Destiny’s first year was a collage of peaks and valleys as Bungie released two expansions to its sci-fi multiplayer title. At its best, Destiny comprised a shooter with pristine controls and clever cooperative play.
I have had a bit of a love-hate thing going on with “Destiny.”
Something has kept me hooked with the game since its release, whether it has meant grinding away raids or strikes or just hoping that I get lucky with an Exotic drop on the weekly Nightfall strikes.
Despite that, I have been critical that the game has next to no depth whatsoever, along with a barebones plot that leaves such an ambitious game feeling empty.
After two lackluster expansion packs, “The Taken King” finally helps “Destiny” live up to the hype.
A worthy tale
Is it possible? Does “Destiny” finally have a story?
Indeed it does.
“The Taken King” takes place after “House of Wolves,” and features none other than Oryx, the father of Crota. Oryx isn’t exactly pleased that Guardians have killed his son, and he has returned for vengeance.
Oryx commands an army known as the Taken, an army of Fallen, Vex and Cabal that have been twisted by Oryx’s darkness.
Surprisingly, the game’s story actually has some meat to it. It definitely wasn’t the most in-depth story I’ve ever seen, but it didn’t need to be. The developers finally used some cutscenes to help paint the scene – in particular, the very first cutscene made me finally invested in the story.
Some characters at the Tower also feel like meaningful characters.
For once, I actually knew why I was fighting off hordes of the Taken, and that felt great. It’s a shame that the developers couldn’t have accomplished the same thing in the first two expansions, but better late than never.
I just hope they keep up this momentum as they move forward.
The story will probably take you only a couple of hours to complete, but there are tons of quests to do after that. Basically, quests involve multiple steps that can include killing random enemies, doing a specific story mission or doing some of the new strikes.
That’s really where the depth came through. I was initially worried that the game’s new content would once again be short and sweet, but that’s just not the case.
Welcome to Year 2
“The Taken King” essentially kicked off Year 2 for “Destiny.”
Developers have said from the start that “Destiny” will have a 10-year lifespan, so fittingly, it seems they’re going to classify each year accordingly.
So what’s new for Year 2? Well, a lot.
The official patch notes for Year 2 (which came out about a week before “The Taken King”) can be found at Bungie’s website.
For starters, all Exotic and Legendary weapons and armor from Year 1 have been reduced to 170 attack and defense, respectively. Some exotic weapons and armor can be upgraded to Year 2 stats by purchasing Year 2 blueprints with Vanguard Marks, but not all of them.
Say goodbye to the Gjallihorn, as sadly, it can’t be upgraded. Also, all of those Legendary weapons and equipment from Year 1 can’t be upgraded, so they’re essentially useless going forward.
Some Year 2 equipment also offers a level of customization, giving players the choice between two upgrade nodes. The Suros Regime, for example, can use the traditional Focus Fire perk, or the Spinning Up perk, which causes the weapon to fire faster the longer the trigger is held down.
Some Exotics, like the Suros Regime, have also been given aesthetic overhauls to make them look just a little different moving forward.
Character level has also been increased to level 40, while Light level is a separate stat that dictates your attack and defense. Light level is calculated by the average of Attack and Defense stats of all of your gear.
Even Ghost shells and class marks will all contribute to one’s Light level.
The “Collections” modules in the Tower are also incredible additions that finally relieve those pesky storage issues. The modules essentially show all of the shaders, ships, sparrows and emblems that can be attained in the game, giving small hints as to how to get them.
They also serve as storage units – if you have a shader that you never wear, you can discard it, but get it back from the kiosk at no charge.
Add on the fact that Vault sizes have been increased slightly, and storage issues are a thing of the past.
This is really only scratching the surface on what’s all new with Year 2. Even the menus and character display screen have been upgraded slightly.
“Destiny” has pretty much taken on a new form for Year 2, and it really feels like a new game.
Infusing an armory
One complaint I have always had about “Destiny” is that Legendary equipment has never really had a long lifespan. It was always a push to get the next-best piece of equipment and scrapping the old stuff.
Well, that’s a thing of the past.
The new infusion system enables players to keep what weapons and armor they like by infusing more powerful equipment into them.
For example, I found a Legendary shotgun with an Attack rating of 250. I had Rare fusion rifle with an Attack rating of 275 – by infusing that fusion rifle into the shotgun, my shotgun’s Attack climbed to the 270s.
That can be done with any Rare, Legendary or Exotic weapon or armor.
This is both a blessing and a curse. I love the fact that, if I find a weapon that I like, I can choose to upgrade it until I find something better. This places more emphasis on what my tastes are instead of using what has the highest number, which is an awesome feeling.
Unfortunately, it also means a lot of grinding.
Weekly Heroic strikes have been made into their own playlist, which can be done countless times. Engrams drop considerably more now, and there are even items out there to increase the change of an Exotic engram dropping.
The good thing is, after grinding seven or eight strikes, I walked away with a few legendary engrams and an exotic. The bad thing is, I’m not that lucky – others in my clan have had handfuls of Exotics in a single stretch of strikes.
Even then, Year 2 introduces a new currency called Legendary Marks, which replaces both Vanguard and Crucible marks from Year 1. There’s no weekly limit for them, but the max you can get on any given day is 30 (unless you scrap Legendary armor for about three of them.)
So whether you’re hoping for a decent drop of just gathering Legendary Marks, the game does turn into a bit of a grind.
The main thing I can say about weapons and armor with “The Taken King” and the start of Year 2 is that … well, it’s a time of transition.
As I wrote earlier, every Legendary piece of equipment from Year 1 – whether it’s from first two raids, a faction item or a random drop – can’t be infused. So basically, anything Legendary you have from Year 1 is essentially waiting to be scrapped.
That was a really, really tough pill to swallow. I wish they would have at least enabled players to infuse weapons from the first two raids, but I can see the point – Year 1 is over, and now it’s on to Year 2.
Plus, after playing the game for less than a week, I’m already finding new goodies that make my old stuff look like tinker toys.
I will say that I did keep my Abyss Defiant and Corrective Measure as trophies from the first year. If “Destiny” does live out that 10-year lifespan, I’ll be able to dust those bad boys off and show them to the younguns at that time.
Man, I’m going to be really, really old by then…
The new raid
I want to keep this section especially brief because … well, because I don’t want to spoil the new raid.
Titled “King’s Fall,” the new raid is easily the best reason to pick up the expansion. My team and I started tackling the raid on Friday, and by Saturday night, we made it to the final boss. By the following rest, we finished the raid.
Without giving much away, I can say that this is easily the best raid to date. There are puzzle mechanics to every fight, but with a little thought, we were able to decipher most of them within a reasonable amount of time.
The bosses are each memorable in their own way, whether it’s the mechanics of the fight or their physical appearance, and the satisfaction after each victory makes the struggle worth it.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on some of the armor and weapons from the drop, and they are awesome.
Again, I’ll leave it to you to attempt the raid and see for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.
What else is new?
I’m amazed that this review is going this far, but believe me, there’s more to “The Taken King.”
Each class gets a third subclass – “Sunbreaker” for Titan, “Nightstalker” for Hunter and “Stormcaller” for Warlock.
Sunbreakers wield fire hammers, while Nightstalkers use a Void-based bow. Stormcallers use an Arc-based lightning attack that looks a lot like Force lightning from Star Wars.
As a Titan, I loved Sunbreaker the second I unlocked it. It’s an offensive class to be sure, but there’s enough nodes to make it adaptable in a lot of situations.
Plus, the flaming hammers make me feel like Thor. That’s always an added bonus.
The new Strikes, without giving them away, are among the best yet. The Weekly Heroic Strikes can also be done in their own playlist, and I noticed that the playlist is slim on its choices.
The awesome thing about the playlists is the strikes really are random – you might be going after the Psion Flayers for the 3-millionth time, but whether or not you’ll get the original Strike or a new version featuring Taken can change the experience.
First time playing?
With every MMO game, there’s a little apprehension from new players.
I’m sure there are players out there looking at this review and thinking “Man, that’s a lot of new stuff for a newbie like me.”
The good thing is, it’s a little more even than you think.
Those who purchase “The Taken King” are given a Spark of Light, which automatically raises their level from 1 to 25. It also unlocks the expansion’s story missions and gives level-appropriate gear.
I’d normally shun something like this, but honestly, it makes the most sense. The first two raids, along with the Prison of Elders, are little more than novelties at this point. I would say it’s still worth playing through all of those old story missions and strikes, but new players are put right in the same playing field with veterans.
Take up arms
“The Taken King” is everything that “Destiny” should have been from the very beginning.
The game tells a simple story that is at least gripping enough to make the game’s universe feel a little more alive. Oryx, along with his army of Taken, are formidable foes that finally represent a real threat.
The new Strikes are equally challenging, but the possibility of a Taken-themed Strikes adds a little more uncertainty in a game that ends up requiring some grinding.
For veteran players, the initial shock of scrapping all of those beloved Legendary weapons and armor from Year 1 can be overwhelming. The infusion system can also be a little confusing, but once you get a grasp of it, the customization of the game is pretty incredible.
Those new subclasses alone will add a fresh breath of life into the game, if nothing else does.
Whether you’ve put “Destiny” on the shelf – or if you’re thinking about joining the masses of Guardians for the first time – “The Taken King” proves, finally, that “Destiny” is more substance than hype.
Destiny: The Taken King
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Price: $40 (The Taken King alone, requires Destiny and all previous expansions); $60 (Legendary Edition bundle, includes Destiny, all previous expansions, and The Taken King)