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Destiny's best gear will come with hard work rather than luck in The Taken King

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There are more ways to get exotics, although the paths aren't necessarily easier

Exotic weapons and armor are Destiny's rarest and best gear, the items so special and so powerful that the game only lets you equip one of each at a time.

There's a flurry of discussion every Friday morning when the weekend merchant Xur arrives, with players debating the value of what he's selling this time. A lot of the exotic game in the first year of Destiny depended on chance; I'm still missing so many exotic weapons, like Hawkmoon, Suros Regime and Thunderlord, that never dropped for me in a raid or elsewhere.

With Destiny: The Taken King, Bungie is reworking the way Destiny handles exotic gear. The studio is upgrading certain Year One items to new levels of strength for Year Two, starting with a group of six armor pieces for each class plus 10 weapons. Following from Destiny 2.0's focus on what Bungie calls "questification," the developers are looking to relieve the anxiety of praying for exotic items to drop. And the studio also has something in store for people looking to fill out their collection of Year One gear.

"As we get into Year Two, we're going to look at ways to breathe more life into the exotic game moving forward," said Luke Smith, creative director on The Taken King, in an interview with Polygon during a recent preview event at Bungie. "Whether it's new quest lines, whether it's opportunities to acquire some of these old classics, we're going to keep supporting the game through the course of the year."

If you're freaking out that your favorite exotic weapon or armor piece isn't one of the 28 items that have been upgraded for Year Two at this point, don't worry. Smith said Bungie is "going to grow that kit over the course of the year" — especially the armor, which he called an "essential part of play style." Expanding the Year Two exotics will entail both bringing forward more of the Year One collection and adding new Year Two gear.

Smith also promised that The Taken King will offer better-defined methods of obtaining Year Two exotic items. Instead of hoping for exotics to drop in the raid or hoping that Xur will sell them, players will have more opportunities to do quests that offer an exotic as a final reward, just like exotic weapon bounties in Year One.

"The significant majority of the new exotic weapons that we created this year for The Taken King are found in a deterministic way — that is, a quest line that players can go on and get the thing that they chase," Smith explained. "That was something that was really important to us, was to create more deterministic paths to power, even if those paths [...] are going to take a while to walk."

Of course, plenty of players will be looking to complete their collection of Year One exotic weapons and armor pieces, regardless of whether those items will ever get upgraded Year Two counterparts. After all, Smith noted that "just because it's not being pulled forward doesn't mean that it's valueless," and indeed, I found my 170-attack Ice Breaker was holding its own against the boss in The Taken King's Sunless Cell strike.

Bungie is adding a special item called a Legacy Engram to Xur's inventory. Smith warned that the item "looks like an exotic weapon, but it says 'legacy,' so [...] just be careful, kids; make sure you read before you buy." Legacy Engrams are guaranteed to give you Year One exotic gear, and the loot algorithm is tuned for the engram to be more likely to reward you with an exotic that you don't already have.

"So for that collector sort of [person] — the joke that we made internally, like, the Pokédex — this is going to help you fill that out," said Smith, referring to the Pokémon database.

The Legacy Engram isn't the only new curio that Xur will be selling in The Taken King. Mark Noseworthy, the expansion's executive producer, said earlier this month that everyone's favorite tentacle-faced merchant will offer an item called Three of Coins, a consumable that increases the chance of an exotic drop from your next boss kill.

Players on PlayStation platforms will encounter another new type of engram, the Sublime Engram. That one isn't for exotic gear; it will contain a piece from one of The Taken King's PlayStation-exclusive legendary armor sets, of which there are three — one for each class.

Destiny: The Taken King is available now. For more details, check out our in-depth impressions of the first 15 hours.