Gam­bit in Des­tiny 2: For­saken

It’s good to be bad in Destiny2’ s best mode.

PC GAMER (UK) - - EXTRA LIFE - By Phil Sav­age

Gam­bit is a race. Two teams of four play­ers en­ter sep­a­rate but iden­ti­cal are­nas and com­pete to be the first team to kill the boss that spawns af­ter bank­ing 75 motes. I ex­plain this to a friend as I ac­com­pany him into his first ever match. “Okay,” he says, clearly pre­par­ing a fol­low up ques­tion. “What’s a mote?” Ah, right, yes.

I ex­pand my ex­pla­na­tion, but quickly get lost in the sprawl of rules and sys­tems. “So, when you kill en­e­mies, they drop these glow­ing things – ‘motes’ – that you need to col­lect be­fore they dis­ap­pear. Once you’ve got some motes, put them in the bank – it’s the big glow­ing tank at the cen­tre of the map. But make sure you col­lect at least five, or, bet­ter yet, ten or 15. That screws over the en­emy team. Oh, and some­times the bank won’t be avail­able. That’s be­cause the en­emy team is screw­ing us over, too. Does that make sense?”

I ex­plain how you lock down the op­pos­ing team’s bank by send­ing Block­ers that be­come more pow­er­ful the more motes you’re hold­ing when you bank. I ex­plain how, at var­i­ous points through­out the match, you can in­vade or be in­vaded by the other team. I ex­plain the var­i­ous tricks that I have dis­cov­ered – im­por­tant tac­tics like “don’t die” and “if a team­mate al­ready has a lot of motes, let them fill up rather than steal­ing them for your­self”, and “like, se­ri­ously, do not die”. I’m still ex­plain­ing things when we fi­nally load into the map. I haven’t even got to the bit about how you win.

Mote race

Gam­bit is, to put it mildly, a lot. There are nu­ances and com­pet­ing strate­gies and the un­bear­able em­bar­rass­ment of mist­im­ing a jump and ac­ci­den­tally fall­ing to your death while car­ry­ing a mas­sive stack of motes. And yet, it’s also strangely in­tu­itive. You kill en­e­mies and grab the de­tri­tus that gath­ers across the floor – just like in ev­ery other Des­tiny 2 ac­tiv­ity. Even as the com­i­cally in­ef­fec­tive tu­to­rial is fail­ing to tell you how to play, the game it­self is re­as­sur­ing: you’ve got this. You’ve done this be­fore. You know what to do.

And damn, does it work. You can tell a lot about what a mode is meant to con­vey from the fic­tional wrap­ping Bungie cre­ates for it. Its Cru­cible PvP modes are more akin to a sport­ing con­test over­seen by an ex­citable man who bel­lows with pride when you do a mul­ti­kill. But pre­sid­ing over Gam­bit is the mys­te­ri­ous Drifter, who rev­els in giv­ing Guardians the chance to take a walk on the wild side. More than just a com­pe­ti­tion, Gam­bit is de­signed to let you rel­ish be­ing a bit of a jerk.

A well-timed in­va­sion feels trans­gres­sively dick­ish. It’s not just that you’re killing other play­ers; you’re ac­tively un­do­ing their hard work. In one game, I man­aged to un­leash my su­per abil­ity on two play­ers run­ning to bank a max­i­mum stack of notes. It’s pos­si­ble that I ac­tu­ally cack­led.

Even though the bulk of each Gam­bit match is spent fight­ing AI mobs, the pres­ence of the en­emy team is al­ways keenly felt. When you die to the Blocker that was pre­vent­ing you from bank­ing your motes, you know that an en­emy player was re­spon­si­ble. When you ex­e­cute a per­fectly timed in­va­sion that thrusts you into the lead, you know that your op­po­nents are curs­ing your name. The UI gives you an at-a-glance read­out of how both teams are per­form­ing, and so even the most rote ac­tion takes on height­ened im­por­tance.

Men­tal block

Gam­bit takes the fre­netic pace of a good sin­gle­player en­counter and mar­ries it to the un­pre­dictable na­ture of com­pet­i­tive mul­ti­player. It’s a game of con­stant ques­tions. When should I bank? When should I in­vade? Do I have enough health to grab that mote be­fore I am sur­rounded by en­e­mies? It’s in­tu­itive, yes, and grat­i­fy­ing, yes, but also strate­gic and im­pro­vi­sa­tional.

As you learn the small nu­ances of the com­pe­ti­tion, you’re con­stantly

Gam­bit is, to put it mildly, a lot. There are nu­ances and com­pet­ing strate­gies

mak­ing mi­croad­just­ments to re­spond to the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion. Try­ing to time it just right so you’ve banked your motes be­fore an op­pos­ing player in­vades, or send­ing the spe­cific Blocker that will cause the most prob­lems based on the cur­rent map or sit­u­a­tion. So much of Des­tiny feels like a solved prob­lem that re­wards ex­e­cu­tion over im­pro­vi­sa­tion, but Gam­bit has ce­mented it­self as the most dis­tinct, ex­per­i­men­tal and con­sis­tently en­ter­tain­ing ac­tiv­ity in the game right now. Long af­ter I’m bored with the Strikes, the story and even the endgame zone, I’ll al­ways have time for one more race.

RIGHT: When the por­tal opens, you can in­vade the en­emy. Do it when they’re fight­ing Block­ers.

LEFT: The Drifter over­sees the com­pe­ti­tion, and thus is pre­sum­ably re­spon­si­ble for its weird rules.

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