I hopped into Trials last night with my friends for the second weekend, having skipped the first due to lower power. After two and a half hours, which was two full cards and a few immediate first loss resets, I have quite literally…nothing to show for it.
We never got to three wins. And given that I don’t know if I’ll be able to coordinate another session before reset, we probably never will, and I’ll leave the mode with literally nothing, unable to turn in my hard-lost tokens, and questioning why I am even bothering with Trials, something that more and more people seem to be asking themselves the longer it goes on.
Yes, this is going to be a bit of a rant. Maybe I’m still on a “tilt hangover” from last night, but I think there are some very real issues that Trials faces that will slowly (or quickly) eat away at the mode. I also have more general concerns about Trials remaining a top priority for development if it doesn’t become at least mildly more accessible.
I know that the singular answer to many of my complaints here from some will be a simple “get good.” This is a pinnacle PvP mode, you need to be a pinnacle PvP player to succeed.
Sure, I’ll agree with that, and yet I’ll push back on a number of fronts. Pinnacle PvP players do not only want to be playing pinnacle PvP players every single game, so you need a wider pool of players. Secondly, there are varying levels of success. I have no illusions of going Flawless or hitting seven wins any time soon. I just want three damn wins to get a singular piece of loot, and if I hit that, maybe five. And yet this seems like a borderline impossible goal with the current state of Trials unless I want to be carried.
As for getting good, man, I don’t know how much more I can physically improve at this point as I’m probably at my (admittedly average) ceiling. I’ve been playing FPS games since I was a kid. I’ve been playing Destiny PvP since D1 launch. While I’m certainly no god, I’ll hold my own in any mode and will frequently be team kill leader if I have a solid game. While higher levels of comp and some Iron Banner rounds have posed PvP challenges, they all pale in comparison to my Trials experience. In those modes, you win some, you lose some. You go up in comp and come crashing down. You get mercied in Iron Banner, then mercy the other team your next two games. It’s a give and take.
For me, Trials has been almost all take with my friends on PS4. Our first card last weekend we hit four wins, and never hit three again. This week, we haven’t gotten to three. I’d say our overall Trials record is something like 8-50, which is just soul-crushing.
I am not running into cheaters or Beaver errors on PS4, though I know those are big problems that are impacting the mode for other people.
Rather, the main problems, as I see them, are that either the card-based, connection-based system is not working as intended at all, or the pool of players is simply so high skilled with no one of my “average” skill level even trying, that I keep getting thrown into what feel like impossible to win matches.
Nothing better exemplifies this than my last card. With loss forgiveness, we were 2-2 heading into a match. Who do we get? A Japanese team that immediately 5-0s us without us having a prayer, with one player that had a 2.7 lifetime KDA. You’re telling me that’s connection-based? You’re telling me that’s card-based? Okay. And then after that, now 2-3 and hoping the game takes mercy on us, we find ourselves facing a team rocking red glow flawless armor we played on our last card that had already 5-0ed us. This time, we lost 5-1. Improvement! But extremely, extremely frustrating, and I swear every single card the last two nail-in-the-coffin losses have somehow been much harder than the initial games, which makes no sense at all.
I don’t know if the “token farm” issue is still coming up, where higher skill teams reset their cards with a Wealth passage and farm “easy” wins at lower levels. I thought that the actual coveted weapon, the sniper at seven wins, might fix that, but perhaps people are still only going to three to farm last week’s shotgun before the pool gets any larger, I don’t know.
Whatever the case, not only is the actual experience frustrating, but so is the end result in which after that lengthy session I am left with tokens that I cannot turn in and cannot save because they will evaporate on Tuesday. This creates a sick sense of urgency that I must get to at least three wins or else any effort I put forward to Trials all weekend was quite literally for nothing. At the very least, after blundering through these mismatched games for hours yes, I believe I have earned another damn shotgun or one new rocket launcher. No one likes earning rewards they cannot use, which is what Iron Banner is currently like, except your Iron Banner tokens don’t self-destruct when the event is over.
Part of me thinks a solution the current problems with Trials is to open up matchmaking with an optional solo queue.
I think this would dramatically expand the pool of players, which is going to be necessary because we will see it shrink over time as more and more casual or average players drop out entirely, which is a lose-lose for everyone. When that happens, most of the population isn’t playing the mode at all, while the hardcore players are getting frustrated because the mode just gets exponentially harder each week.
Matchmaking would flood the mode with all levels of players and allow for the so-called CBMM and card-based system to perhaps actually work as intended. And while sure, you’ll get bad teams, you might also get lucky like I did during my Recluse farm, where I won 14 games in a row in Comp and got myself to Fabled (back when it was actually somewhat hard). With a bit of luck and skill, you could see players going to 3, 5, 7 wins or even flawless more frequently if there are more randomly matchmade teams in the mode instead of just hardcore PvP clans and streamers.
I am in a position where if I wanted to go flawless, I could. I know enough kind PvP streamers who would carry me if I asked, and I did that in Trials of the Nine years back. And while it was fun to go flawless, I’m not really a fan of carries in general, even though Bungie has literally made it a part of the Flawless title now. It doesn’t make you feel like you’ve accomplished anything. You simply try not to die as someone else hits an easy button and takes you to the promised land like you’re Baby Yoda strapped to the Mandalorian’s chest. I want the overall health of the mode to be strengthened so people like me don’t need to be carried, but still feel like they’re getting something out of it, even if that’s not a flawless run. Right now, I just don’t feel that.
My final concern is one of resources. We already heard this season that pinnacle weapons were cut because of the development energy that needed to go toward Trials gear. So I wonder what else is going to be sacrificed if every season or two we’re getting new Trials armor and weapons and the expense of something else. If the mode remains this problematic and inaccessible to most, I am not wild about the idea of giving it a ton of loot that the rest of the game badly needs at this point. But if it’s fixed, and something that more people can enjoy, maybe that’s fine. But right now it’s not there, it’s not even close.
I do think there needs to be a pinnacle PvP activity in the game. I do not think it needs to be this aggravating for someone like me who is certainly far from a casual, but feels like it’s totally wasting my time. Changes need to be made, a lot of them, or else this will only get worse in time.