After the April update, Destiny feels like home again after a long and occasionally arduous journey. Best of all, along with all the lapsed Guardians, the laughter has returned too.
Destiny was in a very strange place from the start of this year. Its End Game content was as good as expired; we had 'been there, done that' 1000s of times and even after such a mighty effort many of us were falling short of the Light 320 level cap, and that felt downright unfair. Instead of Destiny being the tantalising time sink we once loved, it became an agonising prospect for the evening ahead. Without a second thought, thousands of players deserted Destiny for The Division; hungry for an opportunity to experience progress in the company of friends against new enemies.
Almost begrudgingly, we're back to check things out. And, congrats to Bungie, this is good times.
In truth, the new PvE content - a new mission, Strike and Prison of Elders variation - provides little to write home about. It's better to be up front about this before getting into what has really worked with this spring clean. The mission 'Pretender to the Throne' is completely unremarkable, a relaxed A to B jog on the Dreadnaught that crashes a Taken party at the end. It's over before it's even begun. The new 'Blighted Chalice' Strike, concluding the 'At the Gates' Quest chain, brings us face to face with the Taken boss Malok, pretty much a Taken-ised repeat of The Shrine of Oryx story mission.
Also (initially anyway) disappointing: the new Prison of Elders played at Level 41 and 42 doesn't present much of a challenge for experienced players. Weirdly, this week, the Level 42 trio of bosses are easier to flatten than the five-round Level 41. As with the new Story and Strike, we're overly familiar with the behaviour of new targets that include Keksis, the Betrayed and Sylok, the Defiled.
And so, after that little bitch and moan, why are we now having such a great time here? Basically, Destiny has started paying out; everyone is enjoying the purple patch. Owing to a logical, and fair, levelling system tied to better loot that drops according to current Light level, absolutely everything (caveat: excepting The Vault of Glass and Crota's End Raids, sigh) is worth pursuing.
There are still great big mountains to climb, namely Trials of Osiris and Hard Mode King's Fall Raid, But the road to Light 335 is now viable across all modes of play, with reputation gains increased for all activities. Heck, even going on Patrol is now worth it to complete those inchmeal objectives.
After 2.2.0 Destiny now has a much clearer structure in terms of activities locked behind difficulty gates. The new Level 41 Prison of Elders is recommended Light 260, giving new Guardians a bite at something real, but if you want to take a run at the Level 42 Challenge PoE, it's Light 320 and the same goes for the Weekly Nightfall Strike. This week's Nightfall, which amps up the Blighted Chalice, is paced as an unforgiving though tactically intriguing gauntlet that feels satisfying to conquer.
So much of our progress in Destiny: The Taken King before 2.2.0, was tied to near impossible, proven mathematically improbable, gains from running the Hard Mode King's Fall Raid. It was either that, or repeatedly charging hopelessly into the Trials of Osiris knowing that at Round 5 you'd know the truth (and for most of us this meant 'sucks to be you'). Now, with renewed sense of pride and in all kinds of ways based purely on the enjoyment of the game, all Guardians pouring time into Destiny get to reap their rewards and to know that this all leads to Light 335. End Game content is still a school of hard knocks, but the transition from noob to potential champion is far less painful and divisive.
The key is this: "Infusion will now grant 100% of the Light from the infused item." Knowing that Light 327 items acquired from faction packages boost same type gear to exactly that same level suddenly makes every compatible piece of equipment attractive. You can grab any exotic weapon or armour blueprint and bring it right up to your current maximum spec as soon as an item drops for you, and the fact that this happens so much more often owing to increased reputation gains throws your options wide open when choosing armour sets and load-outs. Time constraints used to force many players to throw on the best gear available, just to take part competitively in Iron Banner and Trials of Osiris, or to form a solid foundation of a Hard Mode Raid team. With the crazy RNG combined with painfully incremental levelling now gone, we can all focus on helpful gear attributes. Work is still cut out in terms of acquiring the coolest looking and/or performing gear, but it's sensible now.
Knowing that we'll all get to 335 somehow takes so much of the pressure off, lightening the mood without discrediting our time and effort. Skill is a bonus, not a requirement for participation. Team strength is still necessary to apply the mechanics of a Raid or claim victory in the Crucible. Some of us may never, ever reach the Lighthouse or complete the Oryx Challenge. It's just that our chances of doing so are now both fair and realistic, and not cheaply acquired by any means. Arguably the worst thing Bungie ever did to Destiny was plying Guardians with Light 34 armour simply by showing up at Variks' door every week. This mocked everyone that had worked so hard beforehand, and channelled 1000s of clueless Guardians into End Game activities for which they were unprepared. Update 2.2.0 is not that situation at all. This April update has been the unifying, uplifting attention that Destiny was crying out for. To reinstate the Vault of Glass might've been too much to ask...