It’s your Destiny.
As I’ve said countless times since the game originally released a little over a year ago, Destiny is the best “good” game I’ve ever played. I sunk hundreds of hours into Bungie’s shooter and had a blast, all along with the knowledge that the game I was playing could (and probably should) have been so much better. For myself and many others, the feel of the shooting, fun of playing with friends and the occasional flashes of brilliance were enough to get me through the occasionally brutal grind, the limited location set and seemingly nonexistent story. The Taken King is as much overhaul as it is expansion, and it’s an excellent start to Destiny’s second year.
For those who don’t know, The Taken King is actually the third expansion to the base game. The two previous expansions, The Dark Below and House of Wolves, focused on adding new content to the game, with varying levels of success. Both of them provided an initial infusion of new things to do, but once the new strikes and story missions had been played, left players with a larger game that still had the same basic issues. There was legitimate concern when The Taken King was announced at $40, the cost of both previous expansions combined. Having spent a few weeks with it now, I can confidently say that Taken King is worth every penny.
MSRP: $40 (expansion) – $60 (includes all year 1 content)
Platforms: Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4
In addition to content the new expansion is, perhaps more importantly, a large collection of updates based on Bungie’s lessons learned from a year of feedback. Some of them, like re-arranging new and previous story content into a new quest format that makes multiple objectives easier to track, make the game flow better and reduce unnecessary back and forth traveling. Others, like ditching crucible and vanguard marks in favor of a unified legendary marks (now shared between characters) address common complaints that the previous system lengthened the time required to purchase new weapons and gear, and locked 80% of that gear behind playing PvP.
The leveling system has been overhauled as well. Light is still the measure of level once a character has hit the max (now 40), but instead of being forced to equip the highest light gear no matter what it is, legendary and exotic armor and weapons can be infused, allowing them to consume higher light items to raise their own level. So for example if I have 280 boots that have perfect perks and I find a set of 290 boots, rather than having to choose between the perks and the higher level, I can use the higher light boots to raise the level of the ones I like. Forced gear choices was a real problem in Destiny, and the infusion system gives more player choice, while making unwanted (but higher level) drops still meaningful.
This all works because drops are much more frequent in The Taken King. The game is much more liberal with rare and legendary drops. Bosses can now drop exotic engrams, which is a first. Previously, once I had legendary gear in every slot I could automatically dismantle rare gear, since there was no chance it would be useful. Now, rare gear can roll higher stats, making for some interesting choices, or at the very least infusion fuel. There are not only more drops now, but the things that drop are more valuable. Weapons now level faster (although armor levels slower), and motes of light can be used to level items, meaning that if I had them to spend I could immediately upgrade and use something with no grind. There are also strike-specific loot drops, and exotic armor can roll different perks (aside from the signature one), creating even more variety.
The structural changes are great, but The Taken King also makes big strides forward with content. The base story missions themselves are very well done, but even after completing them I had 12 open quest lines, many of them including one or more additional missions. The new location, the Dreadnaught, is much more alive than the previous areas – enemies will drop keys to hidden chests, items can be used to trigger encounters, and there is a sense of discovery that wasn’t in the game previously. The daily content has surprises as well – already players have found a branching path in one of the daily missions that triggers a timed challenge rewarding an exotic weapon on completion. Those hidden surprises coupled with ongoing quest lines do a lot to keep things fresh.
The Taken King came coupled with the 2.0 update for Destiny, which included weapon rebalancing aimed at the Crucible (PvP). While I haven’t spent a ton of time there, some of the changes have had the intended effect (Thorn is no longer a cheap two shot kill), while others aren’t quite there yet (shotguns are more balanced, but still effective from too far away). New modes Mayhem and Rift are fun, as is Zone Control, which is a godsend for everyone frustrated with how people play regular Control like it was team deathmatch.
The Taken King includes one of the most important pieces of the Destiny experience in King’s Fall, a new raid. Full disclosure: I haven’t finished it yet, the team I have been working with has determined to go in blind and figure out the mechanics on our own. From what I have played though (over half) it’s exactly what a Destiny raid should be, focusing on mechanics and team communication above all else, and it has been a blast.
Mechanically the shooting still feels as good as ever, but 2.0 has brought some technical issues with it. Some actions don’t trigger their respective audio cues (especially in social spaces), which is odd but not detrimental. I have had the game crash a few times, which never happened before, and I have seen anecdotal reports of the same happening to others. Right now there is a very real problem with players dropping out of match-made strikes, but unlike before they aren’t currently being replaced. Completing a strike with two people is possible but time consuming, and often one person leaving means someone else will, and eventually me leaving as well, because playing solo is unnecessary frustration. Bungie has added a bonus system to encourage players to stay in strikes, but this is still an area that needs real attention.
The Taken King easily eclipses both previous Destiny expansions in quantity and quality of content, and goes a long way towards making Destiny the game what so many of us have wanted. It was 2+ weeks after release before I even touched a second character, which speaks volumes about how much there is to do here. For current or former Destiny players it’s well worth the price, and for new players it’s an absolute steal, as all of the year one content (the base game and all three expansions) is available for $60. Current players get the Destiny they’ve always wanted, and new players get to experience the best iteration of the game.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.