This is a review of Destiny’s The Taken King expansion as well as the 2.0 update, which is available to all owners of Destiny regardless of whether they purchase the expansion.
Like it or not, Destiny has been one of the most talked about games of this generation. While it found a dedicated community, it has been a target of criticism for many. The game was – given its massive budget and the developer’s pedigree – surprisingly lacklustre at launch and even though later updates and expansions attempted to address its problems, it never truly emerged from the shadow of its disappointing launch. The Taken King expansion, along with the 2.0 update, aims to completely revamp the game as it gears up for its second year.
Having played it extensively for the past week, I can safely say that The Taken King is by far the best thing that has happened to the game yet. It does a lot of things right, adds a ton of new content, fixes many of the game’s glaring issues, and finally provides a decent campaign that’s significantly better than anything in the vanilla game and the other two expansions. The game has certainly come a long way from its release last year and, in a way, The Taken King actually feels like a sequel – or if you’re feeling cynical, what Destiny should have been in the first place.
Let’s talk about the campaign first. The Taken King continues the storyline from the Dark Below expansion at the end of which the Guardians manage to slay the Hive prince, Crota. However, a larger threat emerges as Crota’s father, the big bad God-king, Oryx, now wants revenge and plans to consume our solar system. Once again it’s up to the Guardians to take down Oryx and his army of Taken. While the story itself is pretty straightforward good vs evil stuff, it is presented far better than what we’ve seen in earlier Destiny content.
The expansion finally gives some personality to the characters, especially the high-ranking Vanguard that hang out in the Tower. In previous content, they barely had any presence and were little more than glorified vendors, but they now feature heavily in cutscenes and dialogue. Your companion Ghost is now voiced by Nolan North as Peter Dinklage is completely excised from the game (including all of the original material). North’s performance is quite different, sounding more playful and natural, especially in the new content. Nathan Fillion as the rogue-ish Hunter Cayde-6 is another standout and he gets some of the best lines. The writing itself is far better than anything we’ve seen previously, with more humour and banter between characters.
The first mission of the Taken King campaign remains a highlight and feels quite different from what we’re used to seeing in Destiny. I honestly wish there were more missions like it since some of the later ones get a tad generic. The main campaign is also a bit on the short side, but there are additional missions and quest chains that unlock after you complete it, including one that gets you a new sword weapon. Some of those feel more like bounties than missions, but for most part, the campaign is a huge improvement over the past, and Bungie has clearly put in a lot more effort into this area. Those who hated the storytelling in the earlier content will surely appreciate this new direction.
The expansion introduces a new enemy faction to fight against. The Taken are basically assimilated versions of the enemies from the other three hostile races. You may think they are nothing but simple reskins of the original enemies, but they’re far more than that. Each enemy gets at least one special ability that makes them more interesting than their counterparts. For example, Taken Thralls can teleport, Taken Psions can split in two, while Taken Captains get the annoying ability of rendering your Guardian blind for several seconds. The Taken are by far the most difficult enemy to fight in the game right now and they certainly bring a new level of challenge for veteran players.
In addition to the campaign, The Taken King also adds new strikes and a brand new raid as well as a huge new zone to explore – the Taken Dreadnaught. While I didn’t get a chance to participate in the raid yet, I did play all of the new strikes and I like the subtle changes they bring. For starters, the strike bosses are no longer bullet sponges and the fights are a lot more dynamic. The Shield Brothers strike, for example, has you fight two Cabal bosses with different abilities at the same time, while the Sunless Cell strike features a boss that’s fought in complete darkness.
Another new strike, Fallen S.A.B.E.R., has a boss fight that takes place in an arena that gets progressively harder to fight in. The strikes themselves don’t feel unnecessarily long (looking at you, Omnigul) and can be completed in 15-20 minutes with a decent fireteam. The Dreadnaught, on the other hand, is a new patrol zone that brings a much needed exploration element to the game. It’s a massive hive ship that hides many secret locations, hidden missions and items, and it looks absolutely gorgeous.
On the PvP side, there are two new Crucible modes along with some new maps. Rift is sort of like a reverse capture-the-flag, where you try and deliver an orb to the enemy base. As expected, it does require a bit more co-operation between your team mates than any of Destiny’s older PvP modes, so playing with randoms can be a mixed bag. It’s still a lot of fun and definitely is a great addition to the PvP. The other mode, Mayhem, however is about having as much fun as you can. With drastically reduced energy recharge times, it’s all about supers going off in every direction. It’s a great little distraction that feels perfect after tackling a difficult mission or a frustrating Crucible match.
The Taken King also adds one new subclass for each of the three classes, which definitely freshens up the experience. Titans get the fiery hammer-throwing Sunbreaker subclass, which excels in offensive capabilities, while Hunters can now spec as a bow-wielding Nightstalker, who has a truly effective and probably the most badass-looking super in the game right now. Finally, Warlocks can play out their Star Wars force-lightning fantasies as the lightning-infused Stormcaller subclass. All three subclasses are a blast to play and have really fancy-looking powers. They’re perhaps too good, which makes the older subclasses feel a little underwhelming. I really hope Bungie does something to buff them, but until then, be prepared to see a lot of Sunbreakers, Nightstalkers and Stormcallers.
Perhaps the biggest change that the update brings is the new levelling and progression system. Destiny 2.0 simplifies the convoluted system of levelling with light past level 20 to a standard XP-based system. Players with The Taken King expansion can now level up beyond 34 to the new level 40 cap. Light is now a completely different stat, which is an average of your total offense and defence stats and the better your gear, the higher your Light level. It is still an important stat though as most of the endgame content needs you to be at a certain Light level.
The good news here is the loot drops are now tuned to your level, which means that non-Legendary/Exotic gear is actually useful now. You will often find Blue gear that has better stats than your current Legendaries and Exotics, which means that the best way to gear up is now to just keep playing the game. But what if you really like the hard-earned Legendary/Exotic stuff you’ve got? For that, Bungie has introduced the brilliant new Infusion mechanic, which allows you to “feed” your rares to Legendary and Exotic gear in order to further boost their rating. It makes upgrading your gear a lot easier than it was before.
It is worth mentioning that almost all of your Year One gear is now obsolete as everything in Year Two is tuned to the new level cap. The Taken King expansion is practically mandatory if you wish to keep up with the game. It’s the only way to reach level 40, which in turn is required to access the new endgame content. In fact, even the daily missions – which are one of the sure-fire ways to get the game’s most valuable new currency Legendary Marks – are now gated behind the level 40 requirement. This makes playing Destiny without the expansion a severely stunted experience.
So in the end is The Taken King worth getting? For anyone who has been playing the game, absolutely, it’s a no brainer. It is a genuinely great expansion pack that’s packed with quality content. For those who were interested in the game but never touched it due to all the negativity, this is an excellent time to reconsider, especially since you’ll be getting the base game and all of the expansions at a pretty reasonable asking price.
However, despite all the improvements, the game is fundamentally the same. It’s still a game about grinding to reach higher numbers, farming materials and filling up various bars. But now, it’s far more streamlined and much easier to get into, not to mention the gameplay is as good as ever. The moment-to-moment action and gunplay is undoubtedly some of the best the genre has to offer and it’s all even better with friends.
Destiny: The Taken King can be purchased physically as the Destiny: The Taken King Legendary Edition, which includes the base game, the two previous expansions, and The Taken King, for Rs 4,299 (MRP).