[This review will not cover the new raid King's Fall that comes with the game. Frankly, my crew won't be ready to take it on for a while and I'd like to get this out with some timeliness. I will try to update this review when I complete it.
If it is of any consolation, even though it is not my own opinion, from what I've seen and heard second hand, it is supposedly fantastic.]
Destiny will forever remain a fascinating title to me. Last year, I called it one of the most interesting AAA experiments put out for a long time. The way it was constructed, the game design choices, the vision of it…it was all just so fascinating, weird and different. When I finished my time reviewing the game though, I stepped back and moved onto other pastures, feeling as if there was a lot of unfulfilled potential in the game. At least, that was until early this year, when the game bit me, and bit me hard. Ever since I've been hooked, chasing better gear and the elusive Level 34.
I say this all, because I've seen both sides of the game in the public consciousness. A foot in each camp in the ongoing conversation about this title. Said conversation has devolved into passionate feelings on both sides. Those who play the game frequently, and those that think the game is awful and a scourge on the games industry. In that latter camp, exists the people who point to the game's lack of story, expensive DLC and repetitive nature.
And while this meta-narrative has waged war in forums across the internet, we come to The Taken King, the big Year 2 expansion for the game. Putting all the bad and good blood aside, the question remains, is the biggest expansion to date worth you time?
Yes. Yes it absolutely is. If you are one of the people who played Destiny at launch, but fell off after the main missions concluded and the post-game began, you in particular should play this. Potential was a word thrown around all over the place when Destiny was first released. "If only the game could fix its story and become more user friendly in it's post game progression, it would be closer to what we wanted". Destiny: The Taken King certainly rectifies a lot of that.
First off, yes. The Taken King has a story. Like, an honest to goodness narratively driven story. It's nothing groundbreaking in the grand history of fictional scripture, but it is a fun AAA romp. The campaign has you going up against Oryx, a near god from another dimension who has one purpose: to avenge his son Crota, who if you've played through the Crota's End Raid, is murdered by you for lovely, lovely gear. Alongside he has a an army of Taken, a mismatch of the other races in the game, twisted and re-purposed with new abilities and inter-connections. To put it simply, he's a real bad dude who has an macabre army all out to satisfy a personal grudge against you. This is supported by great cutscene work, that personalizes a ton of characters who you've never really got to interact with in meaningful ways. The series has a good sense of levity about itself now too. One of the standout reasons is the brilliant innings by Nathan Fillion as Cayde-6, who is the most persistent character in the campaign. Destiny has come under criticism for its poe-faced word building, and Cayde-6 seems to exist to tear that down. He often pokes holes in the seriousness of the franchise that has been present up until this point, his banter with Zavala and Eris playing off this juxtaposition nicely.
To help support this storytelling, the mission design is just much more varied. I'd even be bold enough to say that every single mission on display in The Taken King is better than anything that has come previously. What Bungie have done, feels much closer to Halo campaign missions of old, really giving us that Destiny experience we've been saying we want for a while now. Everything here feels upped significantly. Worth noting though, this being an expansion and not a full new game, there are only eight missions which should take you between three to four hours to complete.
This leads into one of my more key criticisms that is important to point out now. If you only intend to play the game's campaign and then bow out of the title, the package is going to seem incredibly barren. Priced at $/£40, the short length of the campaign probably isn't going to be enough to satisfy you. If you'r interest don't lie in getting new gear, raiding, and reaching the highest Light levels, there may not be enough for you here.
However, you should be interested in getting new gear, raiding and reaching the highest Light levels. Reaching 40 will only take you as long as the game's campaign (and maybe a smidge more, depending on what level you started as), but at that point the post game really kicks in. The strange Light progression system that was in place before, which was based off a lot of chance, turned a lot of people off interacting with the game's later content in the initial release. In here, you can blast to the level cap in no time, without a care in the world about your Light level…well, at least until you can't. Now there is a new number where your Light is represented, that is essentially the average of your attack and defense. All the gear you equip will build this number, and the late game content relies on you doing so. While it was promised in the pre-game marketing that Light won't affect your overall level, functionally, it still does. In fact, due to more items slots giving you Light, it's even more important than ever. Some one who is Level 40 with a 200 Light average, might as well be a half the capability of someone who is level 40 and Light level of 280.
But wait! Don't run away yet! I know this Light mechanic might well have put you off the original Destiny, but the way it has been re-contextualised is engaging, and most importantly, rewarding. First of all, the high number count allows you to believe you are progressing more continually. It's a simple way of re-framing the accumulation, but it really does have an affect on how you feel you are growing More importantly though, the rate at which loot drops has been vastly increased. To make that deal even sweeter, Destiny now takes into account what you have and the level at which your armor is as you decode an engram. In turn, you will generally get better gear you need. This means that in most cases, no matter what activity you are out doing, you will come back with a bag load of engrams and gear that will help you gain higher Light levels each time. These are simple shifts, but make the post game feel more engaging with a real sense of forward progression.
You can do this for a while too if you like. I've probably spent around 15 to 20 hours with the game since its launch last week, and I'm not even close to achieving all I want to achieve on one character. Spread that across three and there could well be hundreds of hours of content here.
There is a new area to explore in the expansion too, opening up Oryx's ship the Dreadnaught to you and letting you explore its depths. It's festering Gothic halls are appealing as they bare over you traversing the ships innerds. I wouldn't put it up there with the quality of the best locations in the game, due to the repetitiveness of its design and your inability to use a Sparrow in it, but it's a stark contrast to the other locations in the game. While I found it's winding chasms to be a little uninteresting after a time, it is still adds new traversable content to Destiny, which is well worth celebrating.
Alongside this content, there are tons of great other additions. Each class has now gotten a new sub-class, and while I can only speak to the Warlock Stormcaller, I have to say I'm impressed. The mission that has you obtain the discipline is really neat and floating around as Emperor Palpatine with lightening shooting from your mits hasn't got old yet. There are also several new Strikes here too, which again, I believe all to be game bests. Instead of just having you shoot through a few rooms and then dumping you in front of a bullet sponge boss at the end, there is real variety in the design. To a room that literally transforms as you fight in it to taking on an ancient prisoner encased in darkness, there are just so many more ideas at play in these Strikes. And of course you have the Crucible, your PVP option. There are a few new maps here that are fun enough, but the real quality comes from the new mode Rift. It plays like a mix of neutral bomb and basketball, having you pick up a spark to then score in the other teams goal. I've really enjoyed my time with the mode and I hope it becomes one of staples of PvP.
Destiny: The Taken King is a huge step forward for this game. With this concept of 'unfulfilled potential' clinging to the game's back like a monkey, The Taken King is an important leap to shrugging that stigma off. Dealing with many of the problems fans and detractors have thrown at the title since its launch, The Taken King is the first serious sign that Bungie are listening and want to please fans as well as those who left the game. Just about every piece of content included here is a title best, with a revamped narrative style, varied game design and rejigged progression system. This expansion is a huge course correct that I implore you to try out. Even if you dropped Destiny after being put off by the titles eccentricities at launch, you should really give this another go. And If you are a dedicated player, you absolutely should jump in too, obviously. With The Taken King, Bungie have taken huge, confident strides, mapping out what the future of this game is going to look like, and it's a journey I can't wait to continue embarking on.