The video game Destiny has been an intriguing experiment to watch progress. The game is equal parts a Halo-style mythic sci-fi adventure and first person shooter; a massive competitive multiplayer game (also in the vein of Halo); and a uniquely designed open-world MMORPG that allows for players to continuously revisit various missions and activities within the game (often ad nauseam), in order to upgrade their character’s ranking, weapons, armor and abilities.
This MMOFPSRPG structure to Destiny has allowed publisher Activision and developer Bungie (the original makers of Halo) to pursue a goal that console gaming has yet to achieve on the level of its PC cousin: A game that is constantly expanding and evolving through new downloadable content, rather than having to craft an entirely new “Part 2” or “Part 3” installments in order to offer players a new and improved experience in the same franchise universe. As with most experiments, it has been far from a flawless and smooth success for Bungie; however, unlike most experiments, Bungie seems to have allowed for more mistakes – not fewer – when unrolling its third and most extensive (read: expen$ive) Destiny expansion, The Taken King.
For those who are not familiar, here’s the quick version of the story:
Since being released to Xbox and PlayStation consoles last September, Destiny has become a major hit for Bungie, and has managed to stay relevant in the fast-turnover world of gaming by releasing two big DLC packages, The Dark Below (released in December 2014) and The House of Wolves (released on May 19th). While it added new story missions, strikes, raids, multiplayer combat maps and other such rewards, The Dark Below was admittedly an expansion of the narrative content of the game, focused on the saga of Crota, dark god of The Hive (one of the four enemy species in the game).
Conversely, House of Wolves has offered a major gameplay overhaul for Destiny (much less so on a narrative front), as it has revamped a lot of the leveling-up, activities, combat, and general gameplay issues that were heavily criticized at the time of initial release, and have continued to be a problem throughout Destiny‘s evolution. Speaking as someone who recently purchased it, House of Wolves is a much-needed improvement that really hints at the potential for Destiny to be continuously renewed through DLC expansions.
The Taken King Controversy
The Taken King, the third Destiny DLC expansion, is due out on September 15, 2015. The storyline for this third expansion will almost be a sequel to Dark Below (narratively speaking), as Oryx, father of Crota, seeks to avenge his son’s death. Like House of Wolves, Taken King will also overhaul some the weaponry, missions, gameplay, and activities offered within the game, adding new subsets to the three main classes of playable characters (hunters, titans and warlocks), complete with new special abilities. From all accounts, it should be the biggest DLC expansion yet.
…The only issue is: how players will pay, in order to play.
Officially announced at E3 2015, Taken King will cost players who bought the original Destiny game ($60), as well as The Dark Below ($20) and House of Wolves ($20) expansions (or together in the Destiny Expansion Pass for $35), an additional $40 to get The Taken King DLC expansion. Longtime players know this drill by now (if you’ve played games like Call of Duty or Halo that have big DLC releases, you’ve been here before), so if the content is right, an additional $40 on top of the $100 they’ve already potentially paid for the “full Destiny experience” won’t be that crazy.
Those who have yet to jump onboard the Destiny bandwagon have an even better deal: with the release of The Taken King they can the Destiny “Legendary Edition” for $60, which contains the original version, Dark Below, House of Wolves and Taken King all in one place. Since the original game will be a year old by then, and the first two DLCs more than half a year old, it’s actually a fine price point at $60 to get a mix of a lot of old, and some new, if you’re a new payer.
But not all of the particulars of this Taken King release are as fair and balanced in gamers’ minds. Kotaku has a run down of why Destiny gamers are feeling a little bit upset right now – in regards to some of the terms of Taken King’s release – and it boils down to these points:
- There are four ways to buy The Taken King. The standard digital download version that gives you the third DLC expansion ($40), and the “Legendary Edition” game disc with the original game and ALL THREE DLC updates ($60) both seem okay and fair. However, the “Collector’s Edition” game disc ($80) and digital Collector’s edition ($80) both require players to re-purchase the original Destiny game and first two DLC expansions as well, in order to gain access to new content exclusive to these two Collector’s Editions. These include new guns, emotes, and armor shadings.
- Even though the physical copy of the Collector’s Editions rewards players with a special metal case and some exclusive artwork, at double the price, a lot of gamers see both of these “collector’s editions” as thin bells and whistles meant to justify a cash-grab.
- A lot of players felt it unfair that they be required to pay the full $80 fee for these new collector’s edition exclusives, rather than being able to pay ‘a la carte’ for Taken King downloadable vanity items like armor shadings and emotes.
- In an interview with Eurogamer, Taken King creative director Luke Smith further enraged fans by being somewhat cavalier about their concerns over being railroaded into overpaying for their Destiny upgrades. Smith talked up how awesome things like the new emotes will be – but needless to say, players are still skeptical (even though Smith later apologized).
- Fan skepticism hasn’t been helped by a Red Bull promotional campaign that offers them a new Destiny: Taken King quest activity – but only if they buy a Red Bull.
With a growing collective voice of dissent about the pitfalls of The Taken King release plan, Bungie has been on damage control since E3. In what is now a classic pattern for Destiny, the game developer is quickly trying to restore balance to what might have been an initially off-balance vision. After Smith’s words sparked fan fire (fueled by Red Bull™), Bungie took to its official website, offering players this revised offer for The Taken King digital download:
We’re actively working to make the digital content from the Collector’s Edition available in a $20 upgrade bundle (suggested retail price), available on 9/15/2015. If you purchase a stand-alone version of Destiny: The Taken King, or already have, you’ll be able to pick up the digital items as soon as they are available.
If you have decided to pick up the Legendary Edition of Destiny: The Taken King at retail, you can also elect to pick this up if you want to upgrade into a Collector’s Edition.
If you purchased the existing Digital Collector’s Edition, and you already owned Destiny and both expansion packs, we’ll have some additional information for you soon.
So there you have it: those emotes or shadings or weapons that may have coerced some people into buying the $80 collector’s editions (containing stuff they already own) now have a different – more fair – option. Experienced players who own both previous expansions (or reached level 30 with their character in year one) will also get a small bonus items including a new sparrow, armor shade and emblem. If you want that new quest though… better crack a Red Bull.
As ever, the Destiny experiment continues to unfold, with all of the innovation, missteps and fixes that have, are, and will continue to go along with it. For now, it seems like Bungie is at least trying to keep player experience and satisfaction in mind alongside their desire to reap more payout from their game. Their apology is to charge in other ways. That’s about as fair balance that can be expected, I guess. At least we got this out of the situation:
The real test will be how the gameplay mechanics and satisfaction levels once again shift with the arrival of The Taken King. I’m just keeping fingers crossed that everything actually works as it should. Those early, bug-filled days of Destiny are surely something Bungie wants people to forget…
Destiny: The Taken King will be released in standard download, collector’s edition download, and both “Collector’s” and “Legendary” game disc editions on September 15, 2015.