Destiny: The Taken King Review: The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

8
  • Playstation 3
  • Playstation 4
  • Xbox 360
  • Xbox One
  • Action
  • RPG
  • Shooter
2014-09-09
Destiny: The Taken King
Get our thoughts on The Taken King, the new Destiny expansion from Bungie, and find out whether or not the game's third round of DLC finally molds Destiny into the game we've wanted for the last 12 months. Photo: International Digital Times

Destiny has found an untraditional path to success. With a last-minute story reboot, a major legal battle,  one of the most-divided public responses in recent memory and a lackluster first round of add-ons all still visible in the rearview, the pressure was on Bungie to deliver something special with The Taken King.

And that’s just what the Destiny team has done.

The changes evident in Destiny: The Taken King are both numerous and varied. For the first time since the game’s September 2014 debut, it seems as though someone(s) at Bungie was both willing to listen to fans’ concerns and able to overhaul major aspects of Destiny’s core gameplay. Granted, some of the mechanical changes are available without buying The Taken King, after being implemented via Destiny Update 2.0. But the story-telling in Destiny’s third expansion is what really makes The Taken King the first must-see new attraction in Bungie’s digital theme park.

As I mentioned in my Day One impressions, The Taken King puts Destiny’s cast on camera long enough for fans to commit some of the character’s names to memory. Cayde-6 and Commander Zavala are the two best examples, seeing as they take center stage in The Taken King’s primary quest chain, but we also get to see/hear more from Eris Morn, Ikora Rey and various other residents of the Tower. Dialogue can get a bit grating at times but it’s nice to finally learn about Destiny’s plot from the game’s characters instead of an endless series of Grimoire cards.

For what it’s worth, the Grimoire cards are back, too. They’ve apparently even outted Oryx as the first transgender character in Destiny’s lore. I suspect many players will continue to ignore this aspect of the game’s storytelling, at least until Bungie offers an in-game way to review Grimoire entries; however, the combination of improved storytelling and lore dumps will undoubtedly please those determined to find (or create) some kind of meaningful story out of Destiny and its expansions.

Destiny: The Taken King
Destiny: The Taken King Photo: Photo: International Digital Times

The first story mission in The Taken King picks up a short, but unspecified, amount of time after the conclusion of House of Wolves. Oryx, father of Crota and king of the Taken, has parked his Dreadnought inside the rings of Saturn. And it doesn’t take long for Bungie to demonstrate why Oryx’s appearance is such a source of concern for the Vanguards and various other factions currently residing in the Tower.

Over the course of The Taken King’s main quest chain, players will explore Oryx’s Dreadnought, which serves as the latest collection of environments for Destiny players to patrol and quest in. You’ll help the Guardians establish a forward operating base, fight off a few hundred Taken soldiers and work your way up to the game’s new level cap (40). The massive vessel is also Destiny’s fifth patrolable zone, albeit with a few more corridors than any of the celestial bodies that have been in the game since launch. Opinions on the Dreadnought have been split, based on fans’ interest in hunting down all of the ship’s secret passages, events and treasures. Personally, I think it’s a pretty uninteresting area to patrol. But Bungie’s changing approach to world development is certainly encouraging.

For the first time, players get to see their ships somewhere other than Destiny’s orbital screens. And it’s awesome. In fact, there are a number of moments in The Taken King that feel as if they’d been ripped straight out of a Hollywood action-flick. Chase sequences deliver the sort of adrenaline rush that many FPS fans are looking for and it’s nice to see Bungie entertain the idea of putting Guardians in a situation where supernatural powers and overpowered firearms can’t save the day.

New subclasses give Guardians a new feel, along with a new reason to grind out experience via strikes, quests and/or patrol zones. Titans' new Sunbreaker form focuses on overwhelming Solar energy, including a Super that lets you rain flaming hammers down upon your enemies. Warlocks' arc-based Stormcaller form bestows them with a Force Lightning-like ability that makes it easy to mop up large numbers of enemies in a matter of seconds. And Hunters can look forward to mastering a Void energy bow-and-arrow with the Nightstalker subclass. Each is unlocked via special quest, obtained from the Vanguards, that adds a bit of backstory to the various Guardian classes.

Destiny: The Taken King
Destiny: The Taken King Photo: Photo: International Digital Times

The new Destiny expansion is far from perfect though. The unbearable grind and repetition, that so many associate with the shooter, does eventually rear its ugly head in The Taken King. Bungie does an admirable job of providing players with bits of story content throughout the entire climb to level 40. If you’re lucky, you might even have a few of the optional quest lines left to finish by the time you’ve hit the level cap. Otherwise, get ready to head back out into patrol zones, or to drop back into one of the Vanguard playlists, because you’re going to be grinding out engram drops until your Light level is high enough to attempt King’s Fall, the new raid introduced in The Taken King. It’s not so bad if you’ve got a steady fireteam. But those still playing the game solo, like me, will likely find the process bothersome.

As I mentioned in a previous article, Destiny still has a major content problem. Those entirely new to the Destiny ecosystem might be getting a good deal, dropping just $60 for “vanilla” Destiny and all of its expansions, those of us who’ve been playing the game since launch have spent $100-plus to get the experience we were looking for. And I certainly don’t feel like I’ve got my money’s worth yet. That might change, now that Bungie has announced plans to fund additional (free) Destiny content through the sale of emotes and other cosmetic items, but I can’t base my judgment off what might happen down the line. That’s especially true when it comes to Destiny.

I imagine I’ll take some flack for this but the Crucible remains a major source of disappointment, too. I realize there are plenty of people in the Destiny community who enjoy the game’s PVP component. Hell, there are probably some whose enjoyment is inversely proportional to my hatred. But I’m not one of them. I’ve never understood the appeal of competitive content in games whose primary focus is story content and I’ve hated pretty much every second I’ve ever spent in the Crucible. It’s repetitive, it’s uninteresting and the fact that everyone taking part brings the same handful of items into battle makes the Crucible visually boring (an impressive feat for such a beautiful game) to boot. And don’t even get me started on the weapon balance issues. Just thinking about the Crucible, long enough to write this paragraph, has my blood boiling. It’s terrible and, if you like it, you’re probably a bad person.*

Destiny: The Taken King
Destiny: The Taken King Photo: Photo: International Digital Times

It’s hard to know what to expect from Destiny going forward. According to Kotaku, we won’t see any paid expansions between now and the release of Destiny 2 – which is currently expected to drop Fall 2016 – and there’s no real information on potential raids, strikes or other missions that might emerge in the meantime. Personally, as much as I enjoyed the changing structure of the game, I don’t see myself returning to Destiny all that much in the coming months. I don’t have the kind of free time I once did for hunting down the various secrets and running the “Hard” version of raids has never been particularly appealing.

Few could argue that the changes introduced alongside The Taken King make Destiny a vastly different experience than the one players found waiting for them at launch. Storytelling doesn’t feel like such a struggle, NPCs are finally memorable for something other than their perceived sadism and character progression is actually beginning to make sense. But the game’s content problems persist and I suspect the confirmation that no new Destiny expansions will emerge in 2016 – other than Destiny 2 – may lead some fans to wait for next year’s sequel instead of committing to a one-off expansion. Without getting into specifics, I can absolutely confirm our own traffic numbers shown a waning interest in the shooter and it’s not hard to imagine the impending debuts of Star Wars Battlefront, Halo 5: Guardians and Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 continuing to siphon players away from the game’s base.

If you’ve spent the last twelve months addicted to Destiny, squeezing in play session whenever you can, then I suspect you’ve already purchased The Taken King. If not, know that you will undoubtedly enjoy the vastly-improved content waiting in Destiny’s third expansion. The same goes for anyone who knows they’ll be sticking with the series throughout its rumored 10-year lifecycle. But if you’ve been looking for a good time to get off the Destiny hype train, for whatever reason, it might be worth skipping out on The Taken King and waiting to see how Bungie handles the game in the coming months.

Destiny is a better game now and The Taken King is the closest thing we’ve seen to an appropriately-sized expansion since the game’s September 2014 debut. And collecting/firing an assortment of digital firearms has never felt so good. But I’m starting to think Destiny may never be the immersive experience that so many were hoping for. I still don’t feel like I have any amazing stories to share about my gear or my in-game adventures. Strikes still get old pretty quickly and two raids, one of which has been available for about a year now, remain more enjoyable than the rest of the game’s content. And that’s kind of a bummer. Destiny is a better game now. But I’m still not sold on its future.

Score – 4/5

*I don’t actually think you are a bad person. I do think the Crucible is a bad addition to Destiny, though.
 

Be sure to check back with Player.One and follow Scott on Twitter for more Destiny coverage throughout the rest of 2015 and for as long as Bungie continues to support Destiny in the years ahead.

  • Action
  • RPG
  • Shooter
  • Bungie
  • Playstation 3
  • Playstation 4
  • Xbox 360
  • Xbox One
82014-09-09Destiny is an online-only multiplayer first-person shooter video game developed by Bungie and published by Activision.Destiny sees players take on the role of a Guardian, protectors of Earth's last safe city as they wield a power called Light to protect the City from different alien races. Guardians are tasked with reviving a celestial being called the Traveler, while journeying to different planets to investigate and destroy the alien threats before humanity is completely wiped out.
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