New enemies, gear and missions aren’t the only big changes coming to Destiny in year two’s major Taken King expansion. They’re now not even the most exciting additions. For it seems that Bungie is taking the drastic – and really rather enticing – step of completely redesigning the game’s unique, rather arcane core levelling system. Where until now, standard XP accrual has taken players to level 20, before the various levels of Light attached to dropped and bought armour has picked up the baton, from The Taken King onwards, things are going to work very differently. In short, Destiny is going to work like a traditional RPG.
Developing from level one to the new cap of 40 will now happen as a result of standard XP collection. That’s it. No complex decisions of which gear to chase and sacrifice in order to accrue those precious, attached Light ratings. No need to grind and regrind the same missions and events in the hope that they might drop one of the reduced selection of high-Light armour pieces needed to get to the next upper echelon of levelling. Just like in the vast majority of RPGs ever, your level will be attached to your character and their long-term actions, not whichever transient pieces of magical clothing they might be wearing at any given time. The accessibility of high-level gear will be determined by your character’s growing level, not the other way around, as it is now.
What does this mean in practical terms? Well on paper, everybody wins. Newer and more casual players will be able to enjoy Destiny without learning a whole new field of maths first, and will be able to play safe in the knowledge that their every action – not just the ones that might drop the fat loot – will matter in concrete, irreversible terms. And long-term players will really have room to breathe. At high-levels, the eternal loot race can put players into an armour-gated bottleneck, where progress slows as Light-generous armour becomes ever more rare.
As well as slowing down the levelling process, this can limit players’ ability to design and diversity their characters’ abilities, Light becoming the major driving force behind gear selection, rather than whatever array of perks and buffs any particular piece might furnish. As much as I love Destiny – and 300+ hours in, I really, really do – the number of times I’ve pored over a cool and interesting bit of new kit packed with exciting abilities, before instantly binning it as trash because the Light level isn’t high enough, is frankly ridiculous.
But now, it seems that none of the above may ever be a problem again. Particularly given that, when choosing which drops to hand out, Destiny will finally be paying a bit of careful attention to what gear a player already has, and making more of an effort to furnish gear that will actually matter. Even just thinking about this stuff in theory, Destiny suddenly feels like a vastly more open, more free game, with immensely more power over player development put in the players’ own hands. We’re still waiting for more exact details on how it will all work, but if further word from Gamescom is as positive as this sounds it may be, The Taken King’s September 15 release could be the best thing that’s happened to Destiny since launch.
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