Destiny: The Taken King Review

Quite taken

Destiny: The Taken King Review

The Taken King is a product of Destiny’s first year. It is the result of a year of stumbling, fumbling and failing, but also of learning, problem-solving and innovating. It all seems so obvious now, but it may not have been possible a year ago. Much of it, especially the King’s Fall raid, could never have been made without a year or so in the oven.

Destiny did not need all of its innumerable growing pains, and many of its scars will never fade and should rightly never be forgotten. But The Taken King is proof that it wasn’t fruitless. This is the game we were excited for back in 2013, and that we were struggling to find over the past year. The Taken King is what Destiny should be and should have been all along. It’s not a $40 DLC. In essence, it is Destiny 2. And at $40, The Taken King is a steal. 

The Positives

Destiny: The Taken King Review

  • Destiny’s story content has a new gold standard. From individual missions to overarching narrative, The Taken King is head and shoulders above all prior content. It meaningfully blends the world together to create a more cohesive picture, frequently with the help of the Taken faction. It incorporates and fleshes out new characters, the most important being the Vanguard leaders, especially the flippant Hunter, Cayde-6. Nolan North’s roles as Ghost, increasingly known as “No-No-Bot,” lends levity and urgency to all of Destiny, but especially its new missions.  

  • With The Taken King, Destiny finally feels like a world. The sort of content and dialogue once relegated to the ever-useless Grimoire is now actually in the game, supported by added cut-scenes which establish context and motivation. Characters are also no longer just vending machines with names. Factions are more important than ever, and once-silent types like the Tower Gunsmith and Crucible Lord Shaxx now have as many rewards as they do one-liners. If we could just get the Speaker to come out of his shell.

  • The new area, the Dreadnaught, is the best locale yet despite being a mere warship. Rather than a circuitous sight-seeing tour like Venus, the Dreadnaught is organic and lively. Multiple factions are constantly vying for control of its territories, and it’s a thrill to step into the fray. More importantly, it’s filled with things to do. The Court of Oryx, Cabal codes and Hive runes are rewarding and enjoyable, rife with the sort of spontaneous camaraderie that Destiny was sorely lacking for so long. This makes the game feel much more like an MMO rather than an FPS with a waiting room.

  • New gear is visually and functionally distinguished from older equipment. The new designs are made all the sweeter by the substantial increase in loot drops, which has left engrams dropping like candy. The addition of Infusion, which allows players to upgrade their favorite gear by pouring stronger gear into it, is the keystone of it all. Infusion makes even Rare-tier gear worthwhile, if only as a resource for your best Legendaries. Everything is exciting when everything has a use, so upgrading in The Taken King is as easy as it is thrilling. Account- and vendor-wide Legendary Marks help tremendously as well. 

Destiny: The Taken King Review

  • Unique gear is another welcomed edition. Many Heroic Strike bosses now drop one-of-a-kind themed items, which helps give them personality and presence. Much the same is true for class-specific items obtained through quests, which have achieved remarkable diversity without upsetting game balance. Wild cards like the wonderfully brutal sword heavy class contribute necessary spice to the mix, and the increasing influence of exotic quest lines leaves less and less up to RNG and provides a greater sense of achievement.

  • The new Strikes, including the Playstation-exclusive Echo Chamber, are more involved and gripping than the Crota’s End raid ever was. Rather than rearranged hallways punctuated with pile-of-health bosses, Darkblade’s lair and the Black Garden are proper PvE scenarios. They have their own mechanics and atmosphere, put unique spins on combat and even create roles within it. All strikes also now change things like dialogue, enemy type and even enemy numbers, which helps keep things fresh when you’re grinding out Heroics.  

  • The King’s Fall raid is a triumph, not only of mechanical layering but of teamwork. It is convoluted, brutally difficult, and never repetitive. Each encounter requires a unique, often bizarre approach and gives every fireteam member a meaningful position. It takes the best of the Vault of Glass and what little good Crota’s End offered up and builds an entirely new raid on top of it. It is far and away the best thing you can do in Destiny. 

The Negatives

Destiny: The Taken King Review

  • Account-wide weekly activities have severely limited the usefulness of maintaining multiple characters. Accessing different play styles is great, but being unable to run Nightfalls and Dailies multiple times has put the hurt on weekly rewards. This also makes crummy rewards much more painful.

  • Although the new sub-classes do flesh out their respective classes—doubly so in the case of Nightstalker, which has made Hunters incredibly powerful in PvE—the three do recycle several abilities from vanilla subs. Grenades are the most glaring double-dip, but several skills are also functionally indistinguishable from their year-old ancestors.

  • Dreadnaught activities like the Court of Oryx are best when played with teams of five or more, yet the Patrol play type still only allows fireteams of three. This has made stupidly convoluted methods a must for playing with several friends at once.

  • The current suite of upgraded year one exotics is woefully lacking. The introduction of exotic Collections has allowed year one gear to sit at the year two table, but at a snail’s pace. Each class currently has access to a paltry handful of armor, and an unorthodox selection of upgraded year one weapons. With any luck, Bungie will put some oomph behind the currently slow drip in the coming weeks.

  • Some quests, especially exotic quests, are prone to startling spikes in grinding. Difficulty is one thing, but mindless repetition is another. The quest needed to access exotic swords is particularly painful. This flies in the face of the streamlined philosophy of the bounties and activities added in update 2.0.  

Destiny has been treading water for months. After riding a wave of hype through an explosive, albeit deeply flawed launch, the game stalled with the release of its first DLC, The Dark Below. The House of Wolves followed soon after, but quickly spent its novelty and lost its luster. Things were getting better, but they weren’t getting different. Inevitably the hook of RNG started coming loose, and the once invitingly monolithic to-do list grew stumpy. Destiny needed a pick-me-up.

Boy, has it found one. Destiny’s latest release, The Taken King, radically rearranges nearly every aspect of the game. Archaic fundamentals have been brought up to speed or replaced entirely. The overarching mythos has tighter stitching. The new stuff is in a class of its own but has improved original content with its arrival. This is hardly an expansion, let alone DLC. The Taken King is closer to a reboot, a ground-up overhaul of Bungie’s blue-sky project.

The Positives / The Negatives

The Verdict