To say that Destiny had a rough launch would be an understatement. The game was considered to be the most anticipated from one of the most lauded developers in the world and accumulated the most pre-orders of any game in the history of the industry. But when it came time to deliver, mixed reviews and a rushed release has kept Destiny from being the top dog we all expected it to be. To keep its player-base engaged we’ve seen Bungie release 2 DLC expansions with the first one being a catastrophic joke. The Dark Below felt like a side-step to nowhere and the House of Wolves DLC after it barely managed to do better. Now, after much controversy regarding how much money you’ll throw at your screen over an equippable emote, The Taken King is here and it’s honestly much better than everything before it.
The first thing to notice about this expansion is the inclusion of voiced cutscenes that have our witty vanguard leaders interacting with each other. Nathan Fillion’s Cayde-6 steals the show, shocking nobody, as he guides you through several missions that eventually lead to breaching the big bad ship of Oryx, the Taken King himself. There’s a very clear art direction shift toward the style of the new enemies, the Taken, and their Hive influenced behavior. Crazy dark matter resonates in goops all over the solar system heralding Oryx’s thirst for revenge after the guardians killed his son, Crota, in the last raid. You battle across the system with new weapons and exotics to obsess over until the final confrontation and then the mandatory cliffhanger ending.
The highlights are the story bits and the newly implemented quest system that makes it feel more like the MMO Shooter that it set out to be in the first place. Now you can place waymarkers to keep track of your adventures. Among those goodies, the new swords have everyone excited and rightfully so. There are now 3 legendary swords of each damage type as well as 3 exotics to mirror with ridiculous abilities. One can literally throw an electric disc across the map and I’m sure you’re excited to face it in PVP already The other obvious highlight is the inclusion of a third sub-class for each character type. Titans gain a flame hammer that allows them to destroy every guardian in sight, Hunters now support their teammates with the Nightstalker class, and Warlocks turn into Emperor Palpatine and zap everyone to death. Pretty sweet actually.
The downside? A lot of the lore and actual story depth of the game is STILL outside of the game in “Grimmoires”. Perhaps the most vexing move on Bungie’s part was the decision to take all the best writing they had and put it exclusively on their website. In fact, the best story and lore they’ve ever come up with involves Oryx’s complete backstory that can be obtained in the game as Grimmoire, but most players aren’t going to stop their game and pull up the website just to read it.
Another possible downer is the inclusion of a new PVP style called Rift that basically involves a back and forth game of soccer with a ball of energy. I’ll give you a head’s up–if you don’t have a fireteam, you will lose. If you are down a player or two, you will lose. If you are good on those two things, then you should be fine! Unfortunately matchmaking is still a pain for a solo player in that you will almost always be thrown into a match already in progress. And yes, this means the team you are joining is losing and someone gave up and left.
Because of the amount of content, as a whole, the expansion at least feels like it was worth the $40 spent on it unlike the previous two. Whether or not Bungie will continue this model in the long run remains to be seen, but at least they are beginning to deliver full packages instead of seemingly rushed half-content. King’s Fall will be the new raid where we finally put an end to Oryx once and for all and will hopefully add to the generally positive experience Destiny has to offer this time around.
Check it out and if you would like some help you can find me in the Tower on PS4 as Blackstar-Raven.
Point A to Point B—that’s the way games have always been. Level 1 leads to level 2 until finally the game is beaten. Occasionally, a game like Zelda will challenge the formula and let you do things out of order just with a limit and a requisite for completion. But in a world now overrun with MMOs and Grand Theft Autos, we find the industry moving further away from the linear approach in favor of the Open World experience. And with that freedom comes a price that this traditional RPG gamer may not be willing to pay.
It may sound old-fashioned, but the greatest appeal that comes from linear gameplay is a lack of confusion. When you beat a level in an old game, you move on to the next one. When you complete a story plot-point, you move on to the next one. Easy to follow, right? But what’s the next level in an MMO like World of Warcraft? Or the correct sequence of story points in Skyrim? The answer is that there is no right answer. The inclusion of choice now allows most gaming experiences to go in any direction the player wishes and that can lead to both unique and confusing experiences. Take the would-be-hit Destiny for instance; this game now touts 3 full expansions and once the main, albeit short, story is completed, there is no direction given for the player on how to complete the rest. Now, it can be argued that after the main story, leveling up your character is all that matters, but the game itself DOES have a linear story that was timed with the releases of the expansions. Without that guidepost, the players ARE losing a part of the experience, and they are often left wondering what to do and why.
And the “why” is also my own personal problem with the open world experience. Without a push from behind telling me to go to Point A, I find myself wandering about as a clueless explorer. Of course, games like Dark Souls and Skyrim want you to feel that way so that you’re immersed in the world more, but I tend to find myself bored before long. For example, in InFamous, there’s no doubt that leaping around and beating up unsuspecting civilians was enjoyable for a bit, and eventually the game would remind me that there is more to do. But with my freedom of choice, there was nothing stopping me from hopping around and sucking the energy out of more civilians until I maxed my powersets. And by that time, I couldn’t care less about the characters or what the flavor of the world was like. I was just bored with playing in the sandbox. Sure, you can say that the story was there and it was my fault for not caring, but I think the freedom is more to blame here.
That same freedom can also be intimidating. When given a huge sandbox to play in, some tend to find it overwhelming. Others can dig into the small corners and work their ways through it with excitement at every turn. But most of us don’t have time for that kind of immersion. As a kid, I bet I would have eaten this up, but for more adult games like Skyrim or Grand Theft Auto, those of us with responsibilities or busy schedules now have to make time for our passions. We don’t have hours to offer to a fantasy world where we can be and do whatever we want. A level or two at best in the old formula is about it. I long for the days that I could power through a Final Fantasy in a weekend, but even those had directions and save points staggered so you could take breaks. And this raises the biggest question about the industry and its future—with the average age of gamers going up and the points I’ve raised, shouldn’t development be focused on shorter experiences? The answer is in the palm of your hand. Indie games and mobile gaming are taking over and RPGs should be left in the dust. But they’re not. We’ve got new Mass Effects, Pokemon, Fire Emblems, Dark Souls, and more all still being cranked out. So should they be concerned about the open world versus linear RPG path given the age gap? You tell me your experiences and thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter to @RAT_FOX