It's fair to say that Trials of Osiris—Destiny's hardcore, weekends-only, 3v3 elimination mode—was on its deathbed. And that bed was filling with blood fast. Having previously been hugely popular in Destiny 1, the Trials playerbase dwindled over time until only the sweatiest PvP lords bothered to participate. In Destiny 2 it was restructured and relaunched as Trials of the Nine, which was largely unloved, only to be mothballed and eventually brought back, rebadged once as Trials of Osiris, with Bungie promising the mode was now "fully baked".
Sadly that proved another false dawn, with the experience frankly feeling like it had barely seen the inside of an oven since D1. Cheaters and account recoveries (essentially good players paid to hop onto bad players' accounts) blighted the experience for everyone, and the gap between good teams and those just hoping to snag a piece of the coveted Trials gear was so great that you'd often find players jumping off the map just to complete games for the weekly bounty rather than actually compete. For a mode that has had several last chances, expectations for the latest makeover were at best cautiously optimistic.
But having spent much of this weekend playing the completely reworked version of Trials, our resident Destiny fiends found themselves <deep breath>: Having Fun.
The player population was at its healthiest since the D1 days, as guardians flocked in to grind for weapons and armor that were previously beyond their reach. The Trials experience is still not perfect—facing a pre-made three-stack when you're solo queuing with whatever randos the matchmaking algorithm spits out is a chastening ordeal—but at least it's usually over fast, and it's certainly rewarding. Here Tim and Phil discuss what's changed, what works, and what could still use a little more time on medium heat.
How happy with the new loot grind are you?
Phil: Under the old system, I was realistically only going to get the three-wins reward consistently each week. That made collecting the full Trials arsenal an absolute chore. Based on what I played over the weekend, though, Trials Engrams are easy to come by, and—if you don't want to farm for a specific gun or armour piece—you can hand it to Rahool to get a chance at something you've not yet unlocked. Tim, my first engram decrypted into a Messenger roll with Ricochet/Rapid Hit/Desperado. This is a good system. If anything, Bungie needs to go back and update the other vendors to match Trials's new focusing options.
Tim: I don't think there's any debate here. The loot loop is a galactically better that what we had before, both for players with toes-for-thumbs and the grizzled veterans. Socially anxious players can just sit in solo queue and expect to be able to earn half a dozen pieces of gear in a couple of hours. I walked away with a god roll Sola's Scar sword (Relentless Strikes/Chain Reaction… *drool*), all the Warlock armour unlocked, and enough new Linear Fusion Rifles to shoot Saturn out of orbit. As you note, there's no way that would have happened under the stingy old system. I'm really pleased to see Bungie finally getting over itself when it comes to loot parsimony.
There even seems to be some sort of knockout system to ensure the Cryptarch decodes engrams into stuff you don't currently have. I also think the Rituals team, which has been at the helm of this revamp, deserves real credit for being bold in its abandoning of a lot of the elitism and gatekeeping that ran through the old Trials' DNA. Phil having a sexy Messenger is hurting no one.
What's the solo queue experience like?
Tim: So, unlike the overall loot rework, the addition of solo queue is definitely not a slam dunk. I saw several posts from players who managed to go Flawless (the process of seven straight wins that awards a ticket to The Lighthouse destination and a chest containing the highest tier of loot), but I think those people are unicorn-like freaks. For the vast majority of people who solo queue, I think you're unlikely to win more than ~30% of your games, and you're also going to get absolutely rolled by a lot of pre-built teams who are using voice comms and comfortable with playing together. Certainly my experience aligned with what Datto describes in his reaction video below.
On the one hand, stomps are to be expected. It's the Faustian pact you're being offered by solo queue: yes, you'll now be showered in loot, but you'll also be the sawdust in the Trials sausage. Just there to pack out the experience for others to enjoy. Is that better than cliff jumping? Marginally. It's definitely better for the players who are rolling you and potentially going flawless for the first time because the playlist is now full of teams that are wildly underskilled. But I'm not sure that's something I'd want to experience every weekend, and suspect that we're going to see some big drop off as people transmog the gear they want and then move back to activities that feel less like a bracing prison beating.
Phil: It's worth noting the potential benefits, that if you do get matched with some skilled players, you can pop in a friend request and naturally transition into a three-stack. I don't know how frequently that will actually happen in practice, but the option is there. For sure, though, Trials is still first-and-foremost for teams of three. It's good that Bungie has relaxed the rules and lets you take a chance as a solo player, but I think it's reasonable to say that your chances of going flawless are slim to none.
Do you expect the population to stay healthy?
Tim: I think the new loot system is so good that it's going to stay sustainable in a way that the old system wasn't likely to. I'll certainly keep going until I get a Reed's Regret with Triple Tap/Vorpal Weapon. The other thing I want to say is that when I played in a two or three-person team, I had a ton of fun. Which isn't a total surprise as I have enjoyed Trials in the past. Clutching out a 1v2 win, or pulling off a perfect knife throw, are still giant dopamine hits that are only enhanced by having friends in Discord to share them with. There's also the more low-key satisfaction of feeling your synergy steadily grow as a team. Honestly, even for a bang-average player like me, the idea of getting a lucky run of opponents and going flawless with a team isn't beyond the realms of possibility—though that likely will hinge on how many people stick around for all seven games.
Phil: I hope so. I certainly think the framework is here for it to remain healthy as people chase both great rolls on some of the better weapons in the game, or as another source of high-stat armour. That said, Trials remains intimidating and often offputting. This isn't all Bungie's fault: it's a mode that breeds toxicity. At one point our third, matchmade player, decided to abandon us, and we proceeded to be roflstomped by a stacked team who still felt the need to teabag our ghosts. Why bother? It's an easy win already.
Tim: Yeah, when I was in a three-stack I saw players dip out of the solo teams often, dooming their already substantially-doomed teammates. It does seem like there needs to be a bigger penalty for that.
Does going to The Lighthouse have the same prestige under the new system?
Tim: My immediate answer to this, which I've seen some of the OG Trials content creators debating, is who really cares? You cannot have this particular cake and then complain that other people are also eating it. Is it easier to go to The Lighthouse? It certainly looks like it. Does that diminish the fun? I really don't think so, based on the delighted reactions I saw from first-timers over the weekend. There's no point in having a hardcore PvP mode if it's so hardcore that nobody except the absolute 1% actually want to play it.
Phil: Yeah, this is very much where I'm at. It is easier to get to The Lighthouse again, but no that's not a problem. Just the presence of more players who don't spend their life sweating in Trials will naturally make going flawless easier. That's healthy, not a flaw.
Did you encounter any cheaters?
Phil: No obvious ones I encountered—certainly nobody who could fly around the map, firing an infinite stream of 1K Voices. Then again, basically anyone who can hit a perfect slide-headshot with a sniper rifle might as well be a cheater in my eyes. At various times I hit a team that outclassed me so heavily that I didn't stand a chance.
Tim: I don't think I faced any and I certainly got pretty good at spotting them when I used to play Trials. (Opponents suddenly developing 93% headshot accuracy with a sniper rifle is quite the tell.) Bungie's partnership with the BattlEye anti-cheat solution seems to be bearing substantial fruit. The apparent lack of cheaters, alongside the fact you can no longer using a sword to peek at what's happening in a lane in third-person, also helps drain toxicity from the playlist. You aren't constantly squinting at the other team to check they aren't trying to fuck over your flawless run by unfair means.
Were there any major issues with matchmaking?
Phil: I definitely think matchmaking will be the ongoing point of contention as we settle into this new system. As mentioned above, there's already some debate about whether matchmaking should prioritise matching solo players with other solo players, and we'll see whether those frustrations grow as the weeks go by. Based on my experience this weekend, there were definitely a few moments that made me raise my eyebrows: like the time we, on an already flawed card, got matched against a full stack who, after quickly rolling us, were granted passage to the Lighthouse. Otherwise it seems pretty solid. Our first card was relatively painless, until we hit seven wins, at which point the jump in the quality of opponents clearly signalled what the matchmaking system's preferences are.
Tim: I think there's a substantial problem with allowing players to see the composition of the opposing team before the match starts. It enables teams to cancel out when they see they're facing another three-stack, making it even easier to cherry pick games against the solos. Unfortunately I doubt this is an easy fix, but it's something Bungie should be looking at. One thing I really liked about the matchmaking is how you're encouraged to stick on your card rather than reset it. Once you hit seven wins you can potentially earn Trials engrams and enhancement materials (Prisms and Shards) for additional wins thereafter. There's also very little difference in terms of the XP you gain between wins and losses. Which sounds weird, but means you feel much less punished for bad beats. You're always on a pretty linear path to the next engram reward.
[Pray you don't meet either of the teams in the video below when playing Trials—they're some of the best in the game]
How's the meta?
Tim: Hand cannons. Shotguns. Cheesy shit like Warlocks using Arc Souls in rifts with the Stag helmet for damage reduction. And I regret to report the Hunters are once again Shatter diving. It's Trials, basically. Though it is funny when you match against a solo team who are clearly there just to choke out some rank up packages, and basically have on a full PvE loadout. "Thanks for the win, my sweet summer child."
Phil: Despite everything you mention above, I do think the PvP meta is in one of its healthier states right now. Yes, shatter diving can do one, but I'm seeing plenty of people performing well with weapons they favour over the ones they're told to use. I ran into plenty of pulse rifles and a few autos in addition to the many, many handcannons, and those players never felt like they were at a huge disadvantage. The main thing I noticed was just how aggressive players were being. The old format Trials really incentivised players to sit at the back of the map, waiting to get a sniper pick. This weekend, though, players were on the hunt—rushing in with an urgency that made for some exciting combat encounters.
That said, please, solo queuers, I'm begging you: sort out your mods. Those Concussive Dampeners are doing nothing for you in PvP, and you won't find any Overload champions here.
Tim: Reducing the round time was a huge help in terms of disincentivising camping.
Is a freelance playlist still necessary?
Tim: I really think so, yeah. I'm already seeing quite a bit of pushback from YouTubers who don't want the population split, but Bungie should definitely go ahead with its planned test of a weekend where solo queue players will be able to only match each other in a special Crucible Labs playlist. The Iron Banner and Competitive playlists already support Freelance and regular playlists, and those have been universally positive additions.
It's one thing to say that these solo queue players know what they're getting into, and playing as a team is just what Trials is, but for me what matters more is that people are having fun and getting into matches they actually have a chance in. Offering solo players a mode where everyone is on a level playing field seems like an obviously healthier position. Anything to the contrary reeks of wanting to pub stomp the rando-only teams and have easier overall passages.
Phil: I think it's good that it's being saved for a Crucible Labs playlist for now. The population is a concern. It feels healthy now, but how many people will be regularly playing in a month? Hopefully lots: the loot is good, and that should be more than enough incentive to keep people around. A freelance mode would be ideal, but it potentially hurts two-stacks looking to round out their team with a loose blueberry.
Tim: Would it even matter if solo queue became the dominant form of play? Like, there's a reason that Iron Banner has historically been much more popular than Trials.
Phil: Maybe not! I do think the teamplay and coordination are an important part of what Trials is—I only jumped in as a two-stack this weekend because our regular teammate wasn't available—but I've been wrong about Destiny before. I'd definitely miss the camaraderie if Freelance became the default playlist, but we'll see what the community gravitates towards.
Has Trials been 'saved'?
Tim: Maybe? Probably? It's a massive improvement, between the less punishing structure of the card, and the frankly startling levels of loot on offer. This is easily one of the best revamps Bungie has delivered that I can remember, and as you noted it makes me greedy for how it would look applied to other vendors in the game.
Phil: Is anything in Destiny ever truly saved? But yes, I had fun playing it, possibly for the first time since its reintroduction in Destiny 2. This was a successful revamp, in that it fixed a lot of frustrations and also laid out a path that other modes in the game can follow. And while there are still questions about how certain aspects will play out in the long run, none of it feels like a deal breaker. Good job, Bungie, I guess I'm a Trials fan now.