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The RPG Files: A Skeptic's Return to Destiny

By Christopher Coke on October 02, 2015 | Columns | Comments

A Skeptic's Return to Destiny

If Destiny were made by any other studio, it would be failed and forgotten about in 2015. I’m not going to be nice and say that the original Destiny was a good game because it wasn’t. It was bad and lazily designed, a mish-mash of disparate parts with a story that was pasted together at the eleventh hour. What’s worse is that Bungie spent most of its first year making rookie league mistakes, yet still somehow managing to seem arrogant. The only redeeming factor was that the gunplay just felt so good. So when people started raving about The Taken King, I listened. Could they have actually fixed the issues that made the original game so disappointing? I decided to see for myself, through all three expansions. This is part one of that journey.

That plus all the week’s RPG news in the Quick Hits below!

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I should probably start by saying that I’m no raider, and I have a big bias against Bungie for how badly they screwed up the original game. I also found it repeatedly distasteful how they refused to own up to how not Destiny was to everything they promised it would be. I don’t like “Bungie knows best” and I’m not a Halo devotee. And I can give them credit on the gunplay, but you know what, after a decade making Halo, they should darn well better have gotten that right. This is where I’m coming in from.

So, believe me when I say that The Taken King is a huge change for the better. And that’s without actually playing any of the expansion’s real “content”.

I left the game before the first expansion, The Dark Below, so when I came back I knew I wanted to play through it and House of Wolves first. Take in the changes over time, y’know? Anyway, a couple of things hit me right off the bat. First of all, the new quests tab is a massive change for the better. Through some psychological trickery, keeping everything on one page makes it feel like there is more to do. Being able to take 16 bounties and turn them in remotely is also great, even if they’re still MMO fluff. Still, pinning them to my HUD was nice because I could actually remember what I was supposed to be doing instead of sifting through menus.

Now looks guys, I’m an MMO player, so when someone told me they “fixed” leveling, I saw right through it. Bungie did not “fix” leveling, they just added more dings. Light levels are really just iLevels, right down to requiring an iLev-- er, light level for certain activities. You’re still gated from the exact same things in the exact same ways. It’s all semantics and the press has bought into it like never before. It’s like they’ve never played World of Warcraft before.

Still, when I say that Destiny is a much more rewarding game to level through, I mean that literally. Loot rains in Destiny 2.0. Playing through The Dark Below, I was picking up new Taken King engrams (they have an icon) left and right. I was making progress on the XP bar and also upgrading my gear at a regular clip. The same thing is true in Strikes, and in PVP, which hands out improved rewards even to losers. It wasn’t XP that made me have Destiny fun, it was the game actually rewarding my time.

Now for the not so good stuff. That loot system up above? I have severe doubts that it will mean much of anything once you’ve donned some level 40 gear. One improvement of the Taken King is that drops now scale up from what you have equipped, but even that must have an end point if raids are supposed to stay enticing. At a certain point, you will still be locked into the slow grind of all high-level Destiny players.

Second, and this is not about The Taken King, Bungie was out of their mind charging $20 for The Dark Below. It has one raid and a handful of quests you can complete in less than two hours, and a PVP event. Really? That can only be called an expansion in Bungie-land, where customers should be grateful for what they’re given and stop complaining about it already.

Overall, I’m super pleased with leveling in The Taken King (well, before The Taken King) and some of the quality of life improvements. Will it hold up? We’ll see, and I’ll be sure to let you know along the way.

Quick Hits

The Kickstarter for Divinity: Original Sin 2 came to a conclusion this week with a tremendous $2M in donations. Larian Studios was able to achieve all of its stretch goals, including the biggun’: Gamemaster Mode, which will allow players to GM and participate in original campaigns with their friends. Big congrats to Larian. The game is due by the end of 2016.

A new S.P.E.C.I.A.L. video is out for Fallout 4, this time shining the spotlight on Charisma. It’s a must watch if you’ve ever wanted to Vault Boy get drunk and naked. Nope, not kidding.

MMORPG had the chance to sit down with some of the developers at CD Projekt Red this week to talk about the upcoming expansion for The Witcher 3, Hearts of Stone. If you’re curious about what’s next for Geralt, or how you can take part even if you haven’t leveled to 30, give it a read! Until it’s October 13th release, here’s a trailer to tide you over.

Bioware made a Mass Effect announcement that you may not have expected: the series will have it’s own attraction at Great America theme park in Santa Clara, California. Not what I was expecting, but the combination of “3D technology and 4D effects” certainly sounds like something to see for the west coasters out there.

Tired of waiting for Star Citizen? It might be time to give Elite: Dangerous a look. The dev team took to the stage to share some new tidbits about its upcoming “season of expansions.” Expected this year, Planetary Landings will, as the name implies, bring procedurely generated planets to the game for the first time. Multi-crew cooperative missions, crafting and loot updates are also planned for release in the “Horizons” series of expansions.

That’s all from us. Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.