Monday, April 25, 2016

Destiny's April Update Impressions

Destiny's latest update showcases how little changes can make a big difference. There are highs and lows to the update but after spending time with it this past week, I found myself invested in a game I left behind in December.

He is all talk, trust me

Malok, Pride of Oryx

This is an update and not an expansion, so if you are expecting the narrative of Taken will be sorely disappointed. The new quest has you venture to track down Malok, Pride of Oryx and capture him alive for the Prison of Elders. After a quest on the Dreadnaught and mission to kill Taken to track down Malok's location, you eventually are led to the new strike; The Blighted Chalice.

The new strike has some interesting features, but ultimately fell flat for me. You are planted back in the Hellmouth on the Moon to start, where you must fend off three waves of enemies to open a door with the husk that spawns upon completion of each wave. Continuing through the strike you fight through masses of Taken until you come to the final room with Malok, where he plans to create a nest of Taken and lead them on a full-scale assault on The Last City.

The boss spawns Taken at certain percentages and will switch between two tactics; using Axion Darts or Solar projectiles similar to Taken Knights. This leads to a strategy of ducking down into a hall, clearing said hall when Taken spawn, and pot shotting the adds and bosses until they go down.

Considering the previous strikes where you had much more interesting mechanics, this was a huge letdown. There is no real strategy beyond staying in a safe hallway and clearing it out when adds spawn. Compared to the complex and interesting bosses of King's Fall, this boss seemed like a glorified Omnigul.

Grind for more gear, yes?
Not Your Father's Prison

A feature ignored at the Taken King launch has now been revitalized. The Prison of Elders is a series of rooms with waves of enemies and objectives that culminate in a boss fight. Completion unlocks a chest boasting armor and weaponry, which thankfully, no longer requires a key.

While PoE level 41 is enjoyable, it is Challenge of Elders that you will seek to conquer for real gear. Every week, new bosses are shuffled in, and you must face three bosses in a row to complete the challenge. The bosses themselves, though varied, are a let down. They pale in comparison to the initial challenge Skolas presented, and usually require one or two tactics to overcome.

The hitch is the scoring, in which shuffled modifiers add another level of replay to the mode. For instance, this week was Grenade Kill Bonus – Grenade kills give significantly higher score. This tailored my gear and powers toward Discipline, recharging grenades and raining them down as fast as possible. There are also negative modifiers, one of which this week made enemies more resilient to stagger, adding a challenge to Cabal with shields. Your target is a team effort to 30,000 points, so having everyone work together in this facet, alters the play style a bit, and brings a new aspect every week.

 I've always wanted to look like Tron

This Little Light of Mine - Gear and Weapons

The biggest and most welcome change to Destiny is weapon infusion. The light level cap is at a new 335 from the previous 320. Typically getting a higher ranked weapon/armor infused into your own would take a few drops as it got progressively higher; I.E. getting a 330 rifle, fusing it to a lower light rifle I already like and it only bumping up to 327. Now the fusion is direct, 330 to 330, and fan favorites can be immediately put into your gear. It is a subtle, but welcome change that makes it all the more satisfying to get a piece of equipment you have been pining after for weeks.

Additionally, there are new armor sets that can be obtained through strikes, raids, and Sterling Treasures. A maximum of three of the new sets can be obtained each week until the reset, but those willing to pay, can ante up for Silver and buy dozens of these to unlock the new sets. This kills a lot of motivation for getting these treasures, as most have already gotten full sets after just one week. I prefer rewards that are earned, but Bungie saw it differently, and it is a direction I am not too keen on Destiny taking. Sure it starts at light level of 3, but it kills motivation for the sets and the satisfaction of actually earning a piece of armor from one of the raids.

The RNG is more plentiful, but less kind. If you have three characters and run King's Fall three times, switching your new higher light level weapons as you go, you will likely gain light pretty quickly. For everyone else, it is like hitting a brick wall with your head. Drops only occasionally go above your light level, most decrypted will be below your light level unless exotic or legendary. Despite playing a multitude of modes I still feel slightly slow in approaching the 335 cap. This could be looked at as prolonging the life of the update, but given the base content is the same, it feels like more of the grind.

Classic Crucible

Another area that gained subtle changes that helped in a big way was the Crucible. This is the mode I found myself diving back into more than anything else. Legendary drop rates occur more often, reputation gains have increased, and heavy ammo drops have been limited to one occurrence per match.

One of the bigger changes is starting a game with special ammo. Often you would have no sniper or shotgun rounds and had to chase down a supply drop to find ammo for those weapons. Now, you can immediately jump into sniping or close quarters play. Additionally, players can no longer retain this ammo during weapon swaps. This puts a close to anyone bouncing between shotty and snipers throughout the match. 

The disappointing factor is that weapons are continually shifting in power as Bungie attempts to level the field across the board. Bungie has nerfed preferred weapons so many times at this point, that it is becoming frustrating. The MIDA Multitool was a go-to sniper counter in Trails of Osiris, offering a stagger to counter enemy snipers. Instead of working it out, they nerfed not only MIDA but snipers as well, and lowering the ammo count of snipers for PvP purposes bleeds over into the PvE end-game where sniper fire is a go-to for damaging bosses.

Overall the new content felt lackluster, but the subtle changes and tweaks to the light system and gameplay are welcome. Bungie could have left Destiny in the dust after Taken King, but their continual efforts and refinement show a dedication to making the game lasting for both new and veteran players alike. With Iron Banner next week, I find myself once again tailoring my schedule to ready for a week of PvP in a game I swore I was finished playing, but keep coming back to...

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