Destiny - The Taken King Review

By Jonathan Barnes, 1 year ago
Breaking up is hard to do. It's even harder when you're letting go of a good partner, someone who's stuck with you through thick and thin. I'm not going to lie, I shed a small tear when I put my fully-upgraded Year One Suros Regime out to pasture. That ol' girl had helped me take down countless strikes, innumerable headshots, and was my ticket to Exotic wonderland.

Within ten minutes of playing "The Taken King", Bungie's expansion for Destiny, my shiny Suros had become obsolete, overtaken by a lowly, "Uncommon" Hand Cannon that outperformed it in the damage department. Within an hour, all of my glorious Legendary and Exotic gear had either been broken down or stored away in my vault, likely never to be used again. Obsolescence is a fact of life when MMOs and RPGs put out new content, if only to encourage the hardcore to upgrade, but it was tough to say goodbye to the gear that I had worked so hard to acquire in the over 300 hours I spent grinding away at Destiny over the past year.

Many gamers said goodbye to Destiny long before they got an Exotic weapon, however, and may be getting curious whether or not "The Taken King" and Destiny 2.0 will scratch the itch that Bungie failed to hit with the initial release. With that in mind, this review will not only examine "The Taken King" but give a second look at the entire package to see whether or not it's worth an investment for newcomers and/or another look from those who tapped out.

Title

When Destiny 2.0 launched, I started my third character to observe all of the changes that Bungie had made to the early content. While the story is still obtuse and borderline nonsensical and the base content still lacking depth and variety, the repackaged and rebalanced experience provides just enough of a twist that it will keep veteran Guardians engaged while also appealing to new players in a more open and accessible manner. The general mission structure has received a welcome facelift and the sequence of missions has been changed with rebalanced difficulties that better incorporate the content from "The Dark Below" and "House of Wolves". Furthermore, the swapping out of Peter Dinklage's Ghost performance for Nolan North's provides a boost to the game's personality. The experience of the base game is still too shallow, but Bungie's efforts to rearrange the deck chairs gives it enough sheen to warrant a new character for veterans and is definitely more welcoming to newcomers who can purchase the entire experience with the "Legendary Edition".

Gone is the frustrating old Light System that tied post-20 leveling to gear and taking its place is a more traditional leveling system that grants experience for killing enemies, finishing missions, and turning in bounties. This alone makes Destiny a better game than it was at launch. The new Light System is now a sum figure of your character's offensive and defensive power and has become a quick glance metric of how powerful your character is. Get a weapon that does more damage and your light goes up. Acquire armor that has a higher defensive rating and your light goes up. Many enemies and missions will now have a "recommended light level" in addition to a "recommended level".
Hunting the TakenHunting the Taken

Aside from the revamped experience and leveling system, the biggest gain made in "The Taken King" is the presence of an actual story. It's not the best story, mind you, but unlike the main experience this story is actually cohesive, somewhat compelling, and has an honest-to-goodness personality thanks to the voice work of Nathan Fillion (as Cayde-6) and Nolan North.

Mechanically speaking, "The Taken King" is just as much of a joy to play as the base experience. The load times can still occasionally be a bear, but the actual game runs incredibly smoothly once you're loaded in. Bungie has also lived up to their reputation with the amazing scenic design for the new content. Most of "The Taken King" takes place aboard a Hive Dreadnaught orbiting in the rings of Saturn and the new visual palate makes for an amazing and distinct (albeit small) setting. The new "Taken" versions of classic enemies are also great additions to the gameplay. While some say that these new enemies are simply "re-skinned" versions of the same baddies that Guardians have been slaying for a year, Bungie has actually gone so far as to give each new enemy new skills and powers as well as changed tactics, making for a completely different combat dynamic.

Don't look down.Don't look down.

As mentioned at the outset, all of your lovely Year One gear will be made obsolete within an hour of playing "The Taken King". Furthermore, those previously cosmetic Ghost shells and class-specific gear now buff stats and add perks (like the sorely needed ability to highlight upgrade materials when on patrols). "The Taken King" also adds a new class of Heavy Weapons (Swords) and "Artifacts" which also buff stats. All of these new additions are supplemented by what feels like an increased drop rate. It's not unusual to come back from missions with half a dozen Engrams or pieces of loot to decode and/or breakdown and you won't be sticking with new gear for too long (until you hit Level 40, that is). When you do reach Level 40, the new infusion system allows you to keep your gear fresh by breaking down and "infusing" the strength of more powerful gear into weaker gear that you may prefer.

Each character class is also treated to a new subclass which serves to round out the specialization tree with either a Void, Solar, or Arc subset. With my Warlock main, I was hesitant to unlock the new Stormcaller class because of my loyalty to the final Sunsinger perk, but once I switched over, it was hard to go back. The new super basically turns you into Emperor Palpatine, zapping enemies with the sweetest chain lightning this side of Tesla. Titans now have the option to unlock the Sunbreaker class and Hunters can jump into the Nightstalker specialization. If nothing else, the new subclasses incentivize continued play to unlock the entire skill tree and round out elemental powers.

The Dreadnaught is gorgeous... and terrifyingThe Dreadnaught is gorgeous... and terrifying

In addition to new story content, gear, and classes, "The Taken King" also adds several new Strikes (including the previously PlayStation exclusives from Year One) and a new Raid for players looking to team up and take down larger challenges. Fortunately, the new Strikes feel shorter than Year One's but contain greater variety to keep Guardians on their toes. As was the case with "Vault of Glass" and "Crota's End", the new "King's Fall" Raid does not support matchmaking, but with the proliferation of "LFG" websites, finding a fireteam isn't a great challenge. The grind up to 290 Light (the suggested minimum for the new Raid) may take some time, patience, and careful loot selection, though.

Players who are more focused on the PvP experience can relish in the fact that the Crucible has a new selection of maps as well as two new gametypes, "Rift" and "Mayhem". In Rift, Guardians are challenged to pick up a Spark in the center of the map and take it to the opposing team's goal, similar to traditional CTF modes. The twist is that you'll gain points even if you don't make it all the way to the goal and if you take too much time with the Spark, it'll explode and kill you. Mayhem is basically the Crucible turned up to eleven and charges your melee, grenade, supers, and ammo drops incredibly fast. All additions aside, the Crucible is still not for the faint of heart or casual. Newcomers will get wiped incredibly quickly and the action still feels like an unbalanced mess full of exploits.

With only ten achievements worth 250G, achievement hunters may find the lack of scoring opportunities to be a negative, and the list seems rather vanilla. You'll unlock several achievements for completing questlines, unlocking each new class's subclass, and completing the new raid on both normal and Heroic, the latter of which has yet to be accomplished. At the end of the day, Guardians will probably be playing "The Taken King" for quite a while before completing it and may continue to play it beyond that completion.
Saturn


Summary

After filing our initial review of Destiny last year, I said that the experience lacked soul, put the game aside, and felt I wouldn't be coming back. Around the beginning of the summer I needed a game that I could pick up and play for about 30-45 minutes at a time and jumped back in. Before I knew it I was hooked, playing the DLC content, running Strikes, rolling a second (and now third!) character. "The Taken King" and Destiny 2.0 have taken that experience to a new height that is worth diving back into for old players and warrants the price of investment (into the new Legendary Edition) for new players. Bungie has put in so many small, new tweaks and wrinkles that it will take dozens of hours before you'll see and do everything. Destiny is not perfect and is still a grind that is best experienced with friends, but the addition of new and repackaged content fleshes out the experience to a point where it becomes an easy recommendation for shooter fans.
4.5 / 5
Positives
  • The best content Destiny has seen yet
  • New enemies and gear are fantastically fun
  • Destiny 2.0 is a massive upgrade to the base experience
  • Gameplay is still top notch
Negatives
  • Say goodbye to your old gear
  • Still best experienced with friends
  • Underwhelming achievements
  • Crucible still frustrating
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent approximately 30 hours playing Destiny 2.0 and "The Taken King" Content and has logged over 300 total hours with Destiny. In his time with "TTK", he popped three out of ten achievements. This review copy was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Jonathan Barnes
Written by Jonathan Barnes
Jonathan has been a news/views contributor since 2010. When he's not writing reviews, features, and opinion pieces, he spends his days working as an informal science educator and his nights as an international man of mystery.