Bungie is making a lot of the right moves with its expansion but there’s still more to be done.
Destiny: The Taken King has now been out for two weeks as of this time of writing. Usually, Destiny expansions have had a notorious reputation for being wrapped up in a few short days (unless you discount The Dark Below’s Hard Mode raid releasing a month later) but this one has some staying power. And it should, having cost $40 and touted as changing the base game itself entirely. I’m not here to tell you whether you should blow your hard-earned money on it – that’s what the upcoming review will be for – but to answer whether Destiny is finally worth playing or not.
And the answer is what it always has been: It depends. When Destiny first launched, it was lauded for its gunplay, graphics and awesome soundtrack. However, a lack of content, compelling story and some truly asinine mechanics (limited Vault space and bounty slots, terrible RNG, excessive grinding for shards, etc.) ruined the experience. Though Bungie set about fixing many of the more serious issues, it couldn’t help but create more problems in the process like raid glitches and re-leveling Exotics. Serious progress was still being made though even as one’s favourite guns and armour became obsolete in the process.
"The philosophy behind Destiny’s replay value probably would have been more solid had there been more such missions released in the base game."
The Taken King does exemplify the kind of experience I personally want from Bungie though. One could argue about replay value and value for money in terms of hours played but one needs compelling content to do that. The expansion is full of such, whether it’s in the new raid which relies on teamwork now more than ever or in the litany of side-quests. Even as a huge amount of gear becomes obsolete, the gameplay offers more variety than before. I can be a Stormcaller Warlock with Bad Juju for recharging my Super, which mixes Fist of Panic and Emperor Palpatine’s Force lightning together for true mass murder. Maybe I want to play more defensively? I can pick up Tlaloc, an Exotic scout rifle which increases the weapon’s base stats as the Super meter fills, thus hanging on to it till the time is right and unleashing grenades and melee strikes in the meantime. Let’s not forget swords which offer an entirely different experience unto themselves. One could easily keep a hand cannon for mid-range, a sniper for long range and a sword for close quarters combat.
Regardless, what I wanted most was variety in quests and content. In that regard, Destiny: The Taken King takes many positive steps. There’s a huge chunk of PvP, co-op, single-player and raid content to get into. The cut scenes in the story and Cayde’s dialogue are great and all but it feels like a long time since Bungie created missions which are just outright fun to play. The philosophy behind Destiny’s replay value probably would have been more solid had there been more such missions released in the base game.
Not only that, but Bungie also seems to want to push its players to explore this universe, rewarding them heavily for the same. Did you know that a powerful, Year Two, Exotic version of a much loved sniper rifle was hiding inside of a Daily Heroic mission recently? Though the hidden section itself was incredibly difficult, it was worth it for the absolute lack of RNG involved (despite Bungie accidentally setting the weapon at 310 Attack). It came down to skill and of course, some powerful friends.
Of course, there is still a core problem with Destiny: The Taken King that affects other games, particularly shooters. There’s a strong emphasis on PvP and PvP-related events in the months between DLC and expansions. It could also be argued that there isn’t that much story content to begin with, not to mention plenty of plot points yet to be addressed. And the game still has a huge amount of grinding – if you want your Exotic Sword (and you are going to want it), you have to defeat major enemies and Guardians in the Crucible, farm tons of materials, murder lots of enemies with the corresponding weapon’s element (but only using ability kills), wait for new materials on Armsday and then finish a difficult strike under special conditions.
"The grind may never truly die but Destiny has begun to feel more rewarding with The Taken King."
In another quest, you have to kill Taken Champions across the different planets and require at least one other person to help you, maybe even two in the initial stages. If you want to push your Light level higher, you’ll want to do the Vanguard Strike playlist consisting of the same Strikes over and over again though some effort is made to mix it up with differing combinations of enemies. It also doesn’t help that a lot of Year One material has been made obsolete, thus limiting the overall amount of content worth spending time on. Matchmaking for major end-game activities like raids is still absent but it’s even worse when it comes to finishing high-level Patrol quests or even the Court of Oryx by yourself.
Hitting Light level 300 after obtaining a few pieces of raid gear and weapons now also becomes a case of being able to use the weapons you want. If you want Year Two versions of some Exotics, since not all have been carried over from Year One, you need to either wait for them to drop, Xur to sell them or to purchase their blueprints with Legendary Marks which requires more grinding. And despite “improved” RNG, you’re still looking at crappy Cryptarch packages, duplicate Exotics, suspiciously lacklustre raid drops, iffy Crucible rewards and – my personal favourite – shitty Nightfall rewards.
Bungie is going in the right direction as far as difficult missions with great rewards and compelling single-player content is concerned. It’s pretty much cornered the market in terms of the best FPS raid content – King’s Fall is tons of fun and well worth the investment for hardcore fans, even as Hard Mode is yet to release. The grind may never truly die but Destiny has begun to feel more rewarding with The Taken King. While the MMO/FPS hybrid or whatever one wants to call it still seems a ways off from the perfection we expected at launch, it’s a lot more fun to play and several degrees less frustrating than before.
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