The first year of Destiny has been quite a journey. Full of peaks and valleys, year one of Bungie’s polarizing space shooter held lots of promise and little execution. A full game and two expansions later, Destiny welcomes its first major expansion alongside patch 2.0, in hopes of transforming the sci-fi shooter for the better. The changes are aplenty, both big and small, joining together to make Destiny the best it can be. The Taken King is what Destiny has been working towards since its initial release, and while perfecting the formula is still in the early stages of development, it’s a step in the right direction.
My biggest gripe with Destiny has always been its lack of soul and respect issues when it comes to players’ time investment. Once completing the main quest line and various post-game offerings, Destiny hits a wall. A wall where the fun of blasting enemies stops, and the tiresome grind begins. It’s something both The Dark Below and House of Wolves expansions have struggled to overcome. Abolishing such reoccurring problems is the first thing The Taken King takes on. Bungie’s willingness to listen to the community’s feedback is apparent with The Taken King, resulting in an experience that better respects my time. The new, short but sweet, campaign is a breath of fresh air for a game infamously known for its lackluster storytelling, and the much fairer loot system is very welcome. What’s more, The Taken King revamps many of Destiny’s tedious systems, such as light and experience. From the small tweaks to complete overhauls, there has never been a more inviting time to jump into Destiny. One of the most substantial changes comes by way of the reinvented Light system. The reworking is made with accessibility in mind, and sees its intentions come to fruition. Light is now an average of the overall value of your Guardian’s gear. While it might not seem like a change worth caring about, from a newcomer’s perspective, returning players will find their efforts constantly rewarded, where’s before it was more a game of luck. Focusing on strengthening Light once past the new level 40 cap, is essential if looking to complete harder missions. Another great touch is that the loot now scales with your Guardian’s level, making for a more coherent path of progression. There is always better gear on the horizon, though this time it isn’t as unattainable as it was in vanilla Destiny. This helps alleviate the endgame grind significantly, encouraging players to continue on their journey after completing the main quests.
Context is something Destiny has always struggled to present, and the new quest system helps give motive to missions consisting solely of decimating waves of attackers. Introducing each objective is Nolan North in exchange for Peter Dinklage as Ghost, interjecting topic relevant backstory and the occasional dash of humor. The moment-to-moment gameplay is as strong as it’s always been, if not better, however, it’s the long-term goal of getting form point A to point B that sees the most innovation. Characters and the world around them are the most lively and compelling they’ve ever been, interposing heart in a game previously void of it. The narrative offerings are also improved, this time focusing on Oryx, father of Crota, who Guardians may have previously put in the ground. Oryx’s role in the Destiny universe is wide-spreading, as many of the key characters join forces to face him. It’s a fun few hours that tells a coherent story for the first time in Destiny history. The new enemy types, known as the Taken, add some diversity to a roster of mostly predictable opponents. Their biggest advantage is their ability to multiply, pushing the player to clear waves quickly or face getting overwhelmed. Great level design, solid shooting, visually pleasing cutscenes, and an entertaining cast of characters made for a fresh adventure in a world pleading for more. Though for all the strides The Taken King takes with its story and exciting strike missions, what follows fails to maintain the same spirit and variety. Shortly after the story fades and the strike missions run their course, The Taken King hits the same wall that everything before it, had. The post-game begins and redundant tasks considerably ramp up, falling back into the same loop that has restricted both of the prior expansions, as well as the base game. Exploring the new patrol zone makes for a decent distraction from the grind, as the Dreadnaught is full of hidden gear, passages, chests, and enemy encounters. The sense of wonder is quickly extinguished as The Taken King does little to hold the attention of players looking for something new, past a certain point. Possibly the biggest shortcoming is that the point of exhausting the expansion’s content comes relatively quick. The Taken King simply doesn’t have the breadth of content to get by on repetition. It’s interesting only to a certain degree, as Destiny continually stumbles with where that line should be drawn.
Fortunately, there is still longevity to be tapped into with Destiny’s PvP. Crucible comes with eight new maps and two new game modes, adding to an already robust lineup. The maps are similar to past creations, coming with multiple means of traversal with varied, often unpredictable, architecture. On the other hand, the new modes are soundly constructed and fun to take part in. Rift tasks Guardians with capturing a ball of light to then drive it towards the opposing base with hopes of scoring, similar to Capture the Flag. In addition to Rift, Mayhem takes the level of frantic action up a notch, recharging super moves significantly faster, which results in what the title suggests. The new sub-classes also lend a lot to the mode as well. Sub-classes freshen up the feel of combat, making for a battlefield where cooperativeness and individualism complement each other, nicely. Crucible remains one of Destiny’s strongest pillars, for the unpredictable nature of competitive online play never ceases to dull, as the rest of the experience does so around it.Conclusion: The Taken King is the missing piece to the puzzle Destiny has sorely been in need of since launch. It’s visible Bungie has been open to fan feedback, for what sparked community outcry before, is slowing beginning to see fitting resolve. The changes to the Destiny formula on the most fundamental of levels are easily the strongest aspects the expansion brings with it. As for the revised story, new subclasses, exciting Crucible and other appealing improvements, they’re icing on the cake, yet for one still undercooked beneath its commendable presentation. However, for all the hits The Taken King lands, Destiny is kept from advancing by some of what restrained the experience the first go around. It continues to excel in the basics, and fumble with the bigger ideas. While the expansion has by no means tapped all the potential from Bungie’s space shooter, The Taken King makes the package finally feel complete for the first time.
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