When Destiny was first released in 2014, I played it consistently for a couple of weeks. I finished the story, did a ton of Crucible matches, but never participated in the raid.
Destiny was a letdown. Its story seemed under-developed and the characters that populated the story offered so few lines of dialog that they could be barely considered characters. Lacking personality and depth, there was little to these shallow interactions. The game had a lot of potential, but outside of I immersed myself in battle, I found no reason to spend much time with it.
When the two expansion packs were released, I ignored them, having found (at the time) more interesting games to play. By all accounts, House of Wolves and The Dark Below weren’t great expansion packs, adding only a few story missions, a couple of strikes, and a single raid.
I could not ignore Destiny‘s latest expansion pack, The Taken King, when I heard that its developers were doing a lot to alleviate the game’s biggest issues. With its release, Destiny is absolutely worth playing-not just for the exhilarating gunplay that Bungie excels at, but also for the story, the characters, and everything you can do after you kill the final boss. Oh, and the leveling mechanics have completely changed for the better.
In the original game, you had 20 levels and additional “light levels” to raise by upgrading your weapons and armor. Getting those light levels up to the point where you could take on some of the game’s most difficult challenges required players to use specific equipment.
That’s changed. Now that the game’s level cap has been raised to 40, you have a separate light level element that increases based on the average attack and defense stats on your weapons and armor, respectively. Missions are rated based on light level difficulty-for example, a Heroic Story Mission has a suggested light level requirement of 240. The King’s Fall raid is rated at 290. It’s actually pretty easy to figure out.
The level change removes one of the big headaches that players in Year One faced, and gives them ample opportunity to try out completely different weapon and armor load-outs. Beyond simply adding new item slots, the new gear confers a wide variety of bonuses and perks that simply make playing your Guardian that much more interesting, while also helping you cut down on drudgery: you can attack faster, earn more experience and reputation points by completing quests, and so forth.
Additionally, some of the perks offered by Ghost Shells even allow players to detect resource nodes or receive resources when picking up Engrams, greatly cutting down the time it takes to farm resources for upgrades, which was a major source of complaints in Year One.
I heard that its developers were doing a lot to alleviate the game’s biggest issues.
Beyond the mechanics, the new story campaign in Destiny: The Taken King offers improvements in terms of narrative design. In the original game, players encountered a varied host of different enemies, whose motivations were completely unknown to the player unless they bothered to read the Grimoire on the game’s official website. Beyond that, the game failed to feature a Darth Vader or a Diablo for the players to focus their attention on, which made the story seem like a pointless jumble of missions that took the player to various, seemingly unconnected locales.
The introduction of a big bad guy named Oryx and his invasion of the solar system gives players a reason to fight. Furthermore, players are given plenty of raw insight into the Cabal, Vex, and Fallen factions, all of which have their own motivations for being at each others’ throats-and ours.
The enemies aren’t the only ones with more character this time around. The player’s allies who lounge around the tower, like Cayde-6, Eris Morn and Commander Zavala all exhibit actual personality. Not only do they sound interesting when they’re speaking over your headset, they also appear in cutscenes and interact with each other. The Ghost, which is now voiced by Nolan North, has a lot to say in the new story missions and also provides you with occasional snippets of lore when you scan certain objects. I’ll grant that there was nothing really wrong with Peter Dinklage’s voiceovers, but the new, wittier direction of Nolan North’s Ghost adds a lighthearted touch to the game’s proceedings. It goes along nicely with Nathan Fillion’s quips as Cayde-6.
This time? The story made me care enough to read the Grimoire entries.
The new content is presented well, and the missions you undertake fare just as well. In previous story missions, you simply went from point A to point B, activating your Ghost along the way, killing a wave of enemies, and that was that. It felt lifeless. That’s no longer the case with The Taken King, which actually feature what I’d call “cinematic” components like set-piece battles and events that take place all around you. Destiny‘s story now feels like a Call of Duty campaign. Beyond shooting at enemies, you’ll also have to perform a few platform challenges and complete puzzles every now and then.
Once you complete the main story, an entire set of freeform missions will open up, replete with story and accompanying voiceovers. The game’s new Heroic versions of the story missions and Strikes also come with additional challenges-some of which even contain hidden secrets that allow you to unlock rare Exotics.
Boss fights are also a lot more interesting than they were before. Previously, bosses were nothing more than bullet sponges. Now, there are interesting mechanics tied to some of the new bosses, especially in the Court of Oryx event area. For example, there’s a pair of bosses who are invulnerable to attacks until they get very close to each other and their shields go down, allowing you to damage them. As you can imagine, you’ll have to collaborate with your teammates on luring the two of them together before you can do any damage to them. Beyond the actual gameplay changes, it’s worth it to complete these boss fights beyond just learning the tricks, since they offer many fantastic rewards.
With so much to do, Destiny has been given a complete overhaul of its quest and bounty system. Previously, you just played through the main story. The Taken King‘s new quest system, actually informs you on where to go next, and what your tasks are. You can easily keep track of the system with a “Track” option, allowing you to bring up your tracked quests by hitting the touchpad on the PS4. With the improvements to the game’s interface, players will no longer be flying in blind when it comes to quest completion.
Beyond that, there are various challenges that players can undertake from characters like the Gunsmith and Lord Shaxx-one of which includes crafting a Legendary (and later Exotic) sword for use in battle. It’s a long and incredibly time-consuming series of tasks, but it’s there for the hardcore players and for everyone else to complete over time.
PVE content isn’t the only thing that’s been given a shake-up. Every week, competitive players can participate in modified modes of the game’s Crucible PVP arena. One of the new weekly modes, Clash Mayhem, greatly increases the recharge rate of your Super attack. This results in a whole lot of mayhem on the battlefield as a dozen players hurl fiery hammers and shoot lightning at each other throughout the entire round. The commentator even sounds audibly excited by the proceedings.
Finally, there’s the King’s Fall raid. Unlike the Vault of Glass raid in the original Destiny, King’s Fall isn’t the be-all, end-all of Destiny-there’s still more to do outside, but the raid effectively serves as the ultimate challenge for Destiny players. It’s by far the biggest raid the game has ever seen, and is made up of five main challenges. An extensive jumping puzzle and a maze add some variety to the raid in-between boss battles.
One particular fight in the King’s Fall raid sees two players draw the attention of a gigantic monster named Golgoroth while the four other players shoot at a weak spot in its chest while standing in a pool that gives them a damage buff. Throughout the fight, the two players must swap its attention back and forth, while shooting down bubbles that give other players the damage buff. Oh, and exploding minions show up to ruin everyone’s day.
Like a raid in any well-designed MMORPG, the King’s Fall raid requires players to really work together. But unlike those other games, Destiny requires quick reflexes and skill-players need to know how to aim, where to aim, and dodge enemy fire.
It’s all this and more that make Destiny a game well worth returning to. Despite the best efforts of the game’s most hardcore players, there’s still plenty of undiscovered content in the game that Bungie plans to reveal in the weeks and months to come. It’s impressive to see how much the game has going for it now. I fully expect to spend many more hours in the game, and I suspect that you will, too-if you give it a chance.