Taking Story to a Whole New Level

Published on: Aug 10, 2015 @ 18:12

Game Informer continues their month-long coverage of Destiny: The Taken King! Today they focus on story, and how that’s been improved with this release.

Story Revamp

You know all of those things that annoyed you about Destiny? Bungie’s aware of them. In addition to revamping the game’s leveling system for The Taken King and a host of other changes, the developers are “pivoting” from how they’ve conveyed Destiny’s story in the past. With a reinvigorated focus on quest givers and cutscenes sprinkled throughout the experience, The Taken King is hoping to tell a focused and direct story for fans of Bungie’s universe.

Well, it wasn’t as revolutionary as the deluge of info we got when the cover story was published – but sometimes a small and reassuring reminder that our optimism isn’t misplaced is just as meaningful as pure “hype”. Today, Gameinformer’s update brought us an interview with Bungie Devs Luke Smith and  Mark Noseworthy on all of the “little things” Bungie is doing to reinvent Storytelling for Destiny.

We got to see a few precious clips of some gameplay from TTK, including a look at what we think is the No Time To Explain Exotic Pulse Rifle, and the Arc damage, lightning-casting Exotic Auto Rifle mentioned in Gameinformer’s first press release.

no time to explain exotic

Luke and Mark agree early on that story, for all of the snide jabs at its implementation, is a pivotal part of the Destiny experience. Mark states that, “without story”, Destiny would essentially just be “a sports game” – and I think we all would agree. While in its current state, it may be fragmented and deprived of narrative heft, we have an innate appreciation for the threat that menaces the free Galaxy. Destiny does a good job cultivating atmosphere, even if it tends to populate it with a bunch of mute puppets. When Crota fell to his own sword, we unknowingly set in motion a chain of events that bring us to our current conflict: Oryx.

Along the way, Mark contends that we “formed relationships” with a host of characters in the Tower, who began to mean something to us as we continually interacted with them. He notes the “popularity” of the Cryptarch, which we find to be an interesting interpretation. The Cryptarch can hardly be said to be “popular”; he’s the butt of 50% of Destiny’s memes and barbs, and his asynchronous enthusiasm for dull rewards is a little silly. But in a way, Mark’s right. We were given a cipher, and through our repeated interactions, we filled in his personality (vindictive, snide) and enjoyed a shared community experience in commiserating over his maddening serenity. Imagine how much more could be attributed to Destiny’s favorite grinch if he were purposefully incorporated into the story – that’s what Bungie’s going for with TTK.

Mark and Luke explain how Bungie stumbled onto the efficiency of story-building through “quest-givers”. While long a stable feature of MMOs and standalone RPGs alike, the shared FPS experience of Destiny was quite RPGlite in its earliest iterations. Now, Luke expresses his enthusiasm for integrating Destiny’s cast of characters by having them be more intimately involved in your fight against the Taken. We see a few cutscenes where the prominently-featured Cayde speaks animatedly, and a couple of stills showing other Tower fixtures integrated into the questing life. While out in the world of TTK, these characters may speak to your Guardian directly, with a helpful tip in the upper-right-hand corner of the screen letting you know to whom you’re speaking.

For Mark, feeling the story with Destiny is the product of “100 little things”. If Bungie can do each of those right, all of it contributes to feeling comfortable and immersed in the task at hand. Throw in a “big villain” like Oryx, says Luke, and you have a real antagonist on which to fixate your efforts – something that the vanilla Destiny was absolutely lacking. Establishing this sort of story continuity gives all of our actions context, so we can “suit up, get back out there, and kick alien ass” with confidence.

Finally, putting to bed the rumors that Dinklage’s departure was the product of controversy, Mark addresses the question of “Why Nolan North?” and Mark chalks it up to being “more on the side of [Hollywood] nonsense”. Dinklage’s busy schedule made it difficult for Bungie to bring him in at the drop of a hat to record when the schedule permitted, and North, being a professional voice actor, was an obvious replacement. North’s availability and familiarity with the gig works out better for Bungie in the long run, and his professionalism and talent will ensure Ghost stays relevant and interesting.

What’s That?

That about sums up the interview! We’ll conclude with a few observations of new stuff that we didn’t notice in the cover story, or that Bungie hasn’t commented on explicitly.

We definitely got see a snapshot of the Dreadnaught. The objective “Cabal Weakened: 0%” makes us think the footage could have been from either a Public Event or a story mission. The Darkness Zone indicator appeared to be active, so this lends credence to the theory of it being a story mission.

At least three new weapons were on display. The first was an Arc Pulse Rifle resembling the Stranger’s Rifle, which we theorized above was the No Time To Explain. The second was an Auto Rifle with a 32 mag count, that fired chaining Arc energy in a rapid-fire pattern. It also may have an intrinsic buff called “Overcranked” which appears to be similar to Angel of Light that activates when aiming down sights when in the air. Finally, we saw a Kinetic-damage Scout Rifle – currently known as 347 Vesta Dynasty – that fired blue pulses of energy. It looked unremarkable except for that visual flair.

exotic auto rifle arc damage overcranked

We may be getting more HUD help. The newly-balanced Fatebringer (only 10 in the mag) showed a text indicator for when the perk Outlaw proc’d with a helpful blinking tooltip on the left side. Maybe we’ll see Disintegrate, Ward of Dawn, and other timed effects getting a similar treatment!

A Warlock using the aforementioned Fatebringer was taking on Level 25 Taken Psions, suggesting that the earlier missions of TTK can be tackled at a similar level. Whether or not this was Normal/Hard mode we don’t know. At the very least, it’s proof that your non-Ascended weapons will not be irrelevant for everything new.

The Sunless Cell, a new strike, will be assigned to your Guardian by Eris at some point or another in the story. You’ll be exacting revenge for the ambush of Eris’ squad at the hands of Alak-Hul. This corroborates Bungie’s assertion that new content will be woven into your mission progression in TTK.

Ghost can now be used to interact with certain objects in the environment for an opt-in lore-delivery system. While he won’t be reading from the Grimoire, as some speculated, it’ll be an efficient, “Siri-like” way of integrating Destiny’s considerable backstory into gameplay in an intuitive manner.

Set Expectations

As we learn more and more about Destiny’s upcoming Expansion, we are beginning to substitute our hype and speculation for genuine faith in the product Bungie plans to deliver. Luke and Mark seem to have a handle on what Destiny needs to make its story resonant – though their ability to deliver on this understanding has yet to be proven. We’re hoping that TTK’s experience lives up to its potential. It would be a shame to waste so many good things coming together!

tower quest givers

Be sure to check out Game Informer’s podcast for more Taken King discussion.

Joel
I'm aWrySharK, your resident Exotic guru and lover of all things min/max. At PlanetDestiny, my perfectionism is no longer simply a matter of form over function.

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