It’s hard to imagine it has already been a year since Bungie first took players on a new sort of space-faring adventure with the launch of its ambitious online shooter Destiny. It’s even harder to imagine just how much Destiny has changed since that inaugural takeoff one year ago. With the release of Destiny’s latest expansion, The Taken King, Bungie isn’t just adding on to what was already there, it’s radically changing several key elements of the core gameplay structure, essentially turning Destiny into a brand new game in many regards. Fortunately for Destiny players both new and old, this new game that Destiny has become with The Taken King’s launch is vastly superior to what it was before.
New Year, New Rules
The drastic changes that Destiny underwent in order to properly support The Taken King actually began shortly before the expansion even launched. The expansion pre-patch, a massive update which brought the game up to version 2.0, introduced several new streamlines to existing systems which made the entire user experience a lot easier to navigate.
Additional bounty slots with bounties that can now be turned in as soon as they’re completed, a brand new Quests tab which allows players to easily keep track of relevant tasks for their character, and the much appreciated nixing of the convoluted Light Levels system are just a few of the many ways Bungie made Destiny into a much more appealing game for all players, not just those who purchased The Taken King. Of course, this streamlining process was merely meant to pave the way for what is undoubtedly Destiny’s most exciting and immersive expansion yet.
Scores To Settle
The Taken King wastes no time before throwing players right into the middle of a massive conflict. The Hive God Oryx, father of big baddie Crota whom players slew back in the game’s first expansion The Dark Below, has come to avenge his son’s death and has brought his army of Taken, dark corrupted versions of standard foes from the game’s four base enemy factions, to help him do so. Working alongside established NPC’s such as the Exo Hunter Cayde-6 (voiced with charming brilliance by Nathan Fillion) and the mysterious former Guardian Eris Morn (who also first appeared back in The Dark Below), players must naturally put a stop to Oryx’s plans.
The new storyline of The Taken King is told across a series of new story-driven missions which, like other story missions, can be undertaken either solo or with up to two other Guardians. Unlike the story from Destiny’s base campaign, The Taken King’s narrative is, in a word, brilliant. Gone are the convoluted plotlines and poorly-explained one-off elements that plagued the base story. The player’s actions combined with the high-quality dialogue exchanges between Cayde, Eris, Ghost and other NPC’s make for a riveting tale of action and heroism. There may not be any major plot twists or surprise moments, but players will likely be too busy soaking in The Taken King’s brand new atmosphere and action setpieces to even notice.
Mastery Of All Things
The major highlights of the expansion, which players likely know about already if they’ve been following The Taken King’s development, are about as fun as you’d imagine. The new sub-classes for each of the three Guardian classes are a blast to play with (especially the Titan’s Sunbreaker which basically allows you to enact your fantasy of being Marvel’s Thor). Even better, the quest which unlocks access to your new sub-class can be undertaken immediately, since those who purchase The Taken King can also use a one-time item which boosts one character to level 25, the same level requirement as the sub-class quest.
As fun as the new sub-classes and story missions are however, it’s what’s *not* advertised that really makes The Taken King stand out. Obviously the new story missions and explorable areas are rife with enemies for you to smash and shoot, but they also contain fun new gameplay variations which, hopefully, will also show up in future content additions. These new gameplay types, which include illumination invisible ledges with “Ghost vision,” tracking down Tomb Husks to unlock doors, and even a prolonged stealth sequence (yes, you read that correctly), prove without question that Bungie was listening loud and clear when players complained about the base campaign’s boring cycle of kill enemy waves-unlock door-rinse-repeat.
Forged In Competitive Fires
If Destiny’s player vs. player Crucible is more your jam, rest assured The Taken King has plenty for you to enjoy as well. The seven new maps (eight for PlayStation players) feature a stunning breadth of variety not only in their locations but also their terrain. Playing on the more narrow and claustrophobic Crossroads map on Earth feels a lot different than trying to battle both enemy players and your fear of heights on the appropriately named Mercury-based map Vertigo.
The expansion’s two new PvP game modes, Rift and Mayhem, are both excellent additions not only because they’re fun to play, but also because they serve as welcoming destinations for newer, less-skilled players. In Rift, which involves two teams trying to carry a central spark to their opponent’s base, points are awarded merely for traveling towards your enemy’s base while holding the spark or successfully defending an allied spark-holder. In Mayhem, which drastically cuts down the cooldown timer for grenades, special melees, and Supers, there’s so much chaos going on around you that it’s hard not to have a good time even when your team is losing.
Third Times’ The Charm
With its first two expansions, The Dark Below and House of Wolves, Destiny started to show the faintest outlines of the enormous amount of potential it contained. With The Taken King, that potential has finally been realized. Sadly, The Taken King doesn’t quite fix all of Destiny’s problems, there’s still a lot of grinding involved if you want to access the most advanced endgame activities for instance, and it even created a few minor problems of its own (quests completed in the Tower often don’t trigger until you exit to orbit and the new group-required PvP bounties are an unwelcome change for more solo-oriented players). However, these are only minor grievances and their presence certainly doesn’t detract from The Taken King’s moody atmosphere and more user-friendly gameplay.
If you’ve never played Destiny before, or you were one of the many burned by the game’s shaky first showing, you should definitely check the game out now. The Taken King has done so much more than simply build upon what Bungie already laid out, it has uprooted the game’s entire foundation and set in its place a much stronger base from which the game can grow.