Destiny: The Taken King Review: Now This is a Universe Worth Fighting For
Michael Mays / Oct 12th, 2015 2 Comments
Due to developer Bungie’s success with the Halo franchise, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Destiny has garnered a lot of attention since its release last September. What might have come as a surprise to some people is just how polarizing a game it has been.
Like anything in life, success is going to breed detractors. And while Destiny has been nothing if not successful, many of the complaints lobbed at Bungie’s newest baby were much more than just the ramblings of hipsters. The story was indeed hollow, the content was sparse, and the characters were as two dimensional as an NES platformer. We Guardians had a jolly good time traipsing about the galaxy in search of loot, but we did so fully aware that this was a game that had yet to realize its full potential. Enter Destiny: The Taken King — the realization of Destiny’s potential.
A Story Emerges
Something completely unexpected happened as The Taken King’s primary storyline commenced: I got interested. This is not to say that every piece of story that took place in vanilla Destiny should just be thrown away. That part of the story is important, but now it’s almost like it was all simply the equivalent of the scrolling text at the beginning of Star Wars. It’s time for the true story to begin.
The primary plot of The Taken King involves Oryx, the father of Crota, looking to exact revenge on the superstar Guardian who murdered his son during the Crota’s End raid. This is certainly one of the positive additions in this expansion. Of course I’m not referring to the alien warlord/deity wanting to cease my existence (that should be disconcerting), but rather the fact that everything feels a little more personal. Your Guardian is THE Guardian. He or she is the one who destroyed Atheon in the Vault of Glass, Crota in the Crota’s End raid, and Skolas in the Prison of Elders. If it were possible to tie one on in the Tower, your Guardian would never pay for a drink as long as he or she lived. But it’s not, so we have to settle for a constant stream of “attaboys” being spoken around us. This will do until the bar is fully operational.
Speaking of speaking, the voice acting in The Taken King is markedly better than at any other point in the franchise’s young life. Nathan Fillion, already a sci-fi cult hero, reprises his role as “roguish commander” Cayde 6, but now he takes on a much larger role. This is certainly a positive change as Cayde was one of the few characters to show any personality in year one. He frequently engages in lively banter with many of the other supporting characters, all of whom seem much more three dimensional than they did in the past, even the brooding Eris Morn.
The cutscenes featuring the supporting cast during year one content were, at times, cringeworthy. Every time one of them appeared on the screen, we all found ourselves wondering why Bungie had yet to introduce the ability to skip them. Now, Bungie has given us this power, but we are less inclined to use it because the story is much more engaging. The final cutscene that takes place at the end of the main storyline created more excited conversations between players rather than eye rolls and sighs. This is excellent news for Destiny fans, but the question now becomes: should we be more excited about this being the direction that Destiny is heading or frustrated that we didn’t have this all along?
This Ain’t a Quest, It’s a G*ddamn Arms Race
Once you’ve finished the main story, you’re now ready to begin the game. While I say this somewhat facetiously, it really isn’t far from the truth. It also appears as if this is the message Bungie is trying to convey to the players. After the aforementioned final cutscene, a title screen flashes with the Taken King logo as if to hint that what you’ve just experienced was some kind of epic prologue. This is not in the same way that year one was a prologue/Star Wars rolling text, but rather a foreshadowing of some new, dark adventure or catastrophic event that you will be experiencing.
While the main story may be over at this point, the quests do not stop. There is a seemingly never-ending flow of tasks to perform that will keep Guardians busy for countless hours. This may seem sadistic in a sort of “gamers on a hamster wheel” kind of way, but the rewards for following these quests to completion are plentiful. With some of them, you can dig deeper into the lore of the game by completing a task. With other more arduous tasks, you may even receive an exotic weapon. This may sound like the exotic bounties that many Guardians received in year one, but these missions are often much more complicated and challenging. They are also being rolled out gradually. This is a smart way for Bungie to maintain players’ interest for a longer period of time because what’s more fun than having an arms race with your friends?
Like year one, a player’s ability to take part in certain events such as the Nightfall Strike and the Raid are dependent on that character’s light level. However, a player’s light level is now determined by just about every single thing you can equip on that character. From armor and weapons to ghost shells and artifacts, the race to find the best equipment is more important than ever. This actually makes it easier to level up multiple characters due to the transferability of things such as weapons and ghost shells.
King’s Fall Raid
Once you begin to see your light level plateau (around 290), it’s time for your Guardian to enter the King’s Fall Raid and experience the endgame content. The first thing players will notice as they finish the opening puzzle and enter the actual raid area is that it is visually stunning. Attention to detail was paid by the “architects” at Bungie. In one area, you may feel as if you’re in a black-and-white episode of The Twilight Zone, and in the next, your mind is more likely to wander off to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
If we’re simply speaking of aesthetic pleasure, though, Crota’s End was certainly nice to look at. However, many felt as if it lacked some of the hallmark traits of what gamers consider a true raid to be. For instance, it was discovered shortly after the release of Crota’s End that it could be completed by one Guardian. The first Destiny raid, Vault of Glass, did a much better job of ensuring that teamwork would be required to achieve any measure of success. Well, on that front, King’s Fall is much more Vault of Glass than Crota’s End. It is doubtful (dare I say impossible) that you will ever watch a YouTube video of someone completing Destiny’s newest raid solo.
As far as the overall quality of the raid is concerned, taking into consideration aesthetics, difficulty, loot drops, and general entertainment, I can say with confidence that King’s Fall is easily the best raid and the most rewarding mission that has ever been been put out on Destiny. Vagueness regarding details is a necessity, though, because experiencing it for yourself is a must. I would highly recommend going into it blind the first time. Figuring out puzzles and boss mechanics with a group of friends is infinitely more rewarding than regurgitating things you read or watched online.
Destiny: The Taken King has taken one of the best multiplayer experiences available and made it whole. Calling it the realization of Destiny’s potential is by no means putting a cap on future growth, though. There are still many places to go from here for the franchise. This simply means that a fun game that once felt incomplete has achieved a satisfactory level of completion.
It’s going to be very interesting to see where Bungie decides to take the franchise moving forward. If it truly plans on traveling down this road for 10 years, it’s going to want to follow the blueprint for The Taken King much more so than the blueprint for the vanilla game.
Destiny: The Taken King was reviewed on PS4 using a code for the game provided by the publisher.
tags: bungie , destiny , Destiny The Taken King , Destiny The Taken King Review , review , The Taken King