Destiny - The Taken King - Reflections on its First Year
A little over a year ago I sat down to review Destiny. While I enjoyed the game I ended up giving it a 7.0. This was lower than what most publications rated Destiny at and I’m okay with that. I wasn’t trying to be a stickler, or “that guy” that “stuck it to the man” on a high profile game. While Destiny did have some things working against it in certain individual’s eyes, huge expectations not the least of them from a massive budget and previous success with Halo, which left most gamers wanting the new edition of sliced bread. I tried to look at the game through the lens of what the MMORPG audience would look for in a game of this scope and graded it based on that.
At the time I deemed Destiny to be a fun game with a lot of unfulfilled potential. Due to scheduling conflicts I was unable to conduct the review for The Taken King that released earlier this month. However, I recently had some time on my hands and wanted to see if Bungie had addressed any of my concerns from that review from last year. Turns out they have. Not all of these updates happened with the TTK, some trickled in with House of Wolves, and others the Dark Below, but they have all been added in the last 12 months.
I’ll start off with mentioning one big thing that is my pet peeve and did not get addressed. Bungie really needs to stop sending players to Bungie.net to figure out what the new Grimoire card they just earned. There is a team at Bungie that has spent a significant amount of time and resources working on the Grimoire cards. They also have interesting bits of lore tied to them. Let people see them in game! I won’t let this run on a tangent about how it wouldn’t be as inconvenient if you could play the game on PC and had ready access to a browser that was more convenient than a browser on a console… but I digress. Yes the game has an amazing app I can access on a mobile device that can give me the Grimoire information as well but please, oh please Bungie, when you release the next Destiny, have the Grimoire built into the game.
I dinged Destiny deservedly pretty hard on the social functions last time. While the Grimoire was more of a nuisance and not score-affecting, the social defects didn’t get off as light. Clan management still isn’t where it should be. This is a shame too. You have to do any of the work online out of game on the web or in the app and it really is a painful process. The management aspect aside it has become easier to actually be social in game. For some this is a bit of a mixed bag but you can now easily chat with people in Strikes, over world exploration, and PvP. Bungie has expanded the use of VoIP chat to different areas of the game. Again, you may not like hearing little Timmy call you a "dumb n00b" but you can easily turn it off and just let Timmy rant into empty space... and no one can hear Timmy scream in space.
The loading times are still insanely long. The good news is they have apparently worked on them (and setting your PlayStation or XB1's DNS settings to Google's reportedly helps a lot). The bad news is you can’t tell! There are a ton of loading screens in Destiny, and the time to load each mission or map is often way too long for systems that have more power than most home PCs. Hopefully this will be fixed when Destiny 2: Electric Boogaloo comes out and ditches the last generation consoles entirely.
In Destiny 1.0 story bosses (pre raid) just felt like bullet sponges. They didn’t do much besides get exponentially larger hit point pools as the game progressed. So far in TTK that doesn’t really feel like it is the case. Another change for the better has to deal with leveling. In 1.0 you would level to 20 through gaining experience and then you would level from 20 to 30 by grinding for gear that had light on it. Think of it like a really tough kick in the pants gear score that actually raised your character's level. Now you earn experience all the way up to level 40. The game still tracks your light score but it no longer affects your actual character level. It does impact the amount of damage your weapon can do however, as it's an overall average of your offensive and defensive power. Since gear score can keep you from doing certain activities in other games, in effect Light Level acts as another leveling system. I’m not sure that the light grind deserved all the hate it received but this change does give players a more positive perception of the light system now.
The amount of bounties you can have active at any time has gone up from 6 top 18 and the game also has an improved quest tracking system. You can now turn in bounties from the menu which means you do not have to return to the tower and deal with the loading screens (yay!). The tracking system also involves some slick UI additions that flash on the side of the screen to let you know when you progressed the quest and what the next step will be.
Destiny has come a long way in the past 12 months. I didn’t bother to hop back in with the House of Wolves or the Dark Below and honestly I’m glad I didn’t. I can loop back around now and play those bits of content and try to make sense of the story that was left fairly incomplete at the end of 1.0 with not much time investment in the grind. Destiny didn't stay in my gaming rotation originally because of that grind. That's not to say that most games don’t have some form of grind, but Destiny’s just felt a little too tough to bear. I’m back to having fun again making my way through the story portion of The Taken King. If you liked Destiny 1.0 but bowed out because of the light grind now might be, like it was for me, a good time for you to jump back in and see what the game has to offer. If you didn’t like Destiny the first time around though the wheel has not been reinvented and you’ll probably be better off saving your $40 for now.