Destiny 2’s new Warmind expansion is equal parts promising and frustrating, a step in the right direction that has also served to underline some of the game’s biggest problems. Case in point: Escalation Protocol, a new mode that’s frustrating players not because it isn’t fun, but because it’s almost impossible to properly play it.
Anyone who owns Warmind can access Escalation Protocol, a new high-level horde mode set on the new Mars patrol zone. It’s sort of like an evolved version of The Taken King’s Court of Oryx or Rise of Iron’s Archon’s Forge, a nails-tough encounter that asks up to nine players to team up and fight waves of high-level enemies. Everyone generally loves it, except for one little catch: You can only enter a Destiny 2 patrol zone with two friends.
That’s been the case since September 2014, when Destiny launched. The game has always only allowed players to enter Patrol zones in fireteams of three. Although the game does support larger fireteams—you can have up to six people team up in PvP, and raids generally require a squad of six players—it will restrict you to three people in most activities, including the open-world Patrol zone where Escalation Protocol is based.
Escalation Protocol is designed to be played by up to nine people, which means that six of those people will have to be strangers you come across at random. Even if you have six other friends who are online and willing to play, you’ll always be limited to a team of three. It’s possible to make it through a few rounds of Escalation Protocol with a smaller group of strangers, but the difficulty escalates so quickly that only the most coordinated and powerful teams can make it through all seven rounds. Unfortunately, the mode’s rewards are locked behind that seventh round, which means there’s less incentive to play it casually with randoms.
In other words, Destiny 2 now has a nine-person activity but you can only play it with two of your friends. It’s not clear why this restriction still exists, and a Bungie representative didn’t respond to a request for comment, but it has hindered players’ ability to enjoy one of the game’s best new features.
True to form, Destiny players have found some creative workarounds for the problem. One of those workarounds involves loading and loading over and over again into the same patrol zones in hopes that your fireteam will get randomly matched up with your friends’ fireteam. Another—my favorite—is to load into a Patrol zone, then DM the strangers playing next to you and ask if your friends can join their fireteams so they can match up in Escalation Protocol with you.
This last one has grown so popular that it’s leading some players to change their privacy settings. “I usually Love having random people message me, whether they need help with something like campaign, strikes, a raid or trials...i almost always respond,” wrote Redditor Patj1994. “I really wish it was different and hopefully we see a short term fix for this relatively soon.”
It’s possible that this will be a short-term issue. Because of how Bungie has slowed down player progression for Warmind, only the most dedicated players have reached or even come close to the new power cap of 385, which is suggested for Escalation Protocol. At lower levels, it’s more important now to have as many players doing as much damage as possible, and as more players reach the level cap, it may become easier to play with fewer than nine people. While that may be the case, some more casual players have voiced the understandable worry that by the time they’ve reached an appropriate level to try Escalation Protocol, hardcore players will have stopped playing and the mode will be a ghost town.
The situation has arisen as a result of something good—Escalation Protocol is really cool, and players are frustrated that it isn’t easier to play with their friends. That’s among the better kinds of problems for a game to have, though it is still a problem. Destiny 2 is in a better place now that it’s ever been, and many fans are optimistic for what’s coming in the next few months. Problems like this act as a reminder that there’s still a ways to go.