Earlier in the year we said that Destiny: The Taken King needed to be a ‘reset’ button for the franchise. To start the game from scratch and give you a complete video game world that could compete with the likes of CoD, Halo and Borderlands.
The good news is that Bungie haven’t lost the endgame, instead they’ve just changed the way they play.
Destiny: The Taken King pits players up against a god-like foe Oryx.
When you’re making a game that is inherently reliant on being ever-changing, expandable and ultimately fluid in nature, it will come as a shock to learn that the development process can’t be that rigid.
It seems Bungie didn’t get that memo at first, releasing a game that while all of those things was also a little bit broken. The good news is that they’d already prepared their parachute in the form of the game’s inherent design which meant that if it didn’t work they could just change it.
Well change it they did, and the most important thing was that rather than just painting the walls a horrific shade of green and then asking what everyone thought, they gently took gamers by the hand, led them into B&Q and then asked them what colour they’d like their wall to be.
Power to the people some might call it, we suspect that many game developers would call it something a little stronger. Either way, this communication with the players is what has ultimately led to Destiny becoming the game that it is today, and when you play it, you’ll be thankful that everyone is on board with the new regime.
As we mentioned in our preview, The Taken King seemingly rights many of the wrongs that bugged Destiny; it’s grinding nature, sub-par plot and a reward and experience system that was so baffling a small migraine was immediately induced just thinking about it.
To a significant degree, all of these points have been lessened. The grinding doesn’t feel as prevalent, the plot has been saved almost single-handedly thanks to the voicebox of actor Mr Nathan Fillion and the experience system has matured to make you feel like it’s almost constantly your lucky night at the casino.
To start, we’ll address the grinding. Destiny suffered most when you played for more than four hours at a time.That’s because the likelihood was that you were having to play for four hours just to feel like you’d accomplished anything.
(This does of course exclude the Raids which were seemingly made for people who can quite happily disappear into a darkened room for a full rotation of the Earth and then look back on that experience fondly.)
For the rest of us who I shall call ‘casual’ gamers, it’s hard to think of anything worse than getting home from work, sinking four hours into a game and then feeling like we’d done nothing.
Fear not, for Bungie have spectacularly tipped the balance in your favour. The materialism that powers the game (your constant desire for more shiny things that go ‘bang’) has now been made far more accessible through increased loot drops, an army of unique and genuinely interesting quests and a comprehensive multiplayer offering that should keep even the CoD fans happy.
The plot has been given a significant boost in that now not only is there one, but the cast actually have things (funny things) to say. Sure, Destiny isn’t going to win any awards for it this year but through the helpful guidance of Nathan Fillion, Nolan North and others Destiny finally feels like a game that’s alive.
There are moments in the game that are genuinely funny and the voice work has been applied to everything from the biggest story missions to the smallest quests so it never feels like Bungie has just done the ‘big bits’ and left you with some half-hearted side-quests.
Along with this expansive new set of missions comes a new map in the form of the Dreadnaught – a huge hulking temple to pain suffering and nice shiny things that go bang. It’s a giant arena that’s enormous fun to explore and even more fun to fight in.
Finally the multiplayer is superb. It’s perfect for players who want to drop in, get rewarded and then feel like they’d done enough in an evening.
By combining a strong playlist of game types with gunplay that Bungie has utterly nailed the multiplayer feels like the experience that people who are rubbish at CoD will really enjoy. It’s not too fast and yet it’s not so patronisingly simple that you’ll bugger off and watch Netflix instead.
If Destiny has one flaw, it’s one that isn’t the Taken King’s fault, in fact its been present since the start and that’s matchmaking.
For the millions of casual players like us, the lack of an ability to match with similarly experienced players on Strikes and Quests is baffling. Strikes are more forgivable because you can generally blunder your way through without ever having to speak to anyone but Raids? Well they’re pretty much impossible unless you have 5 friends who are all free at exactly the same time, on the same night and all fancy playing Destiny for hours.
Without it you can write them off, they’re one of the hardest things you’ll ever do when you have some mates with you but they’re literally impossible if you don’t.
Listening to gamers might be one of the most annoying things on the planet (mainly because you can’t please everyone) but ultimately it’ll help you make a better game. That seems to be the lesson of this, and sure enough Bungie has taken it on board and nailed the delivery. Destiny was fun before, now it’s addictive.