Predicting the Destiny December Meta

DestinyWe know that Bungie has another sizable update coming to Destiny sometime this month, bringing with it an updated weapon balance. With every weapon re-balance, that means that the PvP meta shifts – the last time was with the launch of The Taken King, pushing pulse rifles to the forefront. And when the meta shifts, the PvP community rushes around trying to find the new weapons that give them a leg up on the competition.

As the meta stands right now, the current world revolves around guns like Hawksaw, Bad Juju and Red Death for primaries. Pulse Rifles in general are strong across the board – even with the shift toward needing headshots. Because fast firing pulses are basically the best auto rifles in the game now, the reduction of base damage and needing more headshots doesn’t really matter. Secondaries have revolved around the 1000 Yard Stare sniper, and Conspiracy Theory/Party Crasher +1 shotguns. I don’t really see a whole changing here – except hopefully the way people use shotguns. What Bungie was trying to do with the 2.0 patch, I think, worked for the most part. There really isn’t a single weapon that you absolutely need to use to have a hope of breaking even. The days of Thorn/Last Word ended, and really up until the last few weeks, there was actual variety in loadouts. More variety means that the game feels fresh, even with the same maps and game modes.

Destiny Suros Regime Year 2

And to that effect I hope with this 2.1 patch they continue that idea – keep tweaking the base archetypes for the weapons, and that will get the game actually where it needs to be. Once the archetypes are settled, that’s when the Exotic weapons can really be looked at. Obviously, when there are standouts like Thorn, they need to be addressed. But I would really rather see Bungie get the base lines set finally before really fine tuning every little gun out there. I think that we’re actually pretty close to that point now, and based on the early patch notes I think we could be even closer after 2.1 drops.

What I think we’ll see moving forward is that those high rate of fire pulse rifles will drop back to the pack a little, and I think hand cannons and auto rifles will no longer be a liability. The biggest change I think will be with the shotguns. There’s another range hit coming – which they still need – but what could really impact their use is the movement and handling speed nerfs. To me, those are the things that really should have been part of 2.0. If they work properly, the ability to just warrior through gunfire, slide and shoot from ages away should be reduced severely. I think it’ll also help fight the blink-shotgun combo that’s plagued the game pretty much since launch. I think we’ll always see shotguns in the game – they’re just too good at dropping targets instantly. But the way that we use them will have to be adjusted a little bit. I would expect a more defensive and, hopefully, tactical use of them. We kinda see that with snipers – you can’t use exclusively a sniper, because it limits your options – shotguns need to be in that same spot.

What really will be important in the new meta is the exotic weapon choices. I still think that Bad Juju and Red Death will be good, but I actually expect to see the rise of a couple other weapons. Suros Regime could very well return to its old spot on top of the mountain. It’s far and away the best auto rifle – stable, good range, and able to get your health back while taking down enemies. I really think that, depending on just how effective the patch is, Suros will be all over the place. Since we’re also getting some returning Year-One guns, I would try to get hold of a MIDA Multi-Tool. It’s, I think, the most versatile scout rifle out there. It fires super fast, does strong damage, and since it boosts your agility AND keeps your radar on-screen all times, it keeps you alive. Hand cannon wise, I still think you’ll see the usual suspects – Hawkmoon and Last Word.

Before I wrap up, I want to offer up a potential surprise exotic choice: Hard Light. It’s never been a particularly exciting weapon – skip rounds as an exotic perk is pretty lame. Add in that it’s a bullet-hose style auto rifle and you get a weapon that can’t stagger enemies in PvE, and takes way too long to kill in PvP. But the 2.0 patch gave it it’s first truly exotic feeling update – it no longer has damage dropoff on its bullets. Since range now actually matters way more than it did before – especially in PvP – that’s a pretty huge deal. If you can control the recoil, you very well could see this thing doing some decent work at slightly longer ranges than most auto rifles could hope for. Since it’s one of those Year One weapons returning, I could easily see this one being a sleeper choice.

Destiny: The Taken King – The Return of Iron Banner and How It Feels So Far

Destiny Lord Saladin

This week marked the return of Lord Saladin to the Tower for the first time since the launch of The Taken King for Destiny. For the new players, Lord Saladin’s appearance means that the Iron Banner is live – and that PvP is a whole different ball game. On the surface, it might not seem like a big change – you only can play Control and it’s only 6v6. That really isn’t the big deal though – Iron Banner is one of only two Crucible modes where your Light score will actually matter. Going in with gear that isn’t powerful can absolutely mean you’re in for a long game. That matters more than ever and it isn’t because of anything specific that Bungie did with the power curve. It’s because this is is the first Post-2.0 Patch Iron Banner.

Destiny Thorn

New players won’t really get why we talk so much about weapon balancing and meta game. They’ll never know the futility of fighting a team of Thorn/Last Word users, or going back further, Suros/Vex users. They only have a small taste of the power of shotguns – and won’t know the frustration of dealing with 15 ft. kill zones with them. They may even think that Titans have always been the go-to Crucible class and that Sunbreakers are just more of the same. I wish that was true. Veterans know all too well that Hunters and Warlocks used to have the Crucible in their grasp, with Thorn and Felwinter’s Lie reigning supreme. And it’s because of those memories that I’m having way more fun with Iron Banner this week than I did during House of Wolves.

Over the course of the last couple days, I really haven’t been killed by one specific gun noticeably more than any other. Sure a couple pop up frequently – Red Death, Hawkmoon, Hawksaw – but not in the frequency that Thorn and Last Word used to be there. I’ve even seen people using Fusion Rifles! That hasn’t been a sight in nearly a year. And that makes playing way more fun. Sure it sucks to get killed, but it’s nice to know that I’m not going into a fight already down a step because I don’t like Thorn. It means I can experiment with my loadout more than I ever did. In House of Wolves, if I played Iron Banner, I used Red Death, Party Crasher +1 and BTRD machine gun. That was pretty much it, no matter the map. My armor didn’t change either – the only Exotic I ever thought of using was The Armamentarium. This week alone I’ve used more weapons and armor set-ups than ever before. I’ve tried Red Death, my Imago Loop, Zhalo Supercell, Hereafter, Conspiracy Theory, In Times of Need, Truth, my Arc Edge and even Baron’s Ambition. Every weapon has gotten me kills, and gotten me killed – just like I want in a PvP environment. I want my thumbskill and decision making to matter more – and now they do. I can take a shot and pull into cover and not just tick my health away. Firefights are way more about tactics and accuracy than they were before. It’s the Iron Banner behaving the way it should.

My biggest issue though is that true power is still gated by a pretty serious obstacle. Yes it’s possible to break 300 Light with only matchmade activities, but you’re at the mercy of RNG. To really be going into Iron Banner at a Light Level of at least 300, you’re much better off having done the Raid a few times. Now for most Iron Banner players, that’s probably not that big a deal, but for newer players I can see it being a pretty serious barrier for performance. What I would really like to see is the Crucible rewards be closer to 300 light either during Iron Banner or right before. It shouldn’t be a guarantee or anything like that, but it would open up a way for PvP-centric players to get up to that 300 region. I do like the way that Iron Banner is shaping up though so far for Year Two – with Trials of Osiris coming up next, we might have a more defined meta after the weekend.

The Return of Iron Banner and Why That Matters for The Taken King

Destiny CrucibleIn last week’s Bungie Weekly Update, Bungie outlined the plan for the return of end-game level PvP content. Next Tuesday we’ll see the return of Lord Saladin and the Iron Banner, and next Friday Brother Vance will start up the Trials of Osiris again as well. The Taken King already has a ton of content for players to enjoy, but the return of even more content is actually a really big deal on the PvP front. Today we’ll talk about why they matter so much.

One that Bungie has done really well with The Taken King has been infuse Destiny with all kinds of new content – and we’re still discovering secrets all over the place. On the PvP front though, the content was has certainly been a lot more straightforward. New maps and game-modes really isn’t a huge move when compared with the PvE content added in. In truth, most of the PvP shake-up has come from the weapon rebalance and the three new subclasses. I’ve already talked a bit about my issues with that long initial Crucible questline – but next week those feelings could change a little bit.

Destiny Lord Saladin

Let’s start with the lasting impact from Iron Banner and Trials. When power matters, and your light stat will impact your survival and damage, that’s really when a weapon meta can grow and define itself. You saw that in House of Wolves with the sheer number of Thorn/Felwinter’s/Rockets loadouts. Going into Iron Banner without that set-up, or one that specifically countered it (Red Death) meant frustration. That extended just as much – if not more so – in Trials. That meta doesn’t really exist anymore though – the rebalance has done a really good job of shaking everything up. Handcannons don’t have the uniform utility they did, which allows the other weapon types to start to shine. I’ve been playing a lot of Crucible lately, working on my Titan emblem quests, and I really haven’t seen a single weapon dominate the game like Thorn or Suros Regime used to. Sure there are a few I see more frequently, but I wonder how much of that is familiarity or quest related. For example, I still see plenty of Last Word, but that’s probably for the Jolly Holiday quest to get The Chaperone shotgun. What does bug me is when I see someone using all old Year One weapons – the new set of guns work really well in PvP, try them out!

That said though, I have a feeling that will probably change pretty soon after Iron Banner and Trials go live. That’s really when we’ll see the weapons strengths and weaknesses shine. Low impact, high rate of fire guns are going to be the ones I’m most curious to see – they were notoriously bad in the last meta, but I’ve been able to kill with them again now. We’ll see next week if they can still work with power balancing on. For now I do like that the meta is still in flux – it lets experimentation work and because of that, you’re seeing a lot more variety in the PvP game. I’ve said this about Destiny for a while now, the more variety that the PvP supports, the better it is. There isn’t a ton of content to really support a long PvP life – this isn’t Call of Duty or Halo where the competitive side is the real meat of the game. There’s only a few game modes and a couple handfuls of maps (with a sometimes rough rotation) compared with the other shooters double digits game modes and maps and map voting. That’s why I’ve been having a lot more fun lately than I was during House of Wolves – even without playing much Rift.

Destiny Felwinters Lie

The other benefits that Iron Banner and Trials bring with them are a little more hidden. The easy one is the new gear – armor and weapons. In the past set, the Iron Banner had the best PvP shotgun and sniper (Felwinter’s Lie and Efrideet’s Spear) and Trials had the best pulse rifle with The Messenger. I’m curious to see which archetypes they pick for the weapons this time around – especially for those ones that used to be super powerful. I have a hunch that even though the new Iron Banner shotgun has similar stats to Felwinter’s it’s not quite going to behave as nicely. The armor though is where I’m more curious – in the past the armor hasn’t been top-tier quality, except in PvP settings. With the new system, and perks making a bit more impact than stat values, I could see this new set being useful. Which is great because it looks amazing. With a good roll, I’ll absolutely take that Iron Banner helmet as my go-to legendary while I run with Immolation Fists or Crest of Alpha Lupi or Ruin Wings – even if I need to do some infusing on it.

That other benefit that I said is a little hidden is more of a feeling thing. When Iron Banner and Trials are live, the vanilla Crucible gets a little more forgiving. Those players that are chasing the end-game PvP content leave Control and Clash and Rift and head over to those end-game games. That ties into that big Crucible quest. I’m stuck at the Elimination phase – just before the last push. But Elimination right now has a lot of Trials veterans in there – and matchmaking against that is just brutal. But starting next weekend, with Trials actually live, that should make Elimination a little more doable. The same stands with Iron Banner – the more hardcore players and fireteams head off to impress Lord Saladin, leaving the vanilla playlists open for newer guardians to get those wins they need. The Crucible isn’t maybe the focus for a lot of players, but it does have some nice value in there – there are some really cool weapon drops I’ve managed to get plus those subclass specific emblems look so good. With more options headed our way soon, the Crucible’s value is going up again.

Destiny: The Taken King Early Exotic Thoughts

Destiny Fabian StrategyNow 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.

Destiny Empyrean Bellicose

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.

Let’s Talk About that Crucible Questline in The Taken King

The Taken King LogoSince the launch of Destiny: The Taken King, I’ve been running all over the place completing quests and bounties galore. But there’s one quest line that has stayed in my inventory this whole time has been the first Crucible quest chain. Over the last couple days too I’ve started to see more posts on the Destiny subreddit bringing up this particular quest. So let’s talk a little about it.

I think there are two ways of looking at this quest. The first is the way that a lot of the Reddit posters have been – that of the hardcore player. The people who play the game pretty much exclusively and play it a lot. The other is more in line with I think how Bungie approached it. It’s designed to be a welcome to the Crucible – across the whole spectrum. It shows you the ropes, and gradually ramps up the challenges. In theory, both views can and should work together. Hardcore players, especially players that focus on PvP, can complete the quest pretty quickly; while at the same time new players have a framework to guide them through the ins and outs of each different game mode. That’s actually really smart game design – older, more seasoned vets get rewarded quickly and new players have a good learning period to figure out the different modes.

Destiny Crucible

Where I think the roadblock may show up is once you hit the end of the Factions section and get to Trials Practice. Every previous step has you win two games in a specific game mode – not terribly difficult, especially if you go in with a few friends. Trials Practice however, requires you to win five matches of Elimination. That’s more than just an increase in wins required – Elimination is probably the most hardcore mode in Destiny. I think that this is where the quest gets a little wonky. It works perfectly up until then, but then the pressure steps way up, and the margin for error drops out. The value of a win shoots up and as a result you start to see the new Crucible issue – quitting. Because a lot of players are just trying to finish the quest, the most efficient way is to leave forgone losses to get into a new game quicker. You see that with the weapon bounties – the next step of the quest chain – a lot more.

Where I think the biggest disconnect here is that the PvE counterpart to this is no where near as deep. Both quests are designed to teach players about the playlists available and end up with the second tier rewards – just below the Raid. The problem is that the PvE is three steps – five normal strikes, five Heroic strikes and a Nightfall. That’s it, and you have a built in Nightfall reward in the quest. That’s easily done in a full day of play, with time to spare. The Crucible quest has more variables in play that make consistently completing steps difficult. Unless you and your group are pretty consistent PvP players, this is definitely a bit of a slog. It’s not empirically a bad quest, but it is one that I can see that turns off players. Just be ready to explore the new weapon meta and find the weapons that work for you in any game mode.

Fist of Havoc

One last note about Crucible quests, now that Mayhem is live this week, this might be the time to go through those PvP Subclass quests. I just wrapped up the Striker one, and I would have loved Mayhem for the Fist of Havoc multikills. If you’ve been putting them off, this might be the best week so far to try them – those emblems are pretty sweet looking.

Destiny: The Taken King – Crucible Impressions in Year Two

The Taken King LogoOver the last week we’ve been talking a lot about Destiny‘s new expansion, The Taken King. However, I’ve been pretty much ignoring a pretty big chunk of the game – the PvP Crucible. So today I want to quickly talk about some of the changes that I’ve noticed since I’ve been playing a bunch more Crucible than I was in House of Wolves.

Let’s start with the new game modes. The Taken King adds three new ways to play PvP: Rift, Zone Control and Mayhem. Two of those – Rift and Zone Control – are actual game modes, while Mayhem is more of a modifier, like Inferno. Since the launch of TTK, only Rift and Zone Control have actually been active – Mayhem ran during the preview weekend though. What I like with these new modes is the focus on objective gametypes. Rift plays similar to Ricochet or Uplink – you capture a neutral object, then deliver it to the enemies’ goal to score points. It’s a pretty intense mode – but good team play can really shift the balance fast. That said, being the spark runner is a lot of fun – especially scoring the rift. The dunking animation is really awesome, plus the points you get from it are well worth the effort. I don’t recommend running through Rift much as a solo player, but it is still a lot of fun.

Destiny Crucible

Zone Control is pretty much straight Domination. It’s the Control gametype already in the game, just with the scoring simplified completely. Instead of kills being boosted by holding onto control points, your team’s score goes up from controlling those points. It’s standard Domination, just with the Destiny twists of Supers and Grenades and Melees and Heavy Weapons. It does require a bit of teamwork to really succeed, but it’s not as imperative as it is in Rift. Zone Control does give people who aren’t great at firefights a good way to contribute to the team by grabbing the points. Heavy Ammo control is still very important – especially with the addition of Swords as a weapon type.

Mayhem, as I said, isn’t strictly a new game mode. Instead it acts as a second modifier on top of a normal game mode. Like Inferno removes the radar, Mayhem cranks up all your recharge rates to maximum. You’ll get your Supers every couple minutes – and grenades and melees even faster. When Mayhem Clash is up, that’s when this really lives up to the name. It’s just Supers and Grenades all over the place. One nice thing with Mayhem is that Heavy Ammo drops from enemies that have it again – just like way back in the early days of Year One. In general, I think Mayhem is a great way to get through some of those class specific Crucible quests – you just have to wait for it to be active.

Destiny Bannerfall

Beyond the new game modes, the other real big change to the Crucible is the influx of new maps. On the Xbox we have nine new maps to explore and play on. Of the group, I’ve played all but three – the two former PlayStation exclusives, and Crossroads. Those that I have played though, I really like. There’s a good mix of ranges and sightlines – some are built more around close quarters engagements (The Drifter, The Dungeons and Memento to a lesser extent); while others are much more varied in combat (Bannerfall, Frontier and Vertigo). I really don’t think there’s a purely “bad” map in the bunch – some are definitely a bit tougher to learn the flow of, but in general I like them all. My favorites have been Bannerfall, Frontier and The Dungeons for a few different reasons. Bannerfall is a fantastic mix of all ranges – any weapon can do really well, as can any class. Frontier is a long range masterpiece, without feeling overly huge – which was an issue with First Light and Bastion in particular. Frontier is the first map where I don’t feel punished for using Scout Rifles. The Dungeons is the exact opposite – it’s an Auto Rifle/Handcannon/Shotgun map for sure, which is right in my wheelhouse.

Which brings me to the weapons themselves. A lot has been made going into the 2.0 patch about the weapon meta being shuffled. While the patch didn’t hit the reset button entirely, it did fix most of the issues that were there. In particular, Handcannons got taken down a few notches – they’re still powerful in their proper range, but beyond that, they aren’t the snipers they used to be. Auto Rifles definitely got the boost they needed – in that they are actually useful again. It’s been fun to actually run around with Suros Regime again. The big issue that I still have is with Shotguns. Even as a major Shotgun guy, the high impact, long range archetype is still almost unstoppable. And again, there’s a vendor selling a Felwinter’s style shotgun. Yes, Shot Package got nerfed, but it didn’t get anywhere near the nerf it needed. I fully expect that with the 2.0.2 patch we’ll see another pass at the Shotguns in PvP – and they still need it. Classwise, not a whole lot has changed. Blink is still annoying, but it is easier to track now. Hunters and Warlocks are still a bit stronger than Titans, but Sunbreaker does even the field a bit. Overall, as it stands after a week, I actually think the Crucible is in a pretty good spot. The real tests will be when the Power Level enabled playlists go live again like Iron Banner – that’s where the meta really starts to take shape.

Destiny: The Taken King – One Week Later

The Taken King LogoToday marks the one week “anniversary” of the release of Destiny: The Taken King. It also marked the beginning of Year Two in Destiny. There are a lot of changes that were brought to the game, most of which have been discussed at length, here and all over the web. What I want to talk about today is more about the specific Taken King content, not the 2.0 patch changes. That means story content, quests and gear, and the new strikes. I haven’t run through the new Raid yet – my fireteam is still in the process of gearing up to a higher light level – so my thoughts on that will have to wait.

Destiny Cayde-6

I want to start with the story content. I’m going to stay as spoiler free as possible here, just because I actually think the story here in The Taken King is actually worth experiencing yourself. I said after the 2.0 patch changed the missions to quests that even the threadbare Vanilla content makes a lot more sense. The quest structure makes all of the story stuff feel a lot more coherent – even tackling a few quests at once is a lot more straightforward than it used to be. The new stuff though is easily the strongest that Bungie has put out for Destiny. The dialogue is hands down better across the board than it was a year ago. The fact that the story is told only through a few characters actually helps here. It allows Bungie to better flesh out their actual characteristics – Cayde, Zavala, Ikora and Eris all feel a lot more fleshed out than they used to. Nathan Fillion’s voice work stands out – Cayde’s character is made by his voice work. The actual missions really stand out as well – there’s a lot more variety in their structuring. Sure there’s still a lot of “go here, fight a bunch of enemies, face boss, rinse, repeat” but that’s standard in any FPS. What’s different here from previous Destiny stuff is the way you get to those fights. There’s more vertical platforming – and platforming in general – including a few missions that really focus on it. There’s more use of the mechanics that previously were only in Raids – the use of relics to progress through areas. There’s the first true stealth mission in Destiny – which is probably my favorite single story mission in the new content. I know the community loves to rag on Bungie for reusing locations in DLC, but in this case I really like the missions that go back to familiar places, but in different ways. It’s funny to think that a year ago the story was far and away the weakest point in Destiny, but now I think it’s absolutely worth going through.

Destiny Grimoire AlakHul

Continuing on from that, the new strikes I think in general really shine. On the Xbox, there are three new ones – the Fallen S.A.B.E.R, the Sunless Cell, and the Shield Brothers. Of the three, I think I like the Darkblade boss fight the most, but I like the actual strike with the Fallen S.A.B.E.R. I had a feeling that the back door over by the Grottos would play into some future content, and while I didn’t see it being a strike, I am glad to see more of Rasputin’s bunker. Saying that they have “raid-light” mechanics is a little disingenuous, but the boss fights definitely are a bit more involved than they used to be. During the Shank fight, the environment is just as much a threat as the boss itself; the Darkblade fight takes place in blackness with a teleporting boss; and the Bond Brothers have a somewhat unique take on Romeo/Juliet bosses. What I really like though is the presence of strike specific rewards. So far, I’ve been able to get the Undying Mind’s unique hand cannon – the Imago Loop – and the Shield Brother’s scout rifle – Treads Upon Stars. I love the idea of strike specific gear – it gives you reason to keep playing the strikes to try and get those unique pieces of gear. Combine that with the new loot mechanics, and there’s even more incentive.

Destiny Boolean Gemini

Which is a good segue to talk about the loot itself. Bungie said going in that this was the biggest amount of weapons and armor added in since the game launched. It feels like a pretty good amount of the rare quality gear is very similar to the previous DLC gear, just reskinned – but with the new perks and shaders it still feels new. The weapons are a little different though – with the addition of the three weapon manufacturers, they have a bit more identity. I’ve found myself really enjoying the Hakke weapons – the pulse rifles, side arms and shotguns in particular. The new variety of the weapons is what I really like – there are quest specific weapons, similar to Murmur; there are the strike specific ones; and there are class specifics as well. That extends to the Exotics as well – I love that each class has pretty quick access to a legendary and exotic weapon through the Gunsmith. In terms of Exotics, I’ve only gotten three brand new items across my characters. One piece of arms for my Warlock through Xur, a helmet on my Titan through an engram and the Boolean Gemini through Petra Venj’s quest line. I do have a few of the updated Year One exotics though, which I find myself using a lot more on my Titan. I think in general I like that there’s a lot more gear to chase down – after finishing the main story, you should have quest lines that will net you around three or four exotic weapons. That really helps whet your appetite for collecting I find.

I’ve been a big defender of Destiny over this last year, but I really think that now is absolutely the best time to jump in. With the Legendary Edition for The Taken King giving you access to all of the available content, for a pretty solid price, that’s honestly a fantastic choice if you haven’t experienced Destiny.