The latest Destiny expansion was enabled earlier in the week courtesy of the fact I purchased the season pass for the first expansion. I’ve given it a bit of a run, having completed all the story missions and given Prison of Elders a go.
It’s a strange beast.
The best bit about the expansion is undoubtedly the gear changes. They come in two flavours: you can literally upgrade any legendary or exotic to the current light level and they’ve done away with basic levelling upgrades on gear leaving only the funky perks. This is quite a major change. This makes no gear useless. This is streamlined significantly for exotics which just need an exotic shard to instantly boost them to the maximum power level of the expansion. They no longer lose their upgrades either, so you’re not forced to grind out the levelling of your equipment again.
Legendary equipment needs the elusive Etheric Light.
Despite being simpler it did leave me a bit confused as I was left wondering if the search for new gear had gone completely? Surely if I could ascend all exotic and legendary gear to the current max light why would I not just do that with the gear I have? It seems to come down to where you can get Etheric Light. It tends to drop in content that needs you to be level 32. That makes doing it in your The Dark Below legendaries quite difficult. This means you need Crota gear or House of Wolves legendaries. The people who are best off are those who have fully levelled Crota gear as they were ready to go straight into hunting for Etheric Light so they can just ascend what they had. No middle step.
The great mystery in all this, of course, is how hard Etheric Light is to get. If it’s ridiculously hard this whole idea could turn out to be worse than levelling up your gear again. It also puts the ascending of your gear in the hands of the RNG Gods, while before it wasn’t, it was a predictable matter of time. A small part of feels this may be just a bit more frustrating. I have sneaky feeling it’s going to feel great, with much rejoicing, and then everyone will hate it as it moves more things into the realm of the random numbers Gods.
The rest of the expansion is a bit odd or is going to take some getting used to.
They’ve provided a second social space. It looks nice. It’s quite small. I’m not really sure what the point is? In a more traditional MMO, let’s say World of Warcraft, new locations make sense. They make sense because they become part of a world map that can be traversed from end-to-end like one continuous landscape by running, riding and various forms of travel. Destiny is different. The setting is disjointed because you essentially load areas by flying to them in your ship. It doesn’t feel like a setting but more a point-to-point system of content. As a result, the extra social space is another area with some new vendors in, etc. It lacks any real feeling of ‘being’ or ‘setting’ though. I’m not really seeing how an extra social space adds to ‘the setting’ like a lot of people feel it does? It doesn’t in the sense the cities in Warcraft did. It’s there, it serves a purpose and that’s about it.
The story missions follow the same set up as in The Dark Below, you essentially get them from a vendor who speaks to you over your comms. They’re a bit less ‘spaced out space opera’ than the previous expansion, but they still offer very little engagement and you only half really know what’s going and why it’s remotely important to you or anyone else. The House of Wolves has one more story mission than The Dark Below, but I’m pretty sure the The Dark Below story missions hard more to them. I felt like the The Dark Below story missions had adopted some of the feeling of strikes, making them more involved and providing a bit more meat to them. The House of Wolves story missions are pretty short and to the point. It also doesn’t help they are level 28 which is pretty low. They feel a bit dialled in. People seem to be saying they are an improvement, but I can’t get my head around that one.
Bungie have also made a bold choice and not introduced another raid. I can see why they did this. The raid content just seems to be out of the reach of the vast majority of the player-base. The usual MMO story. A combination of level requirements, difficulty and the really hard prospect of finding six people to regularly play with. I know, a bit shocking. There was a time you needed 40 people for these sorts of things, which was madness, apparently console players can’t even find six! It’s also true that Destiny was leaving people behind (in terms of a level gap) which means every successive expansions would have less of a potential pool of players to run the raid even ignoring the above.
The solution to this seems to be the Prison of Elders.
You can see it being an attempt to carry more people forward with the game. First, you can start doing it at level 28. Second, it only needs a fire team of three. Third, based on my experience so far on the level 28 version, while I am sure it gets horrendously more difficult due to the level and aggression settings of the enemies, it doesn’t require anywhere near the coordination and timing required of the raids. It is this coordination over space and time within a dynamic environment that made the raids hard. It’s what required the investment of time. I never thought I’d say this as, historically, I’ve never been a big consumer of raids. We had our period of relative glory in World of Warcraft, but the guild stalled at beating Molten Core back in the day. I’ll miss it in Destiny though. Still, we are going to keep doing the current raids as they drop exotics and some of the legendary weapons are really cool and they can now be ascended to being relevant!
At the moment, I’m experiencing my usual Destiny expansion hump were I realise I need to start grinding out strikes again for marks to buy some of that vendor gear. At this point it always feels like I’ll never play the game again, but I’ll get over it, I always do. Quite often, it’s not as bad as expected once you start either.