Everything Right and Wrong With Gambit in Destiny 2

A broad look at the Drifter's troubled little mode.

Gambit, Gambit, Gambit. The eternal misfit of the Destiny 2 playlist family, the PVPVE mode has been long-neglected and much-maligned. Many Destiny 2 players avoid it entirely, while others dip in only for their weekly Pinnacle drops and to complete the now-requisite seasonal challenges associated with it. While Crucible is in a challenging place right now, Gambit has been in a state for years at this point. Just look at the seasonal weapon ornaments that Destiny 2 has tied to each of the playlist activities for the last few seasons now. In Season of the Haunted, according to Bray.tech, 16.87% of players earned the Vanguard ornament, 13.43% of players got the Crucible ornament, and just 6.2% of players got the Gambit one.

It’s not all bad, though — Bungie has made some changes to the mode since its inception that have made Gambit more enjoyable. Let’s start with what’s working in the mode, then move on to things that are still a problem.

The Positive Points of Gambit in Destiny 2

Speed

Gambit is fairly fast these days, which is cool. The mode plays out much quicker than it used to back in the day. There’s not a whole lot of downtime — when you die, you’re back up pretty fast, and enemies tend to spawn fairly fast. The days of Gambit matches stretching on and on are long past. Getting Heavy ammo in between waves of enemies is a great touch that brings those weapons into play more often and speeds up play further, with whole swathes of adds being easy to wipe out thanks to a fairly liberal ammo economy.

Engrams

For a while now, Gambit has used the same dedicated engram system as Trials of Osiris. Leveling up with the Drifter gives Gambit engrams that can either be turned into random Gambit gear with Rahool or decoded into specific Gambit drops. The engram focusing system is nice, though most Gambit weapons available through the Drifter at the moment aren’t particularly powerful. The Legendary Shard and Glimmer costs are also a little high, but if you’re looking for a roll of a certain weapon it’s helpful to be able to focus for it.

Freelance Mode

Being able to queue solo and not having to worry about going up against full parties is so nice. This used to be a big problem with Gambit to the point that I wouldn’t touch the mode without a fireteam. There should be Freelance playlists for every competitive mode in Destiny 2.

The Drifter

The Drifter is great. Everyone loves The Drifter.

Destiny 2 Drifter Haul

Ongoing Problems With Gambit in Destiny 2

Invading

Invading is still way too strong in Gambit. It’s to the point that the rest of the mode barely matters — if one team has a skilled invader and the other doesn’t, they’re going to win. Invading is a no-brainer decision for a player who’s good at it, because it doesn’t cost anything to trigger and at worst you lose your team’s invasion chance. There’s no gamble involved, which goes against the entire theme of Gambit. I still think you should have to wager Motes to invade at all — it would make invading more of a strategic element rather than the defining quality of the mode.

The dominance of invasion is even more apparent in the Freelance playlist, where a single good Invader can easily take out entire teams who don’t have the benefit of coordination. On the other hand, a single bad Invader can singlehandedly ruin a team’s chances by jumping into the portal and getting taken out. Freelance at least means that solo players aren’t running up against four-stacks, but it only exacerbates the problems with invading.

Map Variety

Aside from problems with invading, there’s a major lack of variety in the Gambit playlist. For all of the complaining that Destiny 2 players like to go about Crucible maps, Gambit has suffered even worse in this department. There are currently only four Gambit maps in Destiny 2: Emerald Coast (EDZ), New Arcadia (Mars), Legion’s Folly (Nessus), and Deep Six (Titan). While I appreciate getting to revisit some locations that don’t exist as patrol areas in Destiny 2 anymore, this is a ridiculously small number of maps.

Gambit was hit hard by vaulting, as a full third of its maps were removed from the game in Beyond Light. The Cathedral of Scars and Kell’s Grave, maps based on the Dreaming City and Tangled Shore, respectively, were pulled in that expansion and haven’t returned to the game since. We also haven’t gotten any new Gambit maps since Deep Six and New Arcadia were added in Season of the Drifter. While few Destiny 2 players would likely see Gambit as a priority for Bungie, pulling maps from rotation with no replacement and bringing the total down to four that we see over and over isn’t great. Can’t we at least get those two back?

The Primeval Fight

When Bungie merged Gambit and Gambit Prime, we got a kind of mix of the two approaches to the Primeval boss fight. Primevals now have a window during which they are damageable, after which players have to hunt down Envoys to bring down their shields and do more damage. That’s basically ok, but Primeval fights can swing hard with Power weapons and supers in play. Add invasions into the mix and things get really silly.

Progress

Players aren’t earning Gambit seasonal weapon ornaments as much as they are Vanguard or Crucible ornaments. That’s likely because of the problems with the mode I’ve listed so far, but progression in Gambit can also just feel extremely slow — even on weeks with increased reputation gain. Expecting players to play long streaks in the mode to earn reputation feels punitive as is, and upping progression speed across the board could help with this.

Potential Changes to Gambit in Destiny 2

Aside from the changes I’ve mentioned so far (e.g. to invading, maps), here are a few things that Bungie could take a look at to improve Gambit.

Make Big Changes to Invasion, or Remove it Entirely

Attaching a cost to invading would significantly change its role in Gambit, but I could also see other changes to the mechanic being useful or interesting. One possibility would be to have invaders make “bets” that would either reduce the cost or increase the benefits of invasion. For example, you could bet that you’ll take out two opposing Guardians without using Power weapons and be rewarded for that in some capacity. It would be a little tough to make this work in the heat of a match, but it’s possible.

Another possibility is to just straight-up remove the current implementation of invasion. Maybe instead of invading, the portal allows a player to enter an obstacle course they have to complete to get their team a buff, or they have to find and take out an enemy in a mazelike area. These challenges could even rotate to provide some more variety and keep players on their toes.

Think Differently About Primevals

Primeval fights just aren’t that interesting. They’re big bosses that stand around and sponge damage and occasionally stomp. At minimum, maybe they could move around the map a little more. Thinking more expansively, why does the boss fight even have to take place in the same area as the rest of the match? Dunking 100 Motes could transport the entire team to a Taken-themed boss arena, maybe with mechanics that go beyond “shoot the Envoys first.” Yeah, any boss fight with mechanics can be kind of a pain with a matchmade fireteam (e.g. Sedia) but it would liven things up a bit.

Bring Back Legendary Ornaments

Ok, this one is really minor, but I’d love to see the old Legendary Gambit weapon ornaments return in some capacity. Put them up for Bright Dust like the Opulent weapons were during Season of the Haunted or something. Night Watch is one of my favorite weapons in the game, and not having the great-looking ornament for it is killing me.

How do you feel about Gambit in Destiny 2 right now? Do you tend to stay away from it, or are you a diehard fan of the Drifter’s little hustle? Are there any specific changes you’d like to see Bungie make to the mode? Let me know in the comments below.