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Destiny: The Taken King Review

by William Schwartz

The last year for Destiny has been somewhat controversial.  There are those that love the game, and there are many that don’t.  It’s been pegged as divisive, repetitive, and grindy by some sects of the internet.  While others liken it to something along the lines of a Diablo-style shooter — incredibly addictive for reasons you can’t quite explain.  There’s been nearly no debate that Bungie got the core shooter mechanics down pat though.  Destiny is one of the best looking and best playing shooters on the market today.  However, even the players who loved Destiny, faults and all, had their complaints as well over the last year.

With the arrival of the The Taken King, Bungie has kind of issued a dual release here.  There’s Destiny 2.0 or ‘year two’, which issues a number of refinements to the shooter.  And then there’s The Taken King, a full-fledged expansion to the game which features a bunch of new content to play.  What should be clarified is that this is not a sequel to Destiny.  This has all the attributes of a weighty expansion that you would find in an MMO.  An expansion that expands on the original ideas of the game, makes many improvements, and really gives the players that enjoy Destiny a more meaty bone to chew on.

Destiny:  The Taken King Video Review

The Taken King does also expand on some of the things that many thought were lacking in the original release.  While much of Destiny’s story has been vague so far, three expansions in and we’re finally seeing some resolution to a narrative that’s been slow going at best.  The Taken King introduces Oryx, out to avenge his son’s death by raising a corrupted army of Taken forces by manipulating the Darkness itself.  You as a Guardian will work with the Vanguard to board his Dreadnaught ship in the rings of Saturn and defeat the King Oryx and his taken army before they make a run on the last bastion of civilization.  Bungie drives these plots points home in their traditional impressive cinematics.

In game, missions are structured similarly to how they have been in year one of Destiny.  The campaign will take you all over the Milky Way galaxy to locations new and old, but for the most part, the story missions in the Taken King feel like they are almost entirely new.  Sure, you’ll see some familiar locales, but only briefly in your time with this new branch of the story.  You’ll also encounter both familiar and new enemy types, and Bungie pulls an interesting trick here.  “The Taken” are essentially the enemies that you’ve been fighting all along, corrupted by darkness, controlled by Oryx, and each of the different enemy types that we’ve seen before have an interesting new bevy of attacks that change up the gunplay significantly.  Guardians are also gaining some abilities in The Taken King.  New sub-classes for the Warlocks, Hunters, and Titans are available almost instantly when you fire up this expansion.  Warlocks can now harness the power of an electrical storm.  Hunters can use a void bow.  While Titans can summon a flaming hammer that can be used as both a ranged or melee weapon.

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Alongside the story, a number of new Strikes have been added to the game, with a new Raid on the way.  The Dreadnaught in Saturn’s orbit and the Cabal’s Phobos military installation on the Moon are both brand new locations to the Destiny universe and are taken advantage of in the game’s new cooperative Strike Missions, of which there are four new ones to play on varying difficulties. These new areas are up to the level of quality that we saw in Destiny’s original release in terms of visuals, with the beautiful skyboxes that Bungie is known for.  A slew of new weapons, shaders, emotes and other content also await in The Taken King expansion for those that play with the collector’s mentality.  For the competitive, new modes have been added to The Crucible, as well as eight new competitive maps, tacking on to what was already a pretty impressive suite of multiplayer options.

But that’s about where the line is drawn between Destiny Year Two and The Taken King.  Outside of these new missions, maps, and story to be told, much of the meat of Destiny is included in the recent free update to the game.  Important changes have been made to the leveling system of Destiny.  Experience is now capped at level 40, but it’s no longer tied to specific gear.  Light Level is entirely separate from from experience, Year Two now uses Light Level instead of your numbered level to determine which types of activities your character is suited for.  Essentially it’s very similar to the original system, you’ll want to earn high-end gear to be able to tackle Destiny’s toughest challenges, but it appears to give players more options in terms of getting there and more options in terms of making adjustments to your load-out depending on what challenges you are tackling and enemies you may be facing.

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Quests have also been added to the game in a very clear, easy to understand menu system that allows them to be tracked more efficiently, giving you a very clear road map of what rewards you’ll get if you stay on the task at hand.  Much of Destiny’s management has been simplified with more intuitive, player-friendly menus.  Players can track quests, bounties, and more from a single screen.  It feels like Destiny’s UI was given major consideration in this release.  Bungie clearly wants players to understand the many systems, factions, and quest options that Destiny offers and with Destiny Year Two it feels like they are finally getting there. The marks currency has been streamlined into a single Legendary Marks system that allows you to earn currency to be spent on gear no matter which facet of the game you choose to play.

The Verdict

Destiny: The Taken King and the Year Two Update is a significant step forward towards making this game something more enjoyable rather than a chore, but it still focuses very narrowly on pleasing its existing player base.  You’re still going to be on the grind, the work ahead of you is just better laid out.  While the story campaign can offer 6-7 hours of solid gameplay to see it in its entirety, you still have that same problem of what do you do when it’s over if that’s all you came to see.  Well, what you’re supposed to do is track some quests, take some bounties, earn some light level and get ready for the Raids and Weekly’s with your buddies.  Hit the Crucible, play on all the new maps, earn some Legendary Marks or Strange Coins and then spend them over at Lord Shaxx or on Xur’s weekly visit.  There’s really so much to keep you occupied in Destiny, and now it all feels a little less like busy work.

"loved"
loved

Destiny: The Taken King

  • Available On: XB1, PS4, PS3, X360
  • Published By: Activision
  • Developed By: Activision
  • Genre: Shooter
  • US Release Date: September 15th, 2015
  • Reviewed On: PS4
  • Quote: "Destiny: The Taken King and the Year Two Update is a significant step forward towards making this game something more enjoyable rather than a chore, but it still focuses very narrowly on pleasing its existing player base."
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