Initial Thoughts on Destiny: The Taken King

It's release day for Destiny: The Taken King and I kicked the tires a bit tonight. My wife Jill and I play Destiny together on Xbox One (we've gamed together for years). 

If you aren't familiar with Destiny, it's from the same studio (Bungie) that developed the Halo series for Microsoft. It takes place in a future version of our solar system where we have been overrun by not one, but four different types of aliens and most of the civilization on Earth has been destroyed. It does a really slick job of blending technology and "magic" for the character abilities and special features. All-in-all, it's a super fun game (and way too much of a diversion, since it is more MMO than FPS).

The Taken King introduces significant changes to Destiny which I won't fully detail here. IGN did a really nice job of describing them here.

I've complained (basically since release) that Destiny's leveling system is a waste of time. Basically, you level to 20. Then, from there, you increase in level based on the amount of "light" that your character gains. Light is dependent on the gear that you have. So, the better the gear, the better your character. Sounds like any other game, right? Not really. The issue here is that to level up, you are constantly grinding through the same (limited) content to dump experience into gear to fully unlock abilities and "light." It gets super repetitive and tedious super fast.

Well, that is gone. Now, light only makes you harder to kill and makes it easier to kill other people. It has nothing to do with level anymore. Thank god. 

Tonight I played my Titan for an hour or so. I was instantly converted from "light" level 34 to "actually" level 34 last week when version 2.0 went live. I completed a number of bounties over the past week that I didn't turn in. So, as soon as I logged in today, I was able to pretty much immediately jump from level 34 to nearly level 36. That was sweet, but nothing very special happened. You don't get your 3rd class specialization without doing a quest, and that quest itself is 2 missions into the storyline of the expansion. 

After a brief (yet repetitive) tour of the tower quest, which yielded several new pieces of gear and a free exotic primary weapon (sweet) I headed to Mars' moon Phobos for the first mission of the game. It was, expectantly short. The first level of an expansion always is. Then we returned to Earth to chase down some super secret equipment that Nathan Fillions Cayde 6 had hidden on the top of a tower overrun with bad guys. 

Finally, I went to Mars (and then Mercury) while my wife went to Venus (and then Mars) to unlock our Titan and Warlock 3rd class specs (respectively). Titans get a super cool flaming hammer to round out a solar spec, and Warlocks get an amazingly badass lightning storm ability that makes them float around like wizards, electrocuting everything in sight. I'm eager to see the Hunters' new void bow and arrow, but it would have to be fairly epic to compete with the Warlocks' storm. 

Overall thoughts are that the game got a much needed refresh. I'm skeptical about the amount of content injected into the game at this point. I've essentially paid $140 for Destiny since release, and I still don't have as much content in the game as I do in other "MMOs" like EVE, WOW, Elder Scrolls Online, etc. However, having said that, there is something about Destiny that is more enjoyable and less obsessive for me than those other games. So, that's a plus I suppose. I also find that playing on a console is a really nice change from playing on my desktop in a cramped office. Still, the updated UI is SLICK and a lot of the little helper features are really nice (e.g. the new interfaces to retreive melted items / armor, shaders, etc.) 

I think the new quest system is going to really add some additional components to the game and provide a needed diversion other than the existing bounties (which, get quite repetitive as it stands).

I hope that they've done something to address the ridiculous gap between some of the content in the game. That is yet to be determined. My usual fireteam can EASILY take on any of the nightfalls in the game, but continue to struggle with raid content. This is something of a downer for me, as I always enjoy pushing on the harder areas of a game. However, unlike most other games that I've played, I haven't found Destiny to be particularly learnable. If you go into an encounter and get your ass handed to you, it's not out of the realm of possibility that you will still be getting your ass handed to you HOURS later. WOW raids (as an example) have a fairly learnable and repeatable aspect to them. Once you learn how to do them, you can do them. Because Destiny is a FPS, that isn't necessarily true. The innate difficulty is much higher. 

I'll be checking out as much of the content as I can in the coming weeks. But for now, back to writing Book 2. This has been a fun diversion. You should take a few minutes to watch the "live action" trailer for the expansion.