A distinctive sound echoed the first time we scored. Our first slam dunk, so to speak, only the ball wasn't made out of leather, but out of pure light. We had carried the glowing orb in Destiny's newest multiplayer mode to the goal, and we could feel the adrenaline rushing through our veins.
The mode is a part of the upcoming expansion known as The Taken King, and we were recently invited to check it out and spend some time playing it. The location was developer Bungie's offices in Seattle, and the new Crucible addition known as Rift was the headline act.
Rift extends the gameplay experience beyond simply shooting the Guardians on the opposing team, and can be described as a reversed capture-the-flag mode. The object of the game is to reach "the spark", the aforementioned glowing orb, as soon as possible. It's normally spawned right in the middle ground between both teams, making it a race to get there first. Once the spark is in your possession it must be carried into the other team's base and pushed into a portal, or rift. You have a similar rift in your own base, where the opposing team will attempt to score. It's somewhat similar to how Call of Duty's Uplink mode works.
In other words, you must try to get the spark into the other team's rift, while keeping it out of your own. This makes for a dynamic battlefield, and a fun alternative to existing modes like "Control" and "Rumble". In this type of game you're always on the move.
Obviously lots of people move around constantly in Destiny's other modes as well, but in Control for instance you can decide to stay put and guard a base the entire match if you want to. In Rift such a move is pointless, as it's all about moving alongside the rest of your team, making sure the spark is pushed in the right direction. The whole team has to help out whoever's carrying the glowing orb, or the poor soul will be overrun in seconds. At the same time there's tactics to be planned and executed with regards to picking up the spark at the right time. You'll want to seize it at the right opportunity, when the enemy is weak or disorganised, to ensure a quick and painless journey to their rift.
Each time you score you are obviously awarded points, and these points are what ultimately settles the match. There can be several captures in a round, or just a single one. It all depends on the efforts of each team. That being said, there is a lot to gain from taking a chance and going for the spark yourself. Everyone who carries the orb is awarded a "carry bonus", and a "distance gained bonus" if he or she manages to move it closer to the enemy base. Additionally, actually securing a point for your team gets you a "rift ignited bonus", and at the same time a shock wave is released in the area around the rift. That shock wave kills all enemies in its radius, making it possible to secure a great deal of points in one go. One time we cashed in as much as 1825 points for a single "slam dunk". Extremely satisfying.
Alongside the new mode there are new maps to be played, and as we have come to expect from Bungie, they are all well designed with several routes to choose from towards each rift. At the same time they are compact enough to ensure that there is always plenty of face-to-face, or rather gun-to-face, encounters. In fact, we never felt that any of the maps were unbalanced, and it's great to see some fresh additions to the roster of locations.
All in all, Rift has the look of a great addition to Destiny's Crucible. A mode called "Mayhem" will also be introduced with The Taken King, but that mode was sadly not shown during our visit in Seattle. We were told however that Mayhem is centered around fighting with dramatically reduced cooldown times for the supers, which sounds both exhilarating and potentially frantic (we saw that mode during E3, and you can read about it here). We're looking forward to more Rift action once the expansion is out in the wild. The future looks bright for Destiny, and one has to appreciate the fact that the PvP is getting some love even in the game's second year.