Destiny: The Taken King – Refreshing

The new Destiny expansion has been live for almost a fortnight now, and the full scale of the expansion is coming to light. Yet, despite all the data-mining and conspiracy-theorycrafting (which I’ll come onto later), The Taken King has categorically renewed my love for the game.

Oryx is the most deadly force yet to threaten the light, but is also the catalyst for great and necessary change.

I should preface this post by saying that there will, inevitably, be spoilers.

A demanding schedule in my new job over the past few months had left me little time for gaming, so when the time did arrive, I felt like I had to use it carefully. Destiny didn’t make the cut. After months of tireless grinding for upgrades, a fantastic few weeks of raiding the Vault of Glass with some friends I met online and the excitement that comes with being ahead of the curve, the shine started to fade. It wasn’t particularly sudden, but it was apparent when my time became more precious to me.

Will she ever come home safely?
Will she ever come home safely?

The release of The Dark Below highlighted the reliance on repetition that Bungie seemed so keen to enforce – notably something which nurtured my apathy with World of Warcraft after many years – and I started to drop off. I have never seen the inside of the Crota’s End raid, and probably never will, even though I hate the idea of missing out on what I view as the content which I play the game to see – PVE.

Cue The Taken King. Bungie have outdone themselves.

Free roaming and exploring is always a cool part of games like these – searching for easter eggs and hidden treasures, as well as simply appreciating the aesthetic, is quintessential. My brother and I, who played Destiny together a lot in the first few months after release, have an inside joke about my rigorous enforcement of ‘the route’ – essentially, a set path through most areas on Earth, the Moon, Venus and Mars with high chest spawn rates based on my own evidence. That was as free as my roaming got; religiously strict so as not to forgo any and all opportunities to get engrams and supplies.

Bungie have taken a step back, however, and cured this ill by simply making so much more stuff to find. The Dreadnaught – Oryx’s labyrinthine battleship and the new player area in The Taken King – is awash with key-bound chests (unlocked after killing this, that, and then the other), materials for awesome exotic weaponry and challenging boss-grade foes. Sure, you could argue that this just exacerbates the problem by eliminating (or blurring the lines of) the most efficient farming routes, but I disagree. If anything, it removes the stress element of feeling like you’re missing out by giving you a myriad of things to tackle at your leisure.

Exotic bounties weren’t exactly a rarity prior to the release of The Taken King, but it was an instant discard for me whenever they appeared. Why? Because they were torrid, lackluster quests which failed to appropriately merge PVE with PVP. Toland’s Legacy stands out in my head – complete a weekly or nightfall, then complete 25 strikes, then get 400 kills in the crucible. Eugh.

I’m very much in favor of working hard for your stuff, but prior to the buff, the resulting Bad Juju was outpaced or matched by raid drops.

Still looks badass though.
Still looks badass though.

Exotics are now more fun to get a hold of, and use. There are swords which go in the heavy weapon slot now, and after a lot of exploring and accumulating parts, you can get an extra exotic level sword which, as I understand, is uncompromisingly badass. The community also discovered a secret challenge within the daily heroic story mission that, upon completion, rewarded those involved with Black Spindle, and there is a unique scout rifle called Touch of Malice which requires a tremendous amount of farming across all elements included in the Dreadnaught to acquire. Each class also has access to one of three exotics by building up their gunsmith reputation.

There is even a tumultuous reddit thread dedicated to unearthing the way to obtain a fusion rifle known as ‘Sleeper Simulant’ which goes in the heavy slot, and seems to have a lot of lore surrounding it. The unknown and covert nature of Black Spindle’s arrival has shown that Bungie aren’t afraid to make people go searching for their treasures, which means that the obsessives are content to analyse and search for clues, while the rest are able to reap the benefits after the detective work is done.

Everyone wins.

Although I haven’t done a tremendous amount of them, I should touch on strikes too. The new strikes are nice, sure, but the heroics are hard. A good hard, I would say – I’m yet to be thrown entirely into despair even in matchmade groups – but diverse enough from their normal mode counterparts to present a stalwart challenge to your average fireteam of three. I understand, although can only offer conjecture, that the raid is also a very difficult and puzzling affair whilst being very enjoyable too.

It's a scary place, but nothing a lick of paint won't fix. And a shotgun.
It’s a scary place, but nothing a lick of paint won’t fix. And a shotgun.

What’s to stop heroics becoming the same boring grind as previous strikes? Not much. However, for the time being, they are throwing engrams at me. The bosses actually drop engrams now, and that’s not to mention the mobs dropping blues more often too. On three occasions now, coincidentally after what were some of the most intense strikes finales ever (Restorative Mind with server lag, goodness gracious me), the boss has collapsed in a heap and thrown out a legendary engram. It’s not guaranteed – it might not even be common – but it does happen with enough regularity to chase it, and with the engrams’ decoded form echoing your own light level, I can only assume that that will be a convincing enough impetus for most.

The hype of a new expansion is hard to ignore, and I am a sucker for being absorbed into it. Perhaps even with the initial release, so impatient was I to leap in and see everything that I burned out a bit quicker than I should have. Being in South Korea, away from Bungie’s expansive marketing and in relative unknown about The Taken King, I wasn’t exposed to any hype. I saw a few things here and there, but didn’t really have the time to dedicate to researching more.

When it did drop, and the update came, I chanced my arm – and it’s one of the best purchases I’ve made in recent memory.

Looking back at Destiny last year and the lamenting of mechanics and a lack of this and that, the community has instead found itself looking for answers. Bungie has thrown the proverbial ball that we’re chasing much further this time which, if they are consistent, will certainly keep myself and others logging in regularly.

Author: graemefinch

Teacher, avid Warcrafter, gifted Dungeons and Dragons character creator. Passionate about all things high fantasy and RPG.

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