Destiny 2’s new Escalation Protocol is easily one of the hardest experiences that Bungie has ever created, but it has also highlighted (and even created) a few problems in the popular shooter. Where Destiny 2 is supposed to be about bringing players together and creating a community, Escalation Protocol has led to behavior that is both exploitative and toxic.
The basis of Escalation Protocol is fairly straightforward. Players activate a horde mode (of sorts) that consists of 7 levels, with 4 waves each. At the end of each level is a boss fight with an enemy that usually has a lot of health and requires a lot of players to defeat. And by the time players reach level 7; they will need as much damage as possible.
For many players, Escalation Protocol Level 7 is a challenge, but it is doable with 9 players near the current power level cap. However, getting 9 players into the same patrol area is practically impossible with Destiny 2’s current framework. At most, players can load into a patrol as a fireteam of 3 and then coordinate with the other players around. But if there are two other players in the patrol area, they can actually occupy all 6 remaining slots, since the game counts solo players as a potential fireteam of 3.
The 3-player fireteam has rarely been an issue in Destiny 1 or Destiny 2, but with the release of Escalation Protocol players are realizing how restricting the system can be. If Escalation Protocol is a mode designed for large groups, why can’t players load into the patrol area as a large group? Shouldn’t the developers have had the foresight to realize this would be an issue?
As it stands right now there are two workarounds for getting into the same patrol area. The first is to constantly load into an area of Mars and hope that two or three players end up in the same instance. Unfortunately, this can take hours to achieve, if at all. Supposedly, players have better luck if they are in the same general location geographically but in our tests that didn’t seem to help that much.
The other, and more troubling solution, is for players to load into the zone, find a nearby player, ask to have a friend join their fireteam, and then have that person leave. Then you would be in the same zone as your friend, but not in the same fireteam.
Destiny 2 players have likely heard about this strategy before but the problem is it paints the experience in a bad light. Here is a random player doing exploring on Mars, collecting data fragments or completing patrols, and then someone else basically says, “Hey, can you leave so we can do something here.” Props to those players that are kind enough to acquiesce, but this shouldn’t be a scenario that happens.
Even worse are reports of players tricking randoms into letting them join their fireteam under the guise of participating in the Escalation Protocol run. Unknowingly these players let a stranger join their fireteam, hand over fireteam leader, and then are promptly kicked from the group. This is on par with some of the gross elitism seen in Destiny 1.
A quick browsing of the Destiny 2 subreddit and forum will show that this is a huge point of contention in the community. Few think that Escalation Protocol should be made easier – most like that it is difficult – but giving players no option to group up and take on the mode is a major frustration. Moreover, the existing workarounds run counter to everything Destiny 2 is supposed to be about.
It’s unclear what can be done to alleviate the issue given Destiny 2’s existing framework. The obvious solution would be to let players gather a group of 9 and load into Mars, but that doesn’t seem to be something the game is capable of doing. Hopefully, Bungie at least acknowledges players’ concerns and tries to work on some solutions.