This review is based on the PS4 version.
First person shooters were never really my thing.
When Halo came around on the original Xbox, I tried to play it but couldn’t get the hang of aiming with joysticks. I tried with other games as time went on, but it never really clicked for me. In fact, though I did grow to enjoy the genre (and played quite a few) on PC, I had basically sworn off playing shooters on console because of the lack of mouse & keyboard support.
But Destiny changed all of that.
Here was a game that had truly fun and well-designed gunplay with RPG and MMO elements. Here was a game that took me from playing solo unless I was doing local multiplayer to actually wanting to play with other people online whenever I could. The gear, the subclasses, the unique super abilities, and many other aspects of the game got me hooked. The game was far from perfect, but still an absolute blast to play.
Now a month after the release of the first real expansion, The Taken King, it seems that nearly all of the flaws with year one Destiny have been addressed, making it one of the best games you can play this year.
A True Expansion for Destiny
While The Dark Below and House of Wolves expansions left a lot to be desired for their price points ($19.99 each or $34.99 for the Expansion Pass), The Taken King feels more like a truly new game. Not only is the story vastly improved (with show-stealing performances from both Nathan Fillion as Cayde-6 [of Firefly and Castle fame] and Nolan North playing the new voice of your Ghost), but the characters actually have personalities and interact in believable ways. Instead of simple talking heads and a very robotic Ghost who has no real personality, you get Vanguard Mentors and other advisors who are far more interesting and a Ghost who makes off the cuff comments that are not only well delivered, but downright hilarious. The writing may never reach Mass Effect levels of storytelling, but it’s still a vast improvement over year one.
One of the biggest changes to the game is that each class (Warlock, Hunter, and Titan) all have a third subclass, each with their own specific quests to obtain said subclasses. The Warlock gains the Stormcaller subclass, which is Arc-based and gives an Emperor Palpatine-inspired lightning attack. The Hunter gains the Nightstalker subclass, which is Void-based and allows the shooting of an arrow which tethers enemies, making them much more vulnerable to other attacks. The Titan gains the Sunbreaker subclass, which is Solar-based and allows throwing of flaming hammers at enemies. All three new subclasses are a joy to use.
What also comes as new with The Taken King is the Taken enemies themselves. These are all remixed versions of enemies from the Fallen, Hive, Vex, and Cabal races, all with different attack patterns and hooks to how they function. The Taken can certainly be a pain at times, but they also keep you on your toes and shake things up in what I consider to be a very good way.
One of the best new things added in The Taken King is Oryx’s Dreadnought, which serves as a completely new and different area for Patrols. There is a ton of hidden secrets all throughout, with treasures in random places, new materials to gather, and enemies to face. While the Dreadnought seems to be a bit smaller than previous Patrol areas on Earth, the Moon, Venus, and Mars, there are undoubtedly more layers and more secrets than any of the other areas had. And the fact that it’s a completely new area with all enemies at level 36 and above makes it a place worth patrolling frequently.
That’s only the beginning of the changes. The leveling system has been completely reworked so that your character’s level is tied solely to XP and the light-level system (an average number based on the attack and defense values of your gear) actually makes sense and is a lot easier to progress in than it ever was in year one. Instead of being required to have Raid or Prison of Elders gear to get up to your highest light level, you can take any piece of Legendary or Exotic gear and consume higher power gear (along with Glimmer and other materials) to make that piece whose perks (or look) you love so much stronger. As your light level raises, the gear you get from engrams (whose drop rates have been dramatically increased) often will drop with higher values, making reaching a higher light level far easier than ever before.
While it’s true that there was a lot of year one gear that we all loved and was sadly left behind in terms of attack and defense values, the sheer amount of new gear has in large part made up for it. Although the much-loved Fatebringer has been left behind, guns like the Hunter-exclusive Exotic hand cannon Ace of Spades have filled that void quite nicely. Telesto, an Exotic fusion rifle, is essentially the Needler from Halo, albeit doing damage both on the initial hit and with the explosions of the void needles. The Black Spindle is an Exotic sniper rifle that is essentially the year two version of the Crota’s End raid gun Black Hammer. Jade Rabbit (PlayStation exclusive for year two) is essentially the Fate of All Fools (a gun which was famously given to only ONE person in year one). And then there are the heavy weapon elemental swords–previously limited to certain story missions and spawns of Blades of Crota on Earth and the Moon during The Dark Below expansion–which are actually forged by the player through a series of steps involving the gathering of materials, completing specific strikes, etc.
Even attaining gear has changed. Drop rates have been improved dramatically, especially with engrams. There are a number of Exotic weapons that now are obtained through quests rather than random drops. The new special item Three of Coins (obtained from Xur) increase the drop rate of Exotic engrams from Ultra Bosses. Exotics obtained in year one can be re-purchased from a kiosk if you desire and unlock any year two versions of those Exotics (not all weapons and armor have year two versions yet), which can also be purchased from said kiosks.
Furthermore, there seem to be a lot more secrets hidden within the game than ever before. The aforementioned Black Spindle is found by going off the beaten path in a specific story mission, but only when it’s the Daily Heroic and once you reach the secret area, you have to kill everything in the 4 rooms within 10 minutes or you will be kicked to orbit. One mission that takes place after completing the initial quest line takes you back to the Vault of Glass and when a Daily Heroic mission, has a secret taking you deeper in than you would normally go to face another Taken threat for some special things. The Sleeper Simulant quests only show up once you’ve found certain secret items (from random drops) and reached a certain rank with the Gunsmith; even then it only shows up on certain days. These are just a few that have been found in the month since The Taken King launched; there are bound to be a lot more to find.
All of that is really just some of what The Taken King has to offer. New quest lines, new player-started public events, new maps and modes in PvP, what is undoubtedly the best Raid to date, and more comes with this truly excellent Expansion.
What about the micro-transactions?
Recently, Bungie added new emotes (such as a slow clap, various taunts, a new dance, etc.) as optional micro-transactions to the game. All of these are purely cosmetic and have zero impact on gameplay (other than giving PvP players more options than tea-bagging an opponent). All of the blue (Rare) emotes cost 200 Silver ($2.00) and the two purple (Legendary) emotes cost 500 Silver ($5.00). Prices for Silver in the U.S. are $4.99 for 500 Silver, $9.99 for 1000 Silver (+100 bonus), and $19.99 for 2000 Silver (+300 bonus). I personally had no problem paying for some fun emotes, but I do wish it was possible to customize more than just the one slot.
While there is certainly the argument of a slippery slope with these micro-transactions, Bungie has indicated that the items they will sell are going to remain cosmetic. I am not worried because the game is incredibly fun and I don’t feel like I’ve wasted any money.
Is it worth the cost?
If you already own Destiny and The Dark Below and House of Wolves expansions, The Taken King will cost you $40. If you own none of them or just the base game of Destiny, you can buy the Legendary Edition, which includes all of Destiny’s year one content and The Taken King, for $60. No matter which route you take, it’s money well-spent. Destiny: The Taken King is without question the most enjoyable shooter I’ve ever played.