The hype train for Destiny: The Taken King has officially left the station. Bungie has been flooding the internet with new information since Gamescom stirring up excitement in current and lapsed players alike. This week they revealed a new trailer previewing Year Two, beginning with The Taken King expansion in September. If you’re someone who has left, you’re probably wondering if now is the time to make your triumphant return. Here’s what I think.
If you’re anything like me, you bought Destiny the day it came out. You probably drove home excited like a kid on Christmas morning, and you may have even grinned the first time Peter Dinklage’s voice came floating out of Ghost. With the pedigree of Halo, there was no way Bungie’s follow-up would be anything less than amazing. Right?
The reality that followed those early moments was beyond disappointing. The “world” was just a series of unconnected zones filled with the worst sort of MMO quests. The story was unintelligible and every mission was exactly the same: shoot stuff toward an objective, defend ghost and/or kill a said boss. Want lore? Go to a website. Want decent gear? Prepare to grind, grind, grind, especially after DLC resets everything you’ve been grinding for. Oh, and if you want to see the “best” content in the game, raids, you had better corale five friends for a regularly scheduled night or head off to Reddit because the game doesn’t want you playing with those dirty, unwashed “randoms” and so lacks any kind of group finding tools.
Every aspect of this game of this game has been mismanaged so far. Every update has featured some kind of debacle. The amount of times Bungie has had to walk back a feature or design decision is staggering, but every time is followed by some other misstep. It’s like the came into this thing willingly ignoring the lessons of countless MMO and RPG devs before them.
Now comes The Taken King. We’ll put aside the pricing and Collector’s Edition fiascos for now. This expansion is big, larger than anything that’s come before, and the message Bungie wants us to hear is clear: they’ve heard player feedback. Here are some of the major changes.
Actual Story-based Missions: There will be cutscenes and actual storytelling. Closer to what we originally imagined for Destiny.
Normal Levels, Light is Now a Stat: Remember that “light level” silliness? Well, you can now level up to a cap like any other RPG. Light will be a stat and a metric of power, not gear levels.
Peter Dinklage Stripped From the Game: Nolan North has re-recorded all of Ghost’s lines.
Bounties are Now Quests: You can now carry 32 of them at a time and turn them in remotely.
Consistently Completing Bounties Now Gives You Nightfall Rewards: Consistent effort means consistent reward here.
New Raids, Strikes, Zones, Etcetera: Basic stuff you would expect to see.
The Cryptarch Sells Guaranteed Legendaries: For legendary marks, gotten from dismantling current legendaries.
New Objective Based PVP Mode, “Rift”: It also rewards partial progress.
Lots of Weapon Changes: That will mean something to players already invested in the game.
I have to be honest, as a player who is pretty burnt by the initial game, I’m… interested.
One thing you won’t hear anyone criticize is how fun the actual gunplay is, or, just as importantly, the potential Destiny has to be a fantastic video game. Shooting is refined, excellent, and very, very tight. Finding and leveling up weapons is a addicting because, like any good RPG drop, it opens up a world of new possibilities. Being able to level those weapons up added a rewarding progression path separate that fed right back into your character. The setting is also excellent and rich with lore, which is one of the reasons why it was so disappointing that Bungie lazily sent you to a website to learn more about it.
In The Taken King, though, we see Bungie focused on storytelling on top of gameplay. We know they can do it; Halo had a much better storyline. Destiny 2.0 has real potential to make players care about what they’re doing and provide those much needed hooks for players who don’t happen to raid. That’s important for a game purporting to be a massive-scale FPS RPG.
They’re responding to other feedback too. The option to carry 32 bounties and turn them in remotely is huge, rather than make you return to the Tower over and over again. Opening up more paths to guaranteed legendaries, making it easier to earn faction rep, getting rid of the light level system, objective-based PVP… all good things.
But Bungie still refuses to add a group-finder for raids. Their utter stubbornness is baffling. It’s like looking at the MMO industry in 2004: raiding is for the upper 1% willing to lasso their friends or make pleading posts on Reddit. Make no mistake, Destiny is a raiding game. Forcing players to use websites or third party tools smacks of the same arrogance that’s made Bungie so distasteful through most of capital-letter Year One.
The Taken King fixes many of Destiny’s problems but leaves one of its biggest. Whether you should return depends entirely on whether or not you have five friends to consistently stick by your side to raid. Or, do what Bungie doesn’t want you to do (yet still forces because inaction is the solution, I guess), turn to third party sites. You don’t want to miss the “best content in the game,” do you?
But for all that, I may find myself in the middle because playing the game is fun. I long for a better, in-game delivery of story. I want to be immersed in that world, and when I’m done, I dive back into PVP to try my new toys and stomp people with my special. Destiny isn’t a bad game, just misguided.
Here’s hoping Year Two gets them back on track.
- The Witcher 3 received its set of mod tools this week. Rather than receive the full REDkit editor from its predecessor, however, players are limited to textures, meshes, and scripts with no plans to expand on functionality. Players are understandably upset as CD Projekt Red confirmed the REDkit by name to IGN last year. In other news, New Game+ mode is officially available for download.
- Kingdom Hearts 3 will be getting a Big Hero 6 world. This is great news for fans of Betamax. Baymax! I mean Baymax. I just hope you can control a swarm of microbots. The villain in the movie was actually pretty frightening!
- If you’re in the mood for sprites, Wanderlust Adventures has you covered. Officially launched on Steam this week, the 16-bit RPG takes inspiration from classic SNES era RPGs while allowing online co-op for up to four players, dynamic events, and a procedurally generated world.
- Here, have a cool Mass Effect motorcycle.
- The team behind Shroud of the Avatar is shedding some light on its use-based skill system. Not using skills for extended period of time causes them to decay. On the flip side of that, using spamming skills won’t be an effective way to level them up unless you’re actually using them in real situations. No filling the sky with magic missiles and expecting great results!