Published on September 30th, 2015 | by Wez Evans0
VIDEO REVIEW: Destiny: The Taken King
Arguably the most talked about game of 2015, Destiny’s reception was… polarised. “Year One” has been jokingly dubbed a paid beta test, which is alarmingly accurate, but truthfully The Taken King is such a damned polished experience that it’s frustratingly hard to care. More importantly, there’s no way this latest iteration of Destiny could exist at all without the deafening feedback of fans.
Destiny has always felt lacking in personality. Despite a lengthy cast, The Tower’s static NPCs rarely spouted anything of interest and even more rarely with context. Thankfully Bungie have trimmed the fat with Taken King, bringing characters forward only when they serve the story and as a result the game has gained two traits it was in dire need of: story and stakes.
The disconnect of both originally stemmed from vanilla Destiny’s aimless musings about time and space, with the player’s “destiny” feeling less like a call to adventure and more stumbled upon greatness. Enemies were a means to make XP bars go up, bosses were obstacles standing in the way of new gear. The campaign and both raids lacked agency thanks largely to our guardians who are effectively mute, charmless drones void of charisma or character. Enter Nathan Fillion.
An actor with “Space Fiction Leading Man” bolded at the top of his CV, Fillion always felt like a wasted commodity as Hunter vanguard, Cayde-6. In The Taken King, Cayde’s personality is imprinted onto the player as he organises an assault on Oryx’ Dreadnaught via cutscenes and in-mission communications. His responses to other NPCs like Eris Morne neatly fill in for your own vocal failings, as the gloomy Warlock drones on about melodrama and the Hive threat only to have Cayde uncomfortably dismiss her with perfect comedic timing. It’s hard to tell if our standards were lowered thanks to Destiny’s bleak, humourless first year but TTK is damned funny.
Through the new campaign Oryx himself earns the players bloodlust, becoming a villain you’ll actively want to put in the ground yourself as you explore the Dreadnaught – an enormous space-house he stole from the nightmares of HP. Lovecraft and parked beside Saturn. Side-missions are frequent and lengthy, even after the main campaign draws to a close replaying missions often nets different character dialogue, which puts a serious dent in the game’s still prevalent grind. That said, there is a hell of a lot of content here to consume.
Story aside, the latest update brings a heap of core changes to Destiny. Three new elements round out the previously absent talents for each class. The Sunbreaker subclass allows Titans to dish out solar damage from a distance, without sacrificing their survivability, Stormcaller Warlocks can now get up close and personal with a powerful arc super ability and synergising grenade/melee setup, while Hunters can embrace the void as a Nightstalker, which provides group utility with the immobilising Shadowshot and the potential to cloak themselves and their team.
Weapon re-rolls are out but equipable swords are in. Available with a little work the legendary heavy weapons are incredibly fun in both PvE and PvP thanks to the new “block” skill and, to the dedicated few, weapon specific abilities. Ascension is out but infusion is in, allowing players to consume high-end gear and bolster their favourite weapons and armour. This allows for more tailored loadouts that harbor the personal attachment Bungie always wanted.
The ever-convoluted Light system has been completely overhauled and emerges complex but comprehensive. Armour, weaponry, Ghosts, and class items all sport a Light stat, the total of which dictate how much damage you’ll deal and receive. Basically this means if your sniper rifle lacks punch you can boost those numbers by equipping a high-level chest piece. The result is an ever-improving guardian, as each and every increase to your toolkit directly affects your power and creates a satisfying sense of progress.
Taken King’s hefty price tag of €40 can easily be justified when you break it in half and consider its competitive multiplayer, the Crucible, which has been expanded with four additional game types and eight shiny, new maps.
Elimination mimics Trials of Osiris minus gear dependency but with added matchmaking, Rift is a frantic capture the flag variant, Zone Control takes the existing Control mode, putting the focus on team play, and removes kill scores, and the much anticipated Mayhem drastically reduces ability cooldowns to unabashedly earn its chaotic namesake.
The maps are all excellent, with interesting layouts and locales. Standouts include Bannerfall, a cordoned off area of The Tower with narrow corridors for indoor shootouts and two large expanses that make for genuinely exhilarating Rift matchups, and The Drifter, a circular arena in The Reef perfect for both big and small teams. Subtle touches like The Drifter’s low gravity, which causes loose ammo and lifeless corpses to float about, really highlight Taken King’s attention to detail.
You’ll still have to dip into PvE content to stand any reasonable chance of earning exotic gear but easier bounties paired with Crucible devoted questlines give more competitive players a broader choice in activities.
King’s Fall, Taken King’s raid, was released three days after the DLC’s launch, and thankfully it blends all the winning traits from previous raids The Vault of Glass and Crota’s End. Without spoiling anthing, these fights are more than a test of your ammo capacity, favouring tactics and skill over massive enemy health pools. We’ve only cleared a few encounters so far but the sense of progress as our fireteam solves environmental puzzles and deciphers enemy tactics is intoxicating.
Bungie’s self-hype for its latest DLC bordered on Peter Molyneux-esque, blowing their own horn in a few different senses. Thankfully every word was true. If anything the sheer volume of stuff to do here was downplayed. The Taken King will appeal both to longtime Destiny devotees and sheepish, returning players, as well as fresh-faced newbies of both the casual and hardcore persuasion.
This is the game we were promised a long time ago and somehow the wait was worth it. Swallow any bitterness you might cling to and finally Become Legend.