Bungie’s hit online first-person shooter, Destiny, officially kicks off its second year with the new expansion The Taken King. After one of the biggest game launches in the history of history, The Taken King continues the franchise into its latest phase, which features many tweaks to gameplay plus some new narrative intrigue. At times, Destiny is a controversial title, but the success of the franchise is undeniable. While it would be hesitant to call Destiny a great game, it is an entertaining and infinitely playable one. The Taken King, as an expansion, does offer some notable improvements.
The Taken King essentially continues from the thread of The Dark Below expansion. The Guardians of the City have destroyed Krota. Well, that has genuinely teed off Krota’s father, the Hive God Oryx. Oryx has arrived in Earth’s solar system on his nigh-impregnable Dreadnaught. Right at the start, Oryx decimates the forces of the Reef, and Queen Mara Sov has disappeared. Was she actually obliterated? That is still unclear. However, the sortie by the Awoken was able to buy enough time for the Guardians and the City to make a stand against Oryx. After the main Guardian player discovers Oryx’s powers to create “Taken” soldiers firsthand, Cayde-6 of the Vanguard and Eris Morn come up with a daring plan to infiltrate the Dreadnaught and strike at the heart of the Hive menace. Oryx must be stopped, or he will bring certain doom to Earth and the allies of the City.
The Taken King has made a number of improvements to Destiny. First of all, the narrative and story presentation for The Taken King is executed so much better than the core Destiny game at launch. While Destiny is a game that should be rewarded A+ for ambiance, the core game is probably graded at about a C average, if not lower. The core game was full of plot holes, weak character development and tons of gaping, unanswered questions. Does The Taken King repair all of the loose plot holes and story issues that have been plaguing the game for the last year? No, it doesn’t. However, the narrative for The Taken King is delivered in a more active, aggressive way. The narrative now makes the Guardian player feel like a more active part of the unfolding story. There are new cutscene interludes for the main story missions. The best thing about the new narrative material is that Cayde-6 has become a standout character and star of the game, expertly played by the one and only, amazing Nathan Fillion. Cayde-6 actually has a characterization now, as a brash loose cannon on the Vanguard. It is Cayde-6 who comes up with the plan to get past the Dreadnaught’s exclusion zone to secure a transmat zone and beachhead point for the Guardians of the City. Cayde-6 then dispatches the main Guardian player on these missions to continue the narrative going.
The other improvement is how Bungie has integrated narrative and story throughout the quest lines. The Quest lines for Destiny have been given a nice overhaul for The Taken King. The focus on the missions is now done through the objective-based Quests. The Quests are improved with The Taken King because the Quests now offer a stronger narrative in communicating with the Vanguard and Tower vendors. The Quests do a much better job of making the main Guardian an active player and part of Destiny’s ongoing story and narrative. Also, the Quest lines play in a less passive and grinding fashion. Through the Quest lines, cool stuff can happen. You can unlock crucial weapons and gear, or you can even unlock the third sub-class for your Guardian. The improved focus through the Quest lines has added some nice layers to the overall gameplay.
Through The Taken King, the Guardians can now obtain a new sub-class for fighting the Darkness. Titans can now unlock the Sunbreaker sub-class, which envelopes their bodies in flame and uses a Thor-like hammer. Warlocks can utilize the Stormcaller sub-class and summon bolts of electricity and float through the air. Finally, Hunters have the new Nightstalker sub-class, which lets the Hunters utilize a deadly bow and arrow weapon. As a longtime Titan player, I really enjoyed what the new Sunbreaker sub-class brought to the table. The new attacks and specials it offers are quite fun and damaging.
There have been other noticeable tweaks to the gameplay. Thankfully, the Vault size for storing items is so much bigger now. Players no longer need to obtain certain types of gear and rare items to get to the maximum player level. In The Taken King, players need to only continue playing the game to get to the maximum level cap. This is definitely a welcome improvement. Cut scenes are now optionally and no longer mandatory to watch. Players can skip watching the cut scenes over and over again if they wish.
However, not all the changes made for The Taken King are that great. While Bungie has removed a ceiling to keep players from reaching the maximum level cap, there is now the Light Level. The Light Level for a Guardian is determined by the stats for the Guardian’s armor, weapons and gear. Players have to earn Legendary, Rare and Exotic gear to improve the Light Level. This is one of the grinding parts of Destiny that is not as much fun. Once again, players are at the mercy of frustrating and random loot drops.
The other problem? A lot of the awesome weapons, armor and gear players earned from earlier in the game, and other expansions, are essentially nerfed and useless at the start of The Taken King. If you have some awesome Exotics, there should be a way for players to increase the stats of that gear. This was possible in The Dark Below. Unfortunately, it no longer appears to be the case for The Taken King.
Lastly, The Taken King still does not address some of the burning questions from the core game. There is still really no idea about the Traveler and its core purpose. The Darkness, and exactly what it is, still makes no sense, along with how the Hive serve the Darkness. Wading through the Grimoire is still not enough. In a prologue for the game, the main Guardian player’s Ghost reveals that despite being created by the Traveler, it knows almost nothing about the entity. However, the core Destiny game leads the player to believe that destroying the Heart of Darkness in the Black Garden could revive the Traveler. So has the Traveler revived or not? Can the Speaker communicate with it again? This has not been addressed and just been left dangling aside. The Ghost also mentions that it has been looking for its own Guardian for years. This is consistent with the start of the core game. This suggests there is some sort of connection and bond with a Ghost and its Guardian. Why is that necessary? Why did Ghost spend so much time looking for the player, who had been dead for possibly centuries? What is special about the main Guardian player? So many concepts are just introduced and not properly established. So, while The Taken King does a much better job of executing its ongoing story, most of the existing flaws of the greater Destiny story have still not been addressed. However, in defense of Bungie, some of the content for The Taken King suggests that Bungie is aware of this and will address the issues in time. Hopefully, that is the case.
Overall, Destiny: The Taken King is a good expansion that will probably make the dedicated fans of the franchise happy and keep them playing. As a digital expansion, it is quite robust and offers a decent amount of new content that can keep you busy for plenty of hours, with all the new Quest lines, the new Raid and the new Crucible gameplay modes. The Taken King might not be enough to bring disenfranchised players back to the game, but it will likely provide plenty of hours to satisfied fans and players of the franchise. The expansion is not without its flaws, but it does offer some fun wrinkles and a more overall layered narrative to the Destiny franchise.