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After 10 years, Destiny is getting a game mode that fans wanted from the start

Into the Light key art
Into the Light key art

Of all the odd decisions Bungie has made over the course of Destiny's existence, one of the oddest has to be the reluctance to add a true horde mode. Sure, we've had quasi-horde seasonal activities like Escalation Protocol and The Menagerie, but never a proper hunker-down-and-defend deal. That changes on April 9 with the release of the free Into the Light update, which includes the new Onslaught mode that pits teams of three players against up to 50 waves of enemies, escalating in difficulty.

Revealed today during the first of three livestreams leading up to the release of Into the Light, Onslaught sees the guardians defending the Last City from the invading forces of The Witness (specifically: Fallen and Hive). In practical terms, that means being dropped into a Crucible map—for the demo they used Midtown—in order to defend a macguffin called the Advanced Defence Unit (ADU).

The quest giver and hype man for the Onslaught is Lord Shaxx, who also serves as the voice of The Crucible. You'll be supported on ground by his robot Redjacks and also be able to purchase upgradeable defence items.

The three types of defence are a turret (of course), a decoy (in the form of a sweeperbot), and a laser-activated tripmine. Each can be upgraded three times, adding health, damage, and so on. However, if your level three turret gets destroyed, you'll have to buy a brand new lvl 1 version. Likewise, tripmines are one-and-done, so need to be replaced between waves. The currency you spend in Onslaught's shop is called 'Scrap', and its acquisition is shared across the team and then split equally during the spending phase.

Staying alive

There are two main versions of Onslaught available. The Onslaught Playlist variant features matchmaking and only includes 10 waves. After the first two waves, a 'Darkness zone' comes into effect, meaning if all players are dead then the run is over. Make it past the final wave and you'll receive double loot the loot. I suspect what will be more appealing to Destiny grinders is the Challenge variant, which ups the ante to five sets of 10 waves, with the defense location changing after each set to keep things fresh.

On stream, Bungie activity designer Noah Lee said that although it will be possible to load into the Challenge mode solo, but that he didn't expect any players to clear all 50 waves on their own. That's the kind of gauntlet toss that gaming communities love, so I suspect PvE gods like Esoterickk will make it their mission to prove Lee wrong.

Watching the stream, it was hard to gauge just how hard the later waves will be. Bungie emphasised that the enemy composition of waves will vary significantly, so you might get one that's all Hive ogres and exploder thralls. They also said that ultra-tier enemies will spawn periodically and that champions are included, meaning you'll need to bring breaker weapons and abilities to deal with their shields. In terms of buildcrafting, you're going to want to spec hard into AoE add clear, with some single target burst damage for high threat enemies, and plenty of healing for when things get really overwhelming. Oh, they also heavily hinted that Tormentors will appear, which I hate for us.

destiny 2
destiny 2

We saw a guardian wielding a reprised Midnight Coup hand cannon with the Firefly and Kinetic Tremors perk combo.

To add variety, mini-objectives will pop up during waves, meaning you'll need to move around the map rather than just turtling next to the ADU. You will also periodically be teleported onto one of the Pyramid ships floating above the battlefield to take the battle back to the forces of the Witness. The developers said this sequence is intended to feel like a "victory lap", with the players mowing through enemies before dunking a spark on a glyphkeeper (exactly like scoring in the Rift PvP mode) in order to return to earth.

What was notably absent from this first stream was any real breakdown of the rewards. That's because Bungie is planning to focus on the new weapons being added as part of Into The Light during next week's stream (which is on March 26, at 10 AM PDT). We did however see one guardian wielding a reprised Midnight Coup hand cannon which had the spicy perk combo of Firefly and Kinetic Tremors. If the other guns are anywhere near that good, you can bank on the mode seeing plenty of play.

Bungie did say that loot will drop after each wave, and that on Legendary difficulty it will be doubled. Promisingly, they referenced this season's The Coil activity as an influence, which has been praised for raining gear on players. One question mark I had while watching was whether the early rounds will be quick enough not to feel boring after you've played a lot of Onslaught. But for all Destiny 2's current travails, the fact that 100k people were watching on Twitch alone is a positive sign, and assuming the loot is good—which frankly everything hinges on—then this is the kind of content I've craved from the game in a long time. I'll report back next week once we know more about what guns are on offer.