For a few weeks now I have wanted to write a post to explain all of the things that I did not like about Destiny Year One, and talk a bit about how Year Two has just made things “better”. However it appears that Matt Lees, one of the lovely people behind the “abridged” e3 videos that I love so much… has done pretty much exactly that in video form. Seriously if you have not watched the abridged PS4 reveal video… stop what you are doing and watch it now because essentially that one video has given our group a whole slew of inside jokes for a few years. Despite Matt having done such a great job of this mission I wanted to do in the first place… I am going to attempt to do my own discussion. Destiny was one of those games that quite literally made me buy a console. Admittedly it was one of a long list of Playstation 4 games that I wanted to play, but it was finally the catalyst that got me to pick up a used unit and finally join the rest of my friends in owning that console. More important than that… it was the game that got me to shed my pc-gaming-hipster distaste of the thought of playing a shooter on the console. Prior to this game existing… playing a shooter without a mouse and keyboard was utter blasphemy in my household.
What we got however in Destiny Year One was this oddly disjointed and terribly uneven play experience. The single player missions were excellent, and in spite of dinklebot not having a personality… and never actually letting us in on the details that were happening in the universe, I found myself craving more of the game. The story is one of the big problems because so much of it was told through the collection of grimoire entries… that you could not even read in game. You had to trek out to the Bungie website, log in, and then you could find huge swaths of story-line for the events you just did in game. That design decision was confusing at best, and a laughable mistake at worst. Story issues aside… the moment to moment game-play was amazing… until you reached level 20. Then a completely different game started about item management and trying to maximize just how much “light” you had on your gear. This stat that simply did not exist before level 20 suddenly controlled not only how effective your gear was, but also what “level” your character was in game.
The problem with the post 20 game was that it introduced so many things that you simply had not seen before that point. For example post 20 gear could be upgraded, and in fact this is something you needed to do in order to unlock the true potential and maximum light value. With each incremental upgrade you added a few more points of light here or there and could increase your level. In order to upgrade items you had to essentially grind out the rare materials that you had been picking up incidentally on planets but not really knowing what to do with them. In fact the game gave you a way of turning in huge quantities of these materials… for quick faction and experience boosts, but gave no indication of why you might not want to do this. As such I went into the end game with limited resources, and had to spend hours scouring the various patrol zones trying to find enough spinmetal or iron ore to pay for the upgrade of my items to the next rank. This is the point where the game lost me, in that I had all of my gear needing to be upgraded but nowhere near enough materials to actually do this.
The other frustrating problem with the light system was the fact that you could get a potentially better item, but not be able to afford to use it. What I mean by that is you would get say a weapon with a higher starting light, but after several rounds of upgrading your current weapon had more total light. So you knew that if you upgraded you could get high light level and as a result higher physical level by using this new item… but in the meantime you would have to suffer the penalty of losing light in the process. This made gearing a frustrating mess, and in those early strikes one level difference meant the difference between being able to actively participate and feeling like you were dragging down the entire team. What added to this frustration was the fact that drops in general were pretty scarce. I could log in and run around collecting iron on Mars for a few hours, killing tons of things in the process and maybe just maybe see a couple of greens. As a result the end game just felt disconnected from the awesome game play experience that we had getting there.
When Taken King got its announcement, I have to admit I was originally highly frustrated with the fact that there was no initial offering that did not also include the base game and its expansions. They have since changed that and you can pick up a digital copy for around $30 that does not include all of the additional stuff. However I have to say that I agree with the branding because Taken King essentially takes everything about the original game and fixes it. For those who will understand the analogy, this is the Diablo 3 2.0 patch for Destiny. Even if you do not buy Taken King, I highly suggest you patch back up Destiny and give it another shot. Start a new character and revel in just how much better the overall experience feels. I did just this, and within a few days it convinced me that I should go ahead and pick up the digital upgrade to Taken King. Firstly the loot scarcity is no longer an issue at all. I can play for a few minutes and I will have a stack of a dozen engrams that I need to decode on the tower. Similarly the engrams themselves are more truthful. If you get a blue engram, you will get at least a blue item. If you get a purple engram you will get at least a purple item. That said I have actually gotten a handful of purple items from blue engrams… which is insanely exciting when it happens.
As far as the light grind… it is essentially no more. Your light rating becomes something akin to a gear score in modern mmos. It is a number that is an average of the attack and defensive ratings of all of the gear you have equipped. Why this feels better is the fact that you can incrementally increase your rating, whittling down a few points a night giving you the feeling of constantly moving forward. As far as upgrading gear goes, I have never run into a problem where I do not have the resources needed to upgrade an item, even though they still require the materials gathered on planet. What has changed however is the fact that these nodes are far more plentiful. There was a point last night that I was on Venus and could see four different spirit bloom nodes from where I was standing. What makes this easier as well is that the Ghost is an actual item that can be upgraded. You collect “shells” that change the appearance and defense rating gained by your ghost, and as you upgrade it they often have perks like the ability to increase the amount of a given resource that you gain. When you bring up the ghost menu, that you would normally use to return to orbit… you get additional benefit now of the ghost scanning your surroundings and pointing out anything useful. This gets used quite a bit in the later missions to help you map out your surroundings or show things that are invisible.
What has helped me at least is the fact that it feels like I have a bunch of little things that I can be doing at any point. I am actually enjoying doing my bounties each day, and I just started working on my Gunsmith reputation. That one is pretty interesting in that each week you can purchase a series of weapons from the Gunsmith and “field test” them. Each weapon has different requirements to help it “gather information”. For example I did one last night that only gathered information by killing Vex Minotaurs, and another that only gained completion if I got double kills with a sniper rifle… which as far as I could tell just meant two kills in quick succession without reloading my clip. Once you have gained some reputation you are able to place “Armsday” orders, which apparently means that every Wednesday the Gunsmith will give you a rank appropriate weapon of the type you ordered. All of this and more gives me the feeling that there are simply a bunch of things that I can do to improve my character in small and meaningful ways without really feeling that I am grinding without purpose. I can quite literally lose entire nights playing this game right now, and last night I had every intent of logging in and playing for an hour… then going off to do something else. I ended up playing all night, because I kept finding one more thing that I wanted to accomplish. I’ve now actually started playing through the game again on a Warlock, for when I want a break from my Titan main. If you too were disillusioned with the original Destiny experience, I think you owe it to yourself to patch up the original game and give it another shot. Even without the expansion you are still going to be able to experience new encounters in the old patrol zones, and at least get a taste for what “The Taken” as a race feel like. If you are playing on the Playstation 4, hit me up with a friend request on Belghast my PSN account.