As much as I liked Destiny, even I agreed with many others over its issues during the first year of its life. A lack of live events during patrol missions, the ridiculous way the Light levelling system worked, and a poorly implemented storyline meant that, unless you had a group of like-minded players who were happy to repeat the same raids over and over, your end-game solely existed in the Crucible. The first two add-ons did little to help this, presenting too little content for their asking price.
So The Taken King represented a chance to alter the course of Destiny’s… well, destiny. A few of those much-needed changes were felt before the expansion went live – namely the way progression worked and how Light affected gear – and it finally gave me hope. Were Bungie finally using the feedback to deliver on Destiny’s potential? Would The Taken King fix all the other issues that plagued the game? Would I get ever used to the fact Nolan North was now voicing Ghost?
A renewed focus on the narrative is made clear from the get-go thanks to the opening cinematic. For those of you who want a quick summary, here it is – Onyx, father of Crota, is angry that the Guardians killed his son in The Dark Below expansion. Here to claim revenge on anything that moves, he’s taking existing foes and bending them to his will. With the fate of the galaxy in the balance, players must take their Guardian on a journey to put an end to Oryx once and for all.
After a promising start with its first mission, which sets the tone brilliantly, I became a little apprehensive. Going back to the same planets I’ve played through several times before? Fighting reskinned enemies? Had we been duped by false promises? Thankfully the answer is no, as it turns out that Bungie have expanded upon old areas for certain missions. As for the enemies, the “taken” variants of foes feature new abilities that can be downright overwhelming if not dealt with properly. Basically, the more I played, the more depth I found to the content.
The narrative is the biggest example of this, with Bungie taking their arguably biggest star of the cast – Nathan Fillion – and putting his character Cayde front and centre. It’s not just focusing on one of geek culture’s biggest names, though. The monotone delivery of lines is (mostly) gone, providing some actual personality in cutscenes, and the banter during missions finally turns missions into a story instead of being told to where to go or shoot. More surprisingly, the NPCs in the Tower even reflect on your recent actions, making it seem like your character is making a difference. I even began to care to Ghost, who now comes off as a much friendlier (and less genocidal) 343 Guilty Spark, which I assume was originally the intention.
It was during the main storyline that I got a taste of more interesting, multi-staged boss fights compared to what had previously been available. Everything seemed to be going well, and then the main story apparently ended. For a moment, I once again felt like I had been duped with a short expansion, but I was incredibly relieved to find out TTK was far from over. Brand new strike missions and patrol points unlock in a natural progression, with class-based objectives thrown in as well. If anything, TTK truly opens up once the focused story element is over, but still manages to keep the narrative going in a less intensive way.
Then came my next worry – improving my Light level with gear acquisition. Before TTK I had never had a hope of reaching the point where I could raid thanks to the RNG screwing me over. While players are still at its mercy to a degree, I actually found it possible to reach that point this time around. In fact, it took just a few weeks to get in a position where I can attempt The King’s Fall raid. That in itself is a testament to how Bungie have made the content much more accessible, but I must admit that there came a point where I had to dive in the Crucible for a while before being able to take on the Heroic Vanguard strikes. You may think that’s fine – it’s forcing players to try out new things – but I think it’s disappointing that the option of sticking to just the PvE side of things wasn’t there.
Then again, the Crucible is just as great as ever. The new maps are not only varied and well designed, but fit with the various game modes available. They also give an expanded look at other locations we haven’t seen before – a Vex-terraformed Mercury, a decimated Europe, an abandoned part of The Last City. However, I do have two complaints about the PvP. The first is in regards to latency, and how someone with a high ping could wipe the floor with everyone else. It was utterly bewildering, and downright frustrating to come across in a close game. My other complaint is more a class balancing issue, but the Titan’s Sunbreaker special ability is definitely more powerful than it should be in PvP.
Which brings me nicely to the topic of the new subclasses, and how their abilities create new way to dispatch enemies. The crowd-controlling Nightstalker, the electric-raining Stormcaller, and the previously mentioned Sunbreaker are all satisfying to play in their own way. It also means it’s not just constant Golden Guns and Voids everywhere you go, and the combinations of things such as the Nightstalker’s bow trapping a group, followed up by the Stormcaller’s hammer blow is just magnificent to watch.
However, the ultimate question left to answer is if The Taken King is worth its asking price, especially for those who initially felt burned by Destiny’s unrealised potential. The improvements mentioned throughout the review really do turn Destiny into a much better experience, but issues still persist. RNG can still be a cruel mistress, but the rate at which Legendary Marks (the new end-game currency) are gained it should mean becoming adequately geared won’t take an age. The other is how, yet again, there is no matchmaking for Raids and other top-tier content. Yes, I understand Bungie want to force tight-knit co-operation in these areas, but the option should be left to the player, not the developer. If three unprepared randomers want to fail spectacularly, and then rage-quit, that should be their prerogative.
However, the main thing is that TTK rectifies the main problems Destiny had, and does enough to alter its course for the better, but let’s make one big point here – it’s still Destiny, and you’re still doing the same things you were last year. If you’re expecting new vehicles to improve on the awful Combined Arms mode in the Crucible, you’ll be disappointed. If you thought they might finally so something involving our ships beyond watch them fly between destinations, you’ll be disappointed. Basically, it’s the same modes and objectives as last year, but their delivery is much more enjoyable.
Hopefully Activision won’t overprice the next mini add-ons, or perhaps they do what every other MMOG does and supply a free update here and there, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. What truly matters is that newcomers will find joining at The Taken King a much better affair than had they done so a year ago, and returning players will find a game that’s better presented, more accessible, and deceptively full of interesting content to conquer. Asking for another £40 to begin delivering on Bungie’s promise may seem steep, but I honestly think the content provided just about justifies the asking price.
- The improved narrative and overall characterisation (especially Cayde, and even Ghost)
- Plenty of content to get through (despite seeming small to begin with.)
- Player progression is simplified, making end-game content much more accessible.
- Latency in PvP provides bizarre, unfair advantages.
- Still no matchmaking in end-game PvE modes.
- It’s still the same old game modes and objectives, just better presented.
The Short Version:
It doesn’t fix everything that was wrong with Destiny, but The Taken King does enough in all the right places to make it a highly enjoyable FPS experience overall. A renewed focus on narrative and a streamlined progression system helps to push Destiny in the direction it should have been heading all along.
8 – CAPABLE: Great games typically provide competent production values with a degree of innovation, personality and soul that's sometimes absent in titles that score lower. Or even just exceptional raw value on top of competent execution. There'll usually be a little something to stop games like these from reaching the very top - innovative but slightly flawed, fun but not groundbreaking - however you can buy games that score 8/10 with confidence.
Platform: PS4 (Tested) | Xbox One