Yesterday at E3, Jason and I had a chance to play a bit of the next expansion for Destiny, a game showcased at trade shows across the galaxy for journalists who secretly wish they were home playing Destiny.
We didn't get to play all that much, but what we played was pretty good. We worked through the opening level of an unfinished build of the game, shot some aliens, activated some new super abilities, and spent more time carefully studying the menus than Bungie's reps were probably comfortable with. We'll have more on the game soon, but for now, we thought we'd quickly sit down and jot down some of our impressions. Here goes.
Kirk Hamilton: We're here in our E3 hotel room, eating breakfast and drinking coffee, and it's time to talk about Destiny. It will be interesting to do one of these chats while you and I are sitting at the same table in real life.
Jason Schreier: IRL vgchatz! Sort of like how it was weird to be playing Destiny while sitting next to each other in real life. I saw that you wiped, so, uh, that's pretty embarrassing.
Kirk: Hey, whatever, I was playing a Titan with a totally different super. I thought my melee would maybe give me an overshield of some sort, but instead it made my enemy just sort of explode. So ok, let's go over what we played, and what we're gonna talk about. We played the first level of the just-announced The Taken King expansion, which is coming to Destiny in September. Then we talked to Bungie's Luke Smith for a while. First, what we played. It was a short demo, but pretty cool, right?
Jason: Yeah, it was very interesting and cinematic and unlike any other Destiny story mission. It carried on a lot of the lessons they seemed to have learned in House of Wolves. Instead of just running through corridors and deploying ghost to open doors, you're on this new moon — Phobos — and as soon as you land, shit is getting fucked up. Cabal are dying everywhere, ships are exploding, time-space rifts are opening... it's crazy. And you get to hear more from Lance Reddick!
Kirk: We were running through corridors, but the corridors had lots of neat new corridor-dressing. We landed at a space station, and went inside to find that something was ripping holes in the fabric of reality and stealing Cabal soldiers — which was kinda cool, since we're so used to just shooting those guys, but here the were just as outmanned as we were.
And, yeah, pleasant surprise to have Commander Zavala, the Titan vanguard guy, walking us through the quest. I hope we get to hear him say "SEPIKS PRIME" again in that stentorian way of his. It seems like Bungie's kept the House of Wolves thing going, where you have two people talking to one another on your radio — this mission it was Zavala and Eris Morn from The Dark Below. He even got off a joke about what a weirdo she is. Nice that they're fleshing out the characters they have already introduced, rather than trying to introduce more.
Jason: Yeah, and no more Ghost! I actually asked Luke Smith if we'd ever hear from Peter Dinklage again, but alas, he wouldn't answer. No deploying Ghost to open doors in this mission, either. But I think what people really want to hear about are the new classes: so what'd you think of the Titan's flame hammer?
Kirk: It was pretty cool. Sort of like a combination Golden Gun + Warlock Radiance. You ignite and pop out to third-person, then can toss these flaming hammers that arc toward their target and explode. The new Titan class is like a Sunsinger in a few different ways — I didn't have access to all of the abilities, but I got to try a few. Titans will now have a fusion grenade, the better for sticking and popping people in PvP, and another grenade that plants itself in the ground and periodically launches bursts of fire in a wave straight forward. Seems like it will be useful for Control matches, at the very least. You played as a Warlock; how was it being Palpatine?
Jason: Hilarious — so when you activate the Warlock Stormcaller's new super, you go into Saiyan mode, also popping to third-person so your character can float around zapping people with lightning bolts. The controls take some getting used to — you have to target and fire in third-person, like when you're using a scorch cannon or hive sword — but it seems really cool.
Kirk: We haven't had a chance to try the new Hunter void class, but it sounds interesting. I guess there's a smoke grenade that blinds opponents like a flashbang or Helm of Saint-14? Nice that another class will get abilities that do that. We also fought some new enemies, who also had new powers. The "Taken" are versions of all of the other races in the game who have been husked out and claimed by Oryx, the new boss. I know that some of them were shooting fire at me, which threw me off — I was expecting bullets, and suddenly there was this AOE fire attack happening? I don't quite have a feel for how different these enemies will be.
Jason: Yeah, Luke Smith was saying they will all have different abilities — they're taken, after all. By the Taken King. And Oryx isn't just the new boss — he's the father of Crota, who Destiny players will remember as the guy we defeated with the power of LAN cables. Oryx is pissed. He wants his revenge. And he's got wifi.
Kirk: He actually made a cameo in the demo we played, and it was… a little cheesy? Like, he yelled at my character in regular old english, he was like "RAAAAH YOU KILLED MY SON AND I AM MAD!" I remember Crota sounding more alien and terrifying, kinda like you'd expect a god to. Whatever, I guess it's still an early version. Maybe they will recast Peter Dinklage as Oryx.
So let's see… I'm guessing lots of Destiny players are wondering what else we noticed that was new. We banged around in the menus and saw a few things: For starters, our characters had twenty (20!) bounty slots. Solid upgrade! The screen said 16, but you counted (good job Jason) and there were actually 20. Which could mean anything, and it could all change by the time the expansion comes out. But on the version we played: Way more bounty slots.
Jason: Yeah, which is rad. And the items had crazy perks like "Agility +3 for 5 seconds after Void double kill." The Bungie dudes there told us the item stats were all placeholders, but it seemed like they were experimenting a lot. Even the bonds had talents — the Warlock Bond on my demo character had "Increase upgrade rate on autorifles" and a perk that increased your Vanguard rep gain. Craziness!
Kirk: Another thing I really liked, especially after spending so much time lately focusing on my stats, was that the armour we had gave the opportunity to choose which stat it increased. You could choose between a perk that said, "This armour raises Strength" or go with a second perk below it, which would raise discipline. I only saw two possible stat-types on each piece of armour, though, and don't know how that will affect (or replace?) split-stat armour. It's still a great idea, and should make it much easier to customise your armour to your playstyle and get the kind of stats you want, depending on what you're currently doing.
Jason: Also, more importantly, the gear we saw didn't have armour/light upgrades: just perks. It appears that Bungie wants you to be able to use whichever armour you want without worrying about how it will affect your level — and they don't want you to have to grind out light anymore.
Kirk: Which tracks, given how upgrades work in House of Wolves. Unclear how exotics will work, though, whether we'll still have to level those up normally like we do now. It was funny — the build we played was in development, so lots of the stats on the armour and guns didn't make sense. Like, our guns did 34 damage (!!), and the ammo perks just said "you can carry more ammo" without specifying a weapon type. The Bungie reps in the room were sure to say that everything was in development.
Oh, another new addition: A "progress" tab to the left, between your inventory and roster, where you can track all bounties, mission progress, and faction standing. If I had to guess, I'd say that story missions won't occupy bounty slots anymore, and between that and the (hopefully!) expanded bounty slots in the finished version, we'll be able to keep a lot of ongoing missions/bounties/etc. at once.
Jason: One of the things we talked about with Smith was the Thorn bounty — the epic, multi-stage quest that results in you getting one of the best PVP weapons in the game — and how cool and rewarding it is. It sounds like he wants to do a lot more stuff like that in Taken King and beyond.
Kirk: Yeah, I got the sense that they want to put in a lot more quests where you're working toward some known reward, and the story of how you get the gun/armour/thing is interesting and rewarding. Which sounds good and makes sense with the way they're doing rewards in House of Wolves, though the exotic bounty in House of Wolves is nowhere near as cool as the ones in Vanilla destiny, particularly Thorn.
So we're going to go more in-depth with our interview with Smith later, but… any more impressions of the stuff we played?
Jason: It was short! It was the intro mission for Taken King — I think they were calling it "The Coming War" — and it was basically just drop in, fight dudes, kill a boss, and then evacuate to your ship. That last part is new, and kinda disconcerting since in Destiny you can just go to orbit from anywhere, but hey. I'm excited to see what else they do with story missions, especially after House of Wolves. Presumably this one will have a lot more.
Kirk: I did get the sense that when it comes down to it, it will still be "more Destiny." As cool as the heightened atmosphere and dramatic in-game story stuff was… well, that will be less cool the twentieth time I clear that same mission as the daily heroic. So yeah, neat, but not enough to get much of a sense of what the actual expansion will be like. That said, House of Wolves gave the impression that Bungie is listening to fans and learning from their mistakes, and from everything we saw (and later, most of what Smith was saying), I got the same sense from Taken King.
You and I are still going to go try PvP at some point, too. It sounds like there are two new modes, one that's like capture the flag with a single "flag" and two goals, and one that's basically team clash with everyone's cooldowns sped way up. Both sound pretty fun, though the super-fest that will ensue from that second mode could get exhausting. At any rate, we'll doubtless have more about The Taken King soon.
Jason: Yeah, and every single hardcore Destiny player knows that what we really care about in TTK isn't the story: it's the raid. Which... we know very little about. It will be on the Dreadnaught hive ship, and it will pit us against Oryx, and it will be... big! Luke Smith shared a BIT on what they're aiming for — not a ton, but some interesting thoughts — which we'll post at some point in the next few days.
Kirk: It definitely reminded me how much I want to do more Destiny raiding. So, yeah, look for more soon. For now, time to go to the show floor and wreck some unsuspecting suckers at PvP. Better have some coffee first, though.
Jason: Coffee and Thorns.
Kirk: A match made in heaven.