What does Destiny: The Taken King’s levelling change mean for players?

By Brenna Hillier, Thursday, 6 August 2015 06:09 GMT

Destiny: The Taken King simplifies the shared-world shooter’s esoteric levelling system. But what does that mean?

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Big news: Destiny is ditching its Light levelling system when The Taken King arrives in September.

No longer will Guardians need to find or upgrade armour pieces with the highest Light stats in order to push their overall level above 20. Instead, they’ll simply continue levelling up with XP, all the way through the new cap of 40.

We’re waiting for Bungie to provide more details on this change, because we have some big questions. Will existing level 20+ Guardians have to start again from 20, or have their 14 extra levels converted to XP immediately? Will XP be awarded both to equipment and characters? Will we still earn Motes of Light through XP?

Despite these unknowns, we can already see some potential consequences to the change. The most obvious one is that new players will no longer hit level 20 and then sit around feeling puzzled, of course.

More interestingly, your choice of armour will be based on perks and attribute boosts – Strength, Discipline and Intellect. This is a trend that began with House of Wolves (thanks to its Ascension upgrade system, players could hit level 34 with any gear set they fancied) but by ditching Light levels The Taken King takes it much further.

This will put focus on crafting synergistic builds from combinations of perks and attributes. Since we already know Bungie is planning to bring in a bunch of new perks, and we’ll have three new sub-classes to explore, we should expect to see more variety in load-outs.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t necessarily mean pure freedom of customisation; we already know that our old Legendaries won’t be upgradable when The Taken King launches, so we’ll be choosing our gear from a new pool of additions instead. Given what we’ve seen over the last year, we can probably expect there to be a few sets that are absolutely top-tier.

Nevertheless, this will help put focus back on crafting synergistic builds from combinations of perks and attributes, which is an aspect of Destiny I enjoy very much and feel has been under-emphasised to date. This in turn will allow players to double-down on their favourite gameplay styles for PvE and PvP. Since we already know Bungie is planning to bring in a bunch of new perks, and we’ll have three new sub-classes to explore, we should expect to see more variety in load-outs.

One of the questions I’m most interested in having answered now is whether the best armour will be locked up in the new raid or other end-game activities.

In both vanilla Destiny and The Dark Below players had to raid to get gear good enough to hit the cap. House of Wolves does provide a slim chance of hitting the cap through regular play if you’re lucky enough to receive Etheric Light in drops and collect enough to level up an existing gear set, but it’s much more efficient to play high-level Prison of Elders, Iron Banner or Trials of Osiris to earn level 34 gear.

I want to know whether The Taken King does something similar because it will make it possible for players to hit the level cap without ever doing anything especially difficult. Destiny doesn’t really have a goal – does any MMO? – but hitting the level cap is definitely one of the primary aims. Although I’m sure some players will be willing to grind for weapon drops, without the motivation of the level cap many less compulsive players won’t be motivated to repeat challenging activities.

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I have mixed feelings on this subject. One the one hand, the toughest challenges in Destiny are also the best (the raids in particular are among its best content), but tackling a raid, the Nightfall or the Prison Of Elders means you need a team to be alert, equipped and able to hang around for how ever long it’s going to take. Getting a team together can be hard work when people would rather just fool around on Strikes or in the Crucible, because they just want to have a beer and a laugh. That’s going to be even harder if players don’t feel the need to repeat activities.

Getting a team together can be hard work when people would rather just fool around on Strikes or in the Crucible, because they just want to have a beer and a laugh. That’s going to be even harder when players don’t feel the need to repeat activities.

On the other hand, those that do want to run end-game activities are more likely to be there for the challenge and the love of it – because they really want to do it – which will be significantly less tiresome for poor old overworked Sherpas currently carrying their whole clan every weekend. Having some end-game activities purely for the really hardcore or motivated isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I’ve argued before.

Besides letting players hit the level cap before they push into end-game activities means they’ll be better equipped to face the challenges there – although that brings us to another interesting question: how will level affect your character’s attack and defence values?

At present your total attack and defence values are determined both by the numbers on your gear and your overall level, so that a level 34 Guardian takes less damage and dishes out more hurt than a level 30 Guardian, even using exactly the same gear against the same enemies. It seems unlikely this will change, or there’d just be no point to levelling except to meet gear requirements.

What does seem likely is that attack and defence stats will vary more significantly in the new weapons and armour introduced in The Taken King, so that you have a compelling motivation to try and earn new and more powerful gear – likely from the new raid any other end-game activities.

Now that the initial news has broken we expect Bungie will reveal a great deal more about the new progression system, probably through the next few Weekly Updates. We have so many questions right now, but at least one solid conclusion: as with House of Wolves, Destiny: The Taken King will bring sweeping changes to the way we play the meta-game of gear and grinding.

Update: Since this article was written, Bungie has revealed each player will receive a character booster allowing them to bring one Guardian to the appropriate entry level for The Taken King and explained that Light levels will still be important.

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