For those of you out there who have been playing Destiny for some time, you may have been frustrated with the leveling system employed by the game. For those of you not in the know, in order to reach a level beyond 20, Guardians had to collect gear with varying amounts of Light. The higher the Light value on a piece of gear, the higher the level your Guardian would be. This created a twofold effect, one which was good for Destiny, and one which wasn’t so pleasant for the players keeping the game alive.
Having players seek out the specific pieces they needed in order to obtain that elusive light added a lot of replayability to Destiny. Reaching level 20 was your typical RPG grind (kill enemies, complete mission, do side stuff, etc.), which was straightforward but didn’t give much incentive to replay the end game challenges for those not really interested in Exotics or rare Legendaries. This created a sort of problem for Destiny‘s longevity. Getting from level 1-20 wasn’t exactly challenging, so how do you slow that down without just adding ridiculous XP requirements? Loot that was rare and needed tens of hours (in some cases, hundreds) of game time before you could stand proudly in the social areas with your maxed out level displayed proudly above you.
The problem this caused for the millions of people who play Destiny is that it unknowingly removed one of the most important aspects of social RPGs from the game: identity. When most individuals play an RPG they tend to mold their avatars to their liking. Since the level system so rigidly required that you were fully outfitted with items from a relatively small collection most players looked exactly the same (save for the variation offered by some shaders). This lent to the game feeling less like a proper social RPG experience, and more like a grind fest to see who could get those pieces first because everyone knew that most people would have to wear them eventually.
Bungie is finally doing away with this system with the arrival of The Taken King expansion coming this September. What will be taking its place is the same system used from level 1-20 along with an increased level cap that will bring Guardians to level 40 in The Taken King. From start to finish, players will be able to increase in level (and power) simply by playing the game normally. Beating the story missions, completing side quests, and participating in other game modes will no longer be just a gamble that may or may not get you that piece of gear that you need in order to move on to bigger challenges.
This is not to say that gear will no longer have a part in the dynamics of Destiny. As in any RPG, gear and weapons are just as integral as a Guardian’s level and stats. The only major change is that you’ll no longer have to be pressured to hunt down gear for the sake of earning experience. That is something that isn’t fun, and it turns out that it was something that the developers never intended. The fact that they’ve recognized this shows great signs.
For starters, this proves that they not only care about thee player experiences within Destiny, but that they also listen to feedback. The sudden halt in progress once players hit the soft level cap of 20 was not well-received. It made the game seem as if it didn’t respect the time and hard work put into the game. To make matters worse was the randomness added to the uncalled for grind. Tying such a critical component of the growing process in a game that necessitates growth to something that is completely out of the player’s control (something directly addressed by creative director Luke Smith).
But listening is much less impressive than change. It’s difficult to change a game that is already out in the wild, something that many of us fans tend to forget. It requires a lot of technical work, as well as finding that balance between adjusting the core experience and not upsetting your audience (much easier said than done), you only need to take a look at the reactions to the upcoming weapons balancing to see that. Yet, Bungie moved forward with its decision to do right by Destiny’s player base.
What makes this move so, for lack of a better word, right is that it brings us to a point where we’re able to see the vision the developer team has for this game. They always stated how this would be a living game, one that grows and changes with the players that inhabit it, but up until this time, it seemed to many that the changes benefited only a very vocal few (not that this is definitely the case). Bungie has seen a problem that broke the freedom they hoped to create for players, and have used the living nature of Destiny to rectify that problem. While many games are content with only fixing graphical hiccups, or adding a chest, Destiny is essentially transforming the entire way the game can be approached. It is opening up the options for players who maybe don’t want to repeat the same strike over and over, and run a raid three times a week.
For all of its faults and the disappointment levied against it, Destiny has been taking steps towards becoming a game well-worth its mettle over the past few months, and that has helped to keep this title relevant long after its initial release. Now, The Taken King will be a much better experience for veterans and new comers alike. There are still more things that should be done down the line, but for now Bungie has renewed faith that they are heading in the right direction.
What’s your take on the new leveling system? Are you happy? Planning on hitting the new level cap as soon as The Taken King releases? Feel free to let us know in the comments below.