This is not structured well. Sorry.
One of the big selling points of Destiny was the idea of players’ arsenals telling a story. You’d look at someone and wonder where they got their gun. You’d ask and they could launch into a tale of how they picked up Thorn from Charlemagne’s Vault, or whatever. The specifics aren’t important, but the feel of these very specific, unique, mysterious weapons floating out there somewhere is. In short, they need to be special, they need to be numerous, and they need to be rare. In many cases, Destiny falls short in each category.
It’s been a month (ed: it had been a month at the time of writing this). I have half the exotics in the game, probably more. I only really care about getting one more, and that’s Hawkmoon. I’ve seen every exotic the game has….in a month. Is this an issue of there not being a huge variety of exotics? Yeah, maybe. The number is smaller than I would like, but at a certain point you can only really make so many weapons that feel unique and are still effective. The real issue is that exotics aren’t rare. They’re not even uncommon. I look around at people I’m matched with, and the thought that runs through my mind isn’t “oh wow, they have an exotic!” It’s “oh, that’s the exotic they’re using right now.” Because ultimately, they’re so easy to acquire that they’ve lost the thing that made them cool. Right now, Fatebringer is goddamn cool. I really, really want one. It’s cool because it drops from one specific place that is extremely difficult to get to. Not a lot of people have it because you have to bust your ass to get there. The same goes for the raid helmet. I want to look like a robot because so few people even have the capability to do so. Where did this go wrong?
Xur is a really significant part. I feel as though it was a massive mistake to have a vendor that sells extremely specific exotic gear for a price that isn’t staggeringly high. What we’ve ended up with is a SUROS/Ice Breaker-dominated landscape. Everybody, even if they don’t have alts, gets a guaranteed exotic every two weeks. More, if they’ve got the Motes. Now everybody’s geared out in what was ostensibly the most special gear in the game, and we’re a month in. Nobody is telling stories about their gear, they just say “oh yeah it was on sale last week.” That’s boring. It’s boring and it’s wildly disappointing.
So here’s how I would have handled Xur.
Items are very expensive. Each week, he has two items to sell:
- A weapon engram. This single item encompasses primary, secondary, and heavy. Every exotic weapon in the game is a possibility.
- An armor engram. This single item encompasses all armor slots. Every exotic armor piece is a possibility. The engram is heavily biased towards your class so you are likely to get something you can actually use.
What does this achieve? Well, for one, it means that people will have a much, much wider spectrum of the exotic arsenal on display. We won’t see the same garbage SUROS domination that we did as soon as it went on sale. A wider variety of exotics in people’s hands opens up the conversation more to “oh wow, I haven’t seen that one before” from the current “oh yeah, everybody has that one.”
Secondly, people would need to be very sure that they want what they were buying because you won’t be able to afford it again for a while, even with alts. Ultimately, it would decrease the overall number of exotic pieces that the player population would have at any given time. This drives up the usage of legendary items to the point where exotics can be more safely reworked to have slightly more radical quirks so that they’re farther up on the power spectrum. Right now exotics are often outclassed by vendor legendary gear. Sorry, The Last Word, but The Devil You Know has usurped you. You have some special stuff but you just can’t compete with the raw sustain damage. This is a problem because it’s not even close to a competition, the exotic is clearly inferior.
Exotics need to take a lesson from the raid gear drops. They should really only drop from high-tier activities, similar to how they already do from nightfall, but that should be one of very few outlets to get them. No PVP drops, some kid that idles or goes 4-15 should not be getting an exotic weapon for how sweet that neg bomb was. What I don’t know is how you gate that. Do specific pieces drop from specific activities? That leads to people picking the easiest one and farming it. Do you make engrams the reward instead of specific pieces? That removes some of the joy of seeing the names pop up in the combat feed and some of the instant gratification.
So, on to exotic armor. Super disappointing. How many pieces are “blah blah blah begins health regeneration”? How many do you look at and say “oh wow, that’s cool, I can totally make a build around this!” Not many. Saint-14, Acadlkjrytophage Symbiote, Praxic Fire, Armamentarium. Not many more are really all that useful. They’re often novel, but novelty doesn’t drive players to want to use them, not in a stat-driven game. They need to be impactful, effective, and dramtic. You’re already limiting them to one at a time, make it a worthwhile decision. There should never be an obvious choice. You should be constantly weighing the opportunity costs.
What I’d like to see:
- More pieces that give free talents. The Helm of Inmost Light is a really fascinating armor piece because it makes your character better without a lot of drawbacks, but not in a really radical way. Its primary benefit is that you have more freedom to build your character when you take two talents out of the equation and get them for free.
- More pieces that heavily, dramatically modify an ability. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to be strict upgrades, they could have drawbacks as well. Lucky Raspberry could cause arc bolt to deal DOT or movement slow to two additional targets that don’t receive the standard burst, but cause less damage to the primary targets. No Backup Plans could give the player a weakened version of Weapons of Light while Force Barrier is active, but Force Barrier would be less sustainable or have a shorter duration. Voidfang Vestments could dramatically increase the target acquisition radius of a less-powerful Axion Bolt, turning the player into a room-clearing assist machine. This would essentially force the player to build around these skills in such a way that you can mitigate the weaknesses, and ultimately make for a more varied experience.
- Let exotics modify movement modes. I’m really disappointed that none of them do this – let Titan legs grant blink, or have a quad-jump Hunter piece.
Some exotic gear ideas:
- Cuirass of Radiant Light (Chest; Warlock) – Doubles the radius of Song of Flame
- Nether Gauntlets (Gloves; Titan) – Adds void element DoT to Weapons of Light that scales with Illuminated
- The Rat Pack (Helm; Hunter) – Bonuses to grenade and knife doubled on Scavenger perk.
- Vestments of the Armored Metamorphosis (Chest; Hunter, Warlock) – Grants player choice between three Titan talents: Shoulder Charge/Iron Harvest/Juggernaut
- Chest of the Weathered Metamorphosis (Chest; Titan, Warlock) – Grants player choice between three Hunter talents: Scavenger/Quick Draw/Chain of Woe
- Cuirass of the Mystic Metamorphosis (Chest; Titan, Hunter) – Grants player choice between three Warlock talents: Bloom/Angel of Light/Touch of Flame
- Scorched Leggings (Boots; Warlock) – Radiant Skin causes attackers to take DoT on causing damage to player.
- The Singularity (Helm; Warlock) – Player receives a percentage of damage dealt to players trapped in Nova Bomb Vortex or Vortex Grenade as health.
- Brass Knuckles (Gloves; Titan) – While Force Barrier is up, Gift of Light activates on melee hit instead of on kill (1 orb per melee, balanced by melee tactics being complete garbage in actual content).
- Superconductors (Boots; Titan) – All aftershock abilities (Lightning Grenade, Pulse Grenade, Fist of Havoc Aftermath) trigger health regeneration when the player is standing inside.
- Jordans (Boots; Hunter) – Fleet Footed also significantly increases jump height (potentially only active while player is invisible as a balancing factor?)
- Misery Loves Company (Gloves; Hunter) – Chain of Woe now stacks up to 6 times.
- The Inferno (Helm; Hunter) – Golden Gun damage now stacks per shot on a single target if fired in rapid succession.
- Precision Insight (Helm; All Classes) – Rapid precision shots have a chance to generate an Orb of Light.
I think by modifying more existing abilities players have an easier time acclimating to the changes and understanding the impact that the exotic nodes have on their performance. With the Metamorphosis items, you can sort of patch up the holes that exist in the current classes and make yourself a little bit of a jack-of-all-trades at the expense of being very specialized like every other exotic perk allows you to be. With Precision Insight, auto and pulse rifles are now a viable PvE option as you increase your ability to support your team, where currently they are outclassed by Hand Cannons and Scout Rifles based purely on damage output. There’s currently an issue where players who aren’t strictly great at murdering are a severe anchor to their team. If you grant them a piece that allows them to be an orb-generating bullet hose with something like Epilogue, they’re all of a sudden still a valuable part of the group.
They’re not exotic, but close enough to the topic to discuss: class items are in a really weird place right now. Beyond the faction rep funnel, which in itself is a bizarre thing (FWC gear kind of looks crappy, but they have the best stats, so I guess I’m stuck with this?), they’re strictly cosmetic. That…would be fine. But they occupy the same gear slots in the loot tables. How disappointing is it when you get a legendary engram…and its a class item? There’s no point!
What I’m suggesting is that class items should give stats (not defense, not light) and have effects. You’re already being forced to pick between visual appeal and functionality on every other piece of gear in the game, and class items are not so wildly different that it would break anything.
Class items could be your team-oriented item. Have each piece grant a buff. A Titan mark that grants 10% of your bubble bonus to team members within 10 meters. It’s tough to really use, but if you do it could have a noticeable effect. A Warlock bond that grants a tiny slice of Song of Flame to teammates in a similar proximity. A Hunter cloak that grants bonus AOE AGI. One of the issues with a lot of Destiny’s class interplay is…well, that there isn’t really a lot of it. AOE buffs are a simple but effective way to begin to rectify this.