Now that I’ve got a couple weeks with The Taken King under my belt I have a handful of Exotic weapons and armor in my inventory. It’s a good mix of Year One and Year Two items, which I think is how most players’ inventory is shaking out so far. So with that in mind, I thought we’d talk a little about those exotics that I’ve actually had hands-on time with. That unfortunately means no Touch of Malice or Black Spindle quite yet.
We’ll start with weapons – which is where I have the most variety. This is also where the least amount of variance between the Year One and Year Two versions of items is. There really isn’t a whole lot that can happen different within weapons – a Year One Bad Juju behaves pretty much exactly the same as Year Two. In truth, the only real changes I’ve seen I think are much more related to the 2.0 Patch weapon rebalancing. So with that in mind, we’ll focus more on the Year Two weapons – just know that for the most part any Year One weapons you liked that came with us will still work just fine. I’ve gotten hold of three brand new primary Exotics – two auto rifles and a scout rifle. The two auto rifles both are similar in terms of archetype, but with their individual talents behave very differently. The first I got was the Titan exclusive Fabian Strategy from the Gunsmith. This is an interesting Exotic – in that it really doesn’t feel particularly exotic. Instead it’s talent grid just makes it a really strong, reliable weapon. It’s a workhorse gun – doesn’t do anything super fancy, just kills lots of bad guys dead. It is currently bugged – the Front Lines perk doesn’t actually increase your fire rate right now – but even without that, it’s still a really solid choice for primary. Big clip size, it keeps you healthy with Life Support and does extra damage with Crowd Control – it’s everything you need in an auto rifle, and a perfect Titan weapon. The other auto rifle – the Zhalo Supercell – is on the other side of the spectrum. It’s an Exotic that actually feels exotic, thanks to the electric bullets. The unique perk that allows the bullets to chain Arc damage to grouped up enemies helps keep it feeling special – and also helps clear out groups of low tier enemies. The other unique perk pairs well with that talent – double kills charge your super and give you ammo back. If Fabian is Ol’ Reliable, Zhalo is the flash that you need every once in a while. It’s not a gun I would use every mission, but when I do, it just is cool. The only new scout rifle I’ve used so far is the Boolean Gemini – a quest reward from the Reef. It’s got a lot in common with the Fabian in that it’s not a particularly exotic Exotic. Sure the bullets have a real weighty sound behind them, and look pretty, but the actual behavior of the weapon isn’t particularly outrageous. That doesn’t mean it isn’t great, but it doesn’t stand out to me. The unique perk is actually a binary set to choose from – one rewards precision kills with extra agility, and the other reward body shot kills with extra armor. In other words, you’ll be getting extra agility, because why would you not be getting headshots with a scout rifle? Since it’s a relatively easy weapon to get, I think it’s one that everyone will have at some point, just don’t expect to keep using it.
In terms of Special weapons, I’ve only gotten one new exotic – and access to Invective through the kiosk. The new exotic I have though is the new sniper rifle – Hereafter. Hereafter is a mixed bag to me – it’s got some real good parts, but I think it falls down a little when compared with other snipers. One thing that I’m not a huge fan of is that it’s Arc damage – I would have really liked to see a Void sniper show up as an Exotic this year. In general Void damage is pretty rare in exotics in that Truth is the only one from Year One. Where I do think that Hereafter will shine is in low pressure situations – strikes, daily missions, patrol – that sort of stuff. I don’t think that it really is a Nightfall/Raid weapon just because the unique perks just don’t fit well with tough enemies. The big one is that precision kills have a (really good) chance to blind nearby enemies. With only four shots in a magazine, that means you need to make sure that you’re getting kills – and in those high level activities, enemies that can be one-shot are a bit more rare. It’s a messing around weapon – just one that happens to look and sound really cool. If you can get your hands on Hereafter, I think you’ll like it, but also see that other weapons do the same thing it does without taking up the Exotic slot.
We’ll move on to armor now, because I have yet to get my Exotic sword, so no new Heavy weapon. The Armor is where there’s a little variance with Year One and Year Two. The biggest one that I’ve noticed is with the Insurmountable Skullfort Titan helmet – it used to just spawn you with melee energy and give you Transfusion. Now it also gives you a second melee charge (unless you’re a Defender right now). But in general, most of the Year One items are pretty much the same – just with their unique perks moved to be intrinsically unlocked. So we’ll focus again on the new items for Year Two. I’ve got one for each: my Titan, Warlock, and Hunter. And because Titans are the best, we’ll look at that one first. I managed to snag the new Empyrean Bellicose. I initially thought this was one of those Exotics that is only good for a shard. In practice though, I’ve been really enjoying using it in the Crucible. Its whole shtick is that it essentially gives Titans Angel of Light – letting you hover in midair while ADS. It’s a really niche perk, but I gotta say – in PvP it netted me a bunch of kills the other night that I don’t think I could have without it. It’s not a top-tier helmet at all, but it’s a fun one to play with. My Warlock has the Impossible Machine gauntlets – the only Stormcaller specific Exotic so far. It might be the only option, but I think it’s a PvE no brainer. It gives you Landfall – the AoE attack for Stormtrance, which means that you are free to take either Superconductor or Ionic Blink. In PvE, Superconductor plus Landfall is a genius set – AoE safety, and extra chaining damage. If you’re playing Storm Caller, this is definitely the way to go. Finally, my Hunter has the new Sealed Ahamkara’s Grasps. These are essentially the Hunter’s Skullfort – you get a second melee charge, as well as a chance to reload your primary on melee kills. That second part seems pretty nice, but the double melee is where this really shines – and only with Nightstalker does the true use really show up, thanks to the sheer power of the Vanish node for Smoke. It’s a giant safety button, and having two ready at just about any time is undeniable in its utility.
So of the new Exotics that I’ve gotten to use so far in The Taken King, I really think that Bungie has the right plan. A lot of what has been going on in TTK so far has been a much more clear focus on specialization. There aren’t a lot of broad stroke items that you can use for everything. The ones that are still there aren’t based around vertical power gains, instead they just keep you in the fight more. As was the case in Year One, these are still the items that we will be chasing down – so get hunting.