I’ve been playing Destiny so much and for so long that the prospect of Bungie making even the most minute changes to the game fills me with anticipation.
Sometimes, in small weekly updates, the developers give certain guns a slight boost in attack power, or take power away from others, or fix some small bug. That excites me.
This week during E3, the year’s biggest gaming convention, I played part of a brand new Destiny story mission that will be included in the Sept. 15 “The Taken King” expansion. I also played a brand new player-versus-player crucible mode. They were both fantastic.
But the changes coming in “The Taken King” fill me with dread.
The story mission kicks off the new content with a visit to Phobos (one of Mars’s two moons) to investigate a distress signal emitted by one of the game’s alien races, the Cabal. Players have killed millions of these idiots, but Commander Zavala—voiced by Lance Reddick of The Wire, Lost and John Wick fame—wants to know what has them shook up. It turns out Oryx, the father of the big bad guy players killed (over and over again) in the game’s first expansion back in December, is infecting our enemies with capital-“D” Darkness, giving them more power and abilities and turning them into his slaves.
The mission is in a new location, shows off new enemies with brand new attacks and powers, and has a really great sense of scale, with cool set pieces like falling elevators and a space battle going on overhead. These are all features that Destiny has never had enough of.
The writing has improved as well. Everyone who played the game’s first expansion, “The Dark Below,” knows that Eris Morn, the main new character it added, is a total weirdo who says ridiculous shit like “TELL ME WHAT CROTA LOOKED LIKE WHEN HE DIED.”
Eris is still around spouting nonsense in your ear in “The Taken King,” but now Zavala slings wisecracks back her way. The fact that Bungie is letting another character in Destiny acknowledge how dumb Eris is feels validating, like the writers are admitting they’ve messed up in the past, and they want to do better going forward.
The new multiplayer modes, too, are a step forward. I played Rift, a mode like reverse Capture the Flag (if you played any Halo multiplayer, you’ll find it’s more similar to the Assault game type). A “spark” appears in the middle of a map, and each team rushes to grab it. Once you have it, you beeline for your opponents’ base, where you slam dunk the spark to earn points. You get extra “style points” if you do it while moving backward, which adds a fun twist.
This new objective mode provides a nice counterpoint to the other new mode, Mayhem, which speeds up the cool-down on all your special abilities, including devastating “Super” moves, to create chaos on the battlefield. “The Taken King” gives each character type a new subclass to level up with a new super—they’re totally devastating and awesome—and Mayhem is the perfect mode in which to test them out.
So what is it that has me so worried?
“The Taken King” will introduce dozens, if not hundreds, of new weapons and bits of gear to Destiny. The ones I used at E3 were all varied in appearance and stats, with some cool new perks and capabilities. There were even new class-specific items, like Hunters’ cloaks and Warlocks’ arm bands, that actually provided bonuses instead of being purely cosmetic.
Basically, there’s going to be a lot of new shit to hunt for and collect in “The Taken King.” But if you’ve been playing Destiny for any substantial amount of time, you already have all the weapons and gear you can hold—and you’re probably pretty attached to it.
Bungie’s mantra when it comes to Destiny loot has always been that they want each player to have a story for every unique piece of gear they have. And given how parsimonious Destiny can be with its loot, that’s actually often been the case. I still remember how and when I got my Ice Breaker and my Gjallarhorn and my Suros Regime, not to mention my Felwinter’s Lie, my Deadshot Luna and my old school hand cannon, The Devil You Know.
I’m attached to these guns. They’re my trophies and my tools. And they’re all probably going to be obsolete once the new expansion arrives.
With the last expansion, the excellent “House of Wolves,” Bungie gave players the ability to level all their guns and gear up to the highest stats possible in “Year 1.” “The Taken King” marks the beginning of Year 2, and everything could change after that. Everything will change, I’m guessing.
I noticed something weird when I was playing the new content at E3: the guns’ attack stats had been replaced by “light levels” similar to what armor has now. So instead of being Attack Level 365, the new weapons were Light Level 34. But those stats were only placeholders. Bungie told anyone who asked: this is not what “The Taken King”’s gear will ultimately look like.
The “Light” system—where you could only get your characters higher than level 20 by equipping specific armor—never made much sense, and I won’t be surprised if Bungie does away with it entirely. Whatever the new stuff looks like, though, it will likely leave the old stuff in the dust.
I’ve played for hundreds of hours and amassed a huge collection of rare loot—gear and weapons that I’m admittedly way too attached to, although I’d argue that’s Bungie’s fault. And yes, I’m eager for more new content, for old enemies to attack in new ways, for new exotic guns and armor to pine after, and new missions to play over and over.
But the thought of all my precious, beloved guns rusting away unused, forgotten for shinier toys, rattles me worse than anything Oryx could possibly dish out. It’s something Bungie needs to figure out, and I get the feeling that even with all they’ve learned in working on Destiny, they might still screw this one up.
I’ll keep playing either way, but it would be great to be wrong on this one.
Mike Rougeau is Playboy.com’s Gaming Editor, in charge of all things video games but mostly concerned with maxing his Destiny characters. He lives in Los Angeles with his girlfriend and two dogs. Follow him on Twitter @RogueCheddar.