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From the daily reset yesterday through the daily reset today, Bungie made a special preview of Gambit available for all Destiny 2 owners to play and experience. I won’t spend a bunch of time explaining the mode, but in very brief terms, this is how it works:

  • Two teams of four compete to defeat enemies, “bank” resources those enemies drop, and then defeat a boss that appears after enough of those resources have been collected and banked.
  • The teams play in maps that don’t physically connect to each other—your team of four has its own PvE space during the activity.
  • As you bank resources in specific amounts, this sends enemies to your enemy’s side to temporarily prevent them from banking their resources.
  • If you die without banking those resources (called “motes”), your team loses those resources completely.
  • At various points throughout the mode, each team can send over a single player from their team to the other side to engage in PvP and attempt to frustrate the other team and cause them to lose resources or progress.
  • The game is played to best-two-of-three rounds.

The mode is a public matchmaking playlist, so if you don’t enter with a pre-made team of four players, the game will add players to your team in the same way that Strikes or Crucible matches are queued. Gambit has its own playlist slot next to those activities in the Director:

I’ll work on a guide for playing Gambit later, but in the meantime, while there are still a couple of days left before Forsaken launches and the mode is available to all, I’d like to talk about what I enjoyed and what I didn’t.

Work in Progress

There are some shortcomings we now know are being fixed with the patch this upcoming Tuesday that are worthwhile to acknowledge here:

  • Matches will have join-in-progress enabled. For the preview event, if you had teammates that left, you were stuck short those people for the rest of the match.
  • Quitting penalties will be enforced. Quitters were a significant problem during the preview matches I played.
  • Only 2 types of enemy spawns were available in the preview, and both of those on the same map. At launch, there will be four maps with three possible enemy types, and each of those having three possible enemy spawn combinations, which sounds like it will expand the available tactical options significantly.

Works: The Pre-Game

Before each round, there’s a short sequence where you and the opposing team can see each other, but not directly interact. It’s there while everyone loads in, and it allows for you to run around in a limited fashion and (more importantly) spam emotes at the other team to get hype.

Before one specific match, our opponents managed to pull off a fully-synced four-player Single Ladies dance. It was pretty great.

The pre-game also gives you a short time to catch your breath and adjust your loadout for the upcoming round.

Might Not Work? Matchmaking

For as much as I dislike solo queuing in Crucible, at least in the Quickplay playlist, it’s still somewhat workable if you have enough skill on your team to carry the day. (And it’s not Control.)

In Gambit, having a four-stack matching against a team of four solos is going to be extremely difficult for the solos to overcome. A team with a formed and communicated game plan is super-likely to steamroll the other team. Solo-queueing is probably going to be much less fun than what I experienced with a team yesterday.

This awaits more information as Forsaken launches and new weapons and abilities enter the fold, but I sincerely hope the matchmaking tries super-hard to avoid putting larger stacks against solos.

Works: Roles to Play

I played in no fewer than three separate groups with others I’ve run with before in various activities, and it was fun to mess with strategies and hear what others would suggest.

It’s totally viable to have one designated invader, or rotate invaders, or to have one player only shoot stuff and not collect motes, or have everyone collect motes.

My intuition is that a fairly broad selection of both PvP and PvE players will be able to find roles they can play in a game of Gambit and find different ways to contribute to their team’s success.

Doesn’t Work: Invader Spawns

I’m not really sure what could be done about this one, to be honest, but in at least one match I played in yesterday, this would happen:

  • We’d get one of our invasions
  • We’d send someone over, with the other team holding on to a decent number of motes
  • They would spawn in on the enemy side and immediately be killed by an opposing player waiting for them to spawn, five steps away, with a shotgun
  • The enemy team would then bank all the motes they had, unopposed

I don’t want to jump to too much of a conclusion here, but this happened consistently enough throughout that match that I have a suspicion the other team was manipulating the spawn logic to try and guarantee a quick death to our invader.

It does kind of shock me that invaders don’t spawn in a protected area, but instead appear in the open. It’d be kind of neat if they could spawn in one of the “smoke doors” that PvE enemies use, as a “one-way glass” sort of thing, to establish the space they are invading before they step out and become vulnerable.

Works: Frenetic Pacing

From the minute you drop in to the match, it’s off to the races. You and your team need to cooperate to drop a bunch of PvE enemies as quickly as possible, then make split-second decisions on how to spend the motes you are gathering, and decide when to invade and who to send.

For the entirety of each eight-minute round, you’re constantly on your toes. And the rounds don’t wear out their welcome. When spawns also change more often starting Tuesday, I expect this to be even more impressive.

Works: Great Announcer Calls

The Drifter might be a questionable character in terms of alignment and plot importance, but he’s a pretty great competitive mode announcer. There’s never any question what you should be doing or where you should be going, because every quip thrown your way is super-descriptive and aids in the flow of the match.

Whoever wrote and scripted these callouts nailed it.

(Now, if The Drifter could be just a bit more “outlaw” and a bit less “extreme sports…”)

Doesn’t Work(?): Primeval Damage Interactions

This is another thing where I’m not sure how you’d mitigate it, but currently, certain loadout and ability combinations are chewing through the final boss’s health bar to a ridiculous amount. When the enemy boss is in the world, you get to invade every thirty seconds.

In more than one match, as soon as the first invader either team would send over was defeated, the Primeval was dead before the next invasion could commence. Tractor Cannon or Melting Point debuffs combined with the IKELOS shotgun or even supers can tear through a boss health bar in a very, very short amount of time.

I’d love to see Bungie come up with a non-nerf solution.

Works: Invading is Super-Fun

Popping in to the enemy’s PvE zone and then relieving them of everything they have been working on is an amazing feeling, whether you are the person running over there or not. You know immediately if the invasion has been successful, and it’s such a great risk/reward exchange to lose someone on the PvE side to send them to run interference.

Works: Information Display

The HUD gives you an amazing amount of information, all at once, and in a pretty streamlined fashion:

  • How many motes each team has banked
  • How many motes each team is carrying that are yet to be banked
  • How close each team is to their next invasion portal
  • How many motes you have and what you can bank them for
  • How many motes each of your teammates is currently holding
  • How many motes each of your enemies is currently holding when you are invading
  • How much health each Primeval has left
  • How many blockers are currently on each side (hidden behind Nav Mode, which is fine – sacrifice movement for the info)
  • Who might be up a round already

Destiny’s UI design has always been top-notch and super-simple, and this is just another experience with amazing information design. It’s well-done.

End of round screens and end of match scoreboards are similarly super-great:

Between rounds, I don’t get to see how everyone is doing, which hides tactical information on the other team (what roles they are filling per team member, how they are clearing adds, etc.). But I do get to see what I’ve done and can adjust if I’m not happy with those numbers for a specific reason.

And at the end of the match, it’s nice and obvious how specific people contributed to a win (or a loss).

Doesn’t Work: I Can’t Play Gambit Today

All in all, Gambit is a pretty enjoyable time. I get much less salty when I lose at it than I tend to in straight PvP, and each match has progressed in slightly different ways. There’s lots of room to change up how you are doing things between rounds and between matches, and it rewards experimentation with builds and loadouts.

I’m super-fascinated to see how the progression system and rewards will function when Gambit launches for real in a couple of days, and even more intrigued now as to how it’s going to “evolve” later this spring, as teased in the upcoming seasons of the Annual Pass.

Just tell me what I’ll have to do for Malfeasance. :)