The MMO fused FPS made by Bungie has certainly attracted a lot of players through its lore and gameplay, but the title was sorely lacking in depth for many, except the few of us who started reading grimoire cards and tried to make sense of it. But after a while, and the release of the last expansion pack, The House of Wolves, most fellow guardians got to a point of exhaustion, with nothing more to do than to wait for new content (you can read my original review of Destiny right here). You see, in one year, I’ve beaten Atheon probably 20 times, wielded the sword against Crota over 40 times, farmed elements on a daily basis, got all the exotic weapons and armors, and teamed up for the Trials of Osiris and reach the elite stance, but I became tired of the routine.
It was definitely time for Destiny to bring a little freshness: new challenges and most importantly, make a substantial overhaul of a game that has strong potential, and the future of the game depended on it. And so, like Blizzard did with World of Warcraft Cataclysm, Bungie revamped the whole game with immense amount of new content, revised UI, mechanics, and countering all sorts of exploits, but most importantly nullifying the effort that guardians did for a year, and bringing them almost to a fresh starting point. If I was to sum up everything I learned in the past weeks, it would be this: The Taken King marks a new era in the Destiny story on all fronts, and it’s a great time to start playing Destiny.
it’s a great time to start playing Destiny
The first step in Bungie’s newest expansion was to refresh the game in a status where it should have been at launch, that is to say beginning by an awesome cinematic worthy of what the studio can do, needless to recall Halo again. Because so far, admittedly, hardly anyone understood or really knew who the traveler is, what was the exact role of guardians, and so on. The player was dropped into a story, which was scattered on the companion site in grimoire cards. All of that change as Bungie introduce the setting The Taken King at the beginning of the first mission on Phobos, with spectacular and cinematic narrative explanation of Destiny’s history and the coming battle against Oryx. Throughout the single player campaign missions, meant to help the player get to the new level cap of 40, the cutscenes look great (especially for former players, accustomed to nothing of such), and finally plunge us protectors of humanity, in an atmosphere worthy of what was expected. The main protagonists no longer wait on the side, but interact with one another, revealing an interaction which was nonexistent, and amazing new personalities such as my all-time favorite Cayde-6, the Hunter Vanguard. All these characters will no longer hesitate to bombard you with quests, offering rewards and alternating missions with dynamic objectives.
Crota has been killed, and his father has come to avenge his son. To quench his thirst for revenge, Oryx manipulates and enslaves creatures of all races, transforming Cabal, Vex and Fallen in corrupted ghastly forms. These “Taken” are different from their original versions, developing new abilities forcing guardians to rethink their tactics. Thralls can move at incredible speed, Vandal can heal themselves in a shield bubble, and Cabals Phalanx have force blast attacks with their shield to name a few. The campaign missions are leading us ineluctably to getting rid of this new threat, by making our way into Oryx Dreadnaught and scout some new areas in previously visited planets (Earth, Moon, Mars, Venus) as it was the case for previous extensions, to get rid of the Taken King and reach level 40.
Speaking of leveling up, Bungie has decided to simplify the process, by reducing experience gain through quests, missions, and crucible like it was the case in the Vanilla version reaching level 20, and the light level is now calculated on the average statistics of your equiped weapons and armor. For example: a Guardian with a bunch of 280 defensive and attacking stats gear has two pieces reaching only 270 light, his overall light level will be 275.
Sold as close as a full game market price ($40), the Taken King is more than an expansion and could have been called Destiny 2, as overall improvements and alterations are important and numerous. The new interface to start is something that should’ve been in the original version, which brings a clearer pictures to the path to take in missions to understand better the story and lore. Another plus for those who do not necessarily have the sense of direction, it is possible to track a quest or mission and know immediately what by calling up your ghost, which saves you some time from having to access your log in the menu. These quests are distributed by themes (main quests, PvP quest, faction quests) and have a completion percentage, and make it easier to know what’s next. Finally, to conclude with the new interface, note that your vault and your internal guardian carrying capacity has been upped in numbers, with now more than 108 storage spots for all these exotics, and the ability to accept 16 bounties and 32 quests at one time.
All these changes are great for newcomers, as they don’t face the limitations we had to bear throughout our first year. But all the changes have consequences to veteran Guardians. Changing the light system had an immediate impact on your old equipment, and now your awesome Level 34 Crota raid gear with your Black Hammer, Gjallahorn and Thorn have become obsolete, no matter how tiresome it was to get them (At least for the legendaries and not exotic). Developers do not wish to put back the entire loyal community back to such a low sarting point, and have planned an upgrade to some Exotic weapons which deem them still viable in this expansion such as The Last Word now boasting a 280 attack stat (instead of 170, which corresponds to previously known 365), but you will need to buy that Year Two version with 150 legendary marks 150 (a newly added mark system that groups both Vanguard and Crucible marks). The idea is not bad as it may seem, but i’m sure a lot regret that the Gjallahorn, known to be the “ultimate” weapon, are not getting a Year II upgrade.
This overhaul of the arsenal, if indeed painful when it comes to part with your Vision of Confluence or Sword Breaker, is made to open the way to new weapons from three new weapon foundries (Suros, Omolon , Hakke), each having their own style and traits. Having green weapons from the new adventure is almost better at the start of Taken King storyline, and replacing your bellow Legendary and Exotic can be quite disturbing indeed. But engrams now fall regularly (almost twice as often than before), and with the help of the RNG gods and some intense grinding, you’ll find yourself befit with a brand new inventory that is fresh and more efficient to take down new threats. The best part is the new infusing system, coming from a typtical MMO system, allowing you to “merge” pieces of armor and weapons together, to reach a better attack or defense level. For example, a legendary gun with 280 attack power can be infused with a lower quality one with higher stats (say a rare gun with 295 attack) with a bit of materials, glimmer and other currency exchanges. Instead of dismantling low quality guns, this system allows to increase the defense and power stats of weapons and gear you prefer to use.
This increased optimization in stats and giving purpose to all kinds of gear equipped (other than being visual slots), was also applied to your Ghost. This secondary tag partner (now voiced by Nolan North) who is supposed to guide us through the world has now defensive characteristics and light points, like any piece of armor. The best upgrade, and this is where Bungie should’ve thought about earlier, is that most of these ghosts now allow you to track farming components such as helium filaments on the map and radar. This helps the exhausting and grueling farming process we all faced during the first year of the game.
The necessary and imperative changes are there, but the most significant novelties is of course the three new subclasses added for each Class of Guardians. Each of the Hunters, Titans and Warlocks can now use a subclass from each element (void, solar and arc): The Arc based Stormcaller for Warlocks, the way of flames with the Titans’ Sunbreaker and my personal favorite, Voidwalker for the Hunter. Warlocks for example, whose Radiance can be very useful, is now armed with these new Arc skills, making it more of an offensive character than before. His rite of the storm proves devastating when it comes to cleaning up an overcrowded area filled with minions of darkness. These new gameplay elements provides an additional choice to players, but also a role that can evolve as new challenges emerge, and of course prepare for the new strikes.
This extension has now a total of 8 strikes, and for Xbox users, the game also gives access to two previously exclusive PlayStation strikes such as the Undying Mind. But the best part is that all the previously released strike have now different versions of them, which see the Taken taking over the place, forcing you to change tactics. As for the new one, the Shield Brothers strike see a pair of Cabal that needs taken down in the Dreadnaught, or the Sunless Cell strike that ask of Guardians to take down a Hive prince imprisoned in Oryx’ ship, in a fight with no lights on. There’s also Echo Chamber, which is a PlayStation exclusive strike.
All this of the Dreadnaught, and we haven’t even explained what it is. Oryx’ ship is one of the main addition to the lore of the game, an immense area Inspired by the hive world with very dark and angular architecture, it is an exploration ground and home to two new strikes and of course patrol missions to loot and farm new resources. This is where you’ll find worm spores, a new component that is used to upgrade equipment (like helium filaments), but also discover the Court of Oryx (a public event that you can activate with the use of runes) and face endless puzzles to open chests which needs certain conditions, and of course loot engrams.
All of this of course is cream of the cake, and the chery on top is something players have been asking for since Crota’s End release: a new raid called King’s Fall. Although i’ll be frank, and I didn’t manage to finish it (still relying on LFG groups to form a fireteam), this raid is an intense workout for any guardian. It requires discipline, perfect synchronization and callouts to pass through over 6 different key challenges, including 3 mini-bosses, and ends with a showdown against the king himself: Oryx. I won’t spoil it for much, but know that Bungie has outdone themselves with this raid, making more complex, challenging and “almost” free of exploit, something lacking from previously released Vault of Glass and Crota’s End.
On the final topic of competitive multiplayer, some new modes were added, which are a great addition to the game. Rift is similar to Capture the Flag, where players need to grab a spark and use it to ignite the enemy rift, but with a twist since you can use your weapons and abilities while holding this flag. The best mode added is Mayhem: true to its name, it allows chaotic battles where Super Abilities cooldown are reduced to zero by passing through a charged gate, and unleash mayhem in the center of the map with all Super activated. Great way to see a firework of Hammer of Sol attacks topped by chained lighting strikes from a Stormcaller to a team pinned down by a Hunter Voidlwalker Shadowshot. It’s satisfying and gruesome to watch.
The Taken King offers new challenges to guardians, a 180-turn change that force them to go back to old ways of farming loot to regain true power, which in the repeated experience of Destiny, offers it a second wind. The studio has apparently understood its mistakes, its shortcomings and has partly erased them in this expansion, and certainly made it into the most significant milestone in the short history of this title.
Destiny: The Taken King was reviewed using an Xbox One retail copy of the game provided by Activision. The game is also available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 in both retail and online store releases. The review was done after the release of the day one patch. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published (click here for more information about our review policy).
• Finally a narrative content worthy of Bungie's name
• Beautiful cutscenes
• New subclasses
• More active secondary NPCs and characters
• Reworked leveling system
• A proper UI for tracking everything you need
• Guns... So many new guns!
• New missions are fun and interactive
• That dreadnought
• $40 is king of justifiable for this expansion
• I had to dismantle my Gjalahorn
• Weird issues with Crucible matchmaking
• Still lacking a proper way to find a nightfall and raid teams