Wading In to 2.0
Hunting the Taken champions – initially on Earth and then on Venus and Mars – brought back a similar style of event to the Packs of Wolves I enjoyed from the previous expansions. Find a zone with Taken in the area, hunt down a few Captains, and then an Ultra will appear. Overall, I enjoy this type of gameplay far more than strikes, though it can be a bit frustrating at times. At this point there was no way I could take down one of these champions and their attendant Taken horde on my own. In fact, I don’t think I ever managed to take one down with only a single other player helping out. This was sometimes a bit frustrating as on more than one occasion I found myself battling the champion alone or with one other player to have a group of three or four other Guardians arrive – about 5 seconds after the baddie despawned. This demonstrates part of the challenge in communicating in an MMO-style game without any sort of global chat.
As far as the Taken themselves are concerned, my impression prior to playing the game was that Bungie was just reusing assets again. It definitely doesn’t feel that way when you’re playing. The different tactics employed by the Taken mean they are significantly different to square off against. Their appearance and behavior are different enough but still rooted in the familiar. Well done overall.
On to the Stormcaller. The quest sent me off on a 2-part mission against the Vex. First part was about par for the course, but the second part was suitably awesome. It made you feel powerful and includes some good cinematics.
Improvements and Changes from 1.0
As you know, your Ghost has been revoiced. So far, I prefer the original Dinklage version, but it didn’t matter much during the story missions because your Ghost doesn’t talk much during those. You’ll spend far more time listening to Nathan Fillion’s Cayde-6 Vanguard Hunter over comms. Overall, the combination of quest stops and cinematics breathes new life into Destiny’s characters that’s probably one of the biggest improvements from 1.0.
The quest system is nice and is a great way to better integrate the game’s content into some sort of logical approach that ensure the player always has something to do. I generally had a couple of sidequest-like and a couple of main quests at any given time. Following the conclusion of the main fight with Oryx, a number of other quests become available. It has a feel of pointing towards a lot more content paths, but I’m not sure how long these paths actually extend yet.
Leveling happens fast and I didn’t feel any need to rush to 40. Abandoning specific light scores on gear is a huge step in the right direction, as all of your gear contributes to your light level. Ghosts have some effect now as well and the gear system just feels refreshed, although some details could use better explanation. Or at least a “this stuff becomes available at 40” sort of heads up. I received the Red Death exotic shortly after logging in, and even though it was the Year 1 version it stull proved helpful as I progressed through the story. The Three of Coins item from Xur allows you the chance to get an exotic drop from any Ultra – useful to use when hunting Taken champions – and my first attempt got me an exotic helmet engram. That engram yielded a helmet for another class and none of my other attempts got me anything better than a blue, but it’s nice to have the possibility.
I enjoy Vanguard bounties, and the ability to carry more of them and track them alongside quests is welcome. Of course, the ability to carry more bounties is largely irrelevant when only 5 are available on any given day. Three more are available in the Reef, but it seems Eris doesn’t offer them anymore. Seems like they need a faster refresh or additional sources of different bounties – maybe each of the faction reps? I also encountered a ????? bounty while patrolling the Moon. Basically a series of three objectives that start out encrypted and slowly decrypt while playing. This was a nice surprise and I’d like to see Bungie leverage more of this to add more to the Patrols.
The Gunsmith seems to have a purpose again, as you can test weapons from him to gain reputation. Once you have the rep you can get higher-end gear from him – though apparently only on certain days, a la Xur. These have a similar feel to bounties and encourage you to try different weapons, but again it would be nice if they refreshed more often. I typically only play on the weekends, so waiting 12+ hours for a refresh seems a waste.
Reputation is still a grind, but at least you can earn rep with a faction at the same time as Vanguard. Still no way for someone that depends on matchmaking like me to realistically gain reputation with Variks, but at least making progress with the factions is now viable. The small number of Reef bounties makes progression there slow, but not much is available on that side anyway. Barring a couple of story missions, I have yet to discover how to gain rep with Eris as well. On the other hand, since anything that you can get from those with whom you can earn reputation require the new legendary marks, this puts another wall in place.
Having just hit 40, I haven’t delved deeply into trying to earn marks yet. From what I’ve read, earning them is slightly easier than it was to earn their Year 1 counterparts in the past. I’d still like to see some means of earning these marks while on Patrols, perhaps though public events. However, one infuriating issue I’ve encountered so far is that it is evidently impossible to earn these marks until you reach 40. By itself, this wouldn’t be a problem, but since the game mentions at one point that dismantling legendary gear can yield marks I dismantled a number of these as I leveled. I never received a single mark. I figured this was just a RNG issue and I was really unlucky. Turns out I should have kept all my purples until 40 and then dismantled them. Feels like I lost a lot based on a simple lack of information. In other words, keep all your legendary gear stashed away until you reach level 40!
As far as the story of Taken King goes, I was impressed. Finally flexing some muscle in terms of cinematics and using some NPCs, Bungie actually starts telling a story the way we all know they can. The mission and map design also feels fresher. A lot more vertical movement is introduced and some areas actually make you pause for a second and consider how to reach a location. There is a subtle puzzlesque element at times that makes me think Bungie is finally starting to get a grip on what they can do with the Destiny IP.
As I mentioned previously, following the concluding fight with Oryx the game seems to open up a bit. A number of questlines are introduced that suggest a fair amount of content remains. I’m not sure if that’s true, but I guess I’ll find out soon enough.
Dreadnaught Patrols – Finally some endgame NOT tied to strikes, raids, and the Crucible?
The Prison of Elders was billed as PvE-endgame, but it was essentially the same thing as strikes – only with less story and a big treasure chest. Not what I’m looking for. My last story mission in Taken King was focused on prepping the Dreadnaught for Patrol missions. I haven’t started these yet, but from what I’ve heard there are a lot of secrets to be uncovered in Destiny’s first new zone. I’ve already recovered a calcified fragment which ties into a quest for Eris – mentioned as 1/50 on the map that reminds me of the 5 gold chests in the previous zones. I’ve also recovered a rune from a mini-boss that appeared after I triggered successive waves of Taken in what felt like a mini-public event. Evidently these runes allow you to summon bosses in the Court of Oryx. This sounds promising – like the kind of endgame that interests me – although some of what I have read suggests actually jumping into these without a prearranged group may not net you any loot. Hopefully the mysteries of the Dreadnaught will allow someone like myself to experience a more enjoyable endgame experience then the standard raids, strikes, and PvP.
Overall, if you are dead set against Destiny then I doubt Taken King will change your mind. If you like it, you’ll probably find more to like. If you are a former player considering coming back, I’d recommend you do. Admittedly, original players got shafted a bit in favor of new players, but if you got 40+ hours out of Destiny 1.0 like I did, then you got your money’s worth and shouldn’t feel bad about shelling out a bit more now. Most of us have spent far more on games that offered far less, and Destiny’s core gameplay has always been solid. Hopefully Taken King revitalizes the game and Bungie continues in this direction. There’s lots of potential in this IP, so I hope it continues to expand and improve.