The Taken King takes Destiny to a different level

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Destiny, finally, is where it needs to be.

After a 4:30 a.m. wakeup call and a half-day romping across the Dreadnaught, I can say I’m at peace with Destiny. Bungie got this expansion right, from the breadth of new content to remarkable improvements in dialogue and story mission gameplay.

From start to finish, The Taken King feels fulfilling, something I couldn’t say after finishing off three oversized Vex during a meh final boss fight during Year One. This expansion’s big missions have a definite Halo feel, and that’s such a positive. There’s some epicness to Destiny now, as silly as that sounds.

The phrase “Become Legend” doesn’t mean “run around pretty much indestructible except in raids” anymore. The missions are challenging and produce tension. I felt invested in the outcome of each outing, even after the final showdown of the primary quest line. And now, as I near the higher end of the Light level spectrum, new strikes, a whole different take on the old story missions and challenging Court of Oryx showdowns await.

The opening cutscene in The Taken King sets the stakes and immediately creates an epic setting unseen in Destiny before. | Image courtesy of Activision Press

The opening cutscene in The Taken King sets the stakes and immediately creates an epic setting unseen in Destiny before. | Image courtesy of Activision Press

We’ve been over this before. Destiny felt incomplete when it first launched. The Vault of Glass was a high point, but few other activities gave the kind of satisfaction I drew from The Taken King. That goes for The Dark Below expansion, as well, and to some extent House of Wolves. The Taken King just nails it. There’s no other way to put it.

Cayde-6 and Eris’ interactions throughout the expansion are both funny and awkward, and Cayde-6’s personality really makes this expansion. Contrasting his throwaway jokes and endless sarcasm with the biggest threat to the universe thus far was a bold move by Bungie and one that paid huge dividends. Petra, Variks and the other House of Wolves non-playable characters had more life than most of the others we’ve run into, but The Taken King steps up the game in that regard. Even Eris, who was so droll during The Dark Below, becomes a vibrant ­— and crazy, and maybe-not-as-paranoid-as-we-thought — character.

Cayde-6 is bae, and has officially passed Petra and Variks as the best Destiny non-playable character. | Image courtesy of Activision Press

Cayde-6 is bae, and has officially passed Petra and Variks as the best Destiny non-playable character. | Image courtesy of Activision Press

Nolan North’s voicing of the Ghost is a marked improvement as well. He gives personality to the role that Peter Dinklage, despite his acting chops (Tyrion over everything, by the way), couldn’t bring to the “little light.” Dinklebot was a bit morose, while Nolanbot has optimism and life to him. Makes sense for a creation of the Traveler, but I didn’t realize just how much inflection could change my perception of the Ghost. I’m way less annoyed by his constant summoning of enemies via hacking now. The quips peppered throughout the missions by the Ghost are also worth noting. I laughed several times, something I’m sure is unheard of through most people’s play of the previous content.

The missions are challenging and produce tension. I felt invested in the outcome of each outing, even after the final showdown of the primary quest line. And now, as I near the higher end of the Light level spectrum, new strikes, a whole different take on the old story missions and challenging Court of Oryx showdowns await.

Back to the gameplay itself. The Dreadnaught is vast, and in a few hours of post-story exploration, I’ve barely scratched the surface. Many things, such as runes, the Court of Oryx and Taken attacks throughout the ship, tie together. Some friends and I worked out a few quirks, but the intrigue of locked chests and unexplored areas makes patrolling a very different experience from previous grinding sessions.

Combat strategy turns in a very different direction, too. The Taken versions of common enemies have massive variations in abilities and critical hit spots from the usual brand of, say, Phalanx. Throw in powerful new subclasses — the Sunbreaker Titan is a personal favorite — and there are so many more variants at play in battle.

New subclasses add intrigue to battles, as do the variations on between normal enemies and their Taken counterparts. | Image courtesy of Activision Press

New subclasses add intrigue to battles, as do the variations on between normal enemies and their Taken counterparts. | Image courtesy of Activision Press

Everything feels fresh. This is, in essence, an entirely new game. The drawback to this expansion, however, is just how obsolete Year 1 items become.

At the moment, all previous items that aren’t carrying over into Year Two are stuck at Light level 170. That didn’t seem like a problem during the week ahead of The Taken King. Then, I saw the new armor and weapons.

Some guns I’m in love with — Fatebringer, Abyss Defiant,Thorn, Gjallarhorn, Icebreaker and more — are worthless damage-wise as you approach the mid-level 30 missions. This might seem like a fresh start for some players, but others I spoke to on fireteams this afternoon saw it as another slight against longtime players. Destiny fans are a sensitive sort, but I can see the argument there. If the gap between the max Year One and Year Two levels closed a bit, I wouldn’t have to give up some of my favorites entirely. However, I’m sure the new exotic and legendary weapons will make up for it in time. Growing pains are inherent in a game-changer (literally) such as The Taken King.

Rating: 10/10

As of now, I’ve yet to try the new multiplayer content other than Mayhem, which I checked out during E3 in July. That’s my next mission, and this post will be updated with reflections on the competitive side of things in the next day or so.

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