The sins of Year One have finally led to a great online FPS experience.
Let’s get this out of the way early – Destiny: The Taken King is the most downloaded game in history. The game itself has millions of fans constantly online and that’s not going to change any time soon. If you’re any kind of Destiny fan, you’ve already crossed light level 300, completed the raid several times, complained about Nightfall rewards and begun waiting for King’s Fall Heroic (perhaps along with Iron Banner and Trials of Osiris, even if it’s just to try them out).
However, it is worth looking into just how much Destiny has changed with The Taken King. Though I’ve anticipated new PvE content – and not just a handful of missions every few months – since the base game’s launch, I’m not sure we would’ve received the quality inherent in the newest expansion without the hundreds of other little changes made.
"The story in the Taken King is miles better than anything we’ve seen thus far in the game’s one year span."
The story in The Taken King is far more wide-ranging and involving than anything in the past year. Crota’s father Oryx has arrived in our Solar System and is looking to wreck havoc on the Guardian who’s slain his son (read: You). This involves tearing through the Awoken, waging war against and “taking” every notable enemy race, and pushing the Vanguard to its limit. It’s up to you and other erstwhile Guardians to infiltrate Oryx’s Dreadnaught and defeat the Taken King once and for all.
The story in the Taken King is miles better than anything we’ve seen thus far in the game’s one year span. That’s because of the way it’s presented with numerous cut-scenes, significant and numerous exchanges between characters, generally well-written dialogue and memorable performances by Cayde-6 (voiced by Nathan Fillion), Oryx and even Nolan North’s version of the Ghost (though his performance with Year One content isn’t as good). That being said, while the story has more impact and lasting power compared to the previous expansions, I’m still waiting for a 15 to 20 hour long campaign devoted entirely to the story.
It would certainly help Bungie when it comes to incorporating the brilliant lore, which tells the tale of Oryx and the Hive but exists entirely outside the game, and fleshing out many other characters better. While I’m happy that Zavala and Ikora have actual personalities and Amanda Holliday isn’t just some blank slate shipwright, I’m not exactly looking forward to waiting for months, even years, for their respective show-stealing stories. Ditto for the Exo Stranger, who has disappeared after the base game’s release.
"Props to Bungie for separate quests on each sub-class (even if they’re on recycled PvP maps) and unique Gunsmith weapons as well which only add to the personalization of one’s character further."
Regardless, these story missions are just leagues better than anything seen in Destiny till now. Sure, they recycle existing areas like the Crota’s End and Vault of Glass raids but it’s all presented in a fresh, fun light. Whether it’s the platforming and ascent in Cayde’s Stash, the frantic escape in Lost to Light, the stealth sections of Last Rites, the tale of Praedyth in Paradox, or even the epic encounter in Regicide, Bungie seems to have finally remembered how to create compelling single-player content that isn’t a raid. This extends to the Strikes which rely more on cooperation and actual mechanics versus clearing out rooms and annihilating a bullet sponge boss. This can still unfortunately be seen in Strikes like Dust Palace and The Undying Mind even with the addition of Taken.
The Taken are one of the bigger surprises in Destiny because for being “reskinned’ versions of older enemies, they introduce a large amount of unpredictability to battles. Taken Phalanxes can now launch ranged attacks with their shields while Taken Captains throw spheres of Darkness to blind you. And if you never found Psions to be frightening, wait until they multiply and swarm you.
You’ll have some powerful new sub-classes to help you though. The Sunbreaker is great for wasting major enemies while the Stormcaller focuses on crowd control. The Nightstalker is a support class but one that is indispensable when it comes to increasing damage, snaring enemies and generating orbs of light. Each class is fun to play in its own right while still feeling incredibly balanced. The Stormcaller may have a mini-Fist of Havoc with Landfall but the Sunbreaker is capable of chaining explosions together and healing with each kill while the Nightstalker can make groups invisible and dodge-roll to the side. Props to Bungie for separate quests on each sub-class (even if they’re on recycled PvP maps) and unique Gunsmith weapons as well which only add to the personalization of one’s character further.
"All this makes it sound like Destiny: The Taken King is the best new addition to the game and in many ways, it is. There are still some major annoyances to be had though. "
Bungie has also redone how its weapons, leveling and gear function. While players will still be battling RNG and chasing for the highest light level, there’s no longer that urge to throw away every Blue item you come across. It may have higher attack, which can buff your overall light level, or provide interesting perks. Legendary items still have their uses with a larger number of perks and the ability to infuse more powerful items into them to raise the base stats. The end-game is still very much about picking up raid gear to raise your Light level but it’s nice to have the option of keeping your favourite Legendary while making it more powerful in the process.
Don’t like the raid scout rifle? Infuse it into your Hung Jury and raise its damage up. The Taken King has introduced quite the variety of weaponry here and while there’s still plenty of debate on whether the weapons are better than Year One, particularly the Vault of Glass arsenal, the swords are a godsend. There is simply nothing like tearing apart a high level target with one slash of Raze-Lighter, the Exotic Solar sword. The swords aren’t even unbalanced – you have to get up close and personal (mostly) to use them against enemies, which leaves you exposed to plenty of gunfire.
All this makes it sound like Destiny: The Taken King is the best new addition to the game and in many ways, it is. There are still some major annoyances to be had though. Quests are now a source for many powerful Exotics but I didn’t appreciate the excessive grinding and farming in the Exotic sword quest one bit. You’ll also need friends to complete some of the quests, including patrolling for Taken Champions to kill (hint: use Gjallarhorn. Those Champions are still capped at Year One health levels). The problem is the lack of in-game matchmaking for certain end-game activities and while it may be justified in some cases, one has to wonder why there’s no matchmaking for the Nightfall since players no longer get kicked to orbit.
Then there are the issues with raid drops, especially the problem with Mouldering Shards; matchmaking problems during PvP and the Vanguard Heroic Playlist; occasional lag in raid instances and more than occasional lag throughout the Crucible; and whatnot. While the game has cut down on grinding in some instances, you’ll still feel the burn when you’re trying to level up your Faction or complete certain Crucible quests.
"As it stands, The Taken King has revitalized and reconfigured Destiny for the better, whether you finish the story once and play the occasional Crucible match or hunt for “hidden” Exotics like the Black Spindle and raid three times a week."
Thankfully, Bungie put in a lot of work into its new areas, particularly the Dreadnaught. While Oryx’s ship may not be massive in size and scope, there are certainly tons of things to discover. It’s fun to mess around in the Court of Oryx even as many of the encounters tend to repeat themselves (with the exception of Tier 3 enemies, which can change on a weekly basis). I also love how Bungie has put different little puzzles and random encounters into the Dreadnaught, which lead you to Calcified Fragments (and a powerful raid Exotic).
Though I found plenty of problems with PvP when The Taken King Crucible preview started, there have been some better instances of matchmaking and balance in modes like Rift. Lag is still an issue, make no mistake, and I’m still spawned into teams who are down by thousands of points but these instances are fewer than before. Mayhem Clash is still one of the best things to ever happen to PvP and despite how some maps still seem geared more towards close-quarters combat, I’ve had a lot of fun with them.
Destiny: The Taken King is what the game should have been at launch. It’s not perfect but it’s more imminently playable than ever while addressing a number of annoying issues long associated with the shooter. Bungie has still shown it has chops with its visual design and soundtrack, even if the story content still feels relatively incomplete and its best bits left to lore (such is the nature of the Destiny beast, I suppose). Gameplay feels as tight, responsive and addictive as ever and there’s just a wider variety of fun things to do. A note on the raid though: It’s well worth the price of admission. If you can’t, don’t let anyone spoil it for you because it’s Bungie’s best yet.
Should new players invest in Destiny, especially with the Legendary Edition that packs all of its content into one $59.99 package? It’s certainly worth a try, even if you don’t get addicted to it as millions of others have. As it stands, The Taken King has revitalized and reconfigured Destiny for the better, whether you finish the story once and play the occasional Crucible match or hunt for hidden Exotics like the Black Spindle and raid three times a week.
This game was reviewed on Xbox One.
Great new area to explore with Dreadnaught. Tons of different changes benefit the new content well. New subclasses are tons of fun to play with. Worthwhile single-player missions and the best raid yet. Memorable dialogues, with Nathan Fillion stealing the show as Cayde-6. Fun new Crucible maps and Mayhem Clash. Those awesome skyboxes.
Excessive amounts of grinding still exist. Matchmaking or in-game LFG for some end-game activities (not including raids) would have been appreciated. Best parts of story still confined to lore. Despite gear changes, end-game still focused on chasing light and gaining great RNG drops. Crucible lag and matchmaking issues.
Destiny: The Taken King may not have made this Bungie's best series yet but it's certainly changed it for the better while offering tons of new, fun things to shoot.