I’ll be honest, while I loved playing Destiny when it came out, around the time the expansions first started coming out I wanted to wait and see what people said about them before dropping that chunk of change on them. The grumbling was enough to convince me along with the grind for gear that I just didn’t have the time or energy to devote to Destiny along with two MMOs and any other games I’d like to play. I mean I had to grind for a week and a half just to get enough light to go on a raid with some friends from work. Even in most MMOs you can at least find gear that works within a few hours. It was too much and I felt a bit gipped as I felt Destiny at launch was a great first part to a bigger story but it just didn’t go anywhere. So we’re a year out now and I was hearing about the revamped game and what they were doing with it and it sounded like it was going to become far less of a grind and slog which definitely interested me. I have to say with Taken King and the other two expansions Destiny is finally what I expected from the game when it launched.
Destiny tells the story of a war torn solar system that’s been this way for centuries after a golden age of technology. We have one last major city and ruins on just about every planet in the system. You’re a Guardian, resurrected by a Ghost, a small robot like character that’s attached to the Traveler, the large orb that helped humanity usher in its golden age before the Darkness swept ni to wipe it away. Fighting your way back to the Last City through Fallen, you end up getting brought into the fold to help push back against the Darkness. They fix up a ship for you, help outfit you and away you go to fight the Fallen, the Hive, the Vex and the Cabal. Where Taken King picks up though is to put a bigger face on the Darkness. While all those factions play a role in this, the big bad, The Taken King, Oryx has returned.
The story picks up from where it left off with The Dark Below and House of Wolves. In Dark Below the Hive was attempting to resurrect and ancient god known as Crota and you’re involved in stopping him. Well the Taken King, Oryx, kind of objects to this as Crota was his son and he obliterates an entire fleet of ships and starts conscripting an army to get your attention. This sets off a series of new quests directed by Cayde-6, a Hunter who hates being stuck in the Tower, as he rather comically dumps you in some really terrible situations in order to get you on board the Dreadnaught, Oryx’s ship. Overall it’s leaps and bounds what we got with the initial launch. The people in the Tower actually have some character to them now instead of just barking orders and Cayde-6 quickly became one of my favorite NPCs to interact with in Destiny. It’s a marked improvement over what came before, although I admit there’s still a lot of confusion as things aren’t explained all that well, but it is a lot of fun to play through.
With the story though we also get some new Strikes that are side missions that tie into the main plot. After you get through the main story with the Dreadnaught and Oryx there is still quite a bit to do. The new maps in the Crucible, the player vs player area, are fantastic. I’m more sad I’m kind of terrible in that portion of the game as I do enjoy it but it’s had the added effect of making me much better in story missions. It has been a blast playing through the Crucible maps again just to see the eight new ones and try to figure them out. The addition of another Raid for even better gear is a good bonus but that requires some grind for gear. I’ll get to that in a minute.
Visually there isn’t any changes off the base game. The cut-scenes look fantastic as always and I love the little details they’ve crammed into just about every new environment you walk into. The Dreadnaught is the biggest new addition and definitely has a unique vibe to it and while there’s a lot of sameness to the new area, at the same time you can look around and instantly know where you are despite the colors and architecture being so similar. It’s really good design and feels like the immense ship they’re depicting within the game. The new weapons, the ones I’ve managed to pick up, look great and I like some of the new gear that I got with the Collector’s Edition. Overall it is a fantastic game and one of the first I picked up with my PS4 just because I thought it looked good on the PS3 during the beta and I thought the PS4 would be even better and I was right.
Some of the sounds have been updated with possibly the biggest addition the complete swapping of Ghost’s voice actor from Peter Dinklage to Nolan North. This is throughout the game so if you make a new character you’ll hear a slightly different take on Ghost from the get go. North does a good job delivering the slightly stilted dialogue from earlier in the game but is better with the change-ups they made later in Taken King. Probably the biggest audio change is how much voice-acting you’ll get with this. They really go all out using Cayde-6 so Nathan Fillion gets to shine as the slightly grumpy but flamboyant npc. He has some really great moments in this. I”m really happy that they did this as it feels less like this big open empty world with even just a little more radio chatter added into it.
I won’t delve into the control scheme too much as Aaron covered it in his review of the game last year. Nothing has really changed here as it still controls really tight and just feels right playing it. They’ve introduced a bunch of changes with Taken King and I figured I’d hit the Crucible side of things first. Crucible gets eight new maps with the expansion along with two new modes. The maps are well designed and fit the modes they’re tagged with well. The two new PVP modes are Rift and Mayhem. Rift is essentially capture the flag, only you’re grabbing a charged orb that takes awhile before you can grab it charged and then you have to run it to your opponent’s base and not your own. Mayhem is a lo like it sounds. Imagine your really destructive specials recharging incredibly fast so you can fire them off a few times every minute instead of once over four minutes or so. It’s a lot of fun.
On the story side of things, one of the bigger changes is the implementation of a more traditional questing system. They’ve put in rewards for completing quest lines and it allows you to more naturally flow through the game’s story as well. There are quest lines that impact your class abilities as well and some that tie into the Crucible as well. One of the nicer things is increased bounty space so you can pick up more of them at a pop. You can also just finish them in the field instead of having to go back to the Tower to turn a bounty in. The ability to track up to four quests or bounties is nice. Simply pop up your ghost and it’ll show on your HUD where you’re at and what you need to work on.
Probably one of the biggest changes is how leveling works. Gone is the hard cap of level twenty with the light gear bumping you up to thirty. Now you can level yourself all the way up to forty with experience. There is however, still a light option, but instead of certain pieces with the light option attached to them bumping your light level, it’s determined instead by the average defense and attack values of all the gear you have equipped. The includes your ghosts and even some emblems as well. Light is still a factor for determining whether you can get into a quest at cap and so there is still some grinding, but if you go through the quests and your daily or weekly options to get the marks to buy some of the gear it doesn’t take nearly as long and relies far less on luck to get you above the low end of the light scale. The loot seems to drop more readily now as I found myself changing out a piece of gear after just about every quest or even some patrol missions. That slowed down some after I hit 20, but the engrams you can get tend to be at the same level or higher than what you have equipped so the slow climb in light levels continues, but it’s not entirely dependent on finding the lucky drop that gets you high enough to make it matter.
Having come back to the game I do have to admit that what they’ve done has really reinvigorated the game. It’s less of a chore now and is a blast to jump back into. The story missions have some charm to them even if you’re not entirely sure what’s going on. The strike missions and their playlists are nice and I really like the new Crucible maps and modes quite a bit. I even finally started working on my Titan and Warlock now that I can do that and not have to concentrate on just my Hunter to get her geared up. That being said, this is a much better game when you’re playing with friends. Almost no one is on mic in any of the crucible matches or strikes. And while the game is fun, is can get monotonous without a friendly bit of banter going back and forth. So if you play solo a lot, like I end up doing cause of my work schedule, it can be a little bit of a drag, but those moments do get to run with friends its a blast.
Here’s where I kind of take issue with The Taken King. Price-wise, and as an expansion, it’s a bit on the high end. Let me explain a bit. You’re looking at forty dollars for the expansion if you have everything else already. The other two were priced at twenty a piece or thirty-five if you bought them together. Those are still high to me. Dragon Age Inquisition‘s expansions were all fifteen and under and even if you ran through those just once it’s still a lot more play time for my buck than any of the Destiny areas for one run through plus a lot more story and voice acting and new and larger areas. It’s a hard pill to swallow after plunking down sixty for the game initially. Then there’s the fact you can’t simply buy Taken King, you have to buy the other two if you want to play it. So for those keeping track, if you buy them digitally at launch you’ve just spent one hundred and thirty-five for the game and expansions. Dragon Age Inquisition‘s price tag for the game and three expansions sits at one hundred and five. Inquisition also felt like a complete game though without the expansions if you want to go even further with it. If you’ve already bought Destiny but didn’t shell out for the expansions at all your best bet is the Legendary Edition of Taken King as it will set you back far less. Now that’s if you already bought Destiny and wanted to get into the new content.
If I’m looking at this as a full on game with 3 expansions, the price is amazingly good for this edition sitting at either sixty or eighty bucks. You have the legendary Edition which has everything for the same price as the original game or the Collector’s Edition, in my case the digital version, which has the higher price over the Legendary Edition but you get extras. I do think pricing the Digital Collector’s Edition the same price as the one with the extra physical rewards was kind of not great, but let’s take a look at the extras, shall we? You get three exotic class specific items all with XP bonuses for the new subclasses so you’ll level them faster. Those are nice but they’re also assuming that you’re getting them on a much lower level character given their armor value. It’ll hit your light score negatively to wear it if you’re at level cap. If you’re just bumming around outside zones on patrol and just the story quests it’s not a big deal but you’ll want a beefier item for the harder missions. You get three class specific class emotes and shaders as well. The early access to the SUROS and Vanguard weapons packs that comes with it is nice but they’ll unlock for everyone in January. So is this bump worth it? Personally I have a hard time justifying the jump in price. They’re basically charging you what the smaller expansion costs. Yeah you get exclusive items. Yes one helps you level your subclass much faster. It’s also woefully under leveled if you have a capped character or if you haven’t unlocked that subclass yet and are beyond level thirty. The best part of this was the Spark of Light that instantly levels a character up to level 25, gives you level appropriate gear, and unlocks access to the Taken King instantly but that comes with every edition of The Taken King. If they’d tossed a second Spark of Light in there with the Collector’s Edition I’d say yes, totally worth it. Right now it’s more about how much that digital bling and four months early access to weapons is worth to you.
I do have to admit I was worried we wouldn’t get all that many new locations besides the Dreadnaught in Taken King and I have to say they surprised me. Probably one of my favorite missions involves going after a piece of tech Cayde-6 stashed away in an old colony ship in the Cosmodrome which means scaling the massive ship to get to the top of it. It’s great design and we get to see some of Destiny‘s past through it. It’s a nice nod to what we know came before and it’s a great way to expand on an area in the game we’ve already been to and are familiar with but didn’t get to go inside before. The story itself could happen in just about any sci-fi setting though really as it’s a revenge story on the part of Oryx. Really it’s kind of cut and dry with just enough Destiny flavor to make it unique to that setting. If you’re into action movies or sci-fi though you’ve seen this story line before.
One thing Destiny always had going for it is that the gameplay was extremely smooth and responsive and it feels right. From the way your character carries their weapon to the way you move to roaming the landscape on your hover bike. Add in that one big ingredient that people said was kind of lacking, story and a sense of what’s actually going on and what’s at stake as well as being able to progress a little bit every time you log into the game and you have a recipe for a game that’s really hard to put down. Even when I’m getting my butt handed to me in the Crucible I’m enjoying myself and the hours just fly by. With the new content this is just amplified even more and I love it. While this version of The Taken King isn’t going to have much appeal to someone who’s already bought into the rest of the expansions and main game, this is very tempting for someone who wasn’t impressed with the demo but thought if there were some improvements that it’d be a great game. Well this is for you. Same great gameplay and all the year one content plus the new content in a nice shiny package. It is a monster of an install, and even after you install there’s an update, but once you get passed that it’s a blast.
I usually save my technical issues for last, but the only one I have is a problem with the PS4 itself but playing Destiny is the first time I’ve come across it. On my PS4 if you have the mic plugged into the controller and you head into a party you can see lag if your controller can’t directly see the TV. I had this for a few hours on separate days before I looked it up. I was laying out on my couch and the controller was behind the arm of the couch and not up enough to ‘see’ the PS4 so it wasn’t getting a strong enough connection, or at least that was the explanation I found online. Again, this is the first time in a year I’ve seen this issue and it’s only been in Destiny while I’m using voice chat. I do have an issue with their matchmaking system. It’s kind of awful. I know I’m not the best Crucible player in the world, pretty sure I’m below par. However I get better match-ups during the day when hardly anyone is on and we have actual matches as opposed to full on blowouts because the other team is that much better than us. I don’t know how many matches I get into at night that get broken up because we get slaughtered wholesale. It’s kind of ridiculous. Then there’s the whole raid situation. You can’t actually pair up with people in the game for Raids automatically like you do with Strikes and the Crucible. You have to go offsite or actually plan it with friends and hope everyone shows up on time. They’ve had a year to put something like this in for raids and it’s still absent. This is especially troubling as the only way to max out your light now is ultimately through the Taken King raid. Having to hook up with groups on an offsite forum when MMOs have had ways to form a PUG for a raid inside their games for well over twenty years now it’s kind of ridiculous that Bungie hasn’t listened to their fans on this one detail that would make raiding that much easier to access.
Short Attention Span Summary
Destiny: The Taken King is actually what I was hoping Destiny would be when it released a year ago. Progression for players who can’t dedicate every night to playing is in place. The story is actually existent in the expansion and while it’s brief and leads you into the end game pretty quickly, the end game content is pretty expansive giving you plenty of things to do after you’ve taken down Oryx. If you already have the other expansions and Destiny pass on this version and just get yourself the digital version of Taken King. If you only have Destiny or don’t own it at all, the Legendary or Collector’s Edition of Taken King are what you want to go for. The revamp across the board has made this game feel completely new again and every time I log in to play it feels like I’ve at least accomplished something as opposed to grinding away for gear like we had to do at the start. Matchmaking could still use some work, but if you have friends who play, you’ll definitely enjoy this game. I’m really enjoying the new expansion and finally got started on other characters because of the changes.