With the Season of the Drifter we all knew Gambit was going to be front and center. The well-received PvEvP mode that released with Forsaken has gone through its own growing pains but has come out as an enjoyable and unique mode that helps Destiny 2 further stand out in the post-Forsaken era. Gambit Prime is the next logical step, referred to by Bungie as the “sweatier” version of the mode. I wouldn’t go that far as Gambit Prime feels mostly similar to its three-round counterpart. But this single round, winner takes all evolution has one big issue, it is intensely frustrating for all the wrong reasons.
Prime offers a few changes from the original mode aside from the single round format. Prime encourages you to send multiple blockers to drain motes from the enemy. If you can catch your opponent off-guard with a group of medium or large blockers you simply use their motes to fill your bank as they scramble to clear their bank. It is important to have someone playing near the bank to ensure that most blockers are cleared as quickly as possible. It is easy to lose track and suddenly watch your motes drain as you’re all pushed into the field gathering. Invasions work just as before with the portal opening at 25 mote intervals, though now you’ll have an additional invasion before reaching the new 100 mote cap.
Where things really get dicey is the new Primeval phase. To put it bluntly, it’s bad. The new final phase requires a more involved process of defeating two envoys (something people have and still struggle with in Gambit) to summon a third. This third envoy, when defeated, leaves behind a power well that grants bonus damage when attacking the Primeval. In a perfect world, you kill the envoys, deal your damage, rinse and repeat. What ultimately ends up happening is people burn supers and power weapons on the still immune Primeval, disregard the well entirely, dealing reduced damage during the damage phase, or an invader comes in and undoes most, if not all of your damage. It turns this phase into a slog as you have to hope you can deal enough damage standing in what is essentially a bullseye for an invader while also taking time away from damaging the boss to deal with said invader.
It wouldn’t be so bad if the exact same thing wasn’t happening on the other side. This leads to an arduously slow final phase where players alternate doing Primeval damage and dying when invaders show up. Damage eventually happens over time but it is such a frustrating experience. I actually dread getting to this phase, praying that this team will know what to do, that either team will know what to do. Eventually Gambit Prime will have the ability to take on more defined roles and maybe those will help, but right now the mode is a chore to play. Sure, regular Gambit has some of these issues, but they are a much smaller problem when damage isn’t at a premium.
I understand why they went in this direction. Pre-made groups of four were melting Primevals without killing envoys and it was frustrating otherwise coordinated teams that didn’t take the time to optimize their builds for melting the boss. Making the final fight more mechanically intensive means it is less likely for one team to inexplicably wipe the boss in seconds in an otherwise even match. I’ve been on both sides of that in regular Gambit and I always have more fun during the more intense Primeval fights. I wonder though if they have adjusted too far. Granted, the mode has been live for less than a full week, but there are clear ways to adjust the final phase to make it better without sacrificing the “sweatiness.”
For example, increase timers on invasion portals as the round goes on, limiting the number of times you can heal the boss and forcing you to be more strategic with invasions. Alternatively, add a high-value target-like enemy that players have to go out of their way to kill to open or close invasion portals, making invasions a more conscious decision rather than its current timer format seems like the right way to go. Instead of addressing invasion timings, perhaps they can simply adjust the amount of damage that is done to the boss before becoming immune again and tuning heals down to ensure damage done is more meaningful. It would still be a bit of a slog, but it would still speed up the phase.
Again, I realize it is early, but this is an important time for Gambit Prime. With the new season going live and with this being a premier new game mode, Bungie has the maximum amount of players taking a look. Players who might be trying to convince their friends to invest in the Annual Pass. If they don’t think the mode is fun, they’re not going to tell their friends to buy it. There’s also the fact that much of the Season’s new gear is tied to Prime and Reckoning, to which Prime acts as a gateway. If players don’t enjoy the mode and can’t get the new gear as a result, they’ll go somewhere else. Even though it is early, Bungie needs to act fast.