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To kick off year two of Destiny comes the first major expansion to the game after the two smaller releases of The Dark Below and House of Wolves. The Taken King adds a whole host of new content to the game such as new story missions, strikes, weapons and even a new raid. But it’s the way the systems have been changed in the game which makes this expansion worth the price of admission alone. People wanted changes, Bungie listened and one year later I think the game we all truly wanted originally may finally be here.
Let’s start with a few basics. The Taken King story missions are primarily a self contained story. Oryx is mad at you for killing his son, Crota (assuming you beat the second raid Crota’s End). There’s more going on but in simple terms it’s a revenge story. We see Oryx take charge of old enemies and change them into Taken which look familiar but act very different to before.
While I don’t think you should play Destiny for story and doubt anyone will; the story presented here is way better than what we got first time round. We see long cinematics and cutscenes filled with character development, prolonged dialogue and great voice acting. Pretty much what was completely missing before. I’m not just giving them credit due to how Destiny failed at this originally, it just does it very well here.
To play The Taken King campaign you have to be level 25 and the game gives you a one time consumable called Spark of Light which you can use to turn any character immediately into level 25. While a smart and simple way to start new players it’s also great if you’ve been meaning to start another character but didn’t want to grind the early levels again. Finally creating that Warlock I’ve been meaning to start for ages and already having him ready for most content is very nice indeed.
The one thing that is perhaps overlooked too much in my opinion whether people liked or disliked the original game is just how good the gameplay really is. For me it’s by far the best shooting mechanics in first person games. I’ve just never had more fun shooting things than I do in Destiny and now with all the different changes in loot and leveling there’s actually even more of a reason than ever to just play the game. Go out into the world and test those shiny new weapons of yours and have a great time doing it.
You can now level up doing anything that grants XP in the game which is pretty much everything as opposed to playing the raids and praying you got the one piece of armor you needed to hit the level cap. Which is now 40 but with the changes I hit this after a couple of hours very easily which may sound too easy but the real way you progress now is through your light level.
Getting to level 40 will unlock all endgame content, but to really tackle the harder stuff like nightfall strikes and the raid you need to make sure you have the best weapons and gear available. Every time you get a new engram (which are very frequent now) you decrypt it and chances are it’s of a higher level than you already had. Equipping a 275 helmet over your previous 220 could take you to a potential higher overall light level which makes you deal more damage and allow to take more damage.
This system works way better than before as you feel a constant level of progression and satisfaction that wasn’t there once you hit the level cap before. Every time I get even a blue engram now I get excited as the chances are high it will decrypt into something I’ll actually use, not just something to instantly dismantle.
The biggest and best new change to the game for me has to be the introduction of quests. They work very similar to how exotic bounties did originally. You have a multi step task that you have to get through and you get a reward at the end of it. Sometimes even a sweet new exotic. Destiny did a bad job of explaining what type of game it was a launch last year as a lot of people played it like a typical FPS campaign and once they beat it had no idea about levelling beyond 20 or how a raid works.
However with quests it makes it way more clear what to do after you’ve beat the story and what else there is to do in this massive game. Some quests may have you beat bosses in patrol. Some may have you even go into the new raid to find a certain artifact. It sets the game up more like an open world RPG than a FPS which is way more in line with how to play the game and makes keeping track of your in game to do list so much easier. It’s the big change Destiny needed and I think it works brilliantly.
I mentioned exotic bounties before which was one of the best things about Destiny at launch. You had to go through many steps and do things that were at times very difficult but it resulting in earning a weapon you couldn’t get anywhere else and really felt like you earned something. Many quests now serve a very similar purpose as the only way of getting certain exotics and it’s a fantastic way of doing things.
Instead of just grinding strikes and raids on multiple characters until waiting for the weekly reset you are now encouraged more to stick with one character and embark on several multi stage quests that could takes weeks to finish. But knowing that hard work will guarantee you something you want as opposed to relying on random drops is the way this game needs to be and looks to stay this way.
As I was writing this review a new exotic sniper rifle (Black Spindle) was discovered in a optional side quest as part of the daily heroic story. It is currently the only way to get the weapon and now you have to wait until that mission becomes the daily again. This is the first time this has happened (or first time it’s been discovered) and it’s an awesome idea. While the encounter was extremely challenging and actually harder than the raid, having something so special and secret in something that many people got bored of is exactly what Destiny needs to do to stay fresh and keep people playing for months until the next batch of new content comes out.
Another fantastic new addition is the ability to infuse legendary and exotic weapons. Say you have a sniper you really love but then you get one with a higher attack stat but you don’t like the way it looks or feels. Instead of being forced to use the new gun you can basically feed it into your old gun you preferred to make the old gun have a higher attack stat than it previously had. This is another way of keeping all guns and gear relevant, allowing players to use what they want and keep everyone from having the same loadout and look to their guardian. Small changes like this go such a long way in making a great game just that much better.
And that’s my overall thoughts on The Taken King as an expansion. Most people will know if they wanna play Destiny or not by now and I’m not sure if this would or could change someone’s mind. As someone who does enjoy playing the game this has made my experience exponentially better already. Everything they have changed has been for the good and fixed many of the issues players had from launch.
Destiny isn’t perfect. I still think there needs to be some form of matchmaking for all content even if you only unlock matchmaking once you’ve beat a raid once before. But the loot rewards have been greatly improved, the light level system works better than previously and encourages players to only use one character and quests are the change that ties everything perfectly together and helps explain how everything works. And the gameplay is still king.
I played 620 hours of Destiny during year one. After the first week of year two and 60 hours of game play; I’m extremely happy with what The Taken King has proved to be so far. It’s hard to say how I’ll feel in three months time and whether it’ll still have my attention long enough until the next release of content comes out which Bungie have yet to announce. But all the signs point to it keeping me entertained and with still way more quests unfinished I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. Destiny has never been better than it currently is and I hope to see this trend continue in the future.