Destiny 2 introduced a new activity in December called Dares of Eternity as a part of the Bungie 30th Anniversary pack. In it, a team of six Guardians faces off against enemies and obstacles in an activity that humorously models its presentation on that of classic game shows like The Price is Right and Wheel of Fortune. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds, and is meant as a comical, lighthearted bit of adventuring with some quality loot at the end.
The problem with Dares of Eternity is that it automatically launches the first time you boot Destiny 2 during this 30th Anniversary event. That’s all well and good for experienced players who are decked out with the latest high-level equipment. But new players, or players returning from long breaks, are at a severe disadvantage in terms of leveling relative to the enemies, and are effectively stuck in an unending loop of getting their space-butts handed to them.
Enter “Operation Save the New Lights.” Veteran Destiny players discovered that by intentionally donning low-level gear, they could drop their in-game Light Level to a point that mimics someone playing Destiny 2 for the first time. Doing this allowed them to matchmake with the trapped players. Once they load in, it’s a simple matter to switch back to high-tier equipment and carry the team to the end.
It sounds simple enough in theory, but how is it in practice? Who are the guardians investing their time to help out New Lights? And what is it like being thrust into a nigh-unbeatable challenge and depending on complete strangers to save you? I ventured into the Dares of Eternity, playing the roles of rescuer and rescued to find out.
I’ve completed Dares of Eternity plenty of times. In the mode, exotic weapon merchant Xur is repurposed as an intentionally miscast Bob Barker stand-in, encouraging the participants to progress, all for the amusement of an ethereal being known as Starhorse. Preparing for the rescue mission meant swapping some equipment I use regularly with old armor pieces I haven’t used in years to drive my light level down to a low enough level. The trick, I found, was to wear one of the seasonal Halloween masks, an aesthetic item used for in-game Trick or Treating (seriously) that offers zero power. That, an old chest piece and boot combination did the trick, and I launched the activity.
There is a roster tab in Destiny that shares info about the other people on your fireteam. As we loaded, I checked see the makeup of my comrades. Three other members of my squad had already switched back to high-level equipment. Two, however, were genuine new players. We loaded in, and Xur welcomed us to the Dares of Eternity, “Where reality is made up and your repeated deaths do not matter.”
“So this is what it feels like to be a masked hero …”
Every Dares of Eternity game follows the same format. You clear the large opening space of enemies, traverse a wacky obstacle course, defeat more enemies, do another obstacle course, and finally defeat the boss. Rewards in the form of glimmer and gear are awarded at the end, and an occasional “lightning round” will offer some additional challenge.
We escorted our rookie friends through the first battle. The enemies fell quickly to the more powerful members of our squad, and we made our way to the first obstacle course. It’s an easy area to traverse once you have the hang of it, but the rotating columns with bumpers and an undulating, slick floor was challenging for the New Lights.
Despite the fact that this section took several times longer than usual, there was no sign of impatience from the rest of the team. Instead, most of the group waited patiently at our destination, while one member backtracked and carefully guided the stragglers forward. It was completely unnecessary; we could have started the next combat encounter at any time. But there was a clear unspoken encouragement toward the new players.
We finished our run-through in much the same way. The combat sections were quickly and effortlessly cleared by the group’s higher-level guardians, and the New Lights were guided along, but never rushed. We felled the final boss, collected our rewards, and the New Lights were free to continue Destiny 2 in earnest. The veteran players quickly departed, presumably to find more New Lights to rescue.
Undercover Guardian in distress
Saving other Guardians was rewarding, but I wanted to see things from the perspective of the players trapped in a nearly impossible activity. Lowering the light level of my characters doesn’t hide my season rank or other telltale signs of a high-level player. In order to have other players interact with me as though I were a legitimate New Light, I needed to look the part. This meant logging into the account of a family member and starting a brand-new generic Titan.
My entry into the game was greeted by the unmistakable voice of Xur, welcoming me to the Dares of Eternity. As we loaded in, I checked the roster page. My five companions, all initially of similar power to myself, quickly skyrocketed to levels far above mine. It seemed I was the lone player legitimately underprepared for the activity.
“Everyone helping New Lights has restored my faith in this community.”
The group seemed excited to have a New Light to play with. Shortly after landing into the Icy Tundra that forms the initial section of the Dares of Eternity, everyone gathered around me. Jumping, crouching, and emoting followed, all focused in my direction. Gunshots and pelvic thrusts may seem off-putting to the uninitiated, but I knew it was all very jovial, good-natured, and expressed an unspoken welcome that was hard to miss.
The metaphysical neigh of the Starhorse indicated it was time to be begin. An army of Vex, time-traveling robots bent on our demise, began appearing in front of us. My low-level Titan wasn’t as overwhelmed as I expected. Enemies display a skull icon over their health bar when you are severely underleveled. These killer robots, however, were showing the sword icon, telling me I was only moderately overextending myself. Firing at enemies did a fair amount of damage, though it did take a while to achieve a killing blow.
It almost seemed like a team of low-but-like-leveled guardians could make headway through the activity, until we started seeing champions. Champions are special versions of enemies with increased health and unique abilities. They are mini bosses, and absolute nightmares to deal with if you aren’t equipped for it. Defeating them typically requires special weapon modifications that I, as a new player, simply did not have. I did the only thing a guardian could do in that situation: I ran and hid while my team did all the work.
My squad of escorts tore through the Vex like those robots were made of aluminum foil. My lower level meant I died quickly, but the team around me was quick to offer revivals. Once the first Dares of Eternity segment wrapped up, several members of the group gathered around me, firing their guns toward our next destination. I clumsily made my way through the ensuing obstacle courses and encounters as we pressed toward the boss room. I typically play with a very custom controller layout, and my fumbling traversal was equal parts trying to look the part of a new Guardian and me struggling with the default (non-inverted!) controls.
The team had no problem clearing the final encounter, easily defeating a recreation of a Destiny raid boss named Crota in the process. Everyone gathered around me in victory celebration, showering my Titan will emojis and triumphant gunfire. The players departed for their next rescue effort, leaving me alone to collect my treasure and stare into the ethereal visage of the Starhorse.
Matchmade activities in Destiny 2 are often played like speedruns, as players try to squeeze as many attempts and rewards into the shortest times possible. The deliberate, slower, but more accommodating, pace I saw was outside the norm for Destiny players, but not out of character. Guardians have perfected the art of making the most progress at maximum efficiency, but have long proven they will abandon their established routines if something catches their interest.
There have been many examples of the Destiny Community banding together in the name of a good time or a worthy cause. There was the loot cave, where players lined up en masse to slaughter an infinitely spawning group of low-level enemies for drops. Or the laser tag incident, where a new exotic weapon called Prometheus Lens unintendedly became ridiculously overpowered, so everyone spent a good-natured weekend melting one another in the crucible after Bungie made it readily available.
It’s a unique group of gamers who will spend all day jumping of ledges like lemmings in the name of loot, while donating millions of dollars per year to charity in exchange for silly emotes to use in their next adventures.
It is no surprise, then, that it took only a few minutes on Reddit to find dozens of threads encouraging people to participate in Operation Save the New Lights. People posted stories, appreciation, best practices, and more. “Everyone helping new lights has restored my faith in this community,” one post reads. “So this is what it feels like to be a masked hero,” reads another. The way the zeitgeist became so wrapped up in these rescue missions is Destiny in a nutshell. Or, as one player put it, “Getting to show them how to rally for the first time by shooting at the banner … and all of the emotes … from everyone at the end once we finish … It’s just heartwarming, and I really love it.”
The fate of all good things
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Operation New Light Rescue is that it is working. Stories of the earliest rescue missions are about singular guardians dropping in to lead moribund teams to victory. As word spread, and more players joined the operation, there was a steady shift. Soon the tales were about teams of veterans saving one or two newbies.
Eventually the conversation became about how hard it was to find legitimate New Lights, and how dropping your level for matchmaking was becoming a surefire way to guarantee you are matched with the highest-level players in the game.
It’s a resounding victory for the people who play Destiny 2. Their own ingenuity and enthusiasm for lending aid did much to make up for a mistake on the part of the developer. Operation New Light rescue is on its way to the long list of adventures the community created for themselves within Destiny 2.
Bungie will inevitably release a patch to solve the underlying issue. Players will return to the normal grind, waiting for the next call to action. While they wait, perhaps they will heed the words of Xur, “Have your Ghost spayed or neutered.”