In addition to artifacts and ghost shells, the other new item in year two are swords. Swords are considered a heavy weapon, and allow players to inflict one type of elemental damage, while guarding against attacks from the other two elements. Swords are nothing new to Destiny, but previously they disappeared after limited use, and that’s no longer the case. I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, though, considering that you won’t even get your first sword until you’re done with the main campaign, so let’s talk about that.
After the introduction mission, you begin The Taken King by setting off on a quest to unlock your new sub-class. Each of the three new sub-classes alone add considerably more variety to the gameplay than any previous expansion. The Warlock gains access to lightning abilities that flow from their fingertips like a non-evil version of emperor Palpatine from the Star Wars trilogy. The Titan earns the use of flaming hammers, which can be tossed at enemies and explode into fireballs. Finally, the Hunter is given a bow that uses void energy to bind and incapacitate their enemies, leaving them helpless. The sub-classes can nicely complement one another, with the Hunter disabling enemies, the Titan weakening the defenses of large targets, and the Warlock cleaning up smaller enemies with devastating chained electricity.
Although the campaign is good, it’s also surprisingly brief for a 40 dollar product. It felt only a little longer than The House of Wolves questline, but the quality puts both other expansions to shame. The intro reaches a high that the rest of the story can’t quite compete with, but the presentation throughout is much better than anything that came before it. This includes some really nice cutscenes that you certainly won’t want to skip the first time you see them, even if you’ll eventually be glad that Bungie finally included the option. Yet again, some content is reused from previous releases, but there are plenty of new areas, and what does reappear works nicely in the context of the story.
The story concerns the father of Crota, a “god” that you killed in the first expansion. As you might imagine, he’s not too happy with you, and corrupts the will of your enemies into fighting for him. For a game that likes to reuse assets, you might get the idea that we’re talking about a pallet swap here, but that’s thankfully not the case. The new Taken enemies resemble their former selves just enough so you can recognize them, but they have all new animations and attack patterns.
MORE NEWS FROM THE WEB
Not content to introduce a new Ghost character for the new expansion, when Peter Dinklage’s schedule didn’t allow him to work on The Taken King, Bungie chose to recast his part entirely. The ubiquitous and talented voice actor Nolan North has replaced Dinklage as your floating technological companion, and he can now be heard throughout your Destiny experience. While Dinklage’s work in Destiny had its detractors, North doesn’t really improve things –at least not in the base game–but I think the writing can be blamed for that more than either voice actor.
In the end, there isn’t a clear winner, and it’ll just come down to preference. It is a shame that new players won’t even be given an option to hear Dinklage’s take on the Ghost, though. On the bright side, Nathan Fillion’s character Cayde – the Hunter adviser from the tower – has a way larger role this time around, and he arguably steals the show here. North is also given a lot more to work with than Dinklage did, as much more attention seems to have been paid to the dialogue in the new expansion.
The Taken King may have a short campaign, but after you’re done with the main story, there’s loads of post-campaign content to discover. Characters from The Tower will provide you with many additional quests – some of which end with you getting an exotic weapon – and you’ll discover other objectives while on patrol. This is especially true when it comes to the new patrol area, the imposingly named “Dreadnought,” which features chests that are locked, computer consoles that require passkeys, a few new types of collectibles, and a neat little area that players can use to summon boss encounters. The Taken will also invade the original base-game environments, which brings some new aspects to the old patrol areas.
Solo players should note that some of the post-campaign story missions can be quite difficult when not playing with a friend or two, and story content in Destiny still doesn’t offer matchmaking. “Let’s trap the player in a room and spawn enemies all around them” seems to have been the design strategy. Fun with friends, not so much when alone.
Thankfully, strikes in Destiny do offer matchmaking. Three new strikes can be found in the latest expansion, and a fourth strike can be found on PlayStation consoles. The strikes are good, and the boss areas seem to be a direct response to players finding ways to “cheese” strike bosses, by putting themselves in positions where they can attack the boss but can’t easily be attacked back. These boss areas have very little in the way of cover, which makes for some fairly intense engagements. It’s a good thing that failing a nightfall strike now resets you to the boss instead of kicking you back to the menus.
For those who level their gear enough and can find a group of five similarly equipped friends, there’s also as massive new raid to be attempted. I was sadly not able to meet those requirements in the first week, and raids are still certainly in the “no matchmaking allowed” group of Destiny activities, so the raid will not factor into this review.
Destiny‘s competitive multiplayer has also received some substantial updates here, with seven new maps – eight if you’re on a PlayStation – and three new gameplay modes. The main new addition is Rift, which plays like a capture the flag mode of sorts, only the “flag” is a spark of energy that spawns near the center of the map. Other than the Elimination mode that arrived with The House of Wolves DLC, Rift is probably the most team-focused game mode. Smart spark runners will only push forward when their team is there to help them, and smart defenders will push with their team to flank the runner.
The other two new modes are Mayhem and Zone Control. Mayhem is pretty much a standard Clash game, only your supers, grenades and melee attacks recharge much faster than they normally do. Heavy ammo also spawns more often, and killing a heavy weapon user will cause them to drop their remaining heavy ammo. It’s a fun chaotic diversion, and should be a great way to quickly wrap up some of the crucible bounties whenever it’s available. Lastly, Zone Control is a variation of Control where kills don’t contribute to score, and points are only gained by capturing and holding the zones. Be warned, while Rift has its own playlist, the two other new modes are not available at all times.
Crucible bounties are a bit easier for the most part this time around, but that’s not always the case, and that’s especially not the case when it comes to unlocking the promised ability of a chance to earn weekly exotic gear through the crucible. I’m not going to go into all of it here, but it involves jumping through a ridiculous amount of hoops. Pretty much every game mode must be played, and every weapon type must be used, throughout an absurdly lengthy quest chain. Even worse, this must be accomplished on each character that you’d like to play weekly crucible bounties with. You do only need to unlock weekly bounties once though, not every week.
I’m also not a fan of the new bounties often having a focus on team play. I love competitive multiplayer, but most of my Destiny fireteam does not, and several of the new crucible bounties come with the requirement that I play with at least one other friend. I’m sure that the idea is to reward players for playing as a group, but it just feels like I’m being punished because my friends don’t play multiplayer. Bad idea. Playing with friends should be its own reward.
I’m happy to say that the 2.0 weapon balance changes really made a difference with Destiny‘s multiplayer, and a certain stupidly overpowered exotic handgun is no longer a thorn in my side. Pulse rifles are still in a good place, auto rifles are certainly better than before, hand cannons are no longer substitute scout rifles, and scout rifles are still mostly awful. Shotguns have had their range reduced a bit, fusion rifles are still a little too much on the unpredictable and unreliable side of balance, and sniper rifles are still appropriately deadly.
The new maps are pretty darn fun, and several of them offer brand new elements to multiplayer, including jump pads, teleportation portals, and low gravity. I’d still say that Destiny really could use a map voting system, though. Even before The Taken King, sometimes I could play multiplayer for several days without seeing certain maps appear in the rotation even once, and I’d hate to see that happen again with these maps. Lag can still a big issue at times as well. Few things in Destiny are more frustrating than repeatedly melee attacking someone who takes every hit like they’re a brick wall. Fortunately, that’s the exception and not the rule, but it’s none the less infuriating when it does happen.
While I do feel that The Taken King definitely offers players $40 dollars worth of value, the same just can’t be said for the amount of content. The content in this expansion is less than half that of the original game, and yet the price is two-thirds what Destiny cost at launch. Although this is easily the best add-on yet, that fact alone prevents me from giving The Taken King a higher score.
Destiny‘s new retail package is certainly an attractive proposition for new players, and longtime fans will find that the game is better than ever. While more content would have been nice, this is probably the best anyone could expect considering Bungie is likely knee-deep in developing the next full game, and recognizing that fact makes The Taken King all the more impressive.
This review is based on the PS4 version of the game.
Bungie could have thrown in a bit more content given the price tag, but what's offered in The Taken King is definitely solid and certainly adds to the Destiny experience, making this a must-buy for fans of the game.