DAY FOUR (Day)
I've finally finished the main story missions, and I must say they were pretty damn intense. The level of difficulty is set reasonably high, and it took me about an afternoon to blast my way through the final set of missions solo, but I enjoyed them greatly. The tension and level of challenge builds quite gradually until the final few bosses, where you're really up against it.
What I did find – and it's something that I had difficulty with in vanilla Destiny – is that the game rewards patience and conservatism while fighting. If you're starting to run low on health, no matter what the circumstances, it's best to retreat and recharge before continuing the battle. Quite a few times I stood still just a little too long so I could get in a few extra shots on a boss, and was punished for that – which is what I also kept on doing last year. So I switched tactics and instead I'd get in a few shots, run to new location, get my bearings, and plan my next assault. Oh, and whenever any adds appeared, I'd make those my priority and take them out as quickly as possible.
This is beginning to sound like a hints and tips piece, but what I'm trying to do is describe the kind of fights you're faced with at the end of The Taken King. They're definitely protracted, but they're still fun. It's hard to put my finger on why I enjoyed these encounters more than I did the ones in Destiny 1.0, but I think they just feel more exciting and dynamic. While The Taken King's big set pieces are similar in style to last year's game, they require much more maneuvering and a little more strategy this time out. I've talked about this before, but last year I felt all I was doing was wearing down a boss through attrition – by finding a few safe spots, running between them and unloading round after round. You can’t really do that in The Taken King, and you need to be a lot more mobile – it's more about hit-and-run tactics than stick-and-shoot.
Once I'd completed the main storyline, I moved onto several endgame missions, and I'm happy to report that they continue to be engaging and entertaining. Again, there's a good deal of variety in terms of them mixing up game mechanics, with a balance of exploration, intense firefights and unique challenges – such as having to work against the clock to pick up resources that you can only hold for a limited period of time.
The other thing I like is that now I understand my place in the scheme of things – last year much of the story went in one ear and out the other – I find I'm more interested in what I'm doing, and it doesn't just feel like an exercise. It feels much more like I'm fighting my own part of a greater war, and because of that, I'm just more into it. Indeed, now I've finished the main story, I'm looking up what to do next, how I should spend all the resources I've collected, and generally figuring out what else the game has to offer.
Indeed, having to research everything is probably one of the biggest criticisms I have of the game. While the general gameplay has been much improved, and the storyline is a quantum leap ahead of where it was a year ago, Destiny: The Taken King is still a complex game with a myriad of currencies, gear and factions. The game doesn't do a particularly good job of telling you what they're all about, and which ones you should be concentrating on, so you have to rely on doing your own research to figure out what to do. It feels like an old-school MMO in that sense, where everything is laid out for the player, but without much in the way of in-game help to guide you along.
Still, it's that complexity that gives the game its long-term appeal, and in a way you can't have one without the other – I just wish the game gave you a few more effective pointers as to who you should be speaking to, and where you should be going next (beyond the immediate endgame story missions).
DAY FOUR (Night)
I played an extended session of PvP and finally hit level 40. Leveling has been pretty easy on the whole, and I think Bungie has gotten it right this time, particularly after the original Destiny's somewhat slow leveling process. By the time I hit the end of the main story I was 39, without taking much in the way of detours apart from a few games of PvP here and there. I'm certainly happy with my progress. It's helped the game feel rewarding and not a grind at all.
The more PvP I play, the more I've been enjoying it. It's a tough environment to go into if you're unfamiliar with the way the game works, and it certainly took me a good few games to get up to speed again, but once you get used to the fast-paced cadence of the action, you begin to adopt the right tactics to survive. The most useful and fundamental of which is be patient and don't go running at enemy players (because you can easily be one-shot by a fusion rifle or shotgun).
I like the PvP zones a lot. They're a varied bunch, and deliver a really good mix of environments, from tight, almost claustrophobic maps to ones that feel open and have the potential for long-range firefights. Because of that, PvP feels like it has a good degree of variety, and doesn’t just reward one type of tactic while playing. To thrive in PvP, you really have to understand where you are and how to best exploit the environment you've been thrown into, perhaps using a sniper rifle in areas where you have more space to move around in, or switching to a shotgun for maps that promote tighter, more close-quarter combat.
I've been playing strikes today, and once again, The Taken King has really delivered in terms of entertainment. Since I've been playing the game solo, I've relied on the matchmaking service to put me together with other players, and it's worked really well so far. The three missions I've tried were all quite challenging and very hectic, but my teammates and I were successful at all of them. One in particular involved fighting in almost total darkness, and that was really exciting.
I can definitely see myself getting more into these as I start to progress into the endgame. Overall, these fights are pitched pretty well in terms of difficulty, and as long as you prioritize reviving downed teammates, wearing down the big bosses is just like the rest of the game – a bit of patience and not being afraid of retreating to recharge will see you eventually prevail.
I've certainly enjoyed everything the game has thrown at me so far, and my plan is to continue to play through it this evening, and be back tomorrow to sum up my review with a conclusion.