Destiny: The Taken King review: Bungie’s fateful return

Reviews

-James Orr

Taken King

The Taken King himself (insert obligatory Liam Neeson joke)

Destiny: The Taken King is a massive DLC that has taken Destiny to a new level. When I started playing I was taken aback by just how much new content there was, and it has taken me a lot longer to play through the majority of the content than I thought it take. It takes the cake and is fit for a king.

Okay, now I’ve gotten that out of my system we can continue.

From the very start, The Taken King improves on Destiny’s weakest points. The first mission takes place in an entirely new area, the Mars moon of Phobos, and throughout the mission, something was always happening.

As our ship flew off, my friend and I made our way to the alien base, in time to witness its front door explode open as Cabal ran off in terror. We made our way through the structure, witnessing a lone Cabal scramble for survival in a collapsing elevator, as others were sucked into another dimension. There were flashes of light around the corner ahead; it was eerie and I couldn’t help but be a little nervous. Suddenly we hear a shout over the radio, “Fingertips on the surface of my mind!” We laughed. Any sense of horror was gone. That classic Destiny dialogue gets me every time.

Aside from the occasional cheesy line, The Taken King’s script and acting has improved dramatically. It now has a comprehensible plot delivered through proper cutscenes. It’s a simple narrative, but at least it makes sense. Oryx, the king of the Hive and Taken armies has come to avenge the death of his son, Crota, the guy that you killed during The Dark Below (assuming you actually did that mission).

2

“Hey guys, have you seen my son around?”

What really shines during the cinematics are the characters. I didn’t know that the Vanguard leaders actually had personalities, let alone the woman that sells spaceships. Nathan Fillion as Cayde-6 is the obvious standout as his performance is cocky with a bit of sass, something he always seems to nail. Even the villain, Oryx, has personality and I understood his motivations. Destiny finally understands basic exposition. The only let down is that the player’s character has become even shyer, remaining silent throughout the new campaign.

3

Cayde-6, he’s like Ultron’s cheeky little brother.

 

There’s a lot more content in The Taken King. The main campaign is short, you can blast through it in a few hours, but after that’s finished multiple other quest-lines open up. I was almost overwhelmed by how much I could do. The new quests don’t add anything major to the story, but in terms of gameplay there’s a lot to do. Missions are a lot more varied now.

Gone are the time where you have to defend against three waves of enemies while your Ghost unlocks a door. Now there’s a mission where YOU have to unlock the doors. It’s almost revolutionary.

The new strikes are by far the best in the game. I thought that the SABER strike was going to be a laugh, as its boss was a measly shank. It actually ended up being the most intense strike I’d played, with explosive shanks sneaking up behind us, sniper shots raining down, and the sides of the arena constantly shifting as deadly electricity pulsed around.

Titans, Hunters and Warlocks each get a new subclass with The Taken King. Previously Hunters and Titans lacked a true PVE and PVP subclass respectively, with the new subclasses for them, Nightstalker and Sunbreaker, fill the gaps in each class’s repertoire. Warlocks were decent at everything, so Bungie opted to just give them the coolest ability in the game, to shoot Sith-like lightening from their fingertips, while teleporting around.

4

Ready for your electroshock therapy?

 

Oryx and his army of Taken are the new enemy faction in The Taken King. The Taken are just the species from vanilla Destiny, but twisted to follow Oryx. They aren’t aesthetically creative, as the only difference is that they have a black and white glow, but in terms of gameplay, I was surprised at how much the Taken add. Each enemy has new attacks and abilities.

Taken Psions can multiply, requiring aggressive tactics to cull them, and Fallen Captains shoot what I can only describe as giant black balls of blackness to blind you, forcing more defensive play. Teamwork becomes paramount against the Taken in high level activities, as your fireteam will want to concentrate on specific enemies in order to become overwhelmed.

The new playable environment is the Dreadnaught, Oryx’s fortress of a ship. On paper, this sounds very confined and bland, but as a patrol area it has the more depth than any of the planets. There are heaps of areas to explore and secrets to find. You’ll need to revisit it a many times to unlock everything.

One of Destiny’s big draw cards has been its raids, and the Dreadnaught raid, ‘King’s Fall’ is the best yet. Previous raids were rife with exploits, meaning much of them were able to be completed solo, which is good news for me (I’ve never actually done a proper run of ‘Crota’s End’), but not Bungie, as they had intended it for six players. But King’s Fall is the most complex raid yet and it certainly doesn’t allow for single player exploitation; most stages of King’s Fall will require each person to have a role.

The platforming puzzles are also strides ahead of the disappearing platforms in ‘Vault of Glass’ that were possible to do in a single jump. Destiny’s raids are supposed to be one of the greatest cooperative experiences in this generation of games, and Bungie has really fostered that idea with King’s Fall.

The only issue with King’s Fall has been consistent with the previous raids. There’s no dialogue or information from any of the characters. Even during the loading screen, nothing is told to the players. At least during the ‘Prison of Elder’ Variks gave the bosses a brief introduction, why can’t we go back to that?

5

Give me a high-three.

Crucible, Destiny’s competitive multiplayer mode, has also improved, with new maps, modes and weapon balance. Shotguns and blink jumping (it’s a legitimate strategy!) is still overpowered, despite a nerf, but all other weapon categories seem to have found a place within the Crucible meta. You can once again get kills with auto rifles and Thorns no longer dominate.

The new game modes are Zone Control, Mayhem and Rift. Zone Control is a mix of Control and King of the Hill, where points are only received from objectives. It’s the slowest gametype, but coordinated teams will be able to dominate. Mayhem is just ridiculous fun, where heavy ammo, supers and other abilities have a greatly reduced cooldown. I played a lot of Mayhem during the Crucible preview prior to The Taken King, and had a blast, though it did lose its excitement relatively quickly. Rift is a stylised version of capture the flag and is probably the best addition, as back flipping into the enemies’ goal is one of the most satisfying experiences in Destiny’s multiplayer.

There are eight new maps (seven if you’re on Xbox) for Crucible. They are some of the best in the game, aside from Vertigo, which has more portal campers than the midnight launch of a Valve game. Each map is fresh and plays well, with multiple flanks and choke points, and Bungie seems to be that rare developer that can balance long and short range engagements in a single arena. Any play-style can succeed on any map. Except for Vertigo. Fuck Vertigo.

6

Did you bring a gun to a knife fight?

The levelling system has vastly improved. The past system required grinding like Tony Hawk in a nightclub, as you needed high level armour to increase your level. Now your character level and your light level are two different stats. Light level is a representation of your equipment quality, and your character level is just that, your character’s level, and the armour you do need to acquire now drops a lot more often.

Legendary and exotic gear can be ‘infused’ with higher stat gear, to make the infused piece more powerful. Levelling is a much more gradual process, as the higher your light level, the more powerful gear that drops.  It’s even exciting to open rare engrams, to see if they’re a high level item you can use to upgrade legendary gear. Before I’d just think ‘Oh, another blue.’

7

Now is the time to panic.

The best exotic weapons now require a multi-stage quest to earn them, similar to the exotic bounties of vanilla Destiny, but with added difficulty, with one quest required me to kill the boss within thirty seconds after killing a specific enemy. There are even numerous ‘secret’ exotics in the game. The most notable secret is ‘Black Spindle’ which drops only during a specific daily mission, and only if you speed run it to find a secret area. The community went crazy for it, quickly trying to figure out the specific circumstances required to trigger the drop. Bungie seems like one of the few developers able to consistently drive its community into a frenzy like this. Even now, fans have strapped on their tinfoil hats, scouring missions every day to find the next big thing.

But the big question: is it worth $70?

Well it depends. If you’re a hardcore Destiny player, absolutely, but if then you’ve probably already bought it. For newcomers, now is the time to hop in. You can get the Legendary Edition of Destiny for around $80 from the right retailer, and that comes with the base game and all DLC. If you’re still a bit on the fence about The Taken King, then I’d recommend you buy it once the price drops in a few months.

But if you’re not willing to fork out the extra cash, then bad news, a lot of endgame content, such as Heroic Strikes, Nightfalls and even most Crucible modes, is going to be locked out. Not exactly the nicest move from Bungie, so buy The Taken King if you can.

8

Say good knight.

The Taken King fixes most, if not all of Destiny’s biggest flaws, and improved on some of its strengths. Now Destiny has gone from being a guilty pleasure, to one that I can openly say I enjoy. I’ve played a lot of Destiny (so much that I’d rather not say exactly how many hours) but I could never bring myself to recommend it to friends until now. With The Taken King, Destiny has become the game it was destined to be.

8.5/10

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