Destiny 2’s Niobe Labs Should Have Been a Secret, Not a Content Gate (Update)
Update: Bungie has relented and opened the Bergusia Forge to everyone, decoupling the completion of the Niobe Labs mission with any other Black Armory activities.
Original: Yesterday, players hopped onto Destiny 2 at the standard reset time hoping for something new to do. Niobe Labs was always set to launch on January 8, 2019 as a gateway to the fourth and final forge of Black Armory. Before players could hope to discover the secrets of the Bergusia Forge, however, they had to open the door. And as of this writing, they still have to open the door.
The catch is that once the Niobe Labs puzzle has been solved by one fireteam, the Bergusia Forge will be open to everyone (Editor’s note: Bungie is decoupling the completion of Niobe Labs with the Bergusia Forge. See update above). Until then, it acts as a gate to the game’s newest content. It’s been more than 24 hours that streamers (and presumably many other members of the community) have been bashing their heads against a wall in an attempt to complete Niobe Labs.
It began with a new bridge appearing off the Sojourner’s Camp in the south end of the EDZ. This led to the room where the entire puzzle takes place. Clues along the hallways leading to the room called back to complicated puzzles that had players deciphering runes, referencing French poetry, and solving ciphers using jewel placements on the scabbard of an ancient sword as the key. All of this involved using some of the new Black Armory weapons, which show secret symbols when you look through their scopes.
For Niobe Labs, that knowledge was used to shoot a bunch of symbols in order to unlock a node that started a mission. Excited players thought that they had completed it after a few hours of puzzling out the symbols and ciphers scattered around the room. Little did they know that they were in for a lot more. The unlocked quest led to a series of fights, and in between each fight, players need to enter passcodes by shooting various hidden symbols to proceed to the next level. When time runs out, they fail and are sent back to the start of the mission. Each passcode is hinted at on large screens in the middle of the room.
Some of the combinations seem complicated, but through community efforts, players are now up to level seven, the level that many believe is the final one due to Bungie’s penchant for the number. But they just can’t seem to crack it. For the longest time, level six ended up being the holdup. Players were stuck on that one for well over 12 hours and it turns out they had been over complicating the simple clue, “Broceliande,” an ancient forest of legend where Merlin was buried (which was the result of a complicated cipher to begin with). Turns out all they had to do was have all three players shoot the “trees” symbol with the bow while standing on the butterfly. (Trust me, while that still seems complicated, it was much, much simpler than what some of the convoluted theories were).
There’s a bit of a split in the Destiny community right now about whether Niobe Labs is the kind of content we’ve been asking for, or if it’s an unfair mission reserved for only the most elite players. Before we can determine if Bungie made any missteps with Niobe Labs, we have dig into Destiny’s history of secrets and puzzles for the community to solve.
A Look at Destiny’s Secrets and Puzzles
Gunplay aside, the secrets and puzzles hidden throughout Destiny have always been a driving force to keep players engaged and feeling rewarded for solving these ciphers. Here’s a brief history of some of the best ones.
Vault of Glass
Who can forget the very first Destiny Raid? Players had no idea what to expect going into this, so figuring out the mechanics designed for six players set stage and gave momentum to the future of Destiny’s secrets. Even once the puzzle had been solved, executing the mechanics was yet another challenge to overcome, which allowed the success of the few initially to trickle out to other players and the rest of the community. Whether you solved it on day one or were carried through a month later, the Vault of Glass was a thrill for everyone who got the opportunity to experience it.
This is one of those quests where things started to get convoluted. It began as something of an ARG outside of the game, which led to some mathematical puzzles that needed to be solved within the game. The quest to get the Outbreak Prime Exotic pulse rifle was a fascinating puzzle that involved binary, and other numerical ciphers, leading to some complex steps within the Wrath of the Machine Raid to even start the quest. Outbreak Prime was one of the most community-involved events in Destiny’s history, with no single person or fireteam credited with the complete discovery.
Whisper of the Worm
One of Destiny 2’s most involved secrets came with a limited-time event that shows up each weekend. Players need to kill a specific enemy on Io to open a portal to a secret timed mission. The quest took some time to solve, as progress was halted and reset each time the clock reached 20 minutes. The community came together once again to charge through and eventually earn the Whisper of the Worm Exotic sniper. There were a few other secrets that went along with this quest, and it reminded many of the classic mysteries the people love about Destiny.
The Shattered Throne
Another endgame secret that pops up on week three of the Dreaming City’s curse cycle, this secret dungeon took players to the depths of the Awoken city and into the ascendant realm in a small Raid-like mission. The Shattered Throne was involved in the quest for the Wishender Exotic bow, as well as being a place to earn additional powerful gear. Both the Whisper quest and The Shattered Throne were never announced by Bungie, instead popping up suddenly for players to discover themselves.
How Niobe Labs Differs From Previous Destiny Secrets
Destiny’s secrets have always been supplemental to the experience that is already there. Players can choose to engage with them if they want the challenge, but they aren’t forced to overcome these puzzles. The Outbreak Prime puzzle didn’t lock an entire activity behind the completion of the quest. It was part of the Raid, but was an optional, additional secret. Whisper was a secret within the world. These mysteries have always acted more as side quests.
Even the start of the Black Armory had puzzles that were adjacent to the content. The secret ciphers that led to the hidden emblems were contained within the forges, but players could still play the forges without needing these secrets to be figured out. The fourth forge, Bergusia, is quite literally gated off behind the community solving this puzzle. And the community is getting weary. Watch any streamer that’s been attempting this and you can tell that they are run ragged trying to solve the puzzle. The unlock of the final forge is literally hinging on this being completed, so many bear the weight of responsibility of the first completion. And yet this scheduled activity has taken longer than literally any secret in Destiny so far. Even the series’ most difficult Raids have been solved in less time.
Niobe Labs was always scheduled by Bungie, so it doesn’t really fall within the same category of secrets that the Whisper quest or the Shattered Throne did. It’s not a random popup discovery. Honestly, it’s a really cool mystery and it’s been exciting to watch the community come together to try to solve it. I don’t want any negative response to Niobe Labs to put Bungie off from adding these kinds of puzzles in the future. Niobe Labs is what we asked for and wanted. And it’s great content. I’m sure in a week when it’s all solved, this frustration won’t even matter.
Bungie’s misstep is using this kind of puzzle to gate off content for the entire community. Many players hopped on at reset hoping for something new to do, yet even the brightest minds in the community can’t get through this puzzle, whether through brute force or by solving it. Add the fact that each attempt at the codes takes longer and longer depending on what step they are on, and it becomes tiresome to reach level seven only to try something and have it fail. If Niobe Labs wasn’t directly in the path of the Bergusia Forge and the rest of the Black Armory content, it would be a fascinating mystery that the community has yet to solve while we play everything else that is available to us. As it stands right now, it’s simply a frustrating roadblock for players that just want to experience a little bit more of Destiny 2.
It should be noted that this isn’t the first time that Bungie has coupled completion of difficult endgame activities with content, though those kinds of things have always been bonuses like additional maps for Gambit and Crucible. It’s never fully gated activities that players just want to get in and play. These coupled secrets have also been solved quickly before, usually within a single day at the most. Part of the perceived failure of Niobe Labs was the community’s inability to overcome the challenge, and had it been solved within the first day, the optics on it may have played a lot better than they have. That’s not necessarily Bungie’s fault and the intended plan was probably a lot smoother than the execution.
On Twitter, BlueWestlo may have summed it up the best:
Niobe Labs is clearly cool; having a huge puzzle bringing the community together is awesome.
The issue is how remarkably out of place the activity is. The reason people love these puzzles is because they are bonuses on our journey, not requirements to continue it.
— BlueWestlo (@BlueWestlo) January 9, 2019
Update: See update at the top of the article. Now that Niobe Labs is decoupled from Bergusia Forge and the entire community getting to play that content, it falls more in line with Destiny’s other secrets as an optional bonus rather than a gate in our journey as Guardians. With this change, I really love what Niobe Labs becomes (and that players can finally play the content they’ve been waiting for), but I feel bad that it defeats the efforts of the community over the last day and a half. It’s hard to say what the right call was here for Bungie, especially as Niobe Labs continues to remain unsolved.
At the end of the day, I’m just happy that Bungie has the stones to try out unique and difficult content like this. Sometimes they’ll trip, but without trying and stumbling here and there, we’d never get the kind of amazing secrets we know they are capable of.