Destiny holds a very precarious place in my heart. It was one of my most hyped games in recent years, its launch was a very exciting and enjoyable time, and its end game went from good, to decent, to outright disappointing. Destiny 2.0 and The Taken King expansion hope to recapture the original promise of the franchise as a console-focused MMORPG with the tight mechanics and combat of Bungie’s Halo games.
The updates pushed out helped to get me back for a few days here and there, but I always met the same brick wall that made me turn away – sometimes in disgust – and that was the pacing. It felt so easy to get trapped in a grind as you played through the variety of game modes again and again with little advancement. The gameplay itself remained fun, but later quests and activities always seemed locked away due to the lack of proper quest rewards or drops. Key to this problem was that character level, at the endgame, became tied to the same gear you were trying to acquire through the rather unforgiving loot system.
Thankfully, that has since changed. Currently, character level is distinct from the items you carry, and the leveling process has been honed to ensure – at least in my experience – that you do not experience what I did prior to the 2.0 patch. Additionally, a healthy stream of rewards ensures that your character doesn’t feel trapped, unable to advance, yet the game does not recklessly shower you with items so as to make things too easy. Atop this, the new questing systems provide much needed organization and clarity of the many goals you will be given throughout the campaign and well into the endgame.
With the new system in place, I flew through the older DLC missions I missed out on, and was able to enjoy steady progress through The Taken King’s campaign without missing a beat due to random drops or grinding. Actually, the questing has been very fun and difficult to turn away from, more so than even the earliest parts of the original campaign. More than that, the quests, both solo and cooperative, tend to offer a very fair array of challenges. Quests meant to introduce new areas or plots are easy enough while still interesting, and endgame activities and high-end quests offer a serious challenge that tests your skills and understanding of your class abilities. Although gear of course helps your character gain immense levels of power, it is your smart tactics and capabilities that will help you overcome the most difficult and rewarding parts of the game.
The random drops have been improved noticeably; they occur more often and, atop that, are more likely to drop gear that actually benefits you. This, combined with smart quest rewards here and there, made it feel like my Titan was growing non-stop. This is how Destiny is supposed to feel; constant adventure, with a steady sense of growth and progress. As I settle into the game, I find that the experience is much more entertaining and rewarding than before. The streamlined currencies and better rewards mean that the endgame allows you to basically do anything – PVP, questing, exploration, cooperative missions – and still feel like you are being fairly challenged and rewarded. Currently, an evening of Destiny for me fits very easily into an otherwise busy schedule, allowing me to take on a few PVP matches before venturing into the galaxy to complete quests or to just explore. At the end of the night, my character is always a little more advanced, and I feel like I have enjoyed a little more of Destiny’s setting.
Of course, this is all strengthened by a much better story. Characters that have been in the game since day one are fleshed out in cinematics, messages, and quests. Before this expansion, Cayde-6 and Commander Zavala were just class item vendors. Here, however, I understand how characters like Cayde and Zavala feel about each other, about the City that players fight so hard to protect, and about the grand quest they set us out on. This may not be Shakespeare, but it finally takes the elegant mystery of the setting and gives us something tangible to play with. This is all built on the solid foundation of world-building that Bungie has already laid down. Not only that, Destiny continues to provide fascinating new settings and challenges that flesh out one of the most interesting settings I have enjoyed in gaming. Time will tell if the positives of the original game and the advancements of the expansion will provide us with the game Destiny should always have been. I am cautiously optimistic.