What a difference a year makes
Destiny is a very, very different shooter to the one that launched 12 months ago. It has been patched, tweaked, added to, tweaked some more, then patched again for good measure. Weapons have been balanced and rebalanced, loot caves have been blocked off, and two expansions have brought fresh challenges for Guardians to take on. So much has changed but despite this, many have fallen off the Destiny wagon.
Just about everyone on the GamesRadar+ team has played Destiny, but some have abandoned the Light of the Traveler in pursuit of other gaming interests. That's understandable. Parts of early Destiny were broken and the repetition of quests and environments pushed players away. But as we all learn more about the upcoming The Taken King expansion, former players (GR+'s included) are seriously considering a return to the fight. There are always concerns when coming back to such a sprawling and involved game, which is why I - as someone who is still playing Destiny regularly - have had the GR+ staff bring their Taken King concerns to me. Now let's see if the new expansion squashes those doubts.
The concern: "The story sucks"
I'm not saying The Taken King is going to revolutionize video game storytelling or anything, but I expect The Taken King's story to be on par with what the Halo series has been putting out in the most recent years. Destiny's Lore runs deep - it's just not in the game. The Taken King is building on what narrative there was from vanilla Destiny and the following DLC content The Dark Below and House of Wolves and bringing some of the Grimoire-style storytelling into the missions.
The story is going to be more fleshed out. In the Dark Below, the Guardians killed Crota, a Hive god who had taken over Earth's moon. The thing is, Crota has a daddy, and he's super pissed that his son is dead. Now he's coming to destroy all of man/Exo/Awoken kind, and it's up to the Guardians to stop him in TTK. There is more interaction with the prominent characters in the tower, which include a Nathan Fillion-voiced Exo hunter leading you through the new adventure. The story missions also feature an improved Ghost character, voiced by Nolan North (RIP Dinklebot) who gives you lore tidbits as you explore and scan the environments.
"There isn't much variety in the levels. I've visited the same place 1000 times!"
Let's be real. You're going to be replaying content in Destiny. There are Strikes, Missions, and Raids to grind for gear and you're going to see those events and environments over and over if you want those shiny Exotics. BUT! Bungie has been working on making much of Destiny's repeatable content less predictable. Strikes now have randomized elements, so you might walk into a room full of Cabal your first time in but come into that same room a second time to find it filled with Taken.
Then there's the Dreadnaught. This place is all about exploration, solving puzzles and uncovering secrets hidden in the darkest corners of the Hive-built space ship. We dont have many details on what we'll find during Dreadnaught Patrols, but Bungie promises that there are plenty of worthwhile rewards to uncover. Like, Legendary / Exotic quality, not that Rare or Uncommon garbage.
"Leveling is incredibly tedious and I don't want to grind Ascendant Shards again."
This is where Bungie has made some big changes. There used to be a saying in Destiny: "Forever 29," referring to the level players were stuck on as they kept grinding the Vault of Glass for their last piece of randomly dropped raid gear. Now, your character level is no longer tied to the gear you have equipped. You progress as you would in any other RPG. You kill stuff, complete missions, and turn in bounties to get experience and earn max level 40.
The game no longer forces you to grind a single event to get to the max level. The Trials of Osiris, Raids, the Court of Oryx, and Strike missions all allow you to get the game's most powerful gear.
"You can't really go solo"
Playing Destiny with a coordinated crew of likeminded players is definitely the best way to experience the open-world shooter, but unlike vanilla Destiny, The Taken King makes it easier to see high-level content without having to set up a fireteam beforehand. In the Dreadnaught's Court of Oryx, you can join in on any other player's event, helping them accomplish their task and netting you some hefty loot in the process. You play with other players, earn gear, and face some pretty tough bosses without any strings attached.
The old Weekly Heroic Strikes have been axed in favor of a more rewarding Heroic Strike Playlist, which automatically does matchmaking for you (much like the old Weeklies did). Playing through the playlist with other random Guardians will ensure you're getting plenty of Legendary Marks - the primary currency for purchasing high-level legendary gear. With this new system you can get up to the max level with some pretty effective gear all by your lonesome.
"Gear drops are arbitrary and I always got the same gear over and over"
Even though your character level no longer relies on you acquiring new gear, higher level weapons and armor does make you more powerful. You still have to get Legendary and Exotic kit from chests, quests, and boss drops, but - hold on - it's better now.
Destiny's random loot system now takes all of the items in your inventory into account. So if you already have a Last Word hand cannon, you'll be less likely to receive it in a drop and more likely to get another Exotic instead. Grinding one event over and over is less likely to be a thing youre forced to do, because you'll get the items you want more often.
"The Bounties and Missions are repetitive and I got bored grinding faction rep"
Quests, bounties, and faction reputation have changed quite a bit in The Taken King. Now everything is questified (actual term used by Bungie). Meaning, the bounties and quests can be tracked in the new quests screen and progress can be viewed in the ghost overlay in-game. In addition to the interface, Bungie is adding a greater variety of bounties to the rotation.
With The Taken King expansion, the faction vendors have also gotten an upgrade. You can still earn rep by turning in bounties and completing missions for experience, but now you don't have to wear that faction's class item to earn it. You just pledge allegiance to your chosen faction by paying a small fee of Glimmer. Also, if you don't want to grind out experience, you can sell materials for faction rep. Then there are vendors like the Gunsmith, with whom you can test out guns to gain reputation and purchase weekly Legendary rewards.
"I'm still not convinced"
That's cool. No game is perfect and Destiny isn't for everyone, but Bungie has put a lot of effort into transforming Destiny over the last year. The developer has been incredibly dedicated to making the game better and has been very transparent with the community about making the necessary tweaks and changes. Though Destiny might not have started off with the best first impression, the future is looking bright, and now's definitely the time to hook up with your old fireteam, jump into the Crucible, and get back into Destiny.