All right, all right, all right.

After almost 64 hours of game time according to Charlie (a bot my clan uses in our discord), I finally saw my first Ascendant Primeval, affectionately referred to as a Meatball, in the second round of my four game post-patch on Kell’s Grave. Out of special and power ammo and lacking abilities, all I could do was pepper it with my pulse rifle, frantically watching the life bars race down to zero. My heart fluttered repeatedly as we slowly spray and pray. Finally, the meatball pops out of existence and The Seething Heart pop into my inventory. The Drifter congratulated my team on the win, and we went back to the Tower to meet with him and start the questline to get the Malfeasance, an exotic hand cannon and pinnacle Gambit weapon, one of the last triumphs necessary to become Dredgen.

Sixty four hours and counting, my Gambit journey is barely beginning. And Traveller be damned, I love the game mode enough that I’m going to keep going at it.

Let’s see what we got.

Gambit is a new game made introduce in Destiny 2 Forsaken. A hybrid game mode comprised of PvE and a light touch of PvP, the premise of the game is simple.

Fight. Collect. Bank. Invade.

You and your team of 3 other guardians spawn into the Derelict where you can get a glimpse of the opposing team before the match begins proper. The Drifter will let you know what enemy type you’re facing beforehand if you want to switch up your load outs before transmatting you to the ground of one of 4 maps. Enemies will start to spawn in one of three locations on the map, and your job is to kill ‘em and collect their motes they leave behind. Motes are then banked in the central area. When you deposit 5-9 motes, you send a small blocker to the other team, 10-14 sends a medium, and 15 (the max you can hold) sends a large. It’s a race to 75 to summon a Primeval, a big bad boss, which you beat it to win the round. However, after depositing a total of 25 and 50 motes, you get a chance to invade. One guardian is put into a dangerous 1v4, but kills destroy any held motes and heals the Primeval if it’s active. In a best of three, the matches quickly become slog fests and brutal wars of attrition.

I love every second of it.

Hostiles on the field

The Player versus Environment aspect of Gambit can be broken down into add-clear and boss burning. Hordes of adds show up on the field and clearing them out is a necessity in order to bank motes. While you want to be in the skirmish of the moment, the aggression of enemies promote a lot of different playstyles. SMGs, ARs, Shotguns, and even swords may be brutal close quarters combat armaments, pulse rifles, bows, scouts, and snipers offer the ability to quickly pick off critical targets from a distance and generating lots of motes.

Every class has a destructive super that can be used to generates orbs and quickly clear a section allowing you to progress to the next area. Support supers like Tethers can make a wave vanish in an instant and generate orbs quickly so the rest of the guardians can get in the fun. Each of the nine available subclasses branches offers some unique contribution to team, and if it’s not in the add clearance, it’s during the boss burn.

When you summon you primeval, it’s initially resistant to damage. Killing its Envoys, Taken Wizards that come in pair, speed up a buff called “Primeval Slayer” which ramps up over time that increases your damage out. Well of Radiance can give a massive damage bump to your arsenal including fan favorite and best gun in the game: IKELOS_SG_V1.0.1., while Chaos Reach, Blade Barrage, and Thundercrash can generate a ridiculously amount of burst damage.

The heads-up display is clean and neat. In the top border, you can see how many motes your team and the opposing team have deposited and how many motes you have on yourselves. Motes have unique visual cues that make them visible in all environments and show up on the radar. Small icons show how many active blockers are up on either sides. Medals pop up when you do notable action while the Drifter’s commentary gives plenty of audio cues about the state of the game, directing you to locations and recommending actions.

These two mentalities encapsulate the greatest parts of the everyday Destiny 2 experience, high octane moments, wiping swatches of enemies off the field, and downing a big bad boss to call it a day. But it’s hard to do that when you’re under fire.

This is what the Taken feel like.

When you hear the words “Invader inbound,” your entire screen gets a red hue. Somewhere on the map, an enemy guardian has appeared and knows exactly where you are and how many motes you have. They are armed with information and a slight overshield in this 1v4 and no matter what side you’re on, you’re sweating.

Stopping an invasion early means you’ve kept your momentum and can continue about your business. Getting an Army of One, successfully downing four guardians, can mean an absolute shift in the round cementing your lead or otherwise giving your team a chance to catch up.

You see people rocking snipers in an attempt to counter-invade with the ability to kill at long distances. Linear Fusion rifles, particularly the Sleeper Simulant and Queenbreaker, run rampant due to their generous aim assist. However, tracking rockets and grenade launchers can easily make short work of guardians with their ordinance and a lot of the supers that are good at putting enemies in the ground are equally good. And of course, a trust primary can still do that work if you keep a steady hand.

While the Crucible isn’t for everyone, there is an exhilaration in being/slaying the beast that is another guardian hellbent on your destruction. The bombastic moments that assure victories, that give your team just enough to empty a few more rounds into the boss.

The invader’s wallhacks are simple and clean. They can see the gamer tag and how many that guardian is carrying, allowing them to prioritize targets during their 30-second window. Meanwhile, the defenders are on the look for the guardian with the dark red aura as sirens go off in the distance. It’s the extra element of audiovisual stress that makes the time intoxicating. And when you successfully pick off four guardians and instantly teleport back to hear your team and the Drifter praise you just adds to the adrenaline. And there’s nothing more disconcerting/uplifting then the phrase “DEATH HEALS PRIMEVAL.”

Revel in it.

For better and for worse, Destiny 2 is a game that is characterized by being an experience that has PvE and PvP elements. Take away one, you have an experience that is fundamentally not Destiny. The space magic and wondrous gunplay aside, the Destiny franchise is not defined by its FPS styled raids or the competitive pinnacle crucible rewards found in Trials of Osiris or Trials of the Nine, it’s defined by the fact that it has both. It’s defined that you can get a Legend of Acrius from Leviathan and destroy guardians from ludicrous distances in the Crucible. It’s defined by grinding out Quickplay and Rumble to get a Redrix’s Broadsword and using it exclusively in PvE for the intoxication of the momentum when you get Desparado to proc and find a new cadence to decimate the field.

One of the principles that has held steadfast in Destiny is that the guns and abilities feel exactly the same in PvE and PvP. Some perks are more effective in situations than over, but the unison of the worlds make it unique. But the very fact remains that every archetype is viable (although, not necessarily optimal) in the niche it was intended for. And after you find your arsenal, you can master it. And then after you hone your skills, you can team up and master synergy between different loadouts.

Add clear, boss burn, mote collection, invasion. Maybe you have one specialty, maybe you have multiple. The game mode is designed to let you shine in your areas and the different maps let you prioritize different skills.

Emerald Coast, home to Hive, Fallen, and Cabal, is the smallest map and is most suitable for close to mid-range combat with a couple of long-range sightlines. The maps is relatively flat and the ease of navigation is both a blessing and a curse. Kell’s Grave is only slightly bigger, but is large enough to warrant man cannons, necessary in order to quickly get from one side and another. Features a lot more cover is the form of odd architecture, the grave houses Fallen, Hive, and Scorn, and makes mote collection dangerous with the number of explosive enemies that populate it.

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#destiny2 Gambit Highlight: "Embrace the Dark"

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Legion’s Folley is easily the largest of the maps, and holds my most hated enemy type: the Vex, in addition to the Cabal and Scorn. Turrets are commonplace and make navigation difficult. This is one of two maps where I hope one of my companions has a sniper to make quirk work so I can go back to my frantic melee. Learning when to use (and not use) the Vex teleport network is essential in order to survive. The final map: Cathedral of Scars is moderately sized. It features the most verticality of all Gambit and also features Vex, Cabal, and Scorn. The floating islands have enough gaps where a missed jump can cost you mosts and you gotta be good at jumping and portal hopping.

The 12+ different base iterations of Gambit, compounded by the wide range of different fireteams you can face is the perfect example of emergence, simple rules evolve into a complex, in-depth experience that never feels the same way twice. Even the base iterations have minor differences where sometimes the Cabal setup Scorpio Turrets and sometimes they send out Colossus. Vex heavy units vary from the Cyclops to the Hydra. Hive have Wizards and Shriekers depending on the map. Fallen alternate between captains and heavy shanks. And the Scorn rotate their elemental chieftains like a carousel. Each match of Gambit asks you to make several micro adjustments and macro adjustments to survive. Sometimes you need to bank small constantly and other times you wait for a targeted strike.

Embrace the Darkness

In addition to the wonderful mechanics and map design, Gambit is a victory for Destiny 2 lore enthusiast. Forsaken was largely an expansion that had us delve into Darkness, and Gambit builds into that. The Drifter is a rogue light-bearer who used to run with unsavory folks and has seen ancient evils manifest. Gambit is a game that sees how much Darkness a guardian is willing to use.

Todd Haberkorn’s voice acting makes the Drifter one of the most charming, lively characters in the series. A snarky bastard who is very clearly “not-good,” but charismatic enough that I want to fill the bank with motes to make him proud. It expands on the Last Word / Thorn storyline and lets us become Dredgen. It’s something that’s best experienced first hand.

Playin’ the Odds

Charlie tells me I have a 58.37% match win rate, with a 58.1% round win rate. I have banked 13,324 with an average of 22 per round. I have killed 284 invaders and killed 894 guardians on the other side, denying 3314 motes over my life.

I boast 41 Cabal victories, 30 Fallen, 28 Scorn, 34 Hive, and 17 Vex (I told you I hate him, but damn do I respect them). I’ve gotten 53 Army of One medals, and have banked over half the available motes 32 times. All that’s left between me and the Dredgen title is Malfeasance and a couple more meatballs kills.

But I’m happy to grind. I really am. I only wish you guys could join in the fun.

Oh. Would you like that? Looks like Bungie wants to give y’all a taste if you’re so inclined.

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  • Mikkel Snyder is a technical writer by day and pop culture curator and critic all other times.

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