Destiny: Rise of Iron – Launch Day Thoughts

Destiny Rise of IronIt’s finally here, the last expansion for DestinyRise of Iron, and man have I been super excited for this one. Over the last couple few months, Bungie has done a fantastic job of building the hype for this expansion, which is something they’ve always been great with. I played through the story content yesterday, along with a couple patrols into the Plaguelands and matches of Supremacy and thought I’d put down a few thoughts I had. Be warned, there will be spoilers for the story ahead.

Going in, we knew that this was going to be a smaller experience than The Taken King was.But that hopefully was going to mean that we were getting a well focused story – somewhat of a rarity in the world of Destiny unfortunately. After playing through the narrative, I honestly think that this is exactly the step that Bungie needed to take with it. Yes, it’s short but it tells a story that’s easily relatable – Saladin’s story is one that pops up pretty frequently in fantasy/sci-fi. The lone survivor/watch tasked with keeping an ancient evil from returning – it’s nothing groundbreaking, but easy to understand and get invested in. Add in the new CG cutscenes, and you have easily the most engaging story in Destiny yet. That alone would be good, but when you look at the actual content in the narrative, you see that Bungie is finally diving into the deep lore they’ve got and putting it into the game. This expansion in particular sets the table for some incredible possibilities. I mentioned that I’ll talk about spoilers – the biggest one is the final fight in the story missions. After tracking down a way to stop SIVA, you head back to the place where the Iron Lords fell – the Replication Chamber – to initiate the self-destruct. This is where you find that SIVA has taken the fallen Iron Lords armor and infected it, using their armor as surrogates to fight you. It’s unclear just how much of the Iron Lords remained in there – from a consciousness point – but it was a pretty awesome twist to end the story. I was totally sure that we’d get some kind of Splicer Fallen boss, not a totally new enemy. From a gameplay standpoint, that’s pretty cool because I think it opens up possibilities for Raid bosses in Wrath of the Machine.

The new strike is pretty cool too – The Wretched Eye – albeit a little straightforward. I hope that as we keep moving forward, we see more variety and complexity in the strikes. You already see elements of it in the new version of The Devils’ Lair, Sepiks Perfected – using the new Shock and Null cannons to break his shielding. I like the Wretched Eye fight for its frantic pace – there are a lot of things to keep track of – the blind, raging Ogre chasing you, the Splicer with one of the more dangerous enemy attacks out there, plus plenty of dregs and shanks that show up as the fight progresses. It’s one that I can totally see being a hard fight with some modifiers on for Nightfalls, in particular void burn. The new locations – both the Plaguelands and Felwinter Peak – are easily the best new locations that Bungie has put in since Vanilla. My only issue with Felwinter is that damn secret SIVA cluster hiding at the very top of the peak – platforming in Destiny is already tricky, and the jumps you have to make to get up there are frustrating as hell. The Plaguelands are really cool from a visual standing – it’s very different from any other area in-game. Earth is probably the most industrial location, and even the Cosmodrome doesn’t hold a candle to here. Lava falls, huge beached tankers, and giant Fallen keeps make each distinct zone feel different enough to keep you exploring. There are still a few secrets out there I’m sure, but I like that the Hive majors that drop Splicer Keys spawn often enough where just running Patrol for a bit should net you a good stack. I think when you look at the Dreadnaught and now The Plaguelands you can see that Bungie is trying to make Patrol a more rewarding and valuable activity. I’ve always liked Patrol just because you can hop in and explore the gorgeous vistas that Bungie has created. Now that Patrol actually can net me some useful rewards, it’s even better.

My only real issues that I’ve had so far are based around two things: the Archon’s Forge and Crucible play. The Crucible is still stuck in this really frustrating meta – crazy high power hand-cannons and shotguns just are the only competitive option, and Supremacy drives players to that even more. I know that we’re probably going to see a balance patch in the next couple weeks post-launch, but I really hope it comes soon. It’s just not fun to play in a lot of different ways, which is a shame because Supremacy as a mode is a lot of fun. The Archon’s Forge though is a little trickier to figure out what Bungie needs to do. It’s supposed to be essentially a new version of the Court of Oryx – a public space to play increasingly difficult challenges for unique rewards. The big problem is that it’s a handful of zones away – not a huge deal since you can spawn Sparrows in the Plaguelands; and that you can only have one offering at a time. The actual mechanics with the arena are a little odd too – you spawn the encounter, and if you don’t enter right away, you may end up locking yourself out. To re-enter, you need a Splicer Key; which is the case should you die and respawn yourself. I think of all the new content we have right now – at least until we see how the raid shakes out – this is where Bungie needs to look for some changes. I’m okay with only having one offering, but make it so it’s one of each rarity, and that they drop a bit more often. The loot also needs to be a bit more consistent, especially for the people who don’t actually present the offering – Court of Oryx was good because you could earn high Light blues even if you didn’t present the rune.

Overall though, from top to bottom, Rise of Iron is exactly what I think Destiny needed. It’s a fantastic addition to the game, and most importantly, shows what direction I think the game is heading as we move closer to the full sequel. If they can keep finding ways to tell stories that are focused – especially on a larger scale – I think Bungie will finally be nearing the potential that Destiny has always shown. Even if you’ve been away from the game for a while, this is a great time to get back – it’s totally worth it.

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Titanfall 2 Tech Demo Impressions

Titanfall 2 LogoThis past weekend Respawn had the first of two multiplayer Tech Demo tests for October’s Titanfall 2. I was and still am a huge fan of the first game – it was the first game on the current-gen consoles that actually felt “next-gen” to me. It also managed to beat the other FPS games to the punch with regards to the focus on increased mobility, which we’ve since seen in heavy hitters like Destiny, Call of Duty and even in Halo. So I went in to this weekend pretty excited to see what Respawn has been up to with the sequel – I thought the E3 footage was definitely exciting after all. Unfortunately, I came out of the first weekend with a lot more unsure about the direction the game is headed.Yes, I know it was a build from June, but that doesn’t excuse some of the issues I have with it. Let’s talk through this little mess.

We have to start with my biggest complaint, by a pretty large margin, which is the UI. The first game didn’t have a particularly easy UI to use to begin with, but this time around it’s even worse. The multiplayer lobby is cluttered, thanks to the new Network system taking up the lower third of the screen. Your whole screen feels like it’s being used and it’s hard to tell what’s important – you’ll be bombarded with Network invites dead center in the screen, but if you’re just trying to play a game or two, that’s not at all important. I also had a hell of a time trying to get my friend into my party/lobby to play with. We played one game of Bounty Hunt last night – then after the game finished, it put us into different lobbies and we couldn’t get back together. After about 15 minutes or so, we just called it quits because it’s just wasn’t worth the frustration. Some of the menus are fine – the game selection is nice and clear, explaining the objective, whether or not it has Titans or AI involved and player count. Others are a little clunky – I wasn’t a huge fan of the loadout customization system, not necessarily because it was bad, but I think it was better in the first game.

Once you get past all the UI clunkiness and into an actual game, that’s where I think your opinion of the game really is dependent on what you’re expecting. Coming in as a big fan of the first game, I had some expectations – AI combatants on big maps, Pilots zipping all around and Titans being called down and becoming pretty important targets. And to be fair, those elements are there – sort of. AI only is present in Bounty Hunt, at least for now; and it’s in a much more limited role than it used to be. Pilots still have a great degree of mobility – in fact I think that may be the best improvement from the first game to this one; your movements have more weight to them, they feel like you actually have momentum and mass. The new grappling hook Pilot ability really helps with that feeling, as well as being a really fun way to move around the maps. Titans still play a pretty big role in the game too, but it’s a very different feeling, this time in a way that I think takes a lot more getting used to. Depending on the game mode, you can get a Titan pretty quickly, or at least until they hot fixed it, maybe only once in a Hardpoint game. The biggest change to the Titans though is that they’ve decided to make them all individual classes. Gone are the old chassis that you could customize however you want – take a heavy Ogre chassis and give it the heavy weapon, or give the heavy hitter to the light chassis. Now you have different profiles for the Titan – Ion or Scorch in the tech demo – and they have a couple options to mess with, but their weapons or abilities aren’t those options. Each frame has its own weapon and abilities, and you have to learn how they work. The Titans do feel a little less powerful overall, but that might just be because the maps both felt a little small. One of the real strengths of the first game was that the maps actually felt like big battlefields. Whether you were a Pilot or a Titan, you never felt out of place – the scale worked both ways. This weekend’s maps felt a lot more built around the Pilot to me – playing as a Titan, even on Homestead, felt a little cramped.

Titanfall

All of that may sound like I really disliked my time playing, there’s a lot of nitpicking and criticism in there for sure. But that’s only because I really loved the first game and I really do think that this can become a franchise along the lines of Call of Duty/Battlefield/Halo. What worries me is that it feels like Titanfall has lost its identity a little bit. When I play it, I can’t help but feel the echoes of Call of Duty becoming louder – I don’t get that with Destiny and its lineage with Halo as Destiny has evolved. I worry that the pressure to deliver on this sequel is maybe a little overwhelming – there’s a lot different this time around, especially on the single-player front. I’m not quite as down on it as some of the posts I saw on the Titanfall subreddit were – nor am I as naive as to think that a six month delay would be enough time to completely retool the multiplayer, which was an actual post I saw. I actually had a good number of moments while playing that put me right back in that Titanfall frame of mind – goosing ejecting Pilots, Titan punching Pilots trying to rodeo me, parkouring all over a map without touching the ground, all while fighting the whole time. There’s still enough character in there where when it works, there’s nothing like it right now; even at its fastest, Black Ops III doesn’t quite do parkour as well.

What I would love to see is Respawn take these two weekends feedback seriously, and make this game as good as it can be. I don’t think it needs a big delay, but I do think that pushing it back to Christmas would be a huge help. Two months to use that feedback, polish up the UI and networking; and maybe most importantly, get it out of the crowded launch season – especially with FPS games. The first game didn’t really have a lot of competition to worry about – Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 were really it, and both had been out for months by then. Titanfall 2 doesn’t have that luxury – Destiny: Rise of Iron, Battlefield 1, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Modern Warfare Remastered all hit within a month either way of TF2‘s launch. Add in some other heavy hitters and I don’t think it’s too tough to see how a short delay might really help. Maybe after this second weekend coming up we’ll have a better idea of what’s happening moving forward.

Deeper Thoughts on The Division: Day Two

The DivisionYesterday I was able to get a little more in depth on The Division, hitting level 12, playing through some content that wasn’t in the beta, and playing around with my builds a little bit. A lot of what I wrote yesterday still stands – I am liking the game as a whole, but there still are a couple questions I have that are slowly getting answered. One thing that I forgot to mention yesterday was just how much I’m in love with the visuals in The Division – it’s definitely one of the best looking games on the Xbox One right now. The standout for me is the environmental effects – the weather in particular is spectacular; step out in a snow storm and you’ll be in for a vastly different experience than in clear weather.

What I really have been digging into is the real depth to the combat and potential variety in the builds. Only having three stats might seem a little simplified, but I think it actually helps drive players to realize that focusing on one or two stats makes you a lot stronger than trying to go Jack of all Trades. Even without explicitly talking about it, my group has already started to establish some different roles based around the builds we want. I’m focusing on raising my health and skill stats as much as possible – I am forgoing DPS a little bit in favor of being more of a medic/tank build. One of my buddies is going pure glass cannon – DPS and skill over health; he’s sitting around 2,000 health, while I have over double that. We have another who’s definitely building around per-bullet damage, with a strong marksman rifle and playing a little more defensive. That simplified nature of stats makes slipping into those builds really easy, and that’s why we didn’t even need to talk about the roles we wanted to take. It just happened, and that’s a sign of good game design. Sure a little of that was initialized by the random rolls we got in loot drops, but that’s easily changed as we progress.

Tom Clancy's The Division™_20160307161110

 

In regards to those build choices, I think the two I mentioned – Glass cannon with high DPS and Skill, and Tank/Medic with high Health and Skill – are the best all around options. I think going high DPS and Health is tempting, and with the right weapons and group makeup could work, but it’s definitely a little trickier to use in difficult content. I think skill power might be the most important stat overall, since it dictates not only the actual results of your skill (healing power, damage from attacks that sort of thing) but it also impacts cooldowns, keeping you at full power more often. It’s really tempting to chase crazy guns trying to find two super strong weapons to run with, but with guns you’re stuck playing around reloads. You need those abilities to fill the down time and keep the enemies at bay while those reloads happen. If you’re playing in a group – which I certainly recommend – you’ll definitely want at least one guy with high skill power.

When it comes to ability selection, that’s where the depth really shines. Gunplay in The Division is solid, but pretty straight forward. SMGs, assault rifles and LMGs all fill the same basic roll – sustained DPS and suppressing fire, while shotguns and marksman rifles are your pure damage options. It’s your abilities that add the variety and, frankly, fun to the combat. We had a group of three yesterday running through a mission, set to Hard of course, where we were a little underleveled – but we were able to power though because we had a mix of abilities. Even early game when you’re really picking and choosing your Base of Operation upgrades carefully, it’s not hard to get a good mix of different abilities in a group. We had one running turret and heal, I ran sticky bomb and heal, and we had our third with upgraded pulse and sticky bomb. Now, I probably am going to change up my skills as I upgrade my Base (I’m eyeing seeker mine and support station right now), but that mix seemed to work pretty well to me. And with my focus on skill power, my heals do more, and they come back faster – that’s why I am playing the medic role.

There’s still a lot to discover in The Division – I’m not even halfway to the level cap yet, there’s still a lot of story content to play, a slew of collectibles and I haven’t even begun to explore the Dark Zone. But even this early on, I feel pretty confident in saying that The Division is the first truly great game of the year. It’s not flawless, but the flaws it does have are pretty minimal and at the end of the day, it’s a damn fun game to play.

Tom Clancy’s The Division Launch Day Impressions

The DivisionYesterday saw the launch of what I would call the first big release of 2016, Tom Clancy’s The Division. It’s a game that I’ve been interested in for a while now, having played both the closed and open betas, so I’m excited to really dig into the world that Ubisoft and Massive have created. I played a good few hours yesterday, some solo, some with just one partner, and a little bit with a full group of four. There’s still a whole lot of game to get into, but I wanted to put down my first impressions, and some thoughts that I think will ring true for the whole game.

Firstly, I’m pretty pleased with the actual launch experience. I know that at midnight the servers were a little overloaded and there were plenty of posts about people not being able to log on, but by mid-day Tuesday (at least on Xbox One) there really weren’t any problems that I saw or had. In this day when games are persistently online and launches are always a shaky experience, it was nice to not have any major issues. The question now is how well the servers handle the full first week load as more players get their copies of the game and get logged on.

In terms of new content that wasn’t present in the beta, I only played a little bit last night. I ran through one full mission, unlocking the Security Wing for my Base of Operation in Manhattan, and obviously the tutorial section in Brooklyn. It’s not a huge sample size, but I will say that each mission I’ve played – the two in the Open Beta and now the Lincoln Tunnel Checkpoint mission – all felt very similar in their execution. The details differentiate them enough to the point where they have enough individuality, but I am a little curious at just how much variety they can put into the missions. That said, that security mission is definitely my favorite of those first three initial missions – running it a little underpowered made it challenging without being obscene, and the flow of it just felt really fun. It’s certainly worth running that mission as soon as possible though, as the reward for unlocking the Security Wing grants you a +10% boost to XP earned.

The Division Beta

Where I’ve actually spent most of my mental energy with The Division is in looking at the abilities, perks and talents which weren’t available in the beta. In the two betas, you couldn’t even look at them – it just said “not available in beta.” Now that I’ve been able to look through the upgrades, perks, talents and abilities, I feel a little more confident that the combat and action will stay fresh thanks to the different build options. There’s a ton of variety in there – from damage boosting talents to keep your DPS guys strong, to great team healing buffs and cooldown reducers for your medic players supercharging the team. What I really like is that the perks you unlock with each upgrade to a wing of the Base of Operation are all passive abilities. You unlock them, and they take effect – you get stronger right away. It puts some value on grabbing some of the, maybe less powerful looking upgrades, to get perks that immediately help your whole team. If you’re coming into The Division from Destiny – which I’ve definitely seen a lot of audience crossover online – you’re probably in for a pretty big shock. This is very much an RPG first – stats and abilities/talents/perks all matter a lot more than thumbskill and shooting accuracy. If you have a background with RPGs – in particular ones like Mass Effect, Dragon Age, or maybe a bit of Diablo – you’ll be right in your element. Min-maxing is the name of the game here – you’ll be chasing gear not with high damage or armor values, but with high stats in either Firearms, Health or Tech values to charge your DPS, Health or Ability powers. As long as you go in with that in mind, I think you’ll definitely enjoy The Division.

Now, that said, there are a couple things that I’m still concerned about. I already touched on that I’m curious about just how much mission variety the rest of the game has. There’s also some little details in the actual gameplay that I’m less that thrilled about. The A.I. is pretty dumb – sure they’ll flank you, but it’s more of a bumrush than anything resembling a concerted flank. They’re a lot more content to sit back in cover and just shoot a lot at you. The other thing is that the game really isn’t super difficult, even on hard difficulty. With crafting added – which is a little over generous calling it crafting – it’s not hard to get solid gear, level appropriately and go in with a partner or two and suddenly the missions are pretty simple. I’m still unsure that any end-game content is going to be enough to keep me engaged after I complete it. With other looter/shooter/RPGs (Borderlands, Destiny, Diablo) completing the end-game/raid content once is just the tip of the iceberg. The fun comes from running them multiple times to get different and better loot. I don’t know, based on what mission content I’ve seen so far, that The Division is going to have that same feeling at the end, but we’ll see. Lastly, the Dark Zone is still a huge question to me. In a perfect world, I think the Dark Zone would be the perfect end-game area. It’s got the highest leveled enemies, at their highest tier, and has the potential for PvP engagements. The problem is that I think the ganking method – camping those extraction zones, waiting for everyone to bunch up and start putting their loot on then pouncing – is too potentially rewarding with not a huge downside. And going in as a solo player is even more punishing – if you wind up running into Rogue agents, especially if they’re in a group together, you’re pretty much done for. Now, because the Dark Zone is divided up into six zones, instead of just the couple from the beta, maybe lower level players can use that first zone to get a start on looting; but there’s really no guarantee. That’s putting a lot of power into the hands of the anonymous gaming community. Regardless, The Division is a really strong game – the action is fun, the depth is surprising, and the game itself looks gorgeous. If you’re on the fence, I recommend it – just know that it isn’t flawless.

Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution – Rock Band 4 Impressions

Rock Band 4

Rock Band 4 is awesome. It’s everything that I wanted from the return of my favorite music game. It’s the core features of what made Rock Band great, honed and updated to current-gen standards. In fact, my only gripes are super minimal. I wish that they carried over All Instruments Mode, that way I could see the vocal line while playing Guitar. And I would have loved a way to just import my whole DLC library in one fell swoop, but it looks like that’s a technical impossibility; as well as make sure that all owned DLC is clearly noted (currently there’s a weird glitch where owned songs are shown as not owned, but still can be installed for free). Beyond that, Rock Band 4 is exactly what I wanted it to be.

With rhythm games like this, there are two things that are the determining factor in whether they’ll be great or just okay. First is the note recognition. In the hours I played yesterday, I didn’t notice any sort of note dropping on my new Stratocaster guitar controller. In the past, I clung to my Gibson Explorer controller from Guitar Hero 2. I don’t need that anymore – I have a wireless guitar that works, and works great. Even with tremolo picking sections, the strum bar kept up and I didn’t see any misses that were because of hardware. That’s a good thing and I actually think upgrading instrument controllers isn’t a terrible idea.

Rock Band 4 Setlist

The other super important part is the actual set-list. If the songs are stinkers, what’s the point of playing them? Luckily, Harmonix has a great ear for picking both huge hits, and deep cuts. I played through the first few tours in career mode, so the easier tier songs and found a couple songs I’ve never heard that I immediately wanted to go buy; while also playing some songs that are in regular rotation on my iPod. That’s perhaps the most important thing that a game like this can do. Just like a Let’s Play can show you a game you might never have seen before, rhythm games like this can teach you all kinds of awesome new music. You just have to take the plunge and play them.

In addition to playing a few career shows, I had to try playing one of the harder songs in Quickplay mode, if for no reason other than to test my skills to make sure I haven’t gotten too rusty. I went with “Hail to the King” by Avenged Sevenfold – it’s marked as a “Devil Tier” song on Guitar and I actually think it’s one of the easier A7X songs. The charting on it made me really happy though – it’s a good split between playing the lead lick and the rhythm guitar line, with the solo feeling really well charted. If future DLC keeps that in mind, I think I’ll be putting plenty more money into the Music Store.

One new feature on guitars that’s worth mentioning is the Freestyle Solo. It lets you put in your own little touches through pre-programmed solo licks that you play during the guitar solos. It seems kinda weird at first, but it actually works really well – you have a little bit of leeway with note streaks when you’re hopping between low and high frets, and even if you decide to just ignore their prompts and go wild, you’ll only count as missing one note, not failing out. My biggest issue with them is just that I’m not used to them – sometimes they’ll have you end on the high frets and I lose my fingers when the chart begins again. That’s something that will come with play though.

All in all, Rock Band 4 is absolutely a return to form for the series. With Guitar Hero Live coming soon too, I do think that we might see a resurgence with the rhythm games. They’ve always been a great party game, and the current-gen consoles were missing something like this. If you like music games, or really if you like finding new music in general, I think this is a definite purchase.

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.

Destiny: The Taken King – Launch Day Impressions

The Taken King LogoI’m officially back from out of town for a few days, and with my return yesterday came the launch of Destiny: The Taken King. I put in a pretty solid chunk of time playing around with it yesterday – unlocked each of the new subclasses, got a bunch of new items, leveled my Titan to 40 and played a handful of story missions. It’s still early to say for sure – I haven’t really begun to sink my teeth into the real end-game level content yet – but after yesterday I feel really recharged about Destiny as a whole. Let’s hit some high points.

Titan Flag

NEW SUBCLASSES ARE REAL
It’s probably the most visible part of the new content that isn’t directly related to the story, the presence of the three new Subclasses. Admittedly, I put a bit more time in with my Sunbreaker than the other two new Subclasses, but that’s just because Titans are the best. That said, I think these new Subclasses are probably the best built skill sets that exist so far. We’ll start with Titans, because again, best class. The Sunbreaker has a really solid set of skills across the board – ones that work awesome in PvP, and others in PvE. Hammer of Sol is going to be a gamechanger in both phases of the game – it’s damage over time aspect makes fighting bosses a lot easier. Melting Point, an upgrade for the melee Sunstrike, essentially makes any incoming damage after that hit count as precision damage. That’s an amazing PvE buff for fighting majors and ultras. As a Titan player, and one that tended to play Striker as much as possible, I am totally in love with Sunbreaker.

Warlocks have always been in a pretty good spot. Voidwalkers were always great for clearing enemies, especially low-tier ones. Sunsingers are phenomenal support classes, and have a built in fail safe with Fireborn. With the new Stormcaller subclass that utility isn’t going anywhere. They still are a bit of a glass cannon – fragile, but powerful; but man, Stormtrance causes some serious damage. It might be the best crowd control out there in terms of killing the enemies outright. Red bar enemies just melt away, and Stormtrance lasts a pretty decent amount of time. In PvP, I think it might not be quite as good as Voidwalker, but it still is a great slayer style ability. When you combine Stormtrance with a Sunbreaker’s Melting Point, the damage output here is just insane. My fireteam played through the Undying Mind strike – now on Xbox – and our Warlock just tore through Vex. Even majors were just chaff in the wind to the Stormtrance. A fireteam that’s properly chaining supers will absolutely tear through enemies.

Which brings us to the Nightstalker. Hunters might have a little bit more of an adjustment period with this one than the other classes. Gunslinger and Bladedancer are both designed around purely slaying enemies – they’re great trash disposal classes, and they shine in PvP. With the Nightstalker though, Hunters can finally play a more support focused role in PvE. Shadowshot is Destiny‘s take on a traditional MMO/RPG “chain” skill. It tethers enemies to a point, debuffing them and leaving them open to damage from your fireteam. Orb generation is still an issue with Hunters, but again, with proper super chaining, and good placement with the Shadowshot, you’ll do fine. Solo Hunters probably won’t get as much use with Nightstalker, and in PvP it’s definitely not going to shine as much as the other two. That said though, having another support option in a fireteam is always a great thing. More variety is always good, and these new Subclasses help promote that.

I don’t really want to go too much into the story side of things with The Taken King, both because I haven’t finished the storyline, but also because I think it’s worth experiencing for yourself. It’s a new feeling with Destiny to actually enjoy the story content. There’s been more character development and interaction in the first few missions in this DLC than there were in the entire base game. What I will say is that the new organization of the missions is such a huge benefit for the game. The “questification” of all the story missions is a simple change, but it’s one of the best parts of the 2.0 update. I’ve gone back through a few of the original questlines again, and with the new structure each one feels much more coherent. One of the biggest issues with Destiny‘s story in the vanilla launch was just how disjointed it was. You had these major missions that forwarded the main storyline, but at the same time minor nodes that had missions that were just as important to play through. The problem was that there was no good order to play them in. Now, you pick a quest, which all have a unifying theme behind them, and going through them feels a lot more proper.

One last thing that I want to look at is the sheer scope of this expansion. It’s a different beast compared with the previous ones. Bungie has gone out of their way to make sure that the naming is all standardized. The Dark Below and House of Wolves both bear the prefix of “Expansion #” before the name. It signifies the idea that they’re both direct add-ons to a vanilla game. With The Taken King Bungie has dropped the “Expansion” prefix. Instead it’s being treated a lot more like a old-school traditional expansion. I know that sounds kinda confusing, but you have to go back and look at PC gaming back in the day. Before add-ons were called DLC. We used to get huge chunks of extra content in these Expansion Packs – that honestly were usually closer to new games than anything. The Taken King feels a lot closer to that old idea. There’s hands down more content than any previous add-on for Destiny here. And with the recent court ruling for Marty that shed some light on the plan for Destiny, this kinda fits the bill. Every other year, the next numbered game is released – so we can probably expect Destiny 2 next year, with the off years featuring major expansions that help keep the game installed on hard drives and played. With a week of 2.0 under our belts, and just a day of TTK to build off of, I think that could be a pretty solid, winning formula moving forward.