The Way it Was Meant to Be
Space: the final frontier – and it’s a particularly difficult one to tame, if Destiny is any indication. It’s appropriate that a game featuring a spacefaring humanity beset by evil space hordes is also Bungie’s first foray into that most treacherous frontier of gaming, the massively multiplayer online title. Destiny ‘s first year was a dicey one, with the game earning both endless devotion from hardcore fans and enthusiastic derision by those who felt it wasn’t quite all it could be.
Now with Destiny ‘s third expansion, The Taken King , everything is changing just one year after launch. With a ton of systemic changes and a hearty offering of new content, Bungie hopes to lure back departed players and attract newcomers to its online shooter-RPG hybrid. After spending some solid time with the expansion, I was sold on the experience. Destiny has kept its simple, fluid, and just plain fun controls, but just about everything else has been improved, and there’s a ton of new content to experience.
The expansion’s new story campaign is only the beginning, but it’s a good one. Your quest to defeat Oryx, the Taken King (you killed his son, prepare to die), features some great set pieces like a precarious climb up an old space base and an exciting tank fight in Oryx’s menacing Dreadnaught. The story itself is quite simple, but the running dialogue between your NPC companions is fun, especially your Ghost voiced by Nolan North (doing his best C3PO impression) and Nathan Fillion (doing his best Nathan Fillion impression) as the charismatic hunter Cayde. Throughout the adventure, Bungie shows that it has become even better at establishing setting and mood, not to mention designing enemies that are fun to fight. The new Taken enemies feature interesting twists on the abilities and behaviors of existing creatures, forcing players to think on their feet.
Once you’ve faced down Oryx and completed the brief story, everything opens up. The Dreadnaught becomes a patrol area, where both old and new kinds of missions are available. There are tons of secrets and even some Easter Eggs to discover, though it’s a bit too easy at times to get lost in an area that doesn’t contain much of interest. You’ll also find new missions and multiplayer strikes that are far more challenging than the story campaign missions. There’s even an area that allows you to summon public events using special runes that you can find while adventuring. Beyond the Dreadnaught, there are numerous Strikes to partake in, now with elements of randomization that keep things from becoming too rote. There are even 1-3 player missions that take you back to old favorite areas, expanding the game’s story and offering up new challenges.
No matter where you’re adventuring, you’ll notice some definite improvements in Destiny’s gameplay systems. Loot drops are far more plentiful, allowing you to gear up quickly and fill holes in your gear sets while waiting for that ideal raid drop. Levelling up is straightforward all the way through, as the confusing system that used to be in place after level 20 has been replaced. You level up by killing monsters and completing bounties and quests, while your Light number is now a simple gear score that helps you match your strength against your enemies’. This is the way progression should always have worked, and kudos to Bungie for fixing it up.
The addition of a quest log is another huge improvement that will be of great help to players old and new. There are tons of quests available, all of which you can view and track from your log. Now you know exactly where you can go next and what you can do to move forward in the game. It seems like a simple addition, but it really helps tell the game’s story in a more coherent manner and keeps players oriented even after they’ve finished the main campaign.
Of course, we can’t ignore the three new sub-classes. The Nightstalker gives flexibility to the Hunter class, giving support and control options to these masters of DPS. I most enjoyed playing with the Nightstalker’s grenades, though the bow super is very useful when you’re surrounded by enemies. The Warlock’s Stormcaller and Titan Sunbreaker are both impressive damage dealers. I love becoming a living thunderstorm with the Stormcaller’s super in PvE, while PvPers are going to go nuts with the Sunbreaker’s hammer ability. All three sub-classes are strong additions to the game.
PvP players have a fair bit to look forward to, with eight new PvP maps and the new Rift and Mayhem PvP modes. Rift matches, which are basically capture the flag games, work best on larger maps, while Mayhem caters to players who want maximum carnage in their PvP. My favorite new PvP map is Memento, set in a gorgeous fallen European city with tons of hidden nooks that serve well as sniper nests. Though I admit to not being a huge PvPer myself, it seems like the new subclasses should help PvP balance a bit, with the Stormcaller and the Titan able to match the Gunslinger’s massive damage Supers.
Will all players love everything about The Taken King ? There are certainly elements to the expansion that will make some folks cranky. All that hard-earned raid gear will be replaced pretty quickly, if not by early greens, than certainly by blues found in the latter part of the story campaign. Some players will love having new gear goals to meet, while others will feel that their hard (former) endgame work has been too quickly invalidated. Anybody looking for a huge narrative step forward will also be disappointed. The quest log does help tell a more coherent story, but the tale of Oryx is hardly Shakespeare. He lends himself well to in-game moments of creepiness and panic, but narratively he’s little more than one more powerful bad guy you have to kill.
Overall, though, Destiny: The Taken King is a love letter to Destiny fans and an apology to critics who felt let down by previous expansions. Systemically, this is the game Destiny should have been from the beginning. Content-wise, it lives up to the hype, with huge additions to solo, group, and PvP gameplay. I strongly encourage anybody who has ever enjoyed Destiny to give this expansion a look, and I encourage newcomers to take this opportunity to jump into the game. Destiny: The Taken King is fun to play and irons out the rough edges that poked at the game during its first year.
Providing that the upcoming raid is strong and we see good support and content-rich expansion during Destiny ’s second year, we could see this MMO-shooter go from a game beloved by a dedicated core of fans to one that excites the mass market for years to come. It got this RPG fanatic invested in a shooter for the first time since Hexen , and it might just hook you, too.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 5.0 Graphics
Destiny is as gorgeous as ever, and Bungie continues its mastery of using graphical effects to set the mood. 4.5 Control
Simple, fluid controls keep your focus on the action, and the new sub-classes feature mechanics that are fun to use. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Strong voice acting is front and center during the story campaign, complementing the excellent score. 4.5 Play Value
There’s a lot of new content in all areas of the game, and it’s more accessible than ever thanks to the quest log and simplified progression mechanics. 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best