Game review - Destiny: The Taken King fixes flaws and amps up the fun

With new weapons, environment, characters and best of all, a new raid, Destiny: The Taken King is fun to play for 15 minutes or 10 hours

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 October, 2015, 6:32pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 October, 2015, 6:32pm

Destiny: The Taken King Bungie

Destiny might be one of the most polarising games of the 21st century. The original product and its follow-up expansions (The Dark Below and House of Wolves) established a base of players who love the game, but naysayers were quick to point out the game's many shortcomings. A lack of mission variety, a nonsensical story, a clumsy quest interface, confusing levelling, and a misleading loot system are just a few of the complaints Destiny faced during its first year.

Many reviews of that original game reflected these problems, but also pointed out what fans of the series love. Destiny features spot-on first-person controls - the best a console has ever seen. It has an amazing arsenal of weapons, a seamless multiplayer world for both co-op and competitive play, and a gorgeous world to explore - all wrapped in the RPG trappings that MMO fans have loved for years.

Year one for Destiny was a story of great success and confusing failures, but it drew millions of gamers into its world despite its shortcomings. Bungie clearly listened to the community's feedback on what needed improvement, because The Taken King tackles the major problems head-on. It marks the beginning of year two, but more importantly, is a rebirth for the series and ultimately represents the game that Destiny was trying to be from the start.

The story has been streamlined from beginning to end, including slightly reworking and rerecording parts of the original narrative. The new content may not shed much light on the epic sci-fi world, but it does deliver a fun and coherent romp that finally gives the characters of the world personality. The world is no longer filled with unconnected non-player characters; the citizens of the tower finally seem to stand for something, and now when they speak, I actually listen.

The Taken King (for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360) has a number of quests that continue the adventure past the culmination of the base game's storyline. They feature some of my favourite missions in the game, and are definitely worth playing. These quests also include rewards such as elusive pieces of legendary armour, exotics (the ultimate prizes), and the new heavy weapon - a melee sword that I quickly fell in love with.

New strikes join the fray, some old strikes have been reworked, and new competitive game types are available across an array of old and new Crucible maps. Even better, all three classes (Titan, Hunter, and Warlock) have a new subclass. These are all expertly executed, and the powers and strategies they use make the classes feel new again.

The loot system is still based on the classic uncommon-rare-legendary-exotic scale of quality, but the way they drop and how you upgrade items is much improved. For one, legendary engrams actually drop, and they give legendary items. But so do great blue items, which you can use for a while to up your light level (which is essentially your item level) to grant access to new content. Eventually you may want to use them or other items of the same type infuse lower-level items that feature perks you prefer. This system gives all loot more value, which brings a Diablo-like excitement to heading back to the tower to sift through all your rewards.

The Dreadnaught - The Taken King's primary new environment - is Bungie's best public play space. It's full of surprises, including the Court of Oryx - a fun public event that features quick horde-mode rounds against giant bosses - and many other mysteries that require finding keys to unlock rare loots or entire events.

Finally, players get the new raid, King's Fall. The raid is best explored on your own, but I can say this without spoiling anything: It is a culmination of what Bungie has put into all the other raids. King's Fall is easily the biggest, with all the fan-favourite elements including mazes, jump puzzles, and fantastic encounters that require teamwork and communication to complete.

For better or worse, more and more people are starting to judge games primarily on their length. Can you name a game that tops out at 70 to 100 hours that isn't well loved? I can't. Games such as Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, while both fantastic regardless of length, may have ruined it for everyone else.

The Taken King will satiate the content-hungry gamers, but more importantly, it's really fun.

The best thing about the expansion is that anyone can pick it up and enjoy it for a 15-minute or a 10-hour session. The Destiny simplicity - go where you're told, shoot bad guys - is still present for new or casual players, while the addition of much tougher quests, strikes and raids appeals to hardcore fans. Games with something for everyone always have an innate advantage from the get-go - and as long as they function properly, they will do well.

That brings me to the grind. One of the biggest knocks on Destiny, and one that I agreed with, is that it is too grind-y - meaning players were asked to perform repetitive tasks for hours and hours in order to progress through the story or earn rewards.

The grind is very much alive in The Taken King. In fact, it may even be worse. The quest to earn a sweet sword for your character, for example, requires you to scour hidden nooks on multiple planets to find the necessary parts. Players don't get to kill cool bad guys or go anywhere new - they just run around the same areas over and over. That isn't very fun, so my character is going swordless.

The Taken King ultimately is what the players - and probably even Bungie - always wanted Destiny to be. The improvements to the user interface and quest system alone make the game so much more playable, but they quickly fade to the background once you dig into the content. The game is not without some minor annoyances, but the good far outweighs the bad. It's a good time to try Destiny if you haven't already. The Taken King is a testament to Bungie's craftsmanship. The studio has given us a game that truly is legend.

Tribune News Service