As Gamescom 2015 hits the mean streets of Cologne, Germany, news is filtering in on The Taken King, Destiny’s next expansion set to launch September 15th. Peter Dinklage is being retconned right out of Destiny (replaced entirely by the superb, if overused, Nolan North), light leveling is dying a quiet death, the level cap is increasing to 40, and the ability to boost a character’s level to jump straight into the new missions available with The Taken King are the highlights of Destiny’s Year 2. There are also some tidbits about the loot system in general – a new dynamic loot system that will take your current gear into account when dropping new gear (to help alleviate the “I got three Gjallorhorns” problems some of us have) and the revelation that your gear today will be outdated the moment The Taken King goes live. Shocker.
Peter Dinklage’s performance in Destiny was, if we’re kind about it, flat. If we weren’t being kind, we could call it garbage. How much of this is due to the direction and guidance he received in the studio and how much is due to Dinklage being somewhat unfamiliar with the idea of voice acting (which is a very different discipline from film/television acting) remains unknown to this day. However, Bungie has apparently decided that enough is enough and tasked their audio department with finding someone – anyone – that doesn’t sound like a piece of cardboard. They came back with Nolan North, the hardest working voice actor in video games.
Light leveling was an attempt at building in a dynamic alternate leveling progression from the get-go that failed to really spark a lot of love. I personally never had a problem with it (though the grinding required at high levels for marginal light increases was perhaps a bit much), but enough loud people in Bungie forums did, apparently – that, or Bungie wasn’t able to flesh out light development in the context of a ‘mass reset’ (the likes of which are entirely commonplace in MMOs). Light, of course, plays a pretty huge role in gear as it stands today, so it only makes sense that along with the death of light loot itself would be reworked.
There is some good news and some bad news on the loot front. The good news is that Bungie will be deploying a system to reduce duplicate gear drops and help ensure that new gear drops are actually upgrades for you. Hooray! However, all that crap you have now is crap and will be outdated when The Taken King launches, thanks to an experience-only new level cap of 40. If you’re new to the game, though, or haven’t max-leveled all three character slots you have available, you’re in luck: The Taken King comes with a level boost pack-in consumable, good for one use, to get you straight into the new hotness.
Game Informer’s September spread on Destiny contains all this information and a little bit more. There will be a new ‘mercy’ system in Destiny’s Crucible, allowing teams that are being absolutely dominated to be returned to matchmaking – because nothing makes you feel better about yourself than the game actually being unable to watch the travesty of your performance any longer. Bungie is also enabling players to, for the first time, try out guns before you buy them. Here I thought Bungie hit upon a neat way of doing things: the Gunsmith (an NPC) will have bounties associated with particular weapons in his inventory. He’ll loan you the gun and tell you to go test it out for him by shooting bad guys in various ways and combinations. Once you complete the bounty, you turn the gun back in for some reputation gains that will eventually allow you to purchase the weapon straight from the source. Sure, this is little more than faction grinding in a game already lousy with it, but at least they tried to dress it up in narrative-appropriate clothing.
Loot 2.0 is great and I’m sure plenty of people will rejoice at the removal of Dinklage from the game. I can’t help but think, though, that I would have vastly preferred a retcon of the game’s narrative rather than the voice of a majority of that narrative. Dinklage didn’t bother me much because the whole game’s story and structure and pacing bothered me, not just his voice acting. For those crowing in victory at the casting of Nolan North (a particularly uninspired but solid choice) should maybe reassess what actually matters in Destiny. As for the rest – window dressing. Cool little tidbits and improvements to a variety of systems that ultimately do not address the game’s major failings.
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