The incoming expansion for Destiny, The Taken King, is the cover story for August’s Game Informer. I have been admittedly very skeptical and worried about the expansion since E3 and the subsequent interviews and updates. Each update seemed to be fostering more mystery than information, and the pre-order incentives still have me a little worried about how some players will feel they were motivated to purchase. Now, almost a month before launch, we have received a substantial amount of information, and not from Bungie, but from Game Informer. While I couldn’t help but feel a small sense of conspiracy theory welling up as I read the well written and wordy article, on the whole it felt very light on hype and heavy on details.
Injecting story and lore
The first thing many players will be encouraged by is the substantial amount of promised lore and narrative that will be present throughout The Taken King. Narrations and scans of environments will provide running lore and explanations of new and past things that we have seen. This is actually exciting given how ravenous everyone is to make sense of the incredibly cryptic story we have gotten so far. It is also good to see them adapting their approach to telling the story to better meet the community’s desires and expectations. I find it refreshing to see them continually loosen their grip on insisting, “This is how we want our game to be”, in light of the fact that they want an engaged player base for ten years. I actually said I would be okay with them leaving the story bland and empty until Destiny 2 because I just wanted playable content. Even still, I’m pretty excited to see how well the narrative, lore, and story elements land on the community and play out in the game.
In similar fashion to how Bungie attempted to fix some of the brokenness with respect to in-game economies and materials they are taking more strides in The Taken King. One helpful change is that you can now trade in your massive collection of motes of light, armor materials, gun parts, or ammo synths for rep with the various factions. This adds a layer of purpose to all the fodder loot drops you endlessly breakdown. Another encouraging thing is that NPCs will periodically have quests, and most notably the gunsmith with have rep, missions, bounties, and a special day each week for you to buy legendary gear. The gunsmith will also allow you to borrow weapons to test them out for rep which may be helpful in exposing the community to more weapon types.
The most important shift in the game’s mechanics is, in my opinion, with respect to how you level up. Gone are the days where you have to outfit your character in a way that is primarily driven by light levels. They felt people weren’t able to create the identity and build they wanted for their character because you were basically equipping from a narrow field of gear that had the right light levels. Weapons, armor, class items, and even your ghost will offer perk customization, power, and light. This should allow players to feel a greater sense of control over how they outfit, build, and equip their character.
Time to grow
The news that will probably cause the most gripes is that year one weapons and armor will be getting shelved very early. White and green items will be dropping with higher attack and defense ratings, motivating players to quickly change up what they are using. To those that think this is bad, I have to say, you can’t complain out of both sides of your mouth. You can’t keep asking for more content and better rewards and loot, but then whine when you get just that. My biggest beef with The Prison of Elders is that the rewards de-incentivize engagement because none of it unseats existing raid weapons. This is also exactly why I said weapon nerfs shouldn’t be necessary. Motivating players to change gear with new and better loot is precisely how things should have been done since the beginning. This is the first time since I played with my very first character that I’m actually excited to dig into the game and see what drops. And what Bungie is saying about weapons adds to that excitement…
Bungie says they really want the new guns to look and feel distinct in order to appeal to different types of players. To a point I think they’ve already done a pretty good job with this. For example, the three pistols that I switch between for the various elements all feel and handle very differently, and honestly there is only so much you can do with a hand cannon or an auto rifle. So it’s exciting to hear language and descriptions of guns that will not only look very distinct but feel and behave in unique ways as well. A new mechanic that will add another layer of purpose to farming for and discarding gear is the ability to “sacrifice” an item to improve another. This gives more ground to the farming that can start to feel so frivolous, and makes every item drop matter. It was also exciting to read descriptions of new exotics that actually sound exotic. There is an exotic gun that has a chain lighting effect, one that blinds enemies, and another that refills ammo with precision shots. Game impacting exotic guns will be a welcome change, as they compared the new exotics to the impact Helm of Saint-14 has had up to this point. Most of the exotic guns haven’t had much sway in the game, save the Gjallarhorn, so hopefully these new exotics deliver some unique and exiting punch to the game.
PVP may improve and pull me in
This is an area of Destiny that will probably always be problematic. I still maintain that the split identity of the game is always going to make PVP a bit of a fool’s errand if you want a balanced and fair fight. But they have added a game mode that takes a direct recommendation from something I’ve called for in numerous videos and posts. The new game mode “Zone Control” completely ignores kills with respect to which team wins. Winning is achieved by working together and completing the objective of capturing and defending zones on the map. While the mode itself isn’t groundbreakingly innovative it’s actually, on the surface, very appealing to me because ignoring kills is groundbreaking. Having a game mode that funnels team mates together and pushes them toward a common goal has a way of shrinking the skill gap a bit and can make the game more accessible and fun for casual PVP players. It’s also exciting to hear that PVP bounties will be easier to complete, with some being tied to your subclass, fire team, or a playlist. Bungie has also promised that algorithms have been improved to make better and quicker matches in matchmaking. Time will tell, but something had to be done to bring the casual players over into the PVP arena as many hardcore PVP players won’t stray too far from the unwelcoming Trials of Osiris or the Iron Banner and others may abandon the game completely once Halo 5 launches.
Thank you, Bungie
I truly mean it. Thank you, Bungie. Thank you for listening to our incessant gripes, criticisms, and demands. And after all of it you seem to have implemented a lot of good improvements and changes with this expansion. I’m withholding judgment until I actually put a substantial amount of time into the content, but this is the first time I’ve felt a good amount of hope for where things are headed since before the game launched and I truly hope you don’t let us down.
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