a set of gear that puts you right at the recommended Power level for the raid. Another approach would be to engage in Lightfall and Seasonal ritual activities that offer Power upgrades.
JM: Run Neomuna activities to unlock your Strand fragments, because grappling and mobility are great ways to stay alive in each of the raid encounters. Also, dungeons are a good opportunity to gear up and to dip your toe into more complex endgame activities without needing to get as many teammates together.
KM: Finding a great fireteam is paramount to having fun during any Destiny 2 raid. If you don’t know five other players to raid with, don’t worry! You can use the “Fireteams” feature on the Destiny 2 mobile app to either join an existing raid group or create your own from scratch.
Destiny 2: Lightfall is available now.