Destiny’s latest expansion, the content-packed and story rich The Taken King, by far encapsulates the very best of Bungie’s shooter-MMO hybrid and for many will no doubt prove to be the definitive version of the game—and more importantly, what it should have been at launch. Sure, I’ve always been a fan of Destiny since day-one, possibly due to the fact it was never really on my radar and therefore did not get caught up in the precarious hype train, but even I’ll admit it was a flawed experience. Still, each new expansion managed to improve upon a solid template laid down with the vanilla edition, culminating in what we have today; a vastly improved gameplay experience, with enough tweaks, changes and new content to satisfy old-timer while giving newcomers an excuse to finally make the jump into Destiny’s compelling lore of moon wizards and loot farming.
Read the full Destiny review.
To succinctly convey just why The Taken King is such a vast improvement for Bungie’s shared-world shooter isn’t easily done in words, but we’ll definitely have a crack at it. The expansion offers more than a single game-changer; rather, its successes lie firmly in a series of significant additions, and those that aren’t quite so discernible to the casual player. In fact, only Destiny veterans are likely to fully appreciate just how important The Taken King is to the experience, especially those who have endured since the dark days of Peter Dinklage’s Ghost and arduous play sessions during the Crota’s End Raid in the hopes of grabbing a new piece of armor to raise your Light Level.
For me, the biggest impression The Taken King made on me is the story. Yes, you probably don’t play Bungie’s shooter for its confusing narrative, although that was one of the chief complaints of the original—the fact it just didn’t really exist beyond ‘go there, shoot this evil guy, win the battle, repeat.’ Pleasingly, the developers have really gone to town this time, packing in genuinely likable characters that are fleshed out with witty dialogue, plenty of lore and motivation for their actions. Eris, Lord Saladin and Ghost (the latter now voiced by the ubiquitous Nolan North) really come to life in The Taken King’s world, with the Hunter Vanguard, Caeden, being a particular highlight; this guy is just brilliant, cracking plenty of jokes and has an instantly likable personality that makes carrying out missions for him an absolute joy. Overall, there’s far more conviction in the performances and a concerted effort to really drive home a sense of impending doom about the situations you face, subverting the blandness that plagued the vanilla edition.
Fortunately, Bungie’s care and attention has also seeped into the actual gameplay itself. Missions are far more varied this time around, and while there’s still plenty of shooting aliens in the face with devastating weapons, it’s still just as addictive as it ever was. However, Destiny now changes things up more by incorporating elements of puzzles solving and platforming; some sections require meticulous timing to navigate invisible platforms and precarious ledges. There’s also more incentive to venture off the beaten track thanks to an array of new collectibles thrown into the mix, as well as the chance to use Ghost to scan optional objects in the environment, fleshing out the story and drip-feeding you more info on the game world.
Part of the game’s success stems from the new enemies, the eponymous Taken. These nasty foes take the form of shadow-like creatures that mimic Fallen, Hive and Cabal enemies, but are considerably tougher to beat. They can swarm instantly by warping into a battlefield and mix it up with the regular grunts, giving you quite a headache if you aren’t prepared. As such, there’s more spontaneity to firefights, as you never quite know when the Taken will show their faces. While the story missions pack plenty of punch, it’s the strikes that really showcase the ferocity of these new enemies, making for some adrenaline-fueled encounters as you battle through brutal encounters that, as always, culminate in an awesome boss battle that will test your tactics as a fireteam.
Things go way beyond the main course, however. The Taken King hides away plenty of tasty morsels throughout its comprehensive game world. There’s new collectibles on offer, hidden exotic weapons that can only be discovered with a dollop of luck, and all-new items to equip such as Ghost Shells and artefacts, both of which directly influence your Light Level to boost your stats. The gunsmith now has his own faction to gain reputation with, and you can carry out missions for him by field testing firearms without having to plonk down that hard-earned Glimmer. Even after you finish the meat of the story content, there’s heaps of side missions that will keep you busy long after you defeat Oryx; Eris, Lord Saladin, Guardian Vanguards and even the Shipwright will task you with completing various objectives, many of which are packed with diversity and really give you a chance to stretch your skills. Some have you hunting down specific objects or killing an Ultra foe, while others see you battling in the Crucible and getting precision kills with your hunting knife, for example. It’s vastly superior to anything seen in the Vanilla build, that’s for sure.
Speaking of the Crucible, Destiny’s PvP component is just as gripping as it’s ever been, and is bolstered further in The Taken King with a series of new game modes and maps. At the time of writing i’ve yet to master the intricacies of each new location, although you can bet there’s a bevy of hot sniper spots, choke points and other advantages you can squeeze out of them like the first batch. The look gorgeous too, each one brimming with unique architecture that lends them a distinct personality, not to mention some stunning lighting effects and vistas to appreciate—that is, when you’re not busy head-shotting the opposing team. As far as game modes go, Rift is an absolute blast and possibly the best thing on offer.
Here, two teams have to ignite the opposing player’s rift by charging it with a spark ball; this object is placed at a predetermined location, and takes about 20 seconds to charge, resulting in a massive battle as the two teams clash for possession of the spark. Once you’ve got it, you must protect your spark runner as they make a beeline for the rift while the opposite team does everything they can to put a bullet in your back. It’s incredibly tense and rewarding stuff, and a welcome departure from simply slaughtering everyone in your path or capturing zones. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, then Bungie has also tweaked existing modes, such as Mayhem Clash, which decreases your super charge time among other things, leading to some epic firefights.
Even as I conclude this write-up, there’s still a lot more I could say about The Taken King. Things like the fact Guardians now share universal armor upgrade material, eliminating the need to acquire individual components, or the fact you can now turn bounties in without having to return to the vendor in the tower. While these things may seem inconsequential, they all add up to make an overall user-friendly experience, and it’s clear Bungie has been taking things on board. All in all, The Taken King represents everything Destiny should have been on day-one; yes, it’s taken a long time to get there, but now it’s here, there’s no excuse not to dip in. Those of you who haven’t yet tested the waters should easily find yourself swayed by this brilliant expansion and the changes that come with it.
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