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Destiny 2's final Black Armory Forge opened early after puzzle stumped players

After what was meant to be an exciting community challenge to solve a puzzle and unlock a new part of Destiny 2 turned into a frustrating grind, Bungie caved and unlocked it last night. All players with the MMO-y FPS’s Forsaken expansion and its further season pass can now make weapons in Bergusia Forge, which also brings quests for new toys. The puzzle of Niobe Labs remains unsolved after almost two days, which is far longer than Destiny 2’s challenge gates tend to stay locked – and probably longer than Bungie expected. With both hardcore puzzlers and regular players becoming frustrated, the developers opened it themselves.

“While coming together as a community to solve puzzles can be fun, setting this puzzle up as a gate between you and new content that you want to play has not been an ideal experience,” Bungie said yesterday. “As such, we will be decoupling the puzzle from the final offering of the Black Armory.”

You can now visit Bergusia Forge by dropping into the EDZ, riding your spacebike over the river to Sojourner’s Camp in the south-west, following it through to a hole in the cliff, then approaching the big closed vault door. It doesn’t bring new weapon frames to forge but it can handle frames from any other Forge. Like the others, it’s a wee wave survival mode where we kill special enemies for batteries to lob at the forge and charge it. Bergusia is a fun fight, with an enemy mix that can be murderous one moment then explode in a satisfying chain the next. I was happy to see the boss again too.

On the shiny front… we can now complete an exotic quest rewarding Izanagi’s Burden, a sniper rifle able to charge one shot with the entire magazine. The exotic fusion rifle J├Âtunn is now available as a random drop from forges, though it’s more like a ridiculous homing rocket launcher than a fusion rifle. Ada-1 now sells consumables that will grant a Black Armory armour piece when you forge one of their weapons. Once you complete a quest, she’ll also sell a doodad that can slot into Black Armory guns (not taking up mod slots) to boost damage in forges.

Niobe Labs and its Forge are the climax of this year’s first season of paid content, which has rolled out activities in drips and drabs rather than the previous whomping big expansion launches. It houses a complex puzzle which, when any one team solved it, was to unlock the final Forge for all players. The puzzle involves ciphers, French literature, symbols only visible through certain weapons, teamwork, and a whole lot of grinding and guesswork. It has so many components and no checkpoints between stages, see.

Solvers spent twelve hours stalled at level 6 of the unlock sequence, a point where they needed to grind through 15 minutes of fighting tough enemies and shooting symbols on walls just for one or two solution attempts before a timer killed them and they’d start over from scratch. When people finally hit level 7, it proved just as baffling – and of course had an even longer grind to reach.

If puzzlepeeps didn’t figure out the puzzle of Niobe Labs to open its Black Armory Forge within two hours, Bungie said yesterday, they’d go ahead and open it anyway. When 10pm (2pm Pacific) rolled around, 29 hours after the puzzle started, solvers were still stumped by level 7 of the sequence and so we were all welcomed in.

I don’t doubt that Bungie had expected players to solve the puzzle within hours of it going live on Tuesday. Destiny’s puzzle-solvers are usually quick, and gated content usually unlocked for everyone quickly. They probably thought this would be a bit of fun and excitement, stir up some interest in watching the game on Twitch, then let everyone in. That did not happen.

Their decision was likely also motivated by more timers and grind. The Forge opens up a new exotic weapon quest with several steps involving time-consuming grinding and more time gates. After grinding for certain items and challenges, we need to complete one of those rare Black Armory bounties that many players can go weeks without seeing. A later step involves completing a dungeon only available every three weeks, and this week is one of those weeks. With the puzzling stalled then random luck and more grind waiting to follow, it was looking likely many players would face a long wait for that dungeon to open up again. Heck, many players will still face that.

I do like the idea of community challenges unlocking new areas and content. I do not like how this one did it. The puzzle seems obtuse, and having to grind through the same stages over and over just to try another solution made having a go myself wildly off-putting. It’s a puzzle for mega-serious players who don’t mind that, and likely aimed at the few Twitch streamers known for this. I could not seriously contribute, only wait.

I’m sure the puzzle will turn out far simpler than many of the approaches currently being tried. When all is revealed, we’ll likely be able to follow the logic Bungie had. But there are so many possibilities and the clues don’t narrow it down nearly enough, so it’s become a mess of trial and error. And grind. It’s not a good puzzle, the lack of checkpoints makes it tedious, and it’s bad to make everyone wait on puzzlers who are burning themselves out (Twitch fella “xGladd” was live for over a day). Community challenges can be done well; this one was not.

“We love trying new things with Destiny, but we’re also flexible enough to pivot when you point out room for improvement,” Bungie said. “We’ll continue to monitor the conversation about this event and learn from your feedback as we create future content releases.”

Players can still do the puzzle if they want, which will reward a special Ghost shell and an emblem.

Destiny 2: Forsaken’s Annual Pass continues to make poor first impressions, which is a shame because I am otherwise happy enough with it so far. I’m excited for whatever’s going on next season with the Drifter, the scamp.

Though, really, we should have spotted the honking great hole in Niobe’s roof that would let us bypass that door and drop right into the Forge. I blame my Ghost for not paying attention.

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