Destiny: The Taken King Review (PlayStation 4)
The first year of Destiny has been a bumpy ride for Bungie. From an underwhelming final product to a very flimsy first DLC pack, Destiny has seen a lot of ups and downs in only its first year of a proposed ten year plan. "The House of Wolves" was a step in the right direction for the game, and even though the "Taken King" undoes some of what that DLC introduced, it is exactly what Destiny needed after it in order to progress.
"The Taken King" is the first expansion in the second year of Destiny and it changes so many of the core concepts, from its interface to its mechanics, that it feels like playing an entirely new game. The game not only looks better with its new navigation screen and improved graphics, but it sounds better now with the Ghost being voiced by Nolan North. Lines of dialogue from the base game and the previous DLC’s are hit or miss even with a new voice actor, but everything in this new expansion is very well done and is some of the best writing there’s ever been in Destiny. Speaking of which, there are new cutscenes between missions that tie the story together and make good use of previously underutilized characters. These may seem like basic features for a huge game like Destiny, but where the original product was lacking, "Taken King" has essentially filled in all of those gaps in storytelling and given us a more complete experience.
This expansion picks up right where the "House of Wolves" and the "Dark Below" left off, and because of Crota’s defeat, Oryx has his sights set on earth and has made his way to our solar system to seek revenge. Oryx’s ship, the Dreadnaught, has established a base among the rings of Saturn and after a failed assault from the awoken queen the vanguard has to come up with a plan to stop him. That’s where our guardians come in. From there we follow Cayde-6, the Hunter vanguard on our assault on the Dreadnaught. This introduces us to a new enemy type: the Taken. These are modified versions of existing enemies with new abilities and battle strategies. For example Taken Psions can split into two enemies and Taken Vandals can spawn a bubble shield. The story ramps up to us defeating Oryx on the Dreadnaught and even continues after that in the second act. There are some really well done call backs to previous missions and lore in some of the later missions and strikes that tie everything together nicely.
In terms of gameplay, "The Taken King" changes everything we’ve gotten used to when it comes to progression. Players can now level up to 40 with experience alone, and that gives them access to new legendary and exotic gear, as well as some strikes. Gone is the old light level system that dictated a player’s ability to do endgame content. In its place we have a new light rating system that is more like a gradient that determines your attack, defense and the strength of your abilities. This is a much better system as it allows players to try content they might not be prepared for in terms of light rating, and not be punished for being underleveled. There are now recommended light ratings for things such as the weekly nightfall and heroic strikes as well as the raid.
At the moment, boosting your light rating with new gear is the priority in order to get to this content and the new quests are a great way to do that. Quests are plentiful in this game, and they’ve given new life to characters that some of us have since forgotten. The Gunsmith, Banshee-99 has his own quests and even reputation you can earn that gets you new weapons later on. These quests are more than just glorified bounties where you kill a certain number of enemies or collect resources, they feel closer to story missions and that makes everything you do feel much more important. Even for veteran players this can be a bit overwhelming but once it begins to flow and you start knocking them out, Destiny feels like a full experience.
Unfortunately, there are small changes that feel like they were implemented to slow progression or keep players from rushing through the content too quickly. Things like weakened weapon perks and much more situational armor perks mean as well as limiting ways of getting legendary marks, which are crucial to endgame progression, force you to grind for gear and marks until you have a decent set of gear and weapons. Infusion helps since it allows you level up new legendary gear and make use of all the things you grind for, but it doesn’t change the fact that a big chunk of the game is still a grind-fest built to slow you down.
"The Taken King" is everything players have been clamoring for since day one. More and better story content, more things to do peripheral to that content, and a better user interface. The funny thing is that without all of those fans to chastise Bungie for their previous design choices it’s possible that we might not have the game the way it is today. Bungie has listened to its fanbase and created a complete experience that puts a nice bow on the first year of Destiny. New players will find a game that offers a ton of great content and the fantastic gameplay this game has become known for. Veterans can breathe a sigh of relief that this is the expansion that the game desperately needed, even though it’s held back by roadblocks built to slow your progression. This is the first true expansion for Destiny and it’s the culmination of all the potential the original game showed when it first released.
This review is based on a purchased download of Destiny: The Taken King for PlayStation 4.