The minions of Crota reached beyond into the night. What if the night listened?
After one of the most disappointing video game launches ever, Destiny was in dire need of revitalization. Those who were originally burned by the letdown would need significant change in order to return. Bungie heard the outcry and seeks to deliver something far bigger than a typical expansion. The developers promised that The Taken King would not only give the title a much-needed shot in the arm, but would help it realize its full potential. Rather than attempt to be the sci-fi epic I originally expected, Destiny decides to fully embrace what makes the game work and is all the better for it.
Last month, I wrote a piece discussing many of the game’s shortcomings noticed by throngs of players worldwide. While a good idea on paper, the initial build amounted to nothing but cut and paste missions with a painful loot grind. With The Taken King, Bungie delivers on its promises to create a much more personal, story-filled atmosphere, as well as tons of new features to boot. Guardians will find themselves called to investigate a disturbance on Phobos, one of Mars’ moons and a new playable area. This initiates the encounter with the Taken, a new type of enemy summoned by King Oryx, Crota’s father — whom we slayed. Your mission is to find a way onto Oryx’s vessel, the Dreadnought, and defeat him.
That mere description packs more story than the entirety of the original Destiny, including both Dark Below and House of Wolves expansions. This pace keeps up as Bungie has fulfilled their promise to “questify” the entire experience. As of writing this, I’ve played the game for about a week and still have many quests and various tasks to complete on top of the classic bounties. The main quest line that brings you to the Oryx fight can be completed in about two hours. While this sounds upsetting, it ends up being a misdirection, as many other quest lines open up, with figures such as Commander Zavala, Cayde, and the Queen’s Guard. Additionally, all prior storylines have been set up as quest lines which give the game a uniform feel with the new.
In addition to the quests, many new tasks and events appear within the Tower and the world. Banshee, the local gunsmith, now offers several guns each week for guardians to field-test. Upon completing the specific task attached to the gun, players will earn gunsmith rep. Each rank up with Banshee will allow you to choose an arms order for a new weapon type which can be retrieved the following week. Within the second new area, the Dreadnought, there are countless public events and secrets to be found. One of these is the King’s Court, a small arena activated by discovered runes in which guardians in the area can work together to defeat powerful enemies. These new areas and old will also feature random invasions and public events, similar to those that have occurred in the past.
The big question, of course, is how the new leveling and upgrade systems fare. As we previously learned, the light leveling system was somewhat abolished in exchange for a straightforward experience system. For those who hoarded bounties and other experience items prior to release, it took all but thirty seconds to rise the maximum level of forty. For those of us who leveled along with new content, players can easily hit the maximum level by the end of the two hour main scenario. This is one area that is a head-scratcher, as the light system is still the predominant way of judging a player’s strength. Higher rated gear possesses a higher light level as always. Much of the content comes with a suggested light level, and some is even locked away behind a certain level of progression. What has changed, however, is the introduction of the infusion system.
In the previous version of Destiny, legendary and exotic items were the mark of good equipment. In The Taken King, players can expect to frequently see rare items fall that easily overpower their legendary items. However, this places a greater focus on the actual abilities the armor or gun comes with. When players find a gun that they like, they needn’t worry about the power of the gun necessarily as the infusion system allows you to take your stronger rare pieces and make your favorite legendary stronger. Engrams in general seem to drop at a much higher frequency, so it does not take long to upgrade your favorite gear. It can take mere hours to jump from the Light 230 range to 270 plus if you spend your time wisely. Ultimately, you’re shooting for light level 290+ in order to take part in the newest feature King’s Fall; a raid and final showdown with Oryx. It is disappointing to see that raids still do not have matchmaking. While it is understandable that raids are best done with a static group, many players do not have this option. This is unfortunate as the raids are often the best experiences the game has to offer.
One final addition to the new leveling systems is the addition of a new subclass for Titan, Warlock, and Hunter. Each guardian will now be able to utilize whatever element previously was unavailable for them. I personally play a Hunter and was given the new Darkstalker class based on the void element. Hunters can shoot void arrows which trap groups of enemies for crowd control situations. Warlock receives the arc-based Stormcaller class, which allows players to fly around frying enemies with the equivalent of Sith Lord lightning. Lastly, Titan receives the Sunbreaker class which allows them to devastate foes with fiery hammers. Each come with a variety of new tools that complement what was lacking before along with exciting and devastating supers.
While The Taken King packs many new features and distractions, do not expect an entirely different game. What Bungie does with the expansion is highlight all of the things that made fans enjoy the original release. While the developers do a great job to highlight the story that was lost before, all of your experiences will generally be the expected formula. Drop in, shoot things, and make it to the objective. What makes this better is more variety in the types of challenges and bosses to be found in strikes. Fights include taking on two elite Cabal and their minions at once, fighting a Fallen robot while dodging electrical hazards, and fighting a Hive swordbearer in complete darkness. All of these are fun, and I daresay, challenging on your first go-around.
Rather than call it an expansion, The Taken King proves to be an overall facelift for what once was an empty, repetitive shooter. Worlds feel more lively with the constant Taken threat interfering with classic Cabal, Fallen, and Vex enemies. Allies in the Tower and Reef have much more to offer and make your guardian feel more relevant in a period of galactic combat. While you still cannot expect a tale of epic proportions, Destiny embraces what it always has been at its core – a shoot and loot festival. The often comedic feel offered particularly by Cayde seems to demonstrate a new attitude for the game – one that doesn’t take itself so seriously. All of these changes help the title move away from the disappointment that hung over it, and allow it to be a fun and engaging experience in its own right.