Review: Destiny: The Taken King – Return of the King
Year Two of Destiny is upon us with some smart improvements and an actual story worth caring about. The Taken King’s army is looking to consume all life in the galaxy and only the Guardians can stop them.
Destiny: The Taken King is hopefully looking bring in new players while still pleasing the Destiny faithful with some long requested changes.
Considering the scope of the game I wasn’t surprised that there was some weirdness in how The Taken King is packaged and sold.
The $40 version is just the expansion and requires you to own Destiny and both DLCs in order to play The Taken King. Or you can also get the $60 package that includes Destiny, the season pass DLC and The Taken King.
It’s easy to see why initially players felt like they were getting ripped off by buying the same game twice, especially if you were like me and just stuck with the vanilla digital version without bothering to pick up the DLC.
If you do the math though, you come out ahead if you buy the $60 version of The Taken King instead of getting everything separately. Makes me wonder if this is going to be common practice when Destiny heads into Year Three or Four.
Those starting Destiny for the first time are able to use a special item that automatically boosts your character’s level to 25 so you can access the expansion’s content.
There is some value in starting from scratch; the improved leveling and generous loot system will have you breeze through the original Destiny and let’s not forget hearing Nolan North redo all of Peter Dinklage’s lines.
The Taken King, Oryx, is pissed off and it may have something to do with the fact that Guardians murdered his son, Crota. Oryx is now launching a campaign against all living things. The new Taken are these warped versions of existing enemies with new abilities like being able to teleport or blind you.
The Taken King still retains Destiny’s superb gunplay and has the best feeling shooting mechanics on the market. Most of the credit goes to the amazing enemy A.I. It really shines in scenarios where the Taken are engaging you and another enemy faction, since Oryx is a threat to all.
As a great bonus, Bungie has been loading the daily quests with secrets culminating with crazy rewards that has the Destiny community collectively racking their brains for big loot.
Speaking of loot, the drop rate at which you get rare, legendary and exotic items is much higher. It’s almost strange how much of the contrast it is from vanilla Destiny where good drops were so few and far between.
The new infusing system allows you to keep your favorite gear from becoming obsolete. Infusing is a common mechanic you’d find in MMORPG, which basically means you can feed gear to other gear to make it stronger.
This feature makes a lot of sense consider the staggering amount of rare goods you’ll come across and is perfect when trying to squeeze out extra Light points.
Fans will be happy to see the super annoying Light system has been reworked. The new Light system kicks at the updated level cap of 40, in which your Light score is averaged from your Attack and Defense values of all your gear. The higher the attack/defense, the more your Light increases.
The idea behind this system is to keep the high value gear and dump all the trash. Managing Light feels more in your control then praying that you’ll pick up the right boots.
The new sub-classes are a welcome addition. My Warlock firing lighting out of his fingertips like a Sith Lord is by far my new favorite Super Attack, with the Titan’s flaming hammers and Hunter’s void bow coming in second and third.
Other changes after this massive update fall under the quality of “life category,” such as the quest log. That’s right, you now have a page to keep track of all your quests and bounties. Faction points and reputation from Year One all carry over as well.
They provided much needed context to what you’re doing, especially thanks to characters like Cayde-6, voiced by Nathan Fillion, and your Ghost portrayed by Nolan North. As you may recall, Peter Dinklage was replaced as Ghost by veteran voice actor North.
There some subtle tweaks to Ghost to make his personality seem more whimsical and less robotic than Dinklebot. It goes to show that Destiny could have compelling characters if you give them more to say than just, “Hello, Guardian.” The writing is better than it ever was which was my biggest concern going into The Taken King.
My issue with the original is that I always felt I was flying around the galaxy shooting things just for the sake of shooting them. For the life of me I had no idea why I was fighting Hive on the Moon or Cabal on Mars and frankly, I didn’t really care.
The Taken King does a fantastic job of keeping you informed and interested in moving the narrative forward. The simple addition of having an NPC speak a few lines of dialogue when you start and complete a quest makes you feel like you have a purpose.
I know these changes sound inconsequential or like a no-brainer but it was a lack of those little touches that turned me off from the main game last year.
Oryx’s capitol ship, The Dreadnaught, is the new patrol zone that’s packed to gills with timed patrols and new public event called the Court of Oryx where you can group up with folks to take on ultra hard area-bosses.
The Dreadnaught itself has a lot of nooks and crannies to explore but less open that the planetary patrols. I guess since you’re inside the bowels of a super ship you’re just going to get that feeling of some claustrophobia, especially since most of the Dreadnaught’s areas don’t allow use of your Sparrow.
The newest six-man raid, King’s Fall, is by far the most challenging and confusing yet requiring even more coordination and research by your team.
In order to get there you need to at least level 280 but honestly I would wait till you’re around 300 in order to feel like your’re making a difference. Just be sure to play with people you know and carve out a whole day or you’ll miss out on killer great loot.
The smaller Strikes, which are three-man instances, offer decent gear without having to put in the time investment of the raid. The story missions to level 40 and beyond (which should only take you 12-15 hours if from level 25) mix up the usual mission types with slight gameplay tweaks such as platforming, light-puzzle solving and even a bit of stealth.
You still will be scanning things with Ghost and killing things while he does his thing but it all seems less irritating since the narrative dressing around the mission keeps you going.
It’s a shame to see that a few of my usual Destiny complaints, like crazy loading and down times between missions, not really be addressed.
Inventory management is still dreadful when you have to switch weapon types during a firefight. I wish there was a radial menu I could access with commonly used weapons to switch, instead of having to manually go into my inventory to change guns.
The Taken King is an important step forward as a franchise and more often than not feels like the Destiny we should have gotten last year. Bungie is finally adding meat to a game that was mostly bones.
Year 2 is off to good start with a story that matters, improved loot drops and leveling system. At the end of the day, Destiny: The Taken King has become an easier adventure to revisit and an even easier recommendation for new players. Now, who wants to raid?