Unfortunately I haven’t been able to play or stream since the day House of Wolves dropped, but I was able to take a good chunk out of it. With one character I was able to get all the way to where The Prison of Elders unlocked. Even though many of the new features haven’t taken their full effect in my experience yet, I thought I would walk through where I think the DLC has firmly delivered on many of its promises. Some of the improvements expose areas that still need thought out and improved upon, while most of the additions are clear advances that need to be replicated in future content and expansions.
Fresh & Fun
Before I discuss things that are good, but expose other problems or need for improvements, I just want to list all the things that are refreshing and should be included in future content. First, Bungie very effectively renews their linear level design just by reversing your routes. I know some people give them grief over this, but the other thing that really worked in tandem with this is the new enemies and new pikes. Bungie didn’t waste anytime with the first mission having you jump on bigger and more powerful pikes to face off with a walker and a couple waves of enemies. It wasn’t until I advanced a little further in the level that I recognized where I was. And once I got in the room where on a previous mission I did not have the high ground, I felt a certain element of “how the tables have turned” as enemies tried to charge up to my fortified position. Which leads to the next fun improvement: the scorch cannon. The sword of Crota already had people asking for more third person power weapons, and the scorch cannon definitely delivers. My recommendation is to continue doing this with each expansion, and the giant dual swords often carried by Captains and Vandals would be a good next selection. Lastly, returning to the Vault of Glass and the sidearm. Going back into the Vault is a brilliant use of a well designed and fun environment. They have already proven to be masters of getting a lot of capital and re-use out of their real estate and this is another prime example. And the sidearm is just a fun and fast firing phaser-like gun that will certainly start showing up as a finisher in PVP.
New is nice, but…
There are a handful of new things that look great, but I can’t help scratch my head at some of them. First, the new faction weapons look great as they are no longer just re-skins of guns we have already seen. Something the game needed was an injection of freshness to the guns as the end game experience started to feel very “samey”. One problem with the new faction and vanguard guns is the lack of elemental primaries. I know that not everyone is carrying around a primary with solar, arc, or void, but a good portion of those anxious for new content in Destiny are those with lots of end game gear. Even without beating the raids, just by playing the Vault of Glass or Crota you can end up with some very nice elemental primaries. This isn’t a huge deal, but it’s definitely an area where more variety and choices would be helpful, adding a more dynamic and personalized feel to the game. I understand they probably don’t want to invalidate raid guns, but the burns on the Nightfall and various waves in The Prison of Elders might start to frustrate players who haven’t bagged an elemental primary yet.
Second, all of the new legendary armor looks distinct and fresh, but the lack of perks makes discarding them an obvious decision for anyone with raid armor. Now I know they are again avoiding invalidating raid gear, and not that many people are even decked out with it. But this just feels like another time where those who have put in the most time get short changed. This is where the need for Diablo 3’s transmogifry feature becomes all the more apparent. I know that with respect to development this mechanic would need added later, but when something new that looks great is automatically unappealing and un-useful to your most dedicated fans, you’ve made a design mistake. And honestly, even people without raid gear, but have fully upgraded legendary gear from their faction or vanguard have very little reason to switch as the perks are no different. Their only motivation to switch is to level up, which again, the only benefit seems somewhat ho-hum for those who are putting in the most time since they might find it faster to just ascend existing armor.
Lastly, the new social space is distinct, and it is certainly nice to have a new place to interact with NPC’s, but it needs melded with the Tower. Given the size of many of the areas on the planets when on patrol, the Tower and the Reef could both load simultaneously and unseen by the player, enabling you to fast travel between the two locations without the need to boomerang in and out of orbit. If I can drive all the way from Sky Watch to the Rocket Yard on Earth with no loading screens, then certainly the Tower and the Reef could behave in a similar way with some type of fast travel ability. Given the nature of how much going to orbit slows down play sessions this would be an easy way to remove unnecessary loading and wait times.
Anxious for more
For the first time since the game launched I am anxious to jump back on to Destiny. Not being able to even try out the Prison of Elders and roll my keys for new exotics has me chomping at the bit to get back into the fray. I just hope my prediction about the Prison of Elders giving end game gear a place and a context for longevity and use is correct. Even without an extensive experience with the new content, I can confidently say things are moving in the right direction.
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