The legend continues
This past week, I have played an insane amount of Destiny: The Taken King. I fully immersed myself in the world so I could walk among other Guardians through the toils and turmoil of the Dreadnaught. One night I was on Venus as my fiancé went to sleep, and was marauding around the rings of Saturn when she woke up. I had a need to know what The Taken King truly was, what it was trying to do, and how that made me feel.
You see, the initial launch of the original Destiny had left me confused and wary. A game that had promised the universe had instead delivered postcards from planets?hot-spots of interest surrounded by invisible walls and high cliffs. You became legend, but in a story so convoluted and sparse you weren?t sure what you had really done to accomplish that standing. Truly seeing what The Taken King brought to the table was important to me?I didn?t want to get burned again.
Loading into the first mission in The Taken King, I was thrown into a cinematic that set the tone for what was to come. Not only is the direction beautiful on this (and other new cutscenes), but I felt more invested in the Destiny storyline than I had during the entire year prior. It was epic, there were explosions, and I was in.
Going through the first levels, the new quest features implemented in the 2.0 patch began to shine. Finally, there was a way to track what you should be doing and what still needed to be done. If I was ever distracted by a sidequest or couldn?t remember where to go for the main storyline, it was easy enough to find with the simple tap of a button. Pulling out Ghost mid-mission was a life-saver for quick check-ups on progress. Thanks to more quest driven gameplay, a clear storyline emerged. Destiny?s MMO heritage was showing though.
Where the original Destiny failed the most, The Taken King succeeds. The original had delivered a convoluted exposition-fest that left many players confused and unengaged. The Taken King offers a simple idea, ?Bad guy comes to town. Stop the bad guy.? From there, lore and ancillary quests flesh out the world.
Most importantly in the plot, my Guardian felt included. The Nathan Fillion voiced Cayde-6 confided in them; the Hive god Oryx loathed them. Thanks to numerous cutscenes, my actions in-game felt directly tied to the story. Instead of trying to figure out my place in Destiny?s universe, I knew that I was a friend, a hero, and a powerful Guardian.
The subclass quests are incredible, and even as many hours in as I currently am, they stand out as one of the highlights of the expansion. In the original game, subclasses were simply dropped on you. Here are some super-powers, because you?re a Guardian and Guardians have them?so, enjoy. But in The Taken King, you have to earn your powers. My first run-through was as a Warlock, and earning the right to be a Stormcaller felt cool. I had to harness the elemental powers, bending them to my will. The completion of each section of the quest was accentuated with a rumbling thunderclap that shook my headphones. I went into the mission a Warlock and emerged a god of lightning. Similar excitement followed as my Titan joined the Sunbreaker clan and my Hunter gained Tevis? Nightstalker bow.
Armed with my new powers, I continued ahead to the Dreadnaught. The Hive ship is the main new zone included in The Taken King and is massive and filled with mystery. From invincible, blind Thralls to vanishing platforms; secrets ooze out of its walls. For the first time in Destiny, this was a zone I wanted to fully explore. What could I find? What did these odd items do?
Within, the Court of Oryx offers an interesting twist on Public Events. Depending on the level of rune used to initiate the event, a different slew of mini-bosses can be summoned into the Court for battle. When I didn?t have the time or energy to commit to a Strike, the Court?s fast-paced action (and quick mission timers) were a perfect fit for me to earn a little rep and possibly snag some Rare Engrams. The only tweak I would liked to see for the event would be an indicator to let you know the chest has been looted. When first playing I wasn?t sure if I was glitched or not, because there was no prompt for me to open the chest.
After gaining some decent loot on the Dreadnaught I was ready to take on other players. The two Taken King exclusive multiplayer modes, Rift and Mayhem, are about as different as one can get from Destiny?s previous PVP. Rift?s capture-the-flag was frustrating at first, and random uninitiated players often ran the spark the opposite direction of their support. But as the community gets more comfortable and confident in the mode, I?ve found myself enjoying it more and more.
Mayhem delivers the antithesis of strategic PVP. A hyper-paced team deathmatch, bodies of Guardians fly through the air like ragdolls from every corner. Timers on heavy ammo, supers, grenades, and melee abilities are all shortened to create pure chaos, and I was able to arc-lightning across the battlefield, reducing opponents to ash (well, at least until a hammer throwing Sunbreaker found me). This sort hyperstimulation can be fun to blow off some steam, but I don?t recommend it if you?re the type that carefully tends to their kill/death ratio.
But Crucible isn?t the only mode to gain an update with the new expansion. The Taken King delivers three brand new Strikes, with an additional one exclusive on PlayStation. Each has unique mechanics, and when I came across a breakable grate?yes, the same kind that are in every other adventure game?I was in shock. What game am I playing? Destiny doesn?t have breakable grates. That was the moment when I realized the future of Bungie?s space series wasn?t going to just plateau?Destiny?s team was stepping up to the challenge of providing a better experience.
Dialogue playing as you progress through the instance sets the tone for each Strike boss. By the time you see them, their stories and character have been revealed. A ruthless rebel prisoner, two brothers seeking galaxy-ending vengeance for their taken leader, and a Shank with a plan to destroy the Tower were all felled by my character. Plus, I got some sweet loot doing it.
Sadly, much like in original Destiny, the loot system isn?t all we had been promised. There?s more of it to get, yes. The foundries and branding of weapons are cool, sure. But one of The Taken King?s most highly promoted features, an improved drop algorithm so players would receive less duplicates and more of the items they needed, seems to be broken.
For example, I bought four Exotic Helmet Engrams from Xûr and looted three more from gameplay. Four of them decrypted into Obsidian Minds. A good helmet, but one I had already received multiple times. A clanmate decrypted six Helms of Inmost Light back to back (13 total out of 20 Helmet Engrams). This isn?t the fix we had been promised, and added a new level of frustration to gaining Light Levels.
I hit a couple roadblocks while leveling up, with the journey from 240 to 260 being especially hard. Purchasing several Level 280 items from Vendors seemed like an easy route, but earning Legendary Marks is a challenge all its own. Eventually, I was able to buy a Vanguard Ghost, but didn?t have enough Marks to grab anything else. The grind was real, and I needed to reach 280+ to even be the slightest bit effective in the Raid.
Soon Friday arrived, and I was able to go blind into King?s Fall shortly after its doors opened. Entering the Raid as part of the first wave was a major point of pride for me. I was treading new ground with thousands of other Guardians around the globe. I wasn?t the highest rank on the Fireteam, but I had earned my stripes through hard work. My achievements could be counted in Light Levels and hours, and I was ready for the challenges before me.
The Raid offers elevated versions of everything I loved from Vault of Glass and Crota?s End. Platforming sections connect unique boss fights, and I was able to show off my perfected warlock glide as I knocked down crowds of enemies. The final battle with Oryx is epic, and I?ll let that reveal come to you when you reach him (or when you look it up on YouTube).
Regrettably, The Taken King deals a mighty blow to first-year Destiny players who did not purchase the expansion. Lock-outs of new content are not uncommon in MMO?s, but much like Oryx, Destiny?s $40 expansion has ?taken? a large swath of endgame content that used to be accessible from Year-One-only players. Guardians who did not purchase The Taken King no longer have access to Heroic Strikes or Nightfall Missions, and have limited Crucible options, among other things. Unless you?re a casual, The Taken King is not an optional purchase.
Overall, The Taken King is an experience that I feel will keep me engrossed for weeks to come. Secrets continue to be discovered and unlocked by the Destiny Community every day, and there is still a cache of loot to collect. While a couple frustrating features were simply repackaged, the attention spent on story and fresh content more than make up for it. Plus, the developers? shift on how one can play Destiny, or what one can do in Destiny foreshadows a bright future for the series.
|Developer: Bungie ? Publisher: Activision ? ESRB: T – Teen ? Release Date: 09.15.2015|
With impressive storytelling, tight controls, and a sense of purpose, The Taken King is not just an expansion, but a noteworthy improvement to the Destiny series as a whole.
|The Good||Story, cinematics, and voiceover are all A+|
|The Bad||If players of Destiny don?t buy this ?expansion,? they?re as good as done with the game due to lock-outs|
|The Ugly||The dark-blade?s head under the helmet|
|Destiny: The Taken King is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by Activision for the benefit of this review.|