A new hope.
Destiny: The Taken King Review on PlayStation 4
Destiny is finally finding itself, and its thanks to its latest and first “real” expansion, The Taken King. For the past year, Destiny has survived almost solely on its excellent shooting, the creative design of its raids, and memorable boss battles such as Skolas. However, Bungie has floundered on some of the important finer details. Its world, while pretty, felt dull in a lot of ways, and the Patrol and Story missions did little to breath life into them. Luck played too heavy a role in progression and made a lot of what should have been fun an exercise in patience.
Despite all of these Year One flaws though, Destiny is still an incredibly popular game and has been given a second chance to fulfill its *ahem* destiny with The Taken King. And wouldn’t you know it, for the most part Bungie has so far succeeded in Year Two. All of the new features that The Taken King adds are welcomed, and areas in the game that really needed a face lift got them.
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of Destiny’s first year was its story, or lack thereof. Destiny has a very deep lore that’s locked away in a browser/phone app (the Grimoire). In The Taken King, Bungie has put more of an effort of actually putting Destiny’s personality on display in the game proper.
Destiny’s story still lacks in comparison to other games, but at least the basics are there now. There are more cutscenes now that actually tell people useful information. The Tower Vanguards and vendors that were mostly lifeless in Year One actually have lines, personality and interact more with each other. The odd couple of Eris Morn and Cayde-6 had me laughing throughout the story. If I ever laughed in Year One Destiny, it was because of how bad the story was, so that’s a plus. In particular, Nathan Fillion as the “roguish” wise guy Cayde-6, is far and away the best performance in Destiny to date. Can Destiny now put themselves in the category of other deep storytelling experiences such as Mass Effect? No freaking way. However, at least now there are some cutscenes to look at, a story that fans can follow, and characters that we actually remember.
The Taken King’s three new subclasses are more of a direct hit. Unlike another recent expansion that I reviewed, none of these new classes feel like duds. The Hunter Nightstalker in particular is one of the best new PvE classes, while the Titan Sunbreaker is arguably the new king of the Crucible.
Hunters desperately needed a support focused subclass, and Bungie delivered in a big way. Its super, Shadowshot, is invaluable for its ability to incapacitate large groups of enemies in PvE. Stormcallers give the Warlocks a front line mage class of sorts, with its ability to rush in and quickly crowd control with the power of lightning (Arc). Meanwhile, Sunbreaker give Titans a mixed subclass with both offensive and defensive utility. All three have their strengths and weaknesses in different areas of the game, but by and large Bungie added three worthwhile classes that at least meet, if not surpass the older subclasses.
The other major-in-your-face addition in Destiny: The Taken King is the new Patrollable area, The Dreadnought. This new area is in orbit around the planet Saturn, and is the hub for many of the new missions and strikes, as well as new end game activities such as the new King’s Fall raid, which we will get to later on. The Dreadnought is by far the most engaging locale added in Destiny to date. There’s an element of surprise and mystery that exists in the Dreadnought that wasn’t really there in vanilla Destiny. There are locked chests that require certain conditions to open, mysterious tunnels to explore, and a brand new open end game arena called Court of Oryx (which we’ll also get to in a bit).
The Dreadnought is also the hub of the new enemy type, the Taken. Taken are essentially reskinned versions of enemies we have come to know such as the Cabal and Vex. Oryx “takes” them and turns them into a warped version of their former self. Although it might seem like a cop out to reuse assets in that way instead of coming up with a brand new enemy, their look is the only thing Taken versions of these enemies share. The Taken fight completely differently than their normal counterparts. They are far more strategic than any other enemy combatant to date and use tactics that players haven’t seen before. For example, Taken Goblins follow behind more powerful enemies such Minotaurs or Cabal Centurions with a beam that makes them invincible until the Goblin is taken out. Also, Cabal Phalanxes are parked near ledges and are capable of blasting you off to your doom with their new ability to fire projectiles from their shield. All of it leads to fresh new encounters despite the familiar look.
Speaking of fresh, Destiny as a whole has gotten a facelift with the launch of The Taken King. Organized quests that ask players to travel around the solar system and do various tasks for a tangible reward now reign supreme. In vanilla Destiny, endgame consisted of doing the raid and nightfall strike, and crossing your fingers that you got what you want. That still exists for sure, but there are other options now. Quests give players, regardless of the time they are able to invest, a feeling of progress each time they log in. Knowing that if you can complete this task, there’s something in it for you is a good feature that Bungie should continue to embrace. It sounds basic, and it is, but it didn’t really exist before and now it does. Great!
There’s also the new Infuse system, where players can feed higher level equipment into lower ones to slowly build them up to higher quality (replacing Etheric Light). Legendary and Rare engrams, regardless of whether or not they are helpful to you, can at least be infused into gear, boosting pieces you want to keep around. The Dark Below made hitting max level a chore where you had to pray you had good luck with the raid each week, while House of Wolves trivialized Prison of Elder gear, as any piece of equipment could be brought to max level quite easily. Infusing strikes a balance between the two and it makes a lot more sense. Raid gear is still the best of the best, but if you have an attachment to a certain piece of equipment be it for its perks or other reasons, with some work, you can bring those up to be just as good as raid gear eventually.
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