Destiny: The Taken King PlayStation 4 review

The long awaited third expansion for Destiny is here, and it just might silence the haters...

Despite being one of the most successful titles of last year, with a rabid and huge fan base, Destiny took a lot of flak, even from fans. A lack of content, wafer thin story, and DLC that failed to live up to expectations made for a love/hate relationship, and a game that quickly became too much grind, and not enough fun. Even as an avid fan of the game, I found myself only coming back to do the weekly Nightfall with friends, and even then we only did so when we weren’t busy with other games.

With The Taken King, Bungie has high hopes that it’ll address a lot of the complaints and issues with the game, and certainly hopes that it’ll be a more enjoyable experience than the dreadfully repetitive and dull Prison of Elders. This third expansion aims to deliver much more content, make full use of the new quest and levelling systems, and to provide the best endgame raid yet. And you know what? It’s actually succeeds.

Taken risks

Perhaps the first thing to note with The Taken King is the amount of change Bungie has brought to the table. After the large 1.5 update that dropped just before the expansion arrived, Destiny was changed in many fundamental ways, all of which were for the better. The much maligned light system was altered, the quests system was introduced, and the inventory and currencies were overhauled.

Previously, once players hit the hard level 20 cap, only light could elevate them to the old maximum of 34. This level was raised by equipping better armour, which contained a light level. This was restrictive, and locked less skilled players out of progression, as the hardest to get armour from raids was needed to get to the maximum level. Not skilled enough to do the raid? Tough. It also saw practically every player look identical, wearing the same gear as it was the only way to attain the maximum level (save for the odd exotic). It was a cumbersome, restrictive mess, and now it’s gone. Thank the maker.

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Now, the level cap of 40 can be reached by anyone, regardless of skill. It’s raised by experience, which you can get by doing anything. So, if you wish, you can sit in the Cosmodrome for days killing low level enemies and level up. Sure, it’ll take you a long time to reach 40, but you can, all without ever stepping foot in a raid.

The light level now affects your overall attack and defence. The higher your light level, the higher your attack and defence will be augmented. This light level is gained from every item now, both armour and weapons. Even class items and Ghost shells now have a use, as does the new artefact item slot. It makes for a much more organic and flexible levelling system, and one that encourages experimentation, with unique Guardians strutting around the tower, instead of so many clones all wearing the same gear. What’s more, it now means you can enjoy using a larger selection of weapons, not just that trusty Fatebringer, Vision of Confluence, and Gjallahorn (which are no longer the powerhouses they used to be thanks to the recalculation of stats, and the fact that many year one weapons are now no longer useful). This is a great change, and one that really does modify how the game plays.

Likewise, the new quests and mission structure are far better. Instead of spending all your time doing simple bounties (which you still can), there are a ton of new quest lines that string together all sorts of missions, bounties, collectibles and other content into a purpose-filled task. Doing these quests gives you a sense of actually doing something worth noting, not just running around the Moon for the millionth time, and you’ll often be given rewards and new gear for doing so. They also contain, wait for it, actual story. The Taken King also crams in a huge boost to the game’s lore, and this includes the many quests. I was pleasantly surprised at how many quests there were in the game too, and how varied they are, including plenty of actual new story missions not related to the man campaign.

These quests are structured in clever ways too, and although some may contain obvious busywork, they never feel dull or like a chore, as you’re actively working towards a larger goal. The result is enjoyable and addictive time with Destiny that doesn’t rely on raids or even weekly strikes to make things fun.

Class action

Another major change to the game is the addition of a third class for each character type. These are acquired in special missions during the story (each character type has a unique mission), and once unlocked give players some of the best supers so far, both in terms of visuals, and usefulness. Warlocks gain the Stromcaller, which grants arc abilities and a Sith-style lightning super attack that can devastate groups of foes, Titans get the Sunbreaker, able to wield a Thor-esque flaming hammer, and Hunters become Nightstalkers, with a bow that can pin down and weaken groups of enemies. All sorts of other abilities come with these classes too, such as the Hunter’s incredibly useful ability to highlight resources and treasure chests on the radar. They all round off each role’s abilities nicely, and add plenty of extra tactical promise to the game’s challenges, old and new.

That said, don’t think the old classes are now defunct. Far from it. Titan bubbles are every bit the essential skill they always were, including in the new raid, these skills are just augmented by new ones, needing more thought and practice to use well in battle. It’s always handy to have a self-resurrecting warlock or two in a fight.

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Oryx arrives

Of course, The Taken King also delivers a whole new selection of content in the form of story missions, strikes, and the new raid. The story missions are some of the best Destiny has seen yet, with a campaign that’s longer than both the previous expansions, and it’s much more varied and interesting than any content so far. The new Dreadnought location is also great, packed with hidden secrets and mysteries to uncover. Unlike the other patrol areas, there’s much more to do here than simply look for chests and resources, and there are all sorts of hidden curios to find and figure out how to use.

The story, as I mentioned earlier, is also far more substantial, with much more dialogue, more cut scenes, and a ton more game lore. It even goes back to old content, like the raids and even how your Ghost was created, in an effort to address complaints of a lack of exposition. It works, and the world of Destiny now feels much more fleshed out, and you feel like you’re actually part of something, not just a generic warrior killing things for little reason.

The new strikes are another high point. Whereas previous strikes have often relied far too much on simple bullet-sponge boss fights, these new strikes feature more mechanics, and interesting content. The Echo Chamber strike, for example, plays much more like a section from a raid than a strike, and the Sunless Cell has a memorable boss fight that takes place in pitch black darkness. They’re fun, and challenging.

Then there’s the raid, King’s Fall. This didn’t go live until September 19, but it was definitely worth the wait. Many were disappointed with the Crota raid, finding it too simple, and King’s Fall is anything but. It’s more along the lines of the Vault of Glass, in that it has many more mechanics and complex encounters, but even the Vault of Glass seems like a simple task compared to this. It’s long, packed full of unique sections, and the boss fights are tough. The idea of a hard mode already fills me with dread. There are even long quests associated with the raid, including exotic weapon quests, adding to reasons to play it other than to acquire raid gear.

Weekly routine

Players of Destiny year one will no doubt be familiar with the weekly routine of jumping into the game on Tuesday (reset day), playing the weekly Heroic and Nightfall with each character and then checking in with Xur on Friday (and the daily missions too, if you wished). This may still be present, but the weeklies have changed. The Nightfall is still there, as is the heroic, but the rewards and benefits have changed, as well as being bolstered by the daily PvP mission. This rewards players with a guaranteed 15 legendary marks, the new streamlined currency, just for competing. It’s a great way to give those who used to shy away from PvP a reason to try it, and adds to the daily content.

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The requirements for the higher end weekly content, as well as the requirements for such things as the raid now lie behind the new light level, not character level, so the onus is on getting better weapons and armour to do more damage and withstand more punishment, which makes more sense than an arbitrary light level for the sake of it.

There are plenty of other new mechanics included too, such as the Gunsmith’s faction rating and the ability to test out weekly weapons, reworked faction alignments, extra crucible modes and maps, the range of new collection terminals, the obvious inclusions of a raft of new gear, and the randomisation of enemies in strikes and missions. It all adds up to a huge improvement on the game, and an expansion that does things right.

Year of promise

There’s no denying it, Destiny has always been a good game, just one that had its flaws. The Taken King fixes a good deal of these, and what we have here is the game Destiny really should have been when it released a year ago. I have to hand it to Bungie, though, the team have listened to feedback and the community, and with The Taken King has gone to great lengths to deliver what people wanted. Every aspect of the game has been tweaked, with some superb new content and a real boost in longevity. What’s more, if you’ve never tried Destiny before, you now get the core game, both initial expansions, and The Taken King in one package, making it a real no brainer, and a definite purchase.

For seasoned Destiny players, this is the expansion we’ve been waiting for. This is how Destiny was meant to be played. Time will tell how long the new content will actually last, and I hope Bungie spend more time adding incremental new content, something the game has always needed outside of expansions, but for now, there’s plenty to lose yourself in, and to play until the small hours.

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Rating:

4 out of 5