Some spoilers for Crota’s End follow. If you haven’t completed this raid, I recommend tackling it blind and coming back later, if you’re actually interested in this.
After playing through Crota’s End a few times, it’s become apparent that there are some issues with the latter half that end up causing it to fall short of the standard set by Vault of Glass. It’s a less puzzly, more teamwork-oriented activity, which is all well and good, but it does not capitalize on that or the lessons learned by VoG in the way that it should have.
The long version:
The Deathsinger Fight
A big issue with the latter half of Crota’s End is that it doesn’t do a good job of informing the players what they’re doing. I look to something like the Deathsinger encounter as the biggest example of this. She is located in a large room overlooking the main combat space – the players rush into the room from below, while the ramps to reach the top level are on the lateral edges of the space. As such, you do not get a good sense of what you’re doing or what your objective is at a glance when you enter the room. You start the encounter and the only hint is that the Deathsinger text feed message appears. At that point, you’ve almost certainly not even SEEN the Deathsinger, so you have no context for what is happening. On top of that, the steps in the door mechanic are not well-defined and there is little to suggest to the player what the next step is.
So here’s my solution: The entire arena has been redesigned to facilitate this and the changes to the Crota fight. You drop down into the arena, facing the Deathsinger. She begins her song and you can see the flame effect on her character model immediately. It is apparent to the player that something bad is happening. The shriekers have been moved up in the hallway to be more obvious, and their internal illumination has been changed to the same transparent gray color that the door has. This creates a visual link between the shrieker and the objective. When the shrieker is destroyed, a text feed message appears saying “The Deathsinger’s Cantor emerges to defend the antechamber.” The Cantor is the Hallowed Wizard currently in the encounter, but renamed to establish more importance. Killing the Cantor causes the door to flicker, and a spotlight above the door, previously bathing the room in red light, turns green. Through the transparent door, the player can see that the other hallway is still red, leading them to rotate. This encounter would ideally have fewer major Knights, as they tend to clog up the combat space. Once both door objectives are complete, a text feed message appears: “The way is open.”
The Crota Fight
Another of the core issues with CE is that it doesn’t build upon its own mechanics like VoG, which taught the player more and more complex mechanics over time, all built from a solid base. The plate mechanic makes it halfway through and disappears, and the totem mechanic disappears directly after its first appearance. This leads to a lack of a sense of escalation in terms of mechanical complexity. You’re not using the lessons the activity taught you to win, you’re just progressing.
On top of that, the latter half of CE doesn’t capitalize on the strengths of its combatant race. The Hive are typified by mass waves of fodder punctuated by strong majors, but what you actually end up encountering are relatively (for the player count) small groups, so the intensity of the actual combat in the Crota fight doesn’t reach the same level as VoG teleports, which were a frantic rush to down the enemies and hit Oracle spawns.
Additionally, the way the arena is designed strongly discourages movement. VoG did not really allow (or force) players to remain passive – you were always responsible for something, and very rarely were you waiting around for the next “thing” to happen. CE, by comparison, is an extremely passive experience in the Crota fight proper, full of moments where you’re waiting for the next bit of scripting to kick in. Crota moving on top of the players should be a tense moment, but it ends up just causing people to wait it out and not actually do anything for the entirety of his stay near the pit. This is compounded by the inability of players to cause Swordbearer spawn – even if they COULD move around the arena, there is no reason to as they can’t actually do anything to progress the encounter at that time.
So what can change? Again, the entire arena has been redesigned to account for these changes. There is a plate where the players entered the space, and two totems to the left and right side of the space. The middle has a large glowing plate with the Chalice, and a fog surrounds the rest of the middle lower section. There are ramps leading up to the player and boss areas. When the encounter starts in the crystal room, as the structure around Crota is building, the plate the players landed on initially flashes brightly, and then the totems flash. This reminds the player of their connection. In order to damage Crota’s shields, players must stand on the plate. This activates the totems, so two players must suppress them as they did in the bridge section while suppressing the boomers in the two corner towers. Upon starting the encounter, Crota raises his sword and the game informs the player that the Swordbearer is coming.
When the plate is active, a text feed message appears informing them that Crota’s armor has weakened. The Swordbearer has spawned, and must be taken out on the lower level – he will not approach the ramps. This means that the intended sword carrier of your team must descend into the area, finding that the Weight of Darkness debuff has been placed on them. Going into the middle is now a commitment as you have no movement mode, and the reward is that the center plate acts as a stationary Chalice. If your Chalice carrier cannot reach you soon, you can risk running down to the Chalice plate to regenerate your shields.
The damage phase plays out largely as-is after the plate is active. Once the sword has despawned, Crota calls forth ogres from the side rooms. To establish connection to what they trigger, they can be named something like The Champion’s Vanguard. Pick a dumb thing, as long as it makes it obvious that their elimination is required. Their deaths trigger Crota to sweep across the room in a slow beam attack that can be dodged either via Ward of Dawn or via dropping into center. He then spawns the next Swordbearer, and the cycle continues. All the while, there are a large number of Thrall spawning in waves to assault the plate team, and in the middle section – these need to be cleared to make it safe for your sword carrier.
The goal here, more or less, is to provide a need for the players to move up in the room and not just turtle. By putting objective modes and a carrot (chalice plate) forward in the room, players actually need to be proactive in the fight. Additionally, we establish greater consistency in the mechanical progression both across all phases of the raid and within the final phase, especially re: swordbearer spawning. Crota would largely act as the same driving force that Atheon did – not really a huge threat by himself, but you’re focusing on finding out how to defeat him more than actually dodging his direct attacks.
A hypothetical new arena:
This might all be terrible. I’m 100% certain that there are a ton of issues that would pop up with this rotation that I’m not accounting for. My hope, though, is that they’re not the same problems that the encounters currently have. My worry is that it isn’t imaginative enough – I’m attempting to keep the feel of the current fight so I don’t want to stray too far from its “tone” and make it much more puzzly.
Making these things seems hard.
The short version:
- Players do not get visual ID on Deathsinger or understand what she is doing to wipe them.
- The timer is an obscure mechanic because it isn’t visualized through text feed with enough consistency.
- The shrieker/wizard/door dynamic is not visually explained, and the importance of each element is not conveyed to the player.
- The arena promotes extremely passive play with a lot of downtime when Crota is on top level of starting pit.
- Swordbearer spawn delays lead to a lot of downtime where players do not understand what they’re supposed to be doing.
- Ogre phase starts too slowly, leading to a lot of downtime.
- Deathsinger hallway is too effective in providing safe haven.
- Starting pit promotes turtling during Crota fight.
- Enemies will often fail to assault defensible starting pit – very little danger to home team.
- The chalice mechanic discourages splitting and movement around arena.
Big changes to Deathsinger encounter:
- Changes to arena entrance establishes visual ID
- Flame effect begins upon encounter start
- Shrieker moved up and recolored
- Hallowed Wizard renamed to establish link to boss/arena
- Hallway lighting changes to establish success/fail state
Big changes to Crota encounter:
- Arena redesign removes pit.
- Chalice despawns after 3 minutes (hard mode); respawns on center plate.
- Center plate acts as stationary chalice (VoG well mechanic)
- Swordbearer spawns are faster and more consistent – player initiated steps.
- Crota does not move close to players, his threat comes from CQC on swordbearer mistiming and beam attack cycle.
- Players must move around arena to accomplish objectives.
- Totems/plate mechanic returns.
- Higher intensity thrall waves result in less waiting around.
- Lower area gives Weight of Darkness debuff – middle entry is conscious risk/reward gamble.
Deathsinger Completion Steps:
- Players enter arena by dropping into hole to starting platform, facing Deathsinger – establishing visual ID as she begins song (flame around character model).
- Players enter one hallway to kill DS, shrieker appears halfway through hallway with central energy same color as door.
- Shrieker destruction triggers text feed: “The Deathsinger’s Cantor emerges to defend the antechamber.”
- Hallowed Wizard renamed to Deathsinger’s Cantor, death causes door to flash and flicker.
- Spotlight above door bathing hallway in red light turns to green.
- Players approach door and see other hallway’s spotlight still red, leading them to rotate and finish the encounter.
Crota Completion Steps
- Crota spawns, players fight out of hallway as normal. Barrier appears halfway through hallway as players exit, preventing safe rotation.
- Players gather outside and grab Chalice 1, Crota raises sword. Text feed: “Crota calls forth his champion.”
- Swordbearer spawns, is taken out.
- Players must stand on plate to make Crota’s shield vulnerable to weapons fire.
- Shield plate triggers two totems to activate, players must dedicate two members to suppress + members to kill boomers in Crota towers.
- After plate is active, text feed: “Crota’s armor weakens” indicating that he can be shot. Current dynamic remains in the shield/damage phase.
- Swordbearer player approaches Crota and deals health damage.
- Repeat; sword despawns. Text feed: “Crota’s armor regains strength.”
- Chalice despawns soon after sword based on ideal round length and respawns in middle plate (stationary chalice plate; hard mode).
- After Sword despawn, Crota calls Ogres from side rooms, named Swordbearer’s Vanguard (possibly gatekeepers + swordbearer?)
- Ogre death triggers Crota to project beam across room, dealing damage to players – players must drop down to avoid fire.
- Crota calls his champion again.
- Repeat damage cycle.
- Oversoul behaves as-is.