Destiny: The Taken King Review (PS4)

Destiny: The Taken King is the much-anticipated expansion pack to Bungie’s Destiny that promises to reinvigorate the MMO-style RPG/First-person shooter and redefine the game from both a single player and multiplayer perspective. Destiny was met with critical praise and criticism alike, with some applauding the game’s variety and scope with others noting how the game was mired by its repetition and convoluted story. There were also two relatively short DLC packs that cost a steep $20 a piece to what amounted to only a couple of hours of gameplay. The Taken King sets out to rectify some of the problems players had with the original and its expansions, but the question remains as to whether it is successful or not.

The Taken King is almost almost unrecognizable, completely revamping Destiny into a whole new experience. We previously detailed our impressions of the Destiny 2.0 patch and listed a number of the gameplay changes and new multiplayer modes and maps available in The Taken King. Light levels are gone, although there are light points, and the level cap has been increased to 40. There are three brand new sub-classes, one available for each main class along with brand new supers. Items can be made stronger through infusion, a process which takes a stronger piece of a weapon or armor and combines it with a weaker one, increasing the weaker item’s offense or defense. Instead of earning Crucible Marks or Vanguard Marks, currency has been streamlined into Legendary Marks. Guns have also been re-balanced. There is a new quest subscreen that allows you to track all of the tasks that you have been given, and bounties can now be turned in straight from the quest menu — you no longer need to visit the Tower. You can even keep track of your bounty and quest progress in your HUD by marking them in the quest menu. Assault rifles are now buffed once again and hand cannons have been nerfed to a certain extent. The game’s entire balance has shifted in both player-versus-player (PvP) and person-versus-environment (PvE). This has redefined the game and completely changed the way it is played.

destiny-the-taken-king-questThe quest menu

One of the biggest complaints with the original Destiny was that the story was convoluted and didn’t make any sense. Much of the explanation of the story was told through Grimoire cards on Bungie’s website, leaving a gaping logical hole in the in-game campaign. NPCs were uninteresting and underdeveloped, and the world felt bland and barren. The Taken King rectifies this. NPCs are suddenly pertinent to the campaign and are filled with life and wit. Cayde in particular stands out as one of the most interesting and developed characters in the expansion. The cinematics in The Taken King are second to none and actually add a backdrop to the story, something the original version lacked. The environments in the game are stunning, especially on the Rings of Saturn, and the level design isn’t as linear as the original quest. The Taken King’s campaign is only a couple of hours long, although it doesn’t lack in size and scope, and there are an endless amount of quests and game modes to play through even when you beat the game, adding to the expansion’s longevity. If anything, The Taken King is the definitive version of Destiny.

destiny-the-taken-king-saturnThe Rings of Saturn is one of the most visually stunning areas of the game..

Strikes have been revamped and are now split into three different categories: Vanguard Legacy Strikes, which are classic level 20 strikes; Vanguard Strikes, which are level 36 strikes and include strikes from The Taken King; and Vanguard Heroic Strikes, which are level 41 strikes (recommended light level of 260). The Taken King strikes are much more dynamic than the legacy strikes, including environmental hazards and obstacles that were not found in the originals, making them more difficult and superior from a design standpoint. The Vanguard Strike playlist also increases the likelihood of a legendary engram or weapon drop the more strikes you play consecutively. It took me three strikes to get one legendary item/engram, and you can earn a legendary engram from the Vanguard Heroic Strikes once a week. These can be very difficult depending on the amount of light points you have accumulated, but ultimately they are very rewarding. Strikes are incredibly fun now and don’t feel as much like a chore. The Weekly Heroic Strike is gone, but you can earn Legendary Marks (the new currency) from the Daily Heroic Story missions, the daily multiplayer mode, and from Heroic Strikes. Nightfall Strikes are now level 42 and have a recommended amount of light points of 280. They are much more difficult than their predecessors, but the satisfaction of completion is completely worth it. Exotic drops are no longer a given in the Nightfall, which is why buying the ‘Three of Coins’ from the weekly vendor Xur is extremely helpful in ensuring you obtain exotic gear.

There is a brand new raid called “King’s Fall” which promises several more hours of co-op gameplay, but as of this review I did not have enough light points to attempt it (the raid recommends a light level of 290).

destiny-the-taken-king-world-mapExplore the solar system in Destiny…

The Crucible has added eight new maps to its repertoire and two new game modes: Rift and Mayhem. While Mayhem was not available this week during the launch of The Taken King, it was available during last week’s preview of multiplayer. Both Rift and Mayhem are all-out chaos. Rift is a capture the flag-type game mode where players must capture a spark in the middle of the map and ultimately carry it to the opponent’s rift, destroying it. Mayhem increases the rate at which supers, grenades, and melees charge, making for an all-out free-for-all with Guardians being thrown around left and right. It is not certain when Mayhem will return, but given that it was present in the preview for The Taken King, it is sure to return soon.

Igniting the rift!

The multiplayer maps are incredibly diverse, each taking place in a completely different environment. Some even feature portals by which players can travel, and this becomes incredibly helpful in Rift. In fact, the maps seem to be completely designed around Rift, with an open center in each map where the spark spawns, and compact spaces in which the player travels in order to reach the opposing team’s rift. The maps are incredibly well designed and serve their purpose well; they aren’t too large, but at the same time, they aren’t too small either. Players who don’t own The Taken King can play Classic 3v3, Classic 6v6, and Classic Free-for-All with all of the original maps.

destiny-the-taken-king-crucibleThe Taken King Crucible menu

One can’t finish this review without taking a moment to appreciate the music. The put it frankly, it’s beautiful. Composers Michael Salvatori, C Paul Johnson, and Skye Lewin outdo themselves. The score is so fantastic that it’s actually getting its own soundtrack release. The sound is also excellent, with effects coming from all angles and it actually enhances the gameplay. Playing in 7.1 surround sound surely is a benefit to those who have the ability to do so.

The Taken King is the definitive version of Destiny. It takes many of the complaints and balancing issues of the original incarnation of the game and fixes them. The streamlined quest and bounty system makes the game more user-friendly, infusing weapons and armor works better than the old system of Etheric Light, and the Vanguard Strike playlist is a unique spin on what had become a bland system. While light levels haven’t technically gone away, it is great to be able to continue to upgrade your character after you reach level 40. People who don’t like grinding, enjoy MMOs, RPGs, or have a distaste for First-person-shooters will not enjoy this game. Those who do though won’t be able to put it down. There is such a wealth of content, whether it’s the Crucible, the Vanguard Strikes, or the sheer amount of quests and gear/items to collect in the game. The Taken King propels Destiny into a new definitive era, and for the better.