Destiny: The Taken King Review – The Destiny We’ve Deserved All Along

Game Reviews / Gaming / PlayStation / Reviews / Xbox

When it comes to Destiny, there are some that love the game and others who’ve sworn it off, chalking it up to being just a money trap from Bungie with no real content. While the last DLC, “House of Wolves“, added a few interesting aspects to the game, it wasn’t enough to keep some people happy.

When the first real expansion to the game was announced, people were a bit skeptical. When Bungie announced Destiny: The Taken King, the company said it was adding a wealth of new content, so much in fact, that Bungie tacked on a $40 price tag for the new DLC. Once again, people raged but Bungie promised people would come around to the price.

With The Taken King, we were promised a new, epic storyline, a revamped light system, new gear with some rebalancing and a Peter Dinklage free leveling experience. We were even promised a brand new raid. The question is, with all this added content, is it worth your $40? Let’s find out.

The Taken King Story

In the beginning of The Taken King you’re greeted with a cutscene narrated by Awoken queen Mara Sov. Sov and her Awoken, including her brother and prince Uldren and his Crows, take on an unknown threat. Without much spoilers, the cinematic plays out and you witness an epic space battle between this unknown threat and the Awoken. You even see the might of the Queen and her viciousness in battle.

From the end of the cutscene, you’re tasked with scouting a Cabal base on Phobos that has sent out a distress signal on all channels. As a guardian you’re tasked with deciphering what the Cabal are up to and experience your first confrontation with the Taken, a race of beings consisting of baddies you’ve faced before, but with new abilities. The way Taken Thrall move across the map is enough to make me think of certain horror films.

Once you complete that mission, more missions opening up including those that allow you to obtain your new subclasses (we’ll get to those in a bit). Without giving any of the story away, you go through a series of missions against the Taken and their King, Oryx. Oryx is angry that you killed his son Crota, the end raid boss in the Dark Below DLC, and has come to exact vengeance and the story plays upon that premise.

The story does really well at letting Nathan Fillion shine in his role as exo Hunter Vanguard Cayde-6 and Morla Gorrondona shine as Eris Morn, the two main NPCs that will be helping you your quest to take on Oryx. Coupled with the interactions with Ghost, now voiced by Nolan North, the story does well at keeping you glued to your seat.

At the dramatic conclusion of the main story, I felt a bit let down. I don’t know what I was expecting when it came to the end of the main story, but I felt the storyline was building up to something epic and it’s dramatic end fell short of that just a bit. Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly a decent ending in terms of the story, I just didn’t feel satisfied at the end of it.

However, my disappointment was short lived because as soon as I beat the main story and went back to the tower, I was granted with a number of side storylines that pertained to other aspects of the Taken War. Heck, the storyline that concluded where the “House of Wolves” ended up was a nice touch. I will say, Bungie did one hell of a job with the amount of story missions there are with the game. The side-missions add a lot in that exploring and playing the new strikes felt less like a grind and more inclusive in the story.

The Taken King storyline aside, Bungie went back to the drawing board and made the whole storyline more fluid. Not only did they revamp the flow, but they changed cutscenes and added a little bit here and there.

Bungie even changed the old DLC content and how it unlocks. For instance, instead of doing the Moon missions then waiting until you’re level 20 to start the “Dark Below” content, you now get the “Dark Below” storyline the moment you hit the moon. Let me say, it was really weird to see the level 26 Omnigul strike start out at level 10.

Bungie did the same with the “House of Wolves” content. When you first head to see the Awoken Queen Mara Sov in the story, the HoW content and the reef opens up to the player adding more continuity to the story and a progression that makes more sense.

Subclasses

When The Taken King was announced, we were told that Bungie would be adding the missing elemental subclasses each class as gone without. The Hunter would receive a void subclass, whereas the Titans would receive a solar subclass and Warlocks would receive an arc subclass. As we neared the Sept. 15, launch date, we got a peek at how those exact subclasses would play out.

The Titan received the Sunbreaker subclass, throwing fiery hammers a la Thor style.Hunters received the Nightstalker subclass allowing them to both become a support class and shoot a void bow. Finally, Warlocks received the Stormcaller subclass, allowing them to sling lighting like Darth Sidious in Star Wars.

It

It’s hammer time.

Each class, the Titan, Hunter and Warlock, receive their missions to obtain these subclasses following the opening mission on Phobos. In my first playthrough, I played as my Titan and my quest took me to Mercury where I learned to harness the sunbreaker power. Again, without spoiling the quest-line, the arc was a few missions leading to a build-up where I got to unleash my hammer repeatedly on unsuspecting victims.

I will admit, during the last mission where I got to use my hammers on repeat, I was running around like Oprah Winfrey shouting, “You get a hammer, and you get a hammer. Everybody gets a hammer.” It’s a phrase I still use to this day.

In my second playthrough, I unlocked my hunter’s Void Bow ability and while it’s not as fun as giving the gift of fiery hammer demise, the void bow shot offers a lot of utility by keeping baddies glued to one area. While they’re stuck in that one area, any shot fired is critical (yellow) damage.

The only subclass I have yet to explore is the warlock, but the quest-line takes you into the Black Garden and you take on the Vex. While I have yet to play through the mission, it’s something I plan on doing really soon.

New areas

One of the biggest complaints about the year one DLCs was the fact there weren’t really any new areas to explore. The Taken King has that by the ton. From the giant Dreadnaught to the new areas on planets we’ve explored in year one, there’s just so much to explore. In the Dreadnaught alone, there’s so much to explore and do. From searching for calcified fragments (the dead ghost search of the Dreadnaught) to searching for a variety of chests, you can easily lose hours to exploring Oryx’s ship.

Another aspect added to the Dreadnaught that’s worth exploring is the Court of Oryx. This event sits in the middle of the Dreadnaught and allows fireteams to spend runes to fight bosses, with there being three tiers to fight. The more you fight, and the higher the tier, gives you an opportunity to get decent upgrades and gear.

Leveling and the New Light System

With the drop of patch 2.0, a week before The Taken King launched, Destiny players saw the new and revamped leveling and light level systems. The Taken King caps leveling at level 40 and instead of a confusing way to get there based on the amount of light each item has, you do so by gaining experience from bounties, stories and kills.

In fact, the confusing light level system is gone entirely. When Bungie found the system to be flawed at the release of Destiny in September of 2014, the team was tasked with coming up with a new leveling system and I have to say, it’s much improved. If you didn’t play prior to The Taken King, or have yet to, the year one content featured a hard-level cap of 20. To reach, the end level, 34 at the time you had to find gear with a certain amount of light on it, leading to an arduous grind.

When patch 2.0 dropped, Bungie converted a player’s light level into their actual level, so users who had a light level of 34 were grandfathered in as 34, allowing you to get right into The Taken King action.

The Taken King storyline starts off at level 25 and progresses after that. In my first run-through with my Titan, I jumped from level 34 to 37.5 in seconds after turning in completed bounties. From there, I was easily able in a few hours progressing through the storyline. In fact, the progression to 40 will take you about four-six hours if you’re in your 30s.

The new light system is an average of your attack and offensive values. The higher they are, the higher your light level is.

The new light system is an average of your attack and offensive values. The higher they are, the higher your light level is.

Once you hit 40, you’re hit with the infamous MMO grind to get better gear and that’s where the new light system comes to play. The new light system is an average of your attack and defense gear values. The higher your gear is, the higher your light level is, allowing you to take on harder content. For example, once you hit 240 light, the daily heroic story missions become easier to contend with, whereas 260 will get you into heroic strikes and 280 will open up nightfall strikes to you.

All of this is done to push you closer to the 310 light level cap. In order to do that though, you’re going to need to hit the King’s Fall raid.

To enter the raid, a player should have a light level of at least 290. It should be a requirement though as players who expect to be carried through the raid will have a terrible time. I went in at 260 to get a glimpse at the raid and baddies were red-barred, meaning I’d have one hell of a time killing them but they’d have an easy time.

Don’t despair though. While it can be considered a grind, getting to 290 light isn’t too tough. Bungie is pretty forthcoming with loot drops. Speaking of loot drops, don’t be surprised if you’re rocking a blue or two going into harder content. Finding a blue item at a higher attack or defense value than that purple you just got is all too common.

That’s not a complaint though, as Bungie has a pretty handy infusion system in place. For example, if I’m rocking out my year two exotic Hand Cannon Hawkmoon at 293 light, I have a chance to get a blue or legendary scout rifle at a higher light. Say I get a primary weapon at 299 light. I can take that weapon and infuse it into Hawkmoon and bring it up to a higher light level.

Infusing gear now allows players to keep the gear they like but add the higher attack or defense from that rare or legendary item they

Infusing gear now allows players to keep the gear they like but add the higher attack or defense from that rare or legendary item they’ve found.

Bungie is pretty forthcoming with the engram drops, too. As you continue strike playlists, your chance of getting legendary engrams goes up. At the end of an hour of playing, I walked away with over a dozen engrams. Some were worse than what I had, others better. If that weren’t enough, you have the ability to earn legendary marks.

Gear and Legendary Marks

Legendary marks are the new currency that replaces Crucible and Vanguard marks. You can still only hold up to 200 at a time but instead of capping each week at 100 earned, there’s no cap to earning them. Marks are used to infuse gear and to buy legendary weapons from the number of vendors. You earn 15 each just by playing the daily heroic and PVP maps.

As far as Gear is concerned, weapon and armor perks seem to add for utility and fun to the game. No longer do I dispose of a piece of gear without checking the perks. Also, you have two more slots to fill. You can now find a variety of Ghost shells and the class artifacts add even more utility. While in year one, Class items were mostly cosmetic, they also add perks to your Guardian. For instance, I found a cloak for my hunter that increased my reputation earnings with the Vanguard and increased the rate at which my scout rifle levels up.

Speaking of leveling up, Motes of Light are a lot more useful. Not only are they used in the infusion process, but a simple pressing of X (for the Xbox One) and that Mote gives weapons and armor experience. It’s a quick way to level up that new rifle or helmet for those who have a lot of Motes of Light.

Ghost

Before The Taken King dropped, players got to experience some of the narrative through the Ghost as narrated by Peter Dinklage. There were complaints that Dinklage’s performance sounded as if he were bored. In fact, Bungie decided with The Taken King to go with videogame voice legend Nolan North. While, that’s all well and good, Bungie took it a step further and scrubbed Peter Dinklage’s Ghost from the game.

Bungie told the media it did this to create better continuity with the story. Players’ first real experience with North’s portrayal of Ghost came with patch 2.0, prior to the story for The Taken King. In the week leading up to The Taken King, players became divided, falling into two camps. Some were not impressed with North’s retake on Dinklage’s iconic lines. Somehow Dinklage’s foreboding, “We’ve awoken the hive,” became an upbeat observation. You can watch the video here if you have yet to see it.

I was torn, myself. While I thought some of the lines were better voiced by North, I got used to Dinklage’s Ghost paling around when I explored the world of Destiny. However, when The Taken King dropped, North’s Ghost instantly became my favorite. Whether it was North’s performance, or revamped writing, I don’t know, but North did a good job.

PVP

I don’t play a lot of PVP. I can safely rank Crucible as one of my least favorite activities, but with the added maps, modes and gear, it’s slowly becoming one of my more favorite aspects of Destiny. Mayhem, one of the new modes, amps up super and ability recharges, along with amping up special and heavy drops. Scores are also multiplied. All of this combines into, you’ve guessed it, Mayhem as chain lightning, hammers and bows are being shot left and right.

Another new mode is a capture-the-flag (CTF) style Rift. Players fight for control of an orb (called the spark) as it charges. Once the spark is charged, players attempt to grab the orb and take it to the opponent’s rift where they slam it in, ala Space Jam style. However, unlke CTF, players are awarded points along the way for a number of things.

Where it fell short

While I’m full of praise when it comes to The Taken King, there are a few areas The Taken King could improve on. In the original game, the Guardians had speaking parts. That’s not so much the case in The Taken King. In fact, in the times you see your Guardian, the only thing he or she does is offer corky facial expressions. That’s about it. The Guardian voice acting in the original was one of my more favorite aspects.

Guardians remain silent during storylines, only offering facial expressions.

Guardians remain silent during storylines, only offering facial expressions.

Like I said before, the main story just seems to end. While there’s a little bit of a twist that makes the story make sense on a second playthrough, I felt a bit underwhelmed. Again, that’s just personal preference.

Bungie could have improved on the social aspect of the game a little bit more. While, yes, we have new dance moves, I feel like it’s still lacking. The tower and reef still serve as hubs for quests and decrypting engrams, other than that, I don’t find myself wanting to spend much time there. Maybe, that’s by design, but as with any MMO social is an important aspect.

Dance parties are about all you can do socially still.

Dance parties are about all you can do socially still.

Another aspect I find that needs to change is the Playstation exclusivity. For those who don’t know, the Playstation gets the added benefits more exotic and legendary gear plus extra strikes. You can buy a Playstation 4 if you want this gear, but I think exclusive content, whether its for Destiny or in general, needs to go away.

Conclusion

When it comes to Destiny 2.0, there’s a wealth of content. Even after three weeks of playing the game, Destiny players are still discovering all the hidden treasure troves in the new areas adds value to exploring every nook and cranny of the new areas. The game has so much to it, it almost seems overwhelming, but in a good way. I could easily write another 2,000-3,000 words on all the content there is, but you should probably just check it out yourself.

When I reviewed the second DLC from Destiny, “House of Wolves,” I called it a good step forward. Comparatively, if I had to give a similar description to The Taken King, I would say it’s leaps and bounds better. It’s the Destiny we’ve deserved all along.From a completely revamped and much stronger story to a leveling system that makes sense, Destiny 2.0 seems like a brand new game. As each DLC is released, Bungie has shown that it’s willing to improve.

Whatever complaints you had in year one, they’re gone in year two. For those leery of picking up the expansion, it’s well worth your $40. The same can be said for those who have yet to play the game at all. The collector’s edition is $80 and it’s still worth the price. If you have yet to pick up the game, you can do so from Destiny’s official site here. Seriously, what’s holding you back? Go do it. Bungie has hinted at more content being released over year two, so this is only the beginning. I suggest you get in on it sooner rather than later.

***We reviewed a retail copy of Destiny: The Taken King which was purchased by the reviewer
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