Have you met Thaviks, The Depraved? He's a jerk. If you've ever finished Destiny 2's Exodus Crash strike, you've fought him, and probably hated him.
Strikes in Destiny 2 are standalone mini-adventures designed to be taken on by three players. Each one usually lasts around 30 minutes or so (provided nothing goes wrong) and has you move through a few challenges until you get to a big room with a big boss.
The boss of the Exodus Crash strike is a big Fallen Vandal named Thaviks, The Depraved, and he is probably the most hated foe in the game.
In fact, Exodus Crash is easily fans' most loathed strike, and has been more or less since the game launched. There are forum threads and reddit posts from last September, when Destiny 2 first came out, talking about how annoying the strike is, and that annoyance has only increased over time.
The early tipping point was probably when the strike had its turn as the modified, more difficult Nightfall strike, when it was so difficult it required players to use out-of-bounds "cheese" strategies to win.
Parts of the strike are fine. People aren't mad about the story, which has you fighting off a group of scavenging Fallen from the Exodus Black, a crashed ship that belongs to the friendly A.I. Failsafe. Nor even the jokey script, though there are only so many times you can hear Nathan Fillion sing solfège before it gets old.
It's not the challenges leading up to the boss room, which have you collecting pulses out in the Nessus patrol zone (annoying but easy), fighting off waves of Fallen while you wait for Ghost to hack something (as standard a Destiny encounter as exists), and taking down a Fallen spider tank (except maybe that).
No, the vast bulk of complaints about Exodus Crash are to do with the fight against Thaviks.
The Exodus Crash boss room, annotated.
After the spider tank and the radio banter and the platforming, the strike culminates in a big open space where Thaviks lurks. The boss room consists of a series of platforms connected by walkways, arrayed in a circle.
There are pits in between the platforms, so if you aren't careful, you'll fall in and die. Thaviks is smaller than your average Destiny boss; in fact, he feels like an experiment by the developers at Bungie to see if they could make a boss fight that didn't involve a big hulking monster stomping around the room.
Thaviks can become invisible, and he attacks with a fast-fire shotgun and a brutal melee attack. He moves quickly, and tends to target one member of your fireteam and chase them relentlessly around the arena. At various points in the fight triggered by the state of his health bar, he disappears in a cloud of smoke and a wave of less powerful enemies enters the room from the sides. He'll eventually return, again invisible and hunting you.
The disappearing and reappearing is a big part of why people dislike fighting Thaviks. There have been bosses that teleport or leave the room for a while in Destiny in the past, but none of them worked quite like he does, and certainly none of them inspired such animus among players.
It feels like Thaviks is always teleporting away, and he's impossible to keep track of even when he's around. That means it's impossible for everyone on your fireteam to coordinate their supers and power weapons to "burn the boss" quickly, because even if you do, he'll probably just vanish in the middle of your attack.
Bosses in Destiny 2 have health bars broken into three large segments, but Thaviks' disappearing act isn't tied to him losing one of his segments. It happens more frequently than that, so it's hard to visually gauge and predict when he's about to vanish.
I can't count the number of times I've popped my super, done just enough damage to get him to enter a new phase, and then wound up sitting in an empty room with an active super like a jerk.
A common occurrence during this fight.
The second annoying thing about the fight is the fact that the enemies who enter in between phases are accompanied by electrified shanks. If you haven't played Destiny for a while, Shanks are those little floating robots that the Fallen deploy as support drones.
Normal shanks just shoot at you, but electrified shanks cause the floor near them to course with arc energy, which causes your character to become shocked and move slowly.
If you aren't diligent about killing the electro-shanks when they come in, you'll wind up jumping the wrong direction to avoid Thaviks, get stuck in place, and die.
Kill these immediately.
What's interesting about the Thaviks fight is that on paper, it all sounds fine. It sounds interesting, actually. So many Destiny bosses follow a tried-and-true formula: there's a boss in a room, you do a damage phase, it becomes invincible or the room changes in some way until you unlock the next damage phase, rinse and repeat.
The Thaviks fight experiments with that by having a more treacherous than usual room, a boss who is difficult to keep track of, and distinct smaller enemies (the electric shanks) who work in tandem with the boss, forcing fireteams to immediately shift focus to them each time a new wave enters the room.
I was actually fine with the Exodus Crash strike the first time I played it; if anything, I remember thinking it was refreshing that Bungie was trying a different sort of boss encounter. It was around the time the strike had its turn as the Nightfall that I noticed sentiment turning against it, and by mid-October it was basically just accepted that it sucks.
By then I had played through the strike a dozen more times, and I, too, had grown sick of it.
Just as the Nightfall strike brought Exodus Crash's problems into relief last September, the new Heroic strikes have once again brought it up as a sore spot. In Destiny, a "heroic" version of a strike or a mission means it requires a higher power level and features tougher enemies, along with some modifiers.
Last week, Destiny 2's heroic strikes got an overhaul and become much more difficult than they had been. Most players are currently at or below those strikes' 350 power-level recommendation, which perversely makes heroic strikes harder than Nightfall strikes and most versions of the Leviathan raid, at least until players get closer to the 385 power cap.
Heroic strikes have traditionally been more of a mid-level challenge in Destiny 2, and it's a little funny to see them suddenly elevated to the top of the heap, however temporarily.
None of the Heroic strikes currently in the game are easy, including Exodus Crash. Heroic strikes get rotating modifiers each day, and over the weekend one of the modifiers included "Blackout," which turns off your radar and makes all enemy melee attacks kill you instantly.
That modifier, combined with Thaviks' stealth and relentless melee attacks, helped make Exodus Crash the most frustrating, difficult version of an already disliked strike.
"I don't understand why we had to kill Oryx, Crota, Atheon, and Ghaul, when Thaviks could have beaten them all on his own," they wrote. "With blackout and a swing from his swords, I'm surprised it doesn't just kick me out of Destiny 2, delete my character, and just uninstall the game for me. There is nothing that can stop Thaviks in heroic strikes. He's unkillable."
The responses to that post are loaded with people who've tried and failed to complete the strike, as well as many noting how every time the strike comes up in the playlist, they watch the other two players they have been paired with immediately quit. That matches with my experience - even before heroic strikes were this tough, I would frequently load into this strike and immediately find myself alone.
The main issue with Destiny 2's new heroic strikes, at the moment, is that despite being harder than just about everything else in the game, they offer paltry rewards. You could spend an hour and a half with your 350-power character bashing your head against the Thaviks fight only to be rewarded with a couple of useless 340 blue items, some Vanguard tokens, and a bit of money.
That makes a sort of sense, since Heroic strikes will doubtless be much easier in a few weeks, once more players have gotten their power level up another 10 or 20 points.
But at the moment, it makes for a ruefully funny disconnect between effort and reward. Congratulations, Guardian, you defeated one of the hardest bosses you've ever fought in this game! Please enjoy this instantly deleteable blue pulse rifle.
I'm fascinated by the Thaviks fight, and why it's so widely hated. Destiny has had teleporting bosses in the past - the darkblade fight in The Taken King comes to mind, and the boss of the Inverted Spire also vanishes at various points throughout the fight.
But while I'll acknowledge that some of the widespread hate for this strike is probably due to the persuasive effects of groupthink, there's also something uniquely annoying about it.
Exodus Crash is a good example of how challenging it is to make a fun boss fight, and how easy it is for small problems to exacerbate one another. Several minor aspects of the fight combine to make the encounter more frustrating than exciting: there's the fact that Thaviks goes invisible becomes harder to track than most Destiny bosses, which leaves the fight feeling chaotic and hard to read.
There are the electro-shanks, which can be infuriating for obvious reasons: it never feels good to get stuck in place and be unable to properly evade or defend yourself. There's the way Thaviks disappearances are unpredictable and aren't clearly tied to segments on his health bar, which often causes you to waste a super or a rocket.
And there's the length and pacing of the encounter, which goes on one or two teleportation rounds too long. Put some tough modifiers on all that and you've got a boss fight that's more jammed up and arhythmic than Destiny fights usually are, as well as being more difficult.
A few weeks ago Bungie community manager dmg04 posted to the Destiny subreddit asking for feedback about Exodus Crash. "What about this strike is unappealing?" he wrote. "How frequently do you encounter players leaving the strike when it comes up, and when?"
The responses are interesting, and near unanimous: the boss fight is the problem, specifically how frustrating it is that he'll disappear when you've just fired a rocket or triggered your super. "He disappears so quickly it feels like the entire fight is just waiting for him to come back," wrote YouCanCallMeBazzza, "you activate your super only for him to disappear and you stand there with nothing to use it on."
"We like boss burning. Thaviks is the opposite of boss burning."
"We want to make things challenging, but not necessarily infuriating." Bungie has been aggressively seeking player feedback for months now, and just recently we've begun to see the results - the season 3 updates and the Warmind expansion both feel like the first steps toward directly addressing the complaints of the hardcore fanbase.
It seems likely that heroic strikes, and Exodus Crash in particular, will be tweaked in the months to come.
If Bungie changes the strike, it will be interesting to see how they do it, especially because their solutions for Destiny's problems don't tend to be the specific things fans have requested or are expecting. Given the hatred of Thaviks and the fight's evident problems, though, any change could help.