Slayerage posted a video a few weeks ago about why his issues with Gambit Prime as being the defacto gambit mode. I’m not going to be disputing any of his points, because I agree with him completely. I thought his video eloquently lays out the serious gameplay issues with Gambit Prime compared to normal Gambit. So I’d like to elaborate on some of his points, and offer my ideas for what a consolidated Gambit offering might look like.
So first, I have to address some of the criticism to Slayer’s video. I think most of the criticism comes from people who don’t understand just how lame you can make Gambit Prime with a full team of players who want to stomp as hard as possible. Slayer demonstrated this on stream with the following strat:
- Bank to 10 motes and one 5 as possible.
- Have the invader take heavy ammo, and use Truth. You will get kills.
That’s it. At this point the game is over. Any motes the enemy has banked will be gone, putting your team closer to your second invade and putting the opposing team further away from their first. On top of that, the three players on your side are killing ads and banking more motes putting your team even closer to the second invade while the opposing team has to deal with the blockers and your invader.
The game snowballs and unless the enemy team both killed all the blockers and the invader within 10 second, the game will be over. As Slayer explains in his video, the boss shield mechanics of Gambit Prime do not stop boss burning with Well/Luna+Mountaintop. It is simply a speed bump. Even if the enemy team has a successful invade, they’re still even farther behind than they would be in regular gambit because of the drain mechanic, but do benefit from the drain itself.
Now, playing against a good 4-stack in regular Gambit isn’t always easy, but it’s not impossible. In Gambit Prime, it may not be impossible but it really feels like your victory would have to do with the enemy throwing than amazing play on your part.
The point I’m trying to make here is there’s two Gambits: Sweaty Gambit, and Pubby Gambit. If you base your opinions on Pubby Gambit, you’re not seeing the full picture. If you play Pubby Gambit and just use weapons that you like to use, guns that maybe aren’t the top-tier meta guns against players doing similar; Gambit is a lot of fun. The problem is that you can’t have some gentleman’s agreement to not use Truth, burn the boss in half a second so the second half of the game and insert your hated cheesy thing in gambit here. So you have to balance the game assuming that people are abuse the most powerful stuff in the most henious what possible. Slayer’s criticisms come from knowing just how hard you can abuse the mechanics of Gambit Prime to be as effective as possible, and it’s really not fun to play against.
My Gripe with Roles
My gripe with roles in Prime is that only one of them actually does anything (invader) and the other ones may as well be a change of color. The problem with Prime is there was never going to be a place for 4 unique roles with unique armor perks in Gambit. Bungie put them in so we would have a reason to chase loot in Season of the Drifter. The roles exist to have roles, not because having roles provides any meaningful depth. That’s not a shot at the designers or anything, I’m just calling it as I see it. They did a good job accomplishing what they were trying to do and deliver a unique spin on Gambit. The only way to demonstrate this is by evaluating the gameplay impact of the set perks, so let’s do that.
The intended role of the sentry is to keep the bank clear and kill invaders quickly and the set tries to give you some stuff to do that with. My problem with the sentry perks are best explained by the answer to the following question:
Would you rather have the Izanagi’s Burden Exotic Sniper Rifle or the entire sentry perk set?
Yeah, that’s it. Allow me to explain. Sure, you could have both the Sentry armor set and use Nuggies. But why would I use the Sentry set when I can perform my duties as Sentry just by equipping a singular weapon? I’ve already had to deal with carpal tunnel once and I’m 24. I’m not gonna put the effort to switch gear to get a marginal at best advantage. It’s too damn much work. Nuggies solves all of my problems, 4x Nuggies with the Hammer Strike or Empowering buffs will kill any blocker in half a second, 4x one shots invaders. It let’s me deal tanky targets and invaders quickly and reliably. It’s cheesy but it gets the job done. Let’s go through the perks of Sentry and see how much they actually do for me from the perspective that I can perform my role with maximum effeciency anyway.
- Umbral Strike - Multikills grant a damage buff against Taken. Clears when you damage a taken combatant. Stacks up to 5x.
It’s kinda useful… I guess? I already have lots of ways to deal with blockers anyway. Umbral Strike doesn’t provide a very signiciant benefit.
- Safe and Sound - Standing near the bank starts health regeneration.
This one could be useful. Ideally if you’re dealing with blockers, you don’t want to be near the bank because Taken Captains and Knights will owie you. On top of that, the bank is never the best place to scout an invade on any map. So why would I go near the bank unless I’m banking motes and the bank is clear? The only time it would be useful is if you’re using shotguns, which means you won’t be able to cover ranges with a sniper to deal with invaders.
- Invader Tracker - Damaging invaders marks them for your teammates.
This perk can be good in some hypothetical edge case, but practically it just isn’t that useful. The biggest problem to solve when you hear “Invader on the field”, is to find out where the invader is and engaging him if you’re in a good spot to do so. This isn’t particularly hard and if you’ve played Gambit for any amount of time. You have a good idea of where the invader is spawn. Once you start shooting at the invader, your teammates instantly know where the invader is anyways. For this to perk to actually be useful, the sentry has to spot the invader, not die, not kill the invader instantly so teammates can see the mark and help out and only because they saw the mark. So it just doesn’t help very much.
- Light of the Defender - Standing in the well of light grants max mobility, resilience, and recovery to you and allies.
These stats don’t make any noticeable difference with armor. Why would they make any difference when you’re standing in the well of light? You can start regeneration like .1 seconds faster? Does nothing.
The goal of the reaper class is to kill stuff and create motes for your team. Of the three do-nothing classes, it is the most useful. But it’s by no means required.
- High Value Tracker - Damaging a high-value target or non-Primeval boss marks it and weakens it for allies.
This perk is good and you get it for slapping on a piece of notorious reaper gear. It gives you bonus damage for shooting your guns at stuff, this is an ideal perk. But do you need it when you can just burn it with a super anyways? Not really.
- Pinata of Death
This is a rock-solid perk, though I haven’t actually tested it. Guaranteed special drops is good, period. But is it necessary? Of course not.
- Long Lasting Flavor - Motes you generate have an increased lifetime
I’m sure there’s some theoretical edge case where this perk might be beneficial, but also, it’s just not. Teams should be picking up motes fast, there’s plenty of time alloted to do so already.
- Major Rewards - Defeating powerful enemies grants a temporary surge in grenade recharge rate
This is also a good perk, but it’s just giving me a benefit I can get in at least 5 other ways on Warlock by doing something I already should be rewarded for doing anyways. Also to get this perk I have to give up my armor exotic.
The goal of this class is to bank as many motes as possible.
- Inheretance - Drop a portion of your carried motes on death.
In this case the perks mitigate something that is supposed to be punishing. The big problem is here to be useful, you have to die, and a teammate has to be close enough to you to see the motes and also not die to the invader (presumably). Sure it could be useful, but three/five motes here or there for doing something you aren’t supposed to do isn’t a good foundation for a perk.
- Umbral Armor - Picking up 5 motes rapidly grants an overshield
It’s actually a useful perk, but it’s so situational it’s basically never useful.
- Cashback - Banking grants kinetic and energy ammo whenever you bank.
In the case of special ammo, I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. But special ammo isn’t something you should be starving for if you’re making an effort to conserve it and not getting completely hosed on special drops. In the case of primary ammo, often do people run out of primary ammo without switching weapons mid-round? I would say 1 in every 10 to 15 games.
- High-Yield Savings Carry up to 20 motes. This enables you to send Giant Blockers to the enemy team.
Now this perk sounds earth-shatteringly amazing, right? Not quite. The first issue is the logistical problem of amassing 20 motes… in Gambit Prime. In Gambit Prime, invasions are more frequent than Gambit so it’s more risky to work up to 20 motes to begin with. You know why reddit whines about people saving up for the big blocker? Because people often do it when an invasion is about to occur and then immediately the bank gets blocked and they die. Oh right, you’re also giving up your exotic slot to get this perk. There are two cases where it theoretically might be a good idea to do that:
Your team gives every single mote to the collector so they can send a huge blocker when it’s safe, which in an evenly matched game is at the start. One issue with sending the huge blocker is early is that the major benefit of the huge blocker is that it drains motes by itself, at a point in the game where the enemy team may have no motes in the bank or barely a few. You also have to pull this off incredibly quickly. The major problem is that the huge blocker is one of the easiest to bring down. The huge blocker is HUGE which means it has a visible crit spot and isn’t easily obstructed by map geometry, it doesn’t move around as much as the other blockers, and on top of that the crit spot is so huge Savathuun could use it as a dartboard. It’s just a better strategy to send to medium blockers, who are refectionatly referred by holders of the Dredgen and Reckoner titles as ‘Obnoxious Cunts’.
Your team is far behind that the enemy team already has their primevil, so you don’t have to worry about invades. In this case, the blocker is less of a blocker and more of a speedbump because the enemy team’s attention is directed near the bank because that’s where the primevil is, and can easily blow it away without needing to readjust their positions to get a good angle on it. You also don’t benefit from the mote drain. It’s better to send either large blockers or medium blockers because they’re more disruptive and harder to bring down. Taken Knights fire is a nuisance in the boss phase and can even lead to you dying in well of radiance. Knights have a high hp pool and hitting a quartering-away or rear-end shot when they aren’t locked in the fire cast animation is difficult. Captain’s taken balls aren’t lethal but they are annoying, and they also pretty hard to pin down.
Oh boy, this is the class. I will not pull any punches here, this class is straight-up broken. It is the best class by far and if you’re going to play gambit prime solo-queue you may as well equip it. If you’re playing in a stack, two of your players should be using this set. Here we go:
- Assassin’s Munitions - While invading ammo slowly trickles to your kinetic and special weapons over time.
You get this for one piece of gear, ONE. It’s not even like it’s that good. But it gives you as an invader the bare minimum of what you to be effective. A common problem when you’re playing an invasion heavy style in regular gambit is that you can run out of special and heavy ammo. How do you alleviate this problem? By running out on the map and getting some. Sure, you could get lucky off of the blockers, but this isn’t always the case. So by equipping a singular piece of armor what it allows you to do is, camp the bank and clear blockers with the heavy ammo spawn nearby. Spend all the special ammo you like in doing so, knowing full-well when you invade when you go to make your first peak you will have at least a shot or two. Yeah. It’s not even a situational perk like the Reaper set perk, you get rewarded for pressing the ‘W’ key and the space bar.
- Lethal Defense - Grants an improved Invasion overshield
Invaders already have a crap ton of advantages to begin with and it only makes them better. I have no idea how much the boost actually is, but seriously? Seriously?
- Killmonger - Each guardian defeated while invading grants a temporary bonus once you return to your own arena.
This is the only perk that falls into the category of possibly, situationally effective and even it’s better than most of the other role’s perks.
- Bank Robber - Invading locks the enemy’s bank. Stand near the bank to drain motes.
So on top of every single advantage the invader gets, they get another completely ridiculous advantage on top of it. You could invade, do literally nothing for 30 seconds, and still be a complete nuisance. When you invade the enemy can’t bank, and they will probably also need to clear blockers. But now there is no point in rushing to clear the blockers because you still can’t bank and you’re just putting yourself at risk. So you have to engage the invader, who already has every advantage you could ever want, probably has heavy ammo, and you can’t even risk it for making a break for the bank. On top of that, the enemy team, unless they are also being invaded by someone with a full invader set, is free to send more blockers and which will trigger a mote drain. When the mote drain happens, you can’t engage the blockers because the invader will probably kill you. When you kill the invader, the mote drain is still happening and your bank is still blocked. On top of all of that, the motes that were drained went to the enemies side put them closer to another invade and your side farther away. This bonuses given by the invader set is ridiculous, and it’s obvious.
Removing Roles from Gambit
Obviously up to this point, I’ve mostly just agreed and expanded on Slayer’s points and I think he states the problem with roles better than I ever could:
The various roles of Gambit Prime could have been used as an interesting solution to the problems of invaders being oppressive and ammo economy being too generous. But instead they basically give us triumphs to pursue, ammo, some utility or free wins depending on the set you choose.
But now I want to get to where I disagree with Slayer. Slayer says in his video that to be overhauled in a way that acknowledges the imbalance of invasions. The problem is that roles in multiplayer games is that roles can only be as distinct as the advantages and disadvantages that come with the a player choosing to pick up that particular role. By choosing to play a support in Dota, I get to help my team win the game by keeping vision up, dewarding, generally support heros very strong and cool spells, and I get to play a very active role in the early game. The challenges or disadvantage is that I generally have to think more about keeping myself alive later in fights, have a harder time getting farm, and get picked on by needledick Slark pickers. The carry role has the exact opposite advantages and disadvantages and creates a totally different playstyle that’s as fun and interesting to play and learn. Are the role playstyles really that distinctive in Gambit Prime?
Of course not, at best you get aided slightly in doing things you were going to do anyways or completely broken advantages. It can really only work out this way. If we removed the Gambit Prime perks from the game, would there still be ‘roles’? We need only look at Counter-Strike for an answer. There are roles in Counter-Strike. They’re loosely defined, but they definitely exist. One of the ways that Counter-Strike is balanced through the economy and this can effect your team’s strategy greatly. Let’s say I’m a support player and my entry fragger doesn’t have enough for a rifle, but can afford armor, nades, etc. I will throw them my gun because they’re a better shot than me in exchange for an upgraded pistol. I’ll also peek for them to see where the enemy is and flash for them so they have the best chance possible to win the aim duel. If they win the fight I can generally recover the dropped rifle, and it’s like having had a full buy from the start. I’ve now created an advantage solely through my own decisions in the game, carefully calculating the risks versus the potential benefits. In gambit prime, I’m getting perks for equipping a set of armor and that’s the extent of it. It really doesn’t matter what gear my teammates choose.
So how do roles work in Gambit? Well, Destiny’s sandbox isn’t balanced like Counter-Strike’s. In, Counter-Strike, you want upgraded rifles, and AWP and nothing else. In Destiny, sure there are balance issues that lead to certain weapons being dominant, but still there are benefits and drawbacks to each weapon type. Gambit does a great job at forcing you to think about your loadout and what your team needs, and how the game is going because of what weapon types are beneficial in PvE vs PvP. Let’s say you want to run the Season of Oppulence Basic Bitch build of Mountaintop/Recluse and some other grenade launcher in Gambit. What are you giving up in exchange for le optimal damage per second? Range coverage. Due to the map size, gambit engagements with invaders are generally at longer ranges and these weapons have abolutely no range. By picking up a sniper you lose out on DPS against bosses. But you can engage invaders at any range with a non-zero shot at winning. You get the idea, roles come out of an in-game need and a player modifying their playstyle in some way to fit that need. This leads to interesting decisions and roles in a team organically in a way that doesn’t feel forced. Roles as they are in Gambit Prime only tie a role to certain gear, which then makes the Gambit Prime gear a gameplay non-decision and it’s just a matter of what gear gives you the most perks for the least effort, or free wins. So the perks for wearing role sets should just be removed, effectively removing “roles” from gambit prime entirely.
Is it feasible to remove roles?
I think so. The major feasibility issue to removing roles is that it effectively renders the synths irrelevant, breaks the Reckoner triumphs and turns the difference between each armor set into a change of color. I think all of these problems can be effectively remedied in a way that’s consonant with Bungie’s goals to prune modes from the game as they become less relevant, doesn’t require reworking too many things to achieve it, and will encourage players to play in Gambit and Reckoning.
Let’s start with the first big problem, making the gambit prime sets just a change of color. Excluding when you’re playing Gambit Prime, isn’t that the difference between the sets anyways? Instead the sets chould be consolidated into just the notorious set for each of the roles for color. In the collections there will only be the Notorious Helmet, Guantlets, etc as a placeholder and will be marked as unlocked when a player gets any piece of any armor regardless of color.
How will the Reckoner triumphs be changed? That would be too long for me cover in this novel of a post so I’m not going to. Bottom line: it’s probably the most time consuming part of this to implement, but the sky is not falling. They could even just set a date and say, “Yeah, you can’t earn this anymore. Tough noodles.”
Alright so in consolidating Gambit, we have to consolidate the modes and the loot in a way that makes sense and makes it feel rewarding. Well, Gambit Prime is inseparable from Reckoning so we also have to talk about Reckoning rewards which people are still complaining about even after the change.
One Reckoning to Rule them All
Reckoning isn’t a particularly challenging mode at any level. The only reason people run level 2 is because it’s theoretically like 2% better to get the Spare Rations handcannon and it’s slightly fast, I guess. So do we really need 3 Reckoning offerings? Not really. So Level 1 and 2 should be done away with, ultimately they will fade into irrelevance and only be a trap for new players as the Destiny world evolves over the next year at least. The problem with Tier 3 is that it’s brutally punishing in a way that feels lame. The only time you die is if the knight yeets on you and two of your teammates fly off the bridge and the time runs out, or if you 3 players and don’t play absolutely perfectly. That’s not fun now, and just wait until it’s hard to get a match so you might only have 3 players. So first big change:
- Double the amount of time for each capture point on the bridge. Yes it will be stupidely easy, but that’s the point. It’s only new players that will fail and experienced players are farming it with a group to get Spare Rations.
So we’ve homogenized the Reckoning matchmaking pool, but how do we fix the rewards? Well rewards in Reckoning come back to the mote synthesizer, so we have to change the mote synthesizer too and how it rewards loot. Synths will drop from bounties and gambit as normal. Simply remove all non-Notorious gear from the game. So I think synthesizer rewards should look like this. First the synthesizer has to either have 9 slots or allow the player have 3 options to press a key on hover so they can choose how many motes to deposit:
1x Sentry: Gives Sentry armor or Bug Out Bag 1x Reaper: Gives Reaper armor or Bug Out Bag. 1x Invader Gives Invader armor or Lonesome 1x Collector: Gives collector armor or Lonesome.
2x Sentry: Night Watch 2x Reaper: Spare Rations 2x Collector: Outlast 2x Invader: Gnawing Hunger
3x Sentry: Sole Survivor 3x Invader: Last Man Standing 3x Collector: Just In Case 3x Reaper: Doomsday
In both Gambit and Gambit Prime, randomly dropping heavy ammo is an issue. Heavy weapons, particularly the exotic ones are only balanced by ammo economy, and that’s being generous. Looking at you Truth. It’s really lame to lose a game or even a gunfight because somebody got lucky with heavy ammo and you didn’t. Heavy ammo should be a team resource, but it isn’t with random drops. It’s so lame to watch the enemy invader miss three shots with 1K Voices, think you’re safe and repeak because he’s should be out of ammo, and then get blasted again because he just got lucky and you have no real way to fight back. It’s also really lame to be an invader and get blasted with 4 Truth rockets and get blasted off the map instantly for no reason. Heavy ammo should be given sparingly to deal with invaders, high value targets, dealing damage to the boss, and for invading. Not all four but only some of the time because Daddy Lukems doth not smile on Mythoclast.
Heavy ammo random drops just need to be removed, and only be given sparingly through heavy ammo boxes/some other means.
Both boss phases in Gambit and Gambit Prime feel really awkward, but for different reasons. The major reason is that bosses get burnt in a nano second by running le balanced optimal dps build. People were saying in the comments section of Slayer’s video that the Primevil Envoys prevent this. Allow me to inform you that this simply not the case and just delays the boss getting absolutely trucked by maybe 20 to 30 seconds. So let’s go back to talking about pubby gambit and how the boss phases play and contrast them because I like and dislike parts of both.
It all really comes back to the general rhythem of the boss phase. In general, I think the boss phase is the one thing Gambit Prime gets right. It’s all about the interplay between map movement, and primevil envoys. In Vanilla Gambit, if you don’t instantly burn the boss and play Gambit like your mamma taught ya right, the game just stops progressing after the first ad clear. It generally becomes a static game of turtling near the spawn while Primevil Slayer stacks up, killing the enemy invader, then burning the boss with supers once it hits 5 stacks or so. If that doesn’t work out and neither team has supers or heavy you’re basically starving for special because no ads really spawn. So it basically degenerates into whose team does more cocky peeks on the invader and gets punished for it than the other team.
On the opposite side, Gambit Prime gets it mostly right. With Gambit Prime the starvation effect doesn’t happen as much because you’re constantly running around killing the envoys to DPS the boss. This is good because it gets people out on the map for the invader to kill, the envoys go down faster, and they have more access to special ammo because there’s an regular helping of trash mobs to kill. Sniper fights are more fun than 4v1 scout rifle fights for all involved. The problem is that to get the buff the entire team has to stand in a circle to get the buff. A circle where they can be blown away from a single 1K shot from an invader. That’s not fun, it’s choosing between optimal DPS and relative safety. It also makes invasion at specific times more impactful than they should be.
So what would a more optimal boss phase look like?
Take the best of both worlds really and spice it up a bit. The boss phase should focus on attaining and maintaining the primevil slayer buff and should be the key to bringing down the boss. On the flipside the invader should be focused on removing the primevil slayer buff by killing guardians. To make this work you have to change how boss damage works using the primevil slayer buff, prioritizing primaries and making supers, heavy and special do comparatively little damage when compared to high stacks of PSB with primaries. A Gambit Perfected mode boss phase would have these core mechanics:
- The boss has no shield and can be damaged at any time.
- The primevil slayer buff affects primary damage greatly. Stacks are given to each player each time a Primevil Envoy is killed. After an envoy is killed another envoy spawns. The player that got the last hit on the envoy gets two stacks.
- An amount of primevil slayer stacks are removed when an invader kills a guardian on the opposing team.
- A number of stacks are removed from an individual player if they die for any reason.
- The boss is healed a small amount when an invader gets a kill.
I think this brings Gambit closer to what I think Bungie was going for. It makes having high-tier heavy DPS weapons Mountaintop less relevant because special weapon DPS is not prioritized in the boss phase, encouraging players to branch out more with their weapon choices. It gets players out on the map because you need stacks, forcing them to engage with invaders. This makes it fun because the invaders aren’t walking into a turtling team hoping that one guy peeks out or being forced to run into the building on the dreaming city to be blasted instantly by 4 people. It should make invasions feel less oppressive, while still making them feel impactful. It brings out the PvE race side of Gambit a little more in the boss phase.
Obviously, there will need to be better visual reinforcement for getting stacks. You’ll probably need to do something with the healthbar to make it feel like getting more stacks is the best way to play. This could probably be done by changing the color of the bosses healthbar and visually showing how much the buff provides and how much the next stack will. But that’s the basic idea.
Conclusion - Alright Alright Alright.
Obviously this piece went on way longer than I expected and I’m sure I left some loose ends somewhere, but that’s alright. That’s what the comments section is for. ;)
Gambit is a unique mode with excellent craftsmanship and should absolutely be a key piece of the Destiny world. That said it’s not always gonna be the focus and sooner or later Bungie is going to have to make a choice about which one gets cut. I think both have significant room for improvement. I think taking the good and bad from both to make an ultimate mode is the best way forward. If by some stroke of luck somebody at Bungie sees this I hope they’ll consider making some of these changes and don’t think I’m a brash asshole.
See ya, and let’s go be bad guys.