I don’t understand Destiny’s success. Or rather, I don’t understand the ferocity of its fans. Perhaps this is simply the curmudgeon in me, the gamer that never quite understood or liked the things that make massively multiplayer online games what they are today.
I don’t understand why every tidbit of Destiny news is so voraciously devoured—whether that’s simply news that you can buy the awkwardly named Gjallarhorn at the intrepid merchant Xur, or that said weapon and its brother Thorn are getting nerfed. I’ve never felt particularly attached to a weapon in a video game, except for maybe the Balder Side Sword in Dark Souls. But even that, I wouldn’t expect to read about in multiple gaming outlets multiple times a year.
I understand that writing about games includes writing about minor updates and tips and things like that, but across the gaming media there are myriad weekly updates on where Xur is at and what he’s selling. Which street corner he’s slinging from, so the junkies can go get their fix.
The game has taken on a bizarre life of its own, months after its launch, that I haven’t really seen in any other game in a long time. Gear is so important, so crucial to success, that not having the right gun or armor can make or break players. This is sort of the antithesis of what I consider a well-designed (let alone fun) video game. But it also seems to work for the many players still hopelessly addicted to Destiny. It works, and I’m a little surprised how well it works, but maybe that’s just because it doesn’t work for me.
Destiny’s myriad upgrade materials and currencies are also a huge turn-off to players like me. I don’t enjoy juggling this sort of inventory nightmare, with some materials only useful to individual classes. And having to earn both Crucible and Vanguard Marks is silly. I like in-depth game mechanics, but all of this—on top of the gear-centric leveling system—strikes me as complicated for complication’s sake rather than true depth.
But now here comes the third expansion, The Taken King. Bungie isn’t merely expanding its online space-shooter, its streamlining the entire experience. Indeed, it’s streamlining the game so much I might actually find myself lured back in.
Aside from all the new enemies and Strikes and the plethora of other changes, the streamlining is what might just tip me over the edge and make me a believer.
1. Burnt-out players won’t have to level their way to The Taken King’s minimum level.
Well, one of your characters will be able to use a boost that levels her up to the required minimum level for the new expansion. For anyone burnt out and hopelessly behind, this means you can skip a lot of grinding and just dive in where you need to be for the newest expansion. What I’ve noticed—and what I’m sure Bungie has noticed—is that some players just didn’t take to the game’s complex leveling systems all that well, and by the time House of Wolves was released, players were already behind and struggling to keep up. With one character guaranteed to start out at the appropriate level, slackers like me can catch up. And since you can start playing The Taken King comfortably at level 26 (which you can hit no problem in vanilla Destiny) you can use the boost to level up a brand new character in a different class.
2. Light Levels and armor no longer decide a character’s level.
The only reason all of the above stuff is even possible is because of Bungie’s very wise decision to streamline leveling. Now you can level up with experience points like in normal role-playing games! Light Level merely indicates your character’s power, a combination of attack and defense stats. This is clever, since it means no two Guardians of the same level will necessarily be the same power. If you have the best gear, you’ll still be more powerful than other players even if they have the same level as you. This keeps an incentive system in place for the hardcore players, while giving more casual players at least the ability to compete and keep up more easily, while diminishing RNG.
3. Inventory management just got way easier.
In The Taken King all those pesky items like Sapphire Wire, Hadronic Essences and Plasteel Plating—items devised solely to give them silly names—are getting nuked. One simple upgrade material for armor will remain, spanning all classes, and giving lazy players like myself a bit less to manage in our inventories.
Along these lines, kiosks for emblems and shaders mean those items will no longer take up inventory space. You’ll see everything you own already, as well as the ones you don’t have and hints at how to get them.
4. Currency is being streamlined.
Vanguard and Crucible Marks are out, Legendary Marks are in. The implications here are huge: Players can now focus on their gameplay preference and still earn Marks, choosing either PvE or PvP and earning Legendary Marks either way. It’s not only streamlined, it caters to the diverse preferences of gamers.
5. Time-saving stuff.
Little things like being able to turn in bounties without trudging back to the vendor will save time and boring load screens. The game is grindy enough without having to return to a vendor to get your bounty reward. This has been done in other MMOs out there, which simply reward you instantly after completing a quest rather than forcing you to go back to the little exclamation point people. Xur will also carry a new item called Three of Coins (because why not call it that?) which you can consume to increase your chance of exotic gear drops. And the Gunsmith will let you try out weapons and buy Legendaries, which is cool.
There may be more ways the game is streamlined that we’re not aware of yet, but the big picture here is that Destiny is getting a massive overhaul with The Taken King, and in the process many of the unique, overly-complicated systems Bungie included in vanilla Destiny will be ditched in favor of more traditional systems. This is one case where innovation doesn’t always equal progress, and where scaling back some far-out ideas actually leads to a more accessible, fun product. Some people will surely hate the changes, hate the fact that players not invested since the beginning will have such an easy time catching up, and so forth. But mostly what this says to me is that Destiny is going to have an even more robust player base going forward with The Taken King.
The expansion itself, with its new sub-classes and expanded story—not to mention Nolan North taking over as Ghost in place of Peter Dinklage—all make The Taken King closer to the sort of game I was hoping for in the first place. Not entirely what I wanted, but closer.