And now for a short Destiny story.
Last night, I was teamed up with two friends, playing through Destiny's new Prison of Elders challenge mode. It was me, my colleague Jason Schreier, and Mashable's Adam Rosenberg. The three of us regularly play together. We were taking on the Prison on level 32, which is a pretty tough difficulty level — nothing like the harder level 34 or 35 difficulty settings, but far from a walk in the park.
It was late Monday night, which meant that in a few hours, the Prison would reset for the week and we'd have a new set of challenges to overcome. We were doing fine, and easily beat the first three levels (out of five) when Adam's internet connection started acting up. First his chat cut out, then he vanished from our fireteam. He tried to re-join a few times to no avail. Eventually he gave up and called it a night. If Jason and I were going to finish, we'd have to find a third player somewhere else.
None of our other friends were available, so we turned to an LFG site and quickly found a player who was looking to do level 32 Prison of Elders. Moments later, he joined our party chat and our game. His PSN handle was something along the lines of "Tripplo," so I'll call him that for this story. He was a nice-sounding gentleman (Canadian accent, I think?) who hadn't actually done PoE on 32 yet — this was his first time.
Jason, Tripplo and I quickly beat the fourth level. All that was left was the fifth level… but as I already knew from clearing it on my other two characters, the fifth level was very difficult. You had to contend with a huge Cabal boss who would instantly kill you if he got too close, along with overwhelming mobs of deadly Cabal enemies, many of whom were sporting fire shields.
The boss had a shield, too, and each time you'd bring it down he would recalibrate it to a different element — it'd go from fire, to void, to arc, and you'd have to switch guns in order to deal bring it down and deal any actual damage.
We went up against him a few times and got our asses kicked. I felt a familiar sort of Destiny despair, that feeling when you're faced with a challenge that you can just tell your team won't be able to match. It was gonna be a long hour or two, likely ending with us admitting defeat and walking away.
That was when our saviour arrived.
That saviour, in this case, was a gentleman named Russ Frushtick, an ex-Polygon writer with whom we sometimes play. So Russ pops unannounced into our party chat. "What're you guys doing?" He's not in our game — he's playing some Crucible match or watching Game of Thrones or something — but he hangs out anyway. Soon, he starts to give us advice.
Oh, he says, you should actually all be coordinating when you take his shield down. Say, did you know that the other minions spawn after you take his shield down and do a certain amount of damage, so you can clear them out and then coordinate an attack against him? Kirk, you should be using Vision of Confluence and not Vex Mythoclast, because the Mythoclast burns through ammo too fast. Oh yeah, you guys can't bunch up, you have to all keep moving or their splash damage will wreck you.
Our team was emboldened. We adjusted our strategy and started working together. Russ sat in our team chat, quietly doing whatever it was he was doing, listening and occasionally chiming in to offer guidance. Things were hairy at first, but in short order we worked it out, beat the boss, and got to the treasure room. Victory.
The experience captured much of what I like about Destiny as a whole: The way the game can feel like a seat-of-your-pants battle, even when you're facing challenges you've overcome before. The feeling of relief when your team bests a challenge you didn't think you could handle. And in particular, the sense of community it can engender — the fun of learning to work with a stranger from LFG, and the way the Destiny community freely shares information in order to help everyone do better.
The story doesn't always play out the way it did last night. Sometimes you can't find a workable strategy to save your lives. Sometimes the LFG person you add is a jerk. Sometimes you simply fail over and over again, and eventually give up and go to bed. But every now and then, it works out just right.
In Destiny, high-level players will occasionally team up with low-level players to help them complete tough challenges and earn rewards they'd be unable to get otherwise. This practice is known as "carrying" or "sherpa-ing." There's a sort of unspoken karma attached to it — many players are happy to carry lower-level players, because we all know that at some point down the line, we might need some carrying ourselves.
Last night, my Destiny group got carried, but it wasn't by a higher-level player who fought alongside us. Rather, we were carried by a friend who gave us the knowledge we needed to carry ourselves. That's Destiny at its finest.