Destiny: The Taken King
Reviewed on: PS4
Also on: Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360
Within the last year, it’s safe to say that no game has been as polarizing to the console gaming community as Destiny. Indeed, it served as my impetus to upgrade to a PS4—that shiny white console with the promise of endless hours of online adventuring was too much for me to resist. However, I’ll be the first to admit that my early experiences with Destiny: The Taken King were less than spectacular. It was easy to see that the game was a first-rate shooter, and the environments were jaw-droppingly gorgeous, but the lack of solid storytelling and overreliance on hardcore level grinding left me a bit disenfranchised. This, I’m sure, was where many of you bid the Traveler adieu. Those who stuck with it, however, were rewarded. As the game evolved, stalwart players began to find themselves immersed in a somehow endlessly satisfying video game experience while watching a new virtual community develop around them. One year and two expansion packs later, the folks at Bungie and Activision have thrown down the 18-gigabyte gauntlet that is Destiny: The Taken King, and they were good enough to hook us up with the collector’s edition, which is packed with all kinds of intergalactic whoop-ass.
While Destiny’s lack of solid storytelling was a sore spot for early players, Destiny: The Taken King steps up to the plate with some much needed narrative and character development. Essentially, the Hive god-king Oryx has jumped into our solar system to inflict some unholy retribution upon the Guardians who formed a united front to assassinate his son Crota. In order to fully implement said unholy retribution, Oryx has been snatching up the Guardians’ enemies and warping them into a new race called the Taken (Oryx is their king. Taken king. Get it?). The expansion’s core set of story missions offer up a good eight or nine more hours of gameplay that take Guardians to several new locations, including Oryx’s mighty Dreadnought. The cutscenes are completely stolen by Cayde-6, the wiseass Hunter Vanguard voiced with Nathan Fillion’s particularly nuanced form of sarcasm. His conversations with the spooky Eris Morn (Morla Gorrondona) over the Guardian’s intercom are absolutely priceless, and it’s extremely refreshing to see these background characters come to life.
Even after players complete the core story missions, there is still a ridiculous amount to do. My current obsession is exploring Oryx’s Dreadnought. It’s a completely new, fully patrollable landscape, and it’s jam-packed with mysteries, traps and extra cool loot. Certain enemies drop tokens that can be redeemed in certain areas of the Dreadnought to summon powerful foes that cough up baller swag upon termination, and there are certain areas that require keys that I’ve never even heard of. Part of Destiny’s appeal has been its laissez-faire attitude when it comes to explaining how to complete things like raids, and that same attitude has been applied to the Dreadnought. Players can enjoy themselves simply by piecing together the myriad clues that Oryx’s sweet ride has to offer.
Throughout Destiny: The Taken King, Oryx’s group of Taken are never that far away. Even on old strikes and patrols, the Taken can show up to tear shit up. Since the Taken ranks are made up of stolen Cabal, Fallen, Hive and Vex that might exist in one’s nightmares, fighting them is a complete bitch—but in a good way. The Taken are definitely designed to keep players on their toes. Captains can blind players, Taken Vandals can pop bubble shields just like the Titan class, and Taken Scions keep dividing if you don’t kill them fast enough. There’s nothing quite as nerve-wracking as that moment in which a world event spawns at precisely the same moment as a Taken invasion.
Along with these hideously aggravating new enemies, each Guardian class has been given a new elemental subclass. The Hunter’s Nightstalker subclass is my current favorite as it tethers enemies together, suppressing their abilities while dealing them damage. Breaking into the Warlock’s Stormcaller subclass is tailor made for anyone who admired the Force lightning antics of Emperor Palpatine. For straight-up bludgeoning power, however, the Titan’s Sunbreaker subclass harnesses a flaming hammer of destruction that can be hurled back and forth. These new subclasses have been a blast to try out in Crucible, Destiny: The Taken King’s multiplayer arena, which has also been updated with new maps and two new gameplay modes. Mayhem is the best one for those who can’t get enough of their super moves, and Rift takes capture the flag and flips it on its head by adding interdimensional explosions to the mix.
Admittedly, dealing with the year one nerfs to all of the gear that I had worked so hard to cultivate was a bit jarring. Picking up rare and uncommon weapons that made my Ascended Fatebringer look like an airsoft gun made me feel impotent and weak. The unexpected benefit of this, however, was remembering how breathlessly excited that finding green, blue and sometimes purple engrams was back when I was a lowly level 20 Guardian. It’s also given me the opportunity to change my Guardian’s appearance, which had gotten a little stale, truth be told. At first, I was totally with that angry group of players that felt like all of the time spent playing raids and strikes in order to get sweet loot had gone down the toilet with the expansion, I found it to have the opposite effect. Not only am I taking in all the new sights and sounds that have been added to the game, but I’m finding the journey to new and exciting light levels to be worth having the piss taken out of my sweet gear.
The arrival of Destiny: The Taken King is much more than an expansion to Destiny—it’s a reinvention. It’s the manifestation of player feedback, passionate development and community gaming that began with Destiny’s release a year ago. More than anything, it feels like a game that has started to test many of its boundaries, and even break a few that were holding it back during its first year. For those who have been on the fence about Destiny, now is a lovely time to join the Guardians and chuck a hammer straight into the face of evil.