If you want to weigh Destiny's April update by the new activities it adds, then you're going to be disappointed. In terms of new content, to use the c-word, there's far less meat on this beast's bones than in any add-on before it. There's far less, even, than December 2014's disappointing Dark Below. There's no new raid, the one new strike is instantly forgettable and the refreshed Prison of Elders arena feels like something Bungie should have added months back.
Destiny first launched in September 2014, yet here we are in April 2016 and the game continues to enjoy a huge audience. Certainly, what was great about the original game has not been diminished: the core gameplay Bungie perfected, the worlds it featured and the moment-to-moment gunplay which still lies unparalleled. These are the things the April update focuses on bringing again to the fore. Head back to Destiny and you'll find yourself getting more loot, discovering new ways to tailor your personal experience and character, and you'll find refreshed - if still familiar - activities.
After so long, it's a relief to find many of the game's barriers to progress have been lifted. After so long, Bungie now seems happier for you to play once a week rather than every night. There was a time when a bunch of us would play Destiny most evenings - even a year on, when The Taken King expansion landed. But, logging in to play the April update, my character first picked up a reward from February's lacklustre Valentine's event - after trying a round or two of that, I decided I was finally out.
Until now, that is. April's update raises the game's level cap from 320 Light up to 335, but also provides faster and more straightforward routes to reaching this goal. For someone who doesn't have the time to play multiple characters, or the skill to hone a reliable path through the King's Fall raid's hard mode, these changes are a godsend. Infusing gear is far easier since it now transfers 100 per cent of the Light. Factions, vendors, strike rewards and engrams now provide you with more worthwhile rewards, and basic blue items drop as high as 320. I've gone from 314 to 317 in a couple of hours and am now able to complete the new end game activity - the Challenge of Elders arena mode.
That last paragraph has lots of numbers in, but the basic takeaway is this - you no longer have to be at or near the game's top level to actually stand a chance at Destiny's top level activity. Also, getting to that lower level of entry is now far easier.
I've always enjoyed Prison of Elders - it's a more relaxed and reliable experience than raiding, which has a requirement of six people and is often difficult to organise (and even more so now many players have moved on). Prison of Elders has been improved, no doubt - it is now faster paced and more variable with the arrival of both tougher normal enemies and Taken variants. Its rewards have been boosted with the addition of bounties and the removal of a need for any keys to unlock its final reward chest. The top level Challenge of Elders version is a remixed score attack affair which offers the best rewards in the game. It's fast, fun and provides rewards better than your current Light to guarantee progress. Simply put - it's easier than raiding. But the days where I want to spend hours grinding Destiny to progress are done.
April also brings a new reward type to the game, a blind box of loot named Sterling Treasure. It can conjure up any one of the game's various new armour items, including the new and highly-sought after Taken set. Numerically more likely, however, you'll get something from the other new armour sets which make you look a bit like a Tudor or a crap Transformer. These are the ones which can also be enhanced with Chroma, new neon-coloured consumables which illuminate armour like the underside of a Subaru Impreza on a Croydon Saturday night.
Sterling Treasure is designed to contain cosmetic rewards - its armour must be infused into others to be of any use - along with other items such as ships and shaders. A major reason for this is so Bungie can sell the boxes separately for real-world cash. Destiny's in-universe microtransaction store has now expanded into the Reef, and it is difficult not to see this as a reflection of how the game is being continually monetised this year. Yes, you get three of these Sterling Loot boxes each week from logging in and completing various activities. But with nothing to stop you just getting the same piece of Optimus Prime armwear three times in a row (as happened to me), it will be a long time before I complete a Taken armour set without putting up some money for the paid-for Silver currency.
I'm enjoying my return to Destiny, however long it lasts. Bungie has been pretty clear what's next: there will be nothing now until this September's next Destiny expansion. The April additions have given me a reason to return and remember why Destiny was originally so engaging. But it's also impossible not to think of everything else we could have got instead. At one point, 2016 year would have been filled with another two add-ons similar in scope to House of Wolves and Dark Below. Up until even more recently, Bungie would have been prepping players for a full blown Destiny sequel in September. Obviously, if these things had been feasible we'd have been hearing about or even playing them already. Right now, it'd just be nice to see a little more in return for all of that money spent on Silver - if April's update accomplishes anything, it is as a timely reminder of the experience Destiny once was.