Last year, I wrote an article titled 7 Updates The Taken King Needs to Bring to Destiny, detailing the updates that I felt Bungie needed to make to Destiny to prevent the game from seeing an early grave. Thankfully Bungie made a number of improvements with The Taken King that helped to ensure the longevity of the franchise (as can be witnessed in the change of language in the title of this article compared to the one I wrote a year ago), not to mention transforming the game from mediocrity to greatness. Even so, Destiny is far from a perfect, indeed it has yet to even earn the status of being an excellent game. As such, below are the seven changes I believe Bungie would be wise to make in an effort to achieve the excellence that Destiny is surely capable of.
– Legendary & Exotic Weapons –
Despite making a number of changes I felt Bungie needed to make a year ago, one area where little to no improvements have been implemented is the state of the game’s legendary weapons. There are a number of issues afflicting legendary weapons; from the removal of elemental primaries, to the the lacklustre state of raid weapons, not to mention the universal lack of power when compared to Year 1. Starting with the former-most problem, one of the biggest issues that has reduced the desirability of legendary weapons in the complete lack of elemental primaries – which in Year 1 gave players a reason to hunt down the few legendary weapons that possessed these rare attributes. While the additional effects of elemental damage is somewhat minuscule, especially on primary weapons, it nevertheless gave these weapons an enhanced sense of both worth and rarity that resulted in them becoming prized. As such, none of the Year 2 primaries have felt quite as special as their Year 1 counterparts.
The second irksome issue is the under-powered state of pretty much every weapon from raid and raid-equivalent activities, with the only exceptions being Qullim’s Terminus, Doctrine of Passing, and Defiance of Yasmin. Three, three desirable raid level weapons in the entirety of Year 2?! By comparison the only undesirable weapon from the Vault of Glass was the rocket launcher. As such, weekly runs of the King Fall Raid would oft result in acquiring a weapon that I would instantly discard by infusing it into my Hung Jury or Hawksaw, hardly a satisfying reward for completing one of the game’s most time consuming and taxing activities. Then there is the problem of Hung Jury and Hawksaw themselves, two of the game’s most powerful weapons that can be easily purchased from vendors. In a loot based shooter, the most powerful weapons in the games should not be easily and quickly available at vendors that don’t even supply end-game level gear. That’s not to say that vendors can’t stock a raid equivalent or two – a separate discussion for another time – but vendor weapons being a cut above raid level weapons is quite frankly unacceptable, completely ‘un-incentivising’ players from engaging with end-game content.
Finally, there is under-powered nature of almost every legendary weapon offered in Year 2. As I mentioned above, there are hardly any desirable weapons from Year 2 end-game activities, as opposed to those from Year 1. Part of the reason for this, is the lack of power Year 2 weapons posses; Hung Jury fails to surpass Vision of Confluence, no hand cannon even begins to compare to Fatebringer, the legendary Black Hammer from Year 1 trumps the exotic equivalent Black Spindle from Year 2, The Messenger remains king of pulse rifles, Shadow Price is unchallenged in terms of medium-slow fire-rate auto rifles, Comedian, Party Crasher, and Fellwinter’s Lie remain the royal flush of shotguns, and so on. All of the above were part of an upper echelon of legendary weapons which has been eroded with the advent of The Taken King, resulting in Year 2’s line-up of mediocre weapons.
Unfortunately, the issue of under-powered legendary weapons doesn’t stop there, with exotic weapons suffering a similar fate, compounding the depressing state of weapons in Year 2. Hardly any exotics from Year 2 feel worthy of their exotic status, most likely the result of overcompensation after the extremely over-powered nature of some Year 1 exotics. In fact, the only weapons to appear worthy of their exotic status are Black Spindle – an inferior version of Year 1’s Black Hammer, which ironically wasn’t even an exotic weapon but rather a legendary weapon, Touch of Malice – which is only effective in the King’s Fall Raid, and Zhalo Supercell – which only feels exotic due to having arc damage, once again an attribute possessed by many of Year 1’s legendary weapons (Some may wish to make a case for Sleeper Simulant, to which I respond Gjallahorn). As such, an exotic-free load-out is just as viable, if not more viable than a load-out with exotics. The supposedly “most desirable” weapons in the game have not just been under-powered in Year 2, they flirted with insignificance.
Quite frankly, it is ridiculous that this needs saying, especially for a loot-based shooter, but as demonstrated above Year 2 lacked hardly any desirable or powerful weapons, a situation that begs rectification in Year 3.
– Weapon Balancing –
As with the state of legendary weapons, weapon balancing was an issue I had with Destiny last year, and sadly the problem still persists, despite some positive changes. The one silver lining to the lack of powerful legendary and exotic weapons that I detailed above, is that practically any weapon right now can be powerful in Destiny – in the right hands at least. Thankfully Destiny’s second year has been free from a single exotic to trump all exotics as was seen with the likes of Thorn in PvP or Gjallarhorn in PvP. So, in once sense, the balance issues that plagued the game last year have been rectified, albeit in a prosaic manor.
That being said, Bungie are still yet to achieve parity between the different weapon types, with auto rifles, hand cannons, fusion rifles, and sidearms being the most under-powered. With little exception, auto rifles are pretty much useless across the board, sidearms and fusion rifles can occasionally be useful but are nine-times-out-of-ten outperformed by their cousins, and most egregious of all is the devastating nerfs placed on hand cannons after their Year 1 ‘Reign of Terror’ – which has just about resulted in their death.
With two years worth of game data and experience under their belt, the lack of balance in Destiny is becoming all the more concerning. While the Year 2 meta hosts for a greater range of viable weapons than that of Year 1 meta, that there is such disparity between the effectiveness of certain weapons – auto rifles and hand cannons in particular – is quite frankly inexcusable. Such imbalances have been the death of many a game – just because the player base is prepared to ‘put up’ with the situation still doesn’t mean that Bungie should have a free pass on the issue.
– Maintain Activity Diversity –
When The Taken King launched, there was a litany of activities to partake in; from the new story campaign, new strikes, and new raid, to Court of Oryx, quests for exotic weapons, and uncovering the secrets of the Dreadnaught. At first, it almost felt overwhelming, and yet within the space of a few weeks a familiar pattern had emerged of running weekly strikes and raids. For all of the additional diversity The Taken King brought to Destiny, the end-game remained untouched, with activities such as the aforementioned Court of Oryx quickly drying up, or older activities such as Prison of Elders failing to be updated until months later. Bungie did make a few welcome changes in an attempt to keep the end-game diverse, such as rotating the game mode that was featured in the Iron Banner playlist, and the introduction of raid challenges (although the raid challenges also become repetitive within a few rotations).
There are a number of solutions though, for instance, why not rotate out the Nightfall with an equivalent such as a Court of Oryx challenge or Prison of Elders challenge? Instead of Iron Banner, why not host a Crucible tournament where players earn points in an attempt to top leader boards for greater rewards? Alternatively, Bungie could set a community goal where the Destiny community has to kill a certain number of enemies, farm a certain number of materials or engrams, complete a certain number of strikes in a week, and if the goal is passed all participating players receive a reward. I’m not a game designer, just some random person on the internet spit-balling ideas, so surely the talented individuals at Bungie can come up with some ideas to keep the week-to-week grind fresh? After all, the Destiny grind has barely evolved over the course of two years, a third year echoing the first two will suffer from diminishing returns.
– Rework Tired Activities –
Linked to problems with maintaining a diverse roster of activities, another issue of contention is the tired nature of many of the game’s older activities; particularity Nightfall Strikes, Patrol Missions, and Bounties.
Both Patrol Missions and Bounties have undergone few changes since the launch of Destiny in 2014, and as such have become some of the most monotonous and tired parts of the game. With the launch of Rise of Iron, patrol missions could do with a complete overhaul. One of the potentially overlooked changes The Taken King brought to Destiny was the way it redesigned patrol, with secret chests buried within the Dreadnaught, items to collect in order to activate unique encounters, and even a plethora of puzzles to solve. We’ve seen Bungie change patrol events with expansion releases, but these amount to no more than fighting waves of enemies until a boss appears. I would like to see Bungie apply the design tenants of the Dreadnaught across Earth, the Moon, Venus, and Mars. Give us a reason to return to these familiar locations with the promise of something more than just waiting around for a boss to appear. Patrol rewards could also be reworked, by giving away cosmetics such as the Silent Scream emblem earned from the Ultra Knight hidden on the Dreadnaught.
In terms of bounties, I appreciate that there is little Bungie can do other than adding new types of bounties. That being said, I would like to see longer, almost quest-like bounties, akin to the Court of Oryx bounty from Year 2, or the exotic bounties from Year 1. Perhaps Bungie could introduce a weekly bounty that loosely follows the pattern of a quest, and again redesigned rewards such as emblems and shaders would provide a reason for completing these longer bounty-quests.
Finally, there’s the Nightfall, which has been a constant presence since the beginning of the game. Every week, Guardians run more challenging variations of familial strikes in an effort to obtain missing exotics and for the most part, it has remained unchanged. After two years of the video game equivalent of Live, Die, Repeat, why not change things up. I mentioned a few changes Bungie could make to the Nightfall above, but why not let go of the reigns? Imagine a Mayhem Nightfall, where the modifiers create an experience akin to Mayhem Crucible modes! The Nightfall is no longer a challenging activity, due mostly to the addition of checkpoints, but often the modifiers at play lead to a frustrating, time consuming ‘grind-fest’. I realise this final suggestion is a little ‘pie in the sky’, but Destiny is now two years old, heading into it’s third and final year. As we prepare to say our teary goodbyes before moving onto Destiny 2 why not take the restraints off Bungie and go wild – it’s time to have some fun!
– Improve Year-Long Support –
With Destiny’s second year, Bungie decided to opt against their previous model of releasing paid DLC packs in favour of adopting a micro-transaction model, where the additional revenue would supposedly go towards the development of “more robust and engaging events … [and] to focus on world events, experiences, and feature requests” [Introducing Eververse Trading Company]. Grievously, it is my opinion that they failed to deliver on this promise (I will go into how exactly I think they failed in an upcoming article). That being said, the idea of having events to help maintain player interest is both intriguing and full of potential, not to mention helping with the oft monotonous nature of the game that I lamented earlier.
There are a number of ways Bungie can improve their long term support for their expansions, the easiest of which would be to space content out more evenly – an approach that was somewhat successful with the King’s Fall Raid. For instance, a significant number of players were able to complete the exotic weapon quests and missions within just over a month, but Bungie could have instead released a new exotic weapon every month in order to keep players coming back. Another way Bungie could extend the duration of Destiny, is by periodically updating activities such as Prison of Elders and Court of Oryx/Archon’s Forge by adding new bosses. It was especially miserable to see that Court of Oryx’s roster was exhausted within three weeks, and frustrating to see Bungie effectively abandon the activity for the duration of the year – especially considering it was one of my favourite of The Taken King’s additions. Finally, at the beginning of this paragraph I mentioned the King’s Fall Raid challenges, which did help to displace fatigue with the raid. Sadly, only three challenges were added, and so the fatigue-inducing repetition swiftly returned. As a more diverse range of challenges, especially rotating between a series of different challenges for the same bosses/sections, would be greatly appreciated.
Now, I want to stress that I am not advocating that Bungie withholds swaths of content only to drip feed it to players later. That being said, players can walk away from Destiny for months at a time and come back to the game in the exact same state as they left it. As such, it would be nice to have a meaningful reason to keep coming back to Destiny every few weeks to a month, over the duration of its final year.
Another obvious way for Bungie to increase their year-long support for Rise of Iron, is by releasing a greater range of events, and more complex events. Festival of the Light in particular could do with added layers, as last year the Festival surmounted to little more than grinding for unusable masks (Due to lacking any light value). It would also be nice to see new events from those offered last year. Additionally, Bungie could periodically add new quest-lines, story missions, and strikes, as they did with the April Update. While the Molok quest was certainly the most humdrum addition of the April Update, it was nonetheless a reasonable enough edition. Adding side stories, missions, and/or quests that expand on the core narrative of Rise of Iron have the potential to profoundly increase the expansion’s longevity.
Then, there are the elephants in the room, by which I mean Vault of Glass and Crota’s End. Players have been begging Bungie to bring back the Year 1 raids, and now that players have had a year off coupled with the fact the Destiny is entering its final year, it certainly seems like the right time. Of course, when Rise of Iron launches the focus should be the new raid, but in three months time the concept of revisiting the Vault of Glass sounds more than a little appealing. In addition to bringing back the Year 1 raids, Bungie could add challenge modes akin to King’s Fall challenges to add a new level of strategy to raids that many a player know like the back of their hand.
– Crucible –
Considering Bungie’s previous work on the Halo franchise, the state of PvP in Destiny is quite frankly shocking, especially given that the game has now been on the market for two years. There are a number of systemic problems with Destiny’s Crucible that I will detail in an upcoming article where I review Destiny’s second year, but for now lets focus on where Bungie can improve the game’s PvP suite.
One of the main problems with Destiny’s crucible is the lack of inspiring game modes, and last year I criticised what boiled down to “effectively offering players only two choices between one objective based game mode and variations upon death match.”. Furthermore, I questioned Bungie’s decision to place game modes such as Combined Arms and Salvage on rotation. Thankfully, Bungie have placed Salvage on permanent rotation, and added two new modes; Mayhem and Rift. Even so, the likes of Elimination and Doubles remain on rotation, a decision which remains as baffling as when the same was true for Salvage. Bungie will also be adding a new game mode with Rise of Iron, Supremacy, which will hopefully continue to erode the Crucible’s lack of diverse modes. However, what Destiny is missing most of all, is a signature game mode akin to those that have defined other FPS multiplayer games (Capture the Flag for Halo, Conquest for Battlefield etc.), and I’m not convinced Supremacy will be Destiny’s swansong.
The second major problem that I have with Destiny’s Crucible, is the lack of skill-based matchmaking, in favour of connection-based matchmaking due to the game’s use of peer-to-peer servers (The peer-to-peer servers are also atrocious – that a game with the audience of Destiny doesn’t have dedicated servers is unacceptable, but dedicated servers will sadly have to wait on our Destiny 2 wishlist). The lack of skill-based matchmaking can prove to be frustrating throughout the Crucible, should you are unlucky enough to be matched with players in another league to yourself, but it particularity egregious in Trials of Osiris, where loses are heavily penalised. All too often in Trials of Osiris, you will be matched against a team consisting of players well above your respective skill level, resulting in a frustrating, disheartening blood bath, and preventing players – who if pitched against equivalent peers may be able to secure the necessary number of wins – from ever reaching the Lighthouse. Additionally, players who do reach the Lighthouse may actually be of a lower skill than those who don’t, simply because matchmaking fell in their favour (yes, skill-based matchmaking won’t eradicate the effects of lady luck, but it would certainly help). All in all, Trials is currently a demoralising state of affairs that is stacked too heavily in favour of the game’s most elite players, despite being the closest Destiny comes to the signature mode that I was requesting above.
The final problem that I have with Crucible, is the lack of private matchmaking, which is being added with Rise of Iron (at long last). Even so, it is worth mentioning that Destiny has been lacking private matchmaking for two whole years. In addition to private matchmaking, I would like to see custom matches, by which I mean the ability to set parameters for matches such as preventing the use of supers, or giving guardians unlimited heavy ammo. Mayhem was, and remains, a fantastic way to break from the ebb and flow of the game’ traditional modes, and having to ability to create custom variations of Mayhem, or it’s opposite, Inferno, will add a much needed dimension to Destiny’s PvP offering.
– Quality of Life Updates –
As with any game that players play day-to-day and week-to-week, there are a number of quality of life updates that would remove a number of frustrations. On the top of my list, in terms of these updates, is the ability to reset a Trails of Osiris passage from the menu screen. Trails of Osiris is a taxing and often frustrating enough activity as it is, so after you have suffered the misery of a loss, the last thing you need is a lengthy trip to the Reef just to reset your passage, and often players simply quit trials for the day rather than endure the torture of the game’s loading screens (Also I would love shorter load times – we know it won’t happen, but Bungie can’t stop us from dreaming).
Second on my list is matchmaking for, at the very least, the Nightfall strike. Of all the activities lacking matchmaking, the Nightfall is the least defend-able considering that since the implementation of checkpoints, both the difficulty and the need for a competent fireteam has decreased. I would also like to see a form of matchmaking for patrol, particularly for Archon’s Forge (Rise of Iron’s Court of Oryx equivalent). One of the baffling elements of Court of Oryx was the lack of matchmaking, considering it is an activity designed to be completed with other players, and not even necessarily players who you are acquainted with. As such, when attempting to complete Court of Oryx I occasionally found myself flying to the Dreadnaught, finding no one was participating in Court of Oryx, orbiting, and repeating the process until I found a group of partaking players. Then of course, there is the contentious issue of matchmaking for raids…
Next up, I would like to see a similar solution to the shader, emblem, and blueprint kiosks for legendary – specifically raid and raid-equivalent – weapons and armour tracking. Regardless of whether or not the weapon or armour piece is any good, deleting a piece of raid gear just doesn’t feel right. As such, I have a vault packed to the brim with raid gear dating all the way back to the Vault of Glass, and I know that I’m not the only one with this problem. A number of systems could be employed, from a carbon copy of the exotic blueprint kiosks, to a kiosk that simply tracks the gear you have earned without allowing you to purchase said gear.
Speaking of the vault, there’s a number of updates that would be of benefit; such as the ability to sort and search weapons, armour and equipment, the ability to delete items straight from the vault, and additional vault space would always be welcome. Other updates I would like to see, include removing the caps on glimmer and legendary marks, adding the grimoire cards to the game, increasing inventory slots on characters, and infinite material stacks as opposed to the stacks of 200 units.
What is somewhat concerning when thinking about the seven suggestions above, is how eerily identical they are to the updates I felt Bungie needed to make to Destiny a year ago with The Taken King. Bungie has made significant improvements to Destiny – evolving the originally mediocre experience into a far more pertinent one – and yet for all of that the game is still plagued with familial issues. Perhaps then, I should conclude that Destiny will forever be at the mercy of systemic issues. Thankfully, but also infuriatingly, these systemic issues are not the by-product of a game contraindicated from reaching excellence, but are instead a byproduct of Bungie’s hubris. Time and time again Bungie have delivered an experience curated towards their own controlled preferences, failing to appreciate the reality experienced by the day-to-day players, and consequently they have had to correct a litany of mistakes. However, they have corrected a number of mistakes, and are showing both a greater level of competence and understanding for their game as it exists in its player’s reality, as opposed to their own conceit – which gives me great hope for the future of the game. Destiny is a great game, but it has the potential to be excellent – hopefully Rise of Iron is another step towards making said potential, a reality.
So what changes would you like Rise of Iron to bring to Destiny? Be sure to comment below, and check out the range of Destiny articles on Ground Punch embedded below. Finally, Ground Punch is launching a new Destiny-centric podcast, with the first episode releasing in the near future. On the inaugural episode, we list the activities in Rise of Iron we can’t wait to sink our teeth into, and what we want from the new raid, so be sure to keep an eye (ear maybe?) out for when it goes live!