Format: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4.
Released: September 15, 2015.
Copy purchased on the PlayStation Network
Bungie’s ambitious online first person shooter Destiny was the most popular and most polarizing game of this current console generation. It showed promise of a great game that was buried underneath loads of design failures and development struggles that occurred behind the scenes. The fun abilities and tight gunplay couldn’t cover up the lack of a focused story to provide context for what you’re doing. The beautiful graphics and lush sound design didn’t alleviate the boredom of replaying the same missions in empty areas. The game’s “Light” leveling system left many causal players out in the cold while the hardcore crowd (which yes, I’m a part of) were able to grind their way to Destiny’s incredible end game content. The two $20 expansion passes (The Dark Below & The House of Wolves) did a solid job expanding the core game with new spaces and events but they didn’t truly shake up the foundation set a year ago. The Taken King expansion is Bungie’s soft reboot of the core Destiny experience but is it enough for veterans and newbies to purchase?
1: Yes, there is a story…
The Taken King’s story focuses on Oryx, the father of Crota who “Year One” players killed in the Crota’s End raid. Following a failed attack by The Reef Queen’s troops on his warship “The Dreadnaught” and the emergence of Oryx’s dark army of “Taken” soliders, it’s up to the Vanguard and the Guardian (i.e. You) to mount a counter offensive against Oryx. It’s a simple revenge story and it’s well told through breathtaking cutscenes and sharp dialogue to keep the player invested. Several non playable characters (NPC’s) who’ve spent all of Year One standing around the Tower now talk to each with each other which gives the story a sense of weight to what’s happening. Nathan Fillion’s wisecracking performance as Vanguard Hunter Cayde-6 steals and Moria Gorrondona’s creepy performance of Hive Expert Eris Morn are the notable standouts as both of their clashing personalities help make playing through the campaign feel brisk while keeping you engaged at all times. Nolan North replaces Peter Dinklage as Ghost in The Taken King and he does a better job of explaining things (and opening doors) for the player. Ghost has a renewed sense of charm and intrigue in everything you do making him the ideal companion in your alien killing sprees. While The Taken King himself doesn’t have a lot to say to the Guardian, Oryx’s intimidating presence throughout the main campaign helps emphasize a sense of impending dread in your trek across the stars which ultimately, makes him the most interesting villain in Destiny.
2: Yes, people still play this game…
Several changes have already taken place from the massive 18 GB 2.0 update but the most notable change players will pick up on is that Light is no longer tied to your character’s experience level. In the previous year of Destiny, causal players hit a wall when they reached Level 20 as getting stronger raid armor in order to rank up took weeks and even months to acquire due to the frustrating random number generators governing loot drops. You now level up by gaining experience up to the new level cap of 40 while the level of Light on all ten of your gear slots is just a number representing the average of all your equipped attack and defense values. Legendary Marks, a new currency replacing Vanguard and Crucible Marks, is used to purchase Legendary Gear, buy upgraded versions of previous Year One Exotics from the new Tower Kiosks, or to infuse the values of lesser items into existing Year Two Legendary or Exotic equipment. The infusion system is an overall welcome improvement to the previous methods of upgrading your favorite items as it puts more emphasis on finding the best gear (trust me, there’s LOADS of gear in the random loot system) and makes it more accessible for everyone. Each of the new weapons feel unique as they fall under several gun manufactures. Hakke’s militaristic riffles are vastly different than Suros sleek set of guns in both style, sound, and overall performance. The new Exotic gear feels powerful without breaking the game (no more infinite ammo snipers or homing rockets for you) and come with their signature perk unlocked from the start.
The “quest-ification” of all of Destiny’s existing content is a welcome addition to The Taken King and all of Destiny’s Year One content. Quests operate like they do in a traditional MMO with players doing a set list of tasks from an NPC and completing them for rewards. There’s a seemingly endless amount of quests to do and the ability to track up to four of them (as well as bounties) via your Ghost keeps things from getting too out of hand. Several of the best weapons in the game are locked away behind these quests (including swords!) which makes earning these rewards feel satisfying instead of feeling lucky.
The Taken hordes you’ll encounter in the game are not just mere redesigns of existing enemies. Each of the Taken has a unique function which throws a wrench into familiar strategies and need to be killed quickly or else they’ll multiply, teleport, and overwhelm the player. Fortunately, the three new subclasses that are unlocked after completing class specific quests are very useful against the Taken and are a blast to play with. The Hunter’s “Nightstalker” subclass is all about disappearing and using a void bow to shoot arrows to pin down enemies. The Warlock’s “Stormcaller” can summon storm clouds from grenades and shoot lightning from their hands. The Titan’s “Sunbreaker” subclass is all about range from tossing thermite grenades, to using the Hammer of Sol Super to fling flaming hammers across the screen.
All of the existing cooperative Strike Missions and competitive Crucible modes have been tweaked for the better. The new Vangaurd Heroic Playlist features 4 new Strike Missions (one of which is a PlayStation exclusive) and several remixed Strikes. These are all designed with veteran players in mind as they require coordination to take down bosses instead of just shooting at giant blowing bullet sponges. The Nightfall Strike no longer kicks player out for failure and instead uses the revive mechanics used in the Raids which makes playing them less frustrating but still challenging to undertake.
Eight new Crucible maps (one of which is a PlayStation exclusive) have been added to the games versus multiplayer suite with one new mode and several variants of existing modes. “Rift” is akin to Halo’s One Bomb Assault as two teams vie to take a Spark from the center of the map and score in into the other teams goal area. It’s very fun being the runner as the mode encourages movement and scores causes a huge explosion. But since the Spark can’t be picked up like the Bomb in Halo’s Assault mode, there’s very little incentive for teammates to defend the Spark Runner. “Mayhem” is a new Team Deathmatch variant that increases the recharge rate of Supers, abilities and Heavy Ammo spawns leading to utter chaos. “Zone Control” is a variant of Control that’s prioritizes capturing zones as opposing to killing opponents for points.
Oryx’s warship The Dreadnaught is the new playable patrol location in The Taken King and it’s home to some of Destiny’s hardest challenges. The “Court of Oryx” is a public event area in the center of the Dreadnaught where players use runes to summon powerful foes for more rewards. While the level one bosses are easier to kill and farm rare loot, the higher levels are much more difficult and require up to eight strangers to coordinate in order to get Legendary rewards. The “King’s Fall” Raid requires six friends with the recommended Light level of 290. Without spoiling any of it, I can say it’s the most diabolical Raid Bungie has ever crafted. It’s impossible to run this Raid solo as Bungie has designed every mechanic of this Raid with six players in mind. It’s a well crafted piece of game and level design but it may deter casual players due to time commitment, the difficulty and the lack of matchmaking for Raids.
3: Yes, there’s still problems…
Despite all the new additions to Destiny, the core gameplay is unchanged. With the exception of a couple of missions, the structure still relies on entering rooms, killing wave after wave of enemies, and killing the big boss at the end of the level. Unless you have friends and a headset to chat with them in parties, it can be a lonely experience as the game is still centered around playing with other people online. The Grimoire which features cards detailing the intricate backstory of the world of Destiny is still segregated to bungie.net and the companion app with no option to view them in game.
While the launch of The Taken King was smooth for me, several of my friends kept experiencing network issues and were frequently ejected out of the game. In particular, Xbox 360 owners are still having issues with downloading and accessing The Taken King weeks past the games launch. Raids like the Vault of Glass still suffer from bugs and connection issues that haven’t been addressed in the new update. While Bungie has implemented a Mercy Rule for one sided Crucible matches, there’s still no dedicated matchmaking for the Crucible to match players with those of equal skill and to prevent game crippling lag in matches. Arguably the biggest problem is that players who don’t have all of the expansions passes and an Xbox Live/PlayStation Plus Online Subscription service are locked out of nearly half of the endgame content. This is a standard for massively multiplayer games and while the $60 Legendary Edition features all of the content at a reasonable price for newcomers, the $140 total for folks playing since Year One makes Destiny a rapidly expensive experience.
4: But yes, this expansion is worth it.
Destiny 2.0 still suffers from a lot of the same problems that plagued 1.0 but now it’s potential is finally being realized. The Taken King’s succinct six hour campaign and grand sweeping changes to the every single system help make Destiny feel more like a role playing game than victory through attrition. The vast amounts of maps, modes, missions, and events won’t shake off the feeling of deja-vu but they’re fun to play with friends and the quests are very addictive to sink time into. A lot of effort has been placed by Bungie to make the player care about what goes on in the world of Destiny but players who’ve played through all of the Year One content will really appreciate the callbacks to previous missions and events. New players won’t be able to experience the events in Year One but Year Two is far more accessible thanks to the $60 Legendary Edition and simplified mechanics. If you’ve dropped Destiny or didn’t buy it, nothing here is likely to change your mind. Destiny will never be finished as new content keeps getting added in and new secrets are being discovered by players. But The Taken King is how DLC can truly expand on a game and at $40, its value is completely justified by all of the new additions. If you’ve ever wanted to check out why millions of people still play Destiny, now’s the time to jump in.