Destiny’s Prison Of Elders Should Let Us Take Breaks

Destiny’s Prison Of Elders Should Let Us Take Breaks

Destiny‘s new cooperative challenge mode is called “The Prison of Elders”. It’s a fitting name: Thanks to the way checkpoints work, it really can leave you feeling imprisoned.

The Prison is a new game mode introduced in the newest Destiny expansion, House of Wolves. The gist: You make a team of three and make your way through five increasingly difficult rounds in an enclosed arena. They take on waves of Hive, Cabal, Fallen or Vex enemies. Sometimes a boss will turn up; other times, you’ll simply have three waves of enemies to clear out. Sometimes you have to go stand in various areas and defuse bombs, or take down a powerful target enemy before it can reach a series of checkpoints. Make through all five rounds, and you’ll be rewarded with a treasure room and the chance at some really good gear.

There is, however, a problem with how the Prison of Elders is set up, and it’s a problem with no clear solution. See, the Prison of Elders doesn’t allow you to save your checkpoint, step away from the game, and pick up back where you left off. There are checkpoints in the sense that if your team is wiped out, you restart the current round but don’t have to start from the beginning. But if you go to orbit (or turn the game off) and try to come back, you’ll find that you can’t. You’ll have to start from the beginning. (As with most things Destiny, there’s already a workaround of sorts that at least allows a player to go to orbit and re-join before the final round, though it still requires the remaining team members to stick around and hold the checkpoint.)

The Prison of Elders comes in four difficulty levels: Level 28, level 32, level 34, and level 35. The challenge and corresponding time commitment increase significantly with each new level of difficulty. Level 28 is no problem — you can let the game automatically match you with strangers and you shouldn’t have any real trouble blowing through all five rounds in less than an hour. Level 32 can be tricky, but is doable. You’ll have to bring your own team, but skilled players should be able to get through it in around an hour — less if they have already done it and know what’s coming next.

Level 34 is where things get hairy. 34 is the new level cap, meaning that only max-level characters can play the level 34 prison without taking a significant damage penalty, and the high-level modifiers can make things immensely difficult. Level 35, meanwhile, is currently the hardest PvE activity that exists in Destiny — even max-level players are fighting one level below the enemies, meaning that they do less damage and take more damage than normal. The final boss at level 35 can take many hours to finally defeat, and that’s on top of the time it takes to get to him.

One can imagine, then, how the no-saved-checkpoints thing becomes an issue as the difficulty gets higher. If you spend two hours fighting your way to a boss, only to find yourself stuck and exhausted on the boss fight itself, it’s awful knowing that you can’t take a break or come back to it the next day without needing to do the whole damned thing all over again.

Here’s a shitty story: Last week, I teamed up with two friends to take on the level 34 Prison. They were both at 34, I was level 33, and we figured hey, the preceding week wasn’t too bad, so this should be fine. We fought our way through level after level, squeaking by a few of the challenges by the skin of our teeth.

We eventually reached the final boss — a big robot named Qodron who is apparently a “Vex Chronovore.” (He eats time! Mmmm. Time.) This fight was HARD. Extremely hard. I don’t need to go into particulars — suffice to say that even once we figured out what we had to do, it remained one of the most difficult challenges I’ve ever undertaken in Destiny. We wiped again and again and again before finally figuring out what might be a workable strategy. It had taken us an hour or two to get through the first four rounds, but we easily spent just as long banging our heads against that final battle.

Before we knew it, it was past 1AM. All three of us had to get up the next day for work, but none of us wanted to admit defeat. I remember commenting about how trapped I felt: We’d worked so hard just to get to this point, and I couldn’t believe that if we decided to stop now, we’d have to do the whole thing all over again.

Finally, at around 1.30am, I threw in the towel. I was exhausted after too many hours of Destiny. We’d come close a couple of times, but those heartbreaking near-victories just made things worse. It was the polar opposite of that heartwarming story of victory and teamwork I shared last week. I didn’t care that I was giving up all the progress we’d made; I was done.

My two level 34 teammates were considering going to an LFG site to find a third level 34 to help them finish, but I was calling it a night. I left our chat and went to orbit… only to realise too late that I was still our group leader and had accidentally pulled my two teammates out with me. There was no going back. Just like that, my careless screw-up cost all three of us an entire night’s progress.

I was mortified. I still am. I apologised profusely, face in my hands, unable to believe that I’d made such an amateur-hour mistake. I had already been bummed that my non-level-34ness had contributed to our inability to beat the boss, and now my inattention had cost my teammates any chance of making it to the level 34 treasure room that night.

Later they told me it was ok, since they both really needed to go to sleep anyway, but I could tell it wasn’t. I imagined how I would feel were the shoe on the other foot — I’d be pissed. All because the Prison of Elders doesn’t let you go to bed and keep your progress.

There’s a reason the Prison doesn’t let you hang on to your checkpoints, of course. The Prison of Elders’s big “treasure room” comes at the end, after you’ve beaten all five levels. If players could quit and load back in at the boss, people would stop fighting through all five rounds. Instead, they’d get one character up to the final checkpoint, then everyone would take turns swapping in their other two alt characters. They’d save the checkpoint on all three, then quickly beat the boss three times for three times the reward.

Destiny‘s raids let you hang on to checkpoints, and there are certainly people who use that fact to swap in their alts and maximise the rewards they get each week. (I’ve done it too.) I understand why Bungie would prefer players to work through the entire Prison each week, but if making a game more player-friendly also opens the door to exploitation by hardcore players, I’d almost always rather see developers go the player-friendly route anyway.

Over at the Destiny subreddit, players have been coming up with creative possible solutions to the Prison’s checkpointing problem. Some suggest giving players a non-transferrable “key” item for each round they complete that lets only that character pick up where they left off. Others propose giving lower-level rewards for each round cleared, which would give an incentive for playing through the whole thing.

I don’t know which ideas would be workable and which wouldn’t, but it’s hard to read through that thread without coming away thinking that there must be ways Bungie could address this problem without opening the Prison of Elders up to wholesale exploitation.

For the most part, those of us who have embraced Destiny over the past nine months have learned how to fit the game into our lives. We know where we can pause, when we can safely step away to use the john or check on the baby or grab some food. We know how long most things will take us, and we know we can leave a raid in progress and come back later to finish it. The game is certainly demanding of one’s time, but if you know how to divide it up, it’s manageable.

The Prison of Elders, at the moment, falls just outside of manageable. As Bungie has demonstrated with so much of the generally terrific House of Wolves expansion, they’re clearly listening to their players. Hopefully they’re listening on this one too.


  • They seriously need to fix 35 PoE. It’s pretty much impossible to do legitimately without resorting to cheese at present. Last week it ended up being a Gjallarhorn solar damage cheese kill, this week it’s a Patience and Time arc damage cheese kill.

    I’ve done several 35 PoE’s, but they’re such a horrific chore for bugger all reward, that friends and I have pretty much decided we won’t be pursuing them anymore until something changes. I mean sure, you get an extra armor core, weapon core and etheric light, but it’s just not worth it at the moment. I’ll just do 32 and 34 on all three of my characters, which is far more enjoyable. 35 just makes me want to end my life.

    • Especially with the connection issues they’re having lately. A friend spent four hours getting through the 35 with his group, got to Skolas, and after a few tries, all three got booted to the title screen cause of a network error.

      • Was with a group yesterday and watched as one of them got booted as he landed in the treasure room. He was devastated.

        • Started at 8pm, got to skolas at 2am figured out the strat, got kicked psn error code shenanigans. I got screwed and my mates too, not as bad as the treasure room kick but it still stings.

  • I’m glad I’m not the only one feeling this 🙂

    I basically only get good destiny time in once my partners asleep 10-12 AEST and when you are tired you do play a little sloppier then your conscious counterpart which makes it all the more punishing.

    Another annoying instance I came across: I played through the lv 34 PoE the other night with 2 randoms I found in the Tower – they booted me from the party as soon as the very last boss was dead on round 5 and I couldn’t do anything about it even though I was the level 32 who was doing 3/4 of the damage to the boss with my maxed out icebreaker and revived them both several times.

    Also getting tired of all the instant deaths in PvP – the games PvP aspect worked really well in the low levels now its becoming a infestation of max levels using the cheapest instantly killing weapons available – I get it, but its still a little dull only living in shorter bursts worse then the likes of CoD and I really didn’t encounter it as much until the last expansion was released.

    • A lot of the new Crucible maps do feel tailored for very close quarters, which equals shotgun instakill fest. A little irritating.

    • I feel you on PvP. Maybe everyone else has practiced a lot more than me, but I’m getting smashed now in the crucible.

  • Qodron hasn’t been play-tested thoroughly imo. Yes it should be difficult, it’s HoW’s replacement for a raid, but it needs to be fair. Having a multitude of yellow hobgoblins sniping you, a goblin that’s barely different enough from the rest of the goblins you need to find while under fire from Qodron and said hobgoblins, and a detainment shield that kills you instantly if you’re standing in the wrong spot…

    That said, I think people complaining about ‘cheesing’ it with Gjallahorns and a Titan shield, if you’re using the weapons the game gives you and an ability to protect yourself, that’s not a cheese. That’s using the tools they’ve given you to try and beat the game fairly. A cheese is pulling your ethernet cable out of your modem to stop Crota from standing up.

    • Qodron was pretty terrible as well. We tried for ages, and could barely get out of the first containment fields. I think everyone should get jail breaker when the eye dies. Might be more feasible, but even then it’ll still be pretty brutal.

      As for Skolas, it just makes me sad you can’t kill him ‘properly’. You have to be able to drop him quick enough to be able to get to the first mine and disarm it, or it’s pretty much over. You also need to hope the mine just happens to spawn right next to you or in mid. Not great design. Like you said, I wonder if anyone actually playtested it thoroughly.

    • Half the time the Eye wouldn’t even spawn in time before we got detained. It was pathetic. The first week’s boss, while difficult, was actually fun. This week, I literally just said after two separate sessions (each lasting over 2 hours and having nothing to show for it) “forget it, I’ll just wait till next week to do 34”.

      Without Gjallahorn there’s just no way to complete this week’s prison. It’s just not feasible, and I’ve been told that by very high level players, the kind who 9-0 Trials of Osiris every week.

      Irony is, Bungie has specifically come out to say “There should be no single answer for how to win in Destiny.” and “Balance is not about everyone being equal, but rather that not everybody is doing the exact same thing. If everyone is doing the same exact thing, something is not balanced. Everybody is trying to pursue the same unbalanced thing.” When they cut damage from auto rifles (which are now essentially worthless).

      But Gjallahorn is that weapon, Icebreaker is that weapon. I’m not saying bring those weapons down in usefulness or damage, I’m saying bring everything else up to their level. It’s fun to feel empowered. And as much as we’ve been conditioned at this point not to believe it, playing Destiny should be fun.

      Destiny can really be summed up as a series of mistakes and over-corrections of those mistakes.

      • We tried Qodron legitimately for several hours, and eventually gave up and Gjallarhorn cheesed him from a Titan bubble. We had three 34’s and it was just impossible. The eye’s spawn was so irregular we couldn’t keep it up. Plus the containment fields, with only one person getting jail breaker.

        Whereas Urrox in the previous week was actually a lot of fun – we went in the first few times and got owned by his rage, and were like ‘how on earth could anyone do this?’ but we figured it out, and did it properly. Was really satisfying.

        And Skolas is just an unfunny joke.

        • Yeah the worst part is, Qodron is supposed to be beatable by three 33s. Just think, if someone started House Of Wolves this week or Qodron was last week’s boss through randomness, NOBODY would have etheric light (and thus be 34) yet. Hell, if you don’t have an alternate character who you ran 34 with last week, even if you started House Of Wolves day one you wouldn’t be 34 yet. So by the rules of this game and Bungie’s assumptions, three 33s is adequate to defeat him.

    • Ahh the old Etheryank technique…I laughed until I saw it first hand. I often wonder how these sort of cheeses are discovered.

  • One level 34 with a 365 found verdict breaks the detainment bubbles pretty quickly.

    The way I managed to do it with all three characters (and different fireteams of 33s and 34s) was that I would focus on finding the eye and getting the jail breaker buff. From the left side he almost always jumps off the platform where Qodron is standing and walks along the wall.

    When the detainment bubbles would come up we would huddle up together behind the boxes. I would then break all 3 bubbles with 4-5 shots with the found verdict (the others would help with whatever gun they had). The other two would then focus solely on damaging Qodron while I killed adds with the fatebringer in between killing the eye.

    Once you have a rhythm going he goes down pretty quickly.

  • Was doing the 34 PoE Friday(?, destiny moulds my nights together sometimes), we’d reached Qodron or whatever the wankers name is and finally figured out how to do the sequence of events with a little cheese. My friend and I were 34 Striker Titans so we could break our detainment sheild occasionally (trickle is a bitch of a modifier) on our own. This was after what felt like the 100,000th try…forgive us, we’d never heard or done Qodron before then. Only to have my friends internet drop after we popped ammo synths, had full supers, grenades and melees. We couldn’t get him back in when he came back online because it’s the final boss and Destiny doesn’t allow people to join at that particular point. So my other friend…a 33 warlock sunsinger and myself are up shit creek after spending 4 hours on this boss. We tried. I’d say tried valiantly as we got pretty far at one point just to run out of special ammo…meaning the detainment shields were unbreakable for us…and synths had 40 seconds cool down. We went to orbit feeling robbed, cheated and used.

    Simple fix. Checkpoints save per character. If you log out and try to join with an ALT character you can’t, you have to start at the beggining. This way getting kicked isn’t a fatal blow if you’re on the final boss AND you can come back to it another night AND the checkpoint can’t transferred like Raids. The mechanic is already there to not allow players to join and the mechanic is also there to save checkpoints specific to character…surely it couldn’t be that hard to implement in the next patch? Bungie hear my prayer…

    • You can get people in on the final boss, incidentally. Just get the remaining two people to die, and as soon as they respawn, tell the third to join immediately. Really small window to do it in, but it works.

      • Yeah, I found this out the next day pretty sure…but I always forget about it.

  • Yeah PoE (At least 34/35) needs checkpoints. These are taking people way longer than either raid with no rewards along the way. I haven’t even attempted level 35 due to that feeling trapped feeling and having to give up after hours due to life getting in the way. Hell I almost had to leave helping some friends through the level 34 (I’d already done it on all my characters once legit using mechanics and twice with the gjally nuke method) as we got stuck on the final boss for a while mostly just waiting for ammo synths between attempts. I would have felt terrible leaving the potentially stuck without any rewards and needing to go through it all over again.

    I understand why PoE doesn’t have checkpoints if Bungie can’t redesign them from how they work in the raids where you can just trade checkpoints around but there needs to be something. Imagine if Trials of Osiris required you to get all 9 wins in a row without exiting the playlist or if you happen to lose connection etc

  • Those… hobgoblins… so many… hobgoblins… all elite… most yellow… hrrrrrrnnggngngngng…

    I remember we attempted this last week. Went to 1 am as well and had to throw in the towel. Got the boss down to 15% but the eye spawned way behind him. All of us had invectives and the only guy with the ice breaker was out of ammo killing the boss. Just watching that eye, walking behind doing nothing and then the “searching” comes on. Funnily enough we managed to shoot through the bubble. But it was the splash damage that killed us after. ARRRrrggghhh! Had to call it. Felt so crap.

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