Title: Destiny: The Taken King
Platform: Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4 (Reviewed on)
Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Activision
Release date: Out Now!
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Destiny: The Taken King is the latest instalment of Bungie and Activision’s massive space MMORPG. It’s fair to say that it was quite possibly the most hyped game on the run up to its release on Sept 15, 2015 for current and old gen consoles. As an avid Destiny player, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Credit to Bungie, ‘year one’ of the game resulted in a lot of listening to the players and applying that feedback to make the end user’s experience more worthwhile. From being able to buy important materials to upgrade guns and armour, increased vault space and more… Bungie listened.

The game has also been plagued with ‘nerfs’ and ‘buffs’ to continually tweak the game and ensure that all weaponry remains as fair across the board as possible. 

The Taken King promised to further revamp the system to make it feel more like an RPG. Simple missions, old and new, were hinted to be ‘questified’ to give the player further sense of accomplishment on their journey of being a guardian.

The game was also riddled with controversy on the run up to release thanks to the lack of support towards the fans initially shown by Luke Smith, creative director.

Players were reluctant to spend the same amount of money on an add-on to what they would spend on a brand new game – which was/is a completely fair stance to take. Mr Smith couldn’t have been more apologetic following the backlash.

Me, personally?

I couldn’t agree more with Bungie. The price tag was well worth the experience. I’m still struggling to find the time to get the ‘full’ Taken King experience.

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Destiny started to feel more like it should have been with the release of The Dark Below and especially with House of WolvesThe Dark Below, as welcomed as it was, left players feeling deflated. People felt cheated at the extra expense for a rather hollow instalment of DLC and I was inclined to agree. Whilst I enjoyed the Crota raid, it was ‘cheese’ heavy, far too short and seemed rushed. Enough content to have fully been merited as free DLC or even just the core game.

I’m sure Activision themselves were chuckling from their ivory towers at the amount of money made for very little (take Call of Duty map packs as an example of their ‘legitimate’ business strategy) but however the point is argued… at the end of the day, there is always someone prepared to pay. I was amongst them because I had faith in what the game could become.

To not digress any further, my point for mentioning previous instalments was to highlight that the arrival of House of Wolves proved to me that the game was still worth investing in.

The Prison of Elders alone was a major selling point for me. The Skolas battle was a fairly advanced battle that encouraged teamwork, communication and a willingness to learn mechanics that didn’t just rely on mundane point and shoot strategies. It kept the game fun and was undoubtedly the absolute highlight of year one for me.

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Did The Taken King live up to that standard?

That’s what this review is about.

There is actually so much in Destiny TTK that I’ve decided to write alongside my colleague Haydn Meredith, a savant in the RPG community so that we can each provide our own views on elements of the content with a fairly well rounded summary. This review will consider Haydn, an RPG specialist, and me… a self proclaimed shoot-em-up specialist.

Personally, I think that year two has kicked off in tremendous style. Jumping into Phobos to encounter the Taken for the first time was actually exciting. Even the slightest of details have been given enough notice to make The Taken King feel like a full game in itself. The music score, the intense battles, the quest/bounty revamp… everything combines together nicely and makes the game feel like more of an RPG which is something that I’ve always failed to see with the Destiny title.

Yes, I’ve played games like Skyrim or Fallout but they had an entirely different pace (and a fully expansive story-line to match) and I’m more than accomplished at the ‘other side’ of the coin. Perhaps I was playing Destiny as a shooter more than an RPG but year two alone has opened my eyes to what Bungie have been trying to do.

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People often managed to get in three runs of the Vault of Glass/Crota’s End in every week initially and now there is enough content to keep the most ‘hard-core’ players busy – on just one character, never mind three. There’s ample content to satisfy both the casual and hard-core players.

Rather than just talk about the game, we’ve elected to break things down and discuss some of the core elements that helped make it.

  1. The Light/Level system.

    Previously, the levelling system seemed incomplete to me. You levelled up with experience before you had to commit to the jump of level twenty to thirty four (with DLC packs) based on the ‘light’ system. Destiny players will likely understand the concept completely but the idea behind light was that you could eventually get higher level gear with a light figure attached. Your level would then increase from that point based on the cumulative score of the light on your gear.

    Essentially, year one players had to rely on luck/RNG to hope they get gear with a high enough light level to allow them to tackle some of the end game content. Year two allows players to level up to the maximum with experience points alone. Light instead contributing solely to damage output and armour resistance.

    The system is a lot more positive and feels more rewarding. Bounties/quests that had experience attached can be put to use further than just weapon/armour development. Admittedly, I didn’t get to feel the full effect of it as I prepped old quests/bounties from year one, used a focussed light and made it to level forty in all of five minutes. Nevertheless, the fun is then in getting your light up. Jumping in and out of content to earn better gear isn’t much of a change from the old but it feels like a more robust system that seems more like ‘natural progression’ even beyond the level cap. Hopefully, this system… or something similar will remain for the foreseeable Destiny future because it makes sense from an RPG and shooter perspective.
    The new system implemented for light makes the game more accessible for new players, while making the game feel more like an MMO for the more hardcore to push up for gear that is suited to them. Gone are the days of all Guardians looking the same and now each player can gear up to their liking without the need of that pesky out of reach gear.

  2. The story content.The story was considered empty in year one and was hotly anticipated for the second year of The Taken King.Reddit lit up with rumours of story content being cut after key members of the team left. Naturally, I say rumours as anything on Reddit should be taken with a pinch of salt. Nevertheless, we have both come up with a brief summary.
    Year one, to me, was awful from a story point of view. It felt rushed, often didn’t make sense and relied on the Grimoire cards to fill in the blanks and left players forced to watch cut scenes riddled with poor dialogue whilst cringing. In all honesty, I used the Destiny cut scenes from year one as a notification to take a toilet break or grab a drink. Year two changed that. Granted, working with the poor construction of year one left little room for creative thinking but The Taken King proudly stood above that and followed its own path. Cut scenes featuring Oryx (enemies speaking!), Cayde-6, Queen Mara… all of it felt like a suitable apology for a God awful year one story. Not to mention, some of the missions are new in how they work. The stealth mission to steal a fragment of Crota’s soul. The retreat mission. Not all running and gunning towards something after all! Very pleased with the outcome and work put into it and certainly hope the calibre of story-telling remains going forward.
    Year one had it’s moments but felt like it was full of fetch quests that infuriated the player base with the consistency of returning to the tower after each mission. The Taken King somewhat moves away from this with added cutscenes that add some tongue in cheek humour as well as giving the overarching theme actual purpose. It now feels like as a Guardian you are making a difference and becoming legend instead of the silent protagonist who’s only purpose is to shoot things and collect materials throughout the universe.
  3. The voice acting – including Nolan North as Ghost.
    The voice acting in year one wasn’t brilliant by any means. Huge actors and actresses featured but weren’t really utilised. Here is our overview of year two:
    Whilst we were officially told that there were schedule clashes with Dinklage and getting him in was tough… I find it hard to believe given the nature of complaints against the old ghost. Voice acting is notoriously difficult and Dinklage flopped in my books. The introduction of an expert in the field was met with a round of silent applause within the community… However… Personally speaking, I’m disappointed. I was excited to hear North was coming in thinking there would be a significant improvement and I’m shocked to say that as wooden as Peter Dinklage’s performance was, I preferred it. I actually despise the softer spoken, androgynous C3PO style version of North’s ghost, thinking that it makes him sound almost child-like; to me, it doesn’t suit the tone, pace or style of the game. Highly unlikely but going back to the drawing board is in order. That, or sell voice packs – I’d happily pay £10-£15 to have Karl Pilkington or a preferred performer narrate and comment on my journey within the world of Destiny; a performance that won’t leave me cringing or turning down the volume to avoid a childlike, nails down a chalkboard tone. That being said, as mentioned before the interactions between Cayde-6 and Eris made the game.
    Having Peter Dinklage on board was a brilliant move in terms of publicity; a high profile actor that attracted a huge audience including fans of his work. Now having the more flexible Nolan North on board has the same effect in the gaming community. Anyone who is anyone knows Nolan (best known for playing Drake in the Uncharted series). His portrayal of Ghost took a lot of getting used to, for the first week I was actually wincing when I heard the voice, it seemed like too big of a change. Though after running multiple strikes and having different lines from Ghost giving more player interaction, it’s easy to see the vision Bungie has for the game. Coupled with two-way conversations with other NPC’s in the Tower, Destiny just got a lot more crowded; which couldn’t be better for it.
  4. Strikes
    Strikes were the bridge between patrols/missions but without the length and difficulty of the raid. Our thoughts on Bungie’s latest are as follows:
    My god, what a breath of fresh air. Strikes were enjoyable to a point but because increasingly mind numbing with the same stuff happening on the same missions every time. The introduction of various variables, the Taken and the occasional dialogue mix up during strikes has given them the life that they needed. Thankfully! I sincerely cannot wait to see more of the old mix in with the Taken (many have yet to come up in the playlist for me, if they will at all) because the pace changes. I agree, keep the legacy playlist to allow people to experience what once was… but turn it up a notch by adding the Taken and giving them some extra difficulty. Bosses are no longer bullet sponges, bringing the fight down to a level where it doesn’t feel like a chore. Ten points to Bungie. Very pleased.
    The new strikes give a breath of fresh air into the instanced fights of Destiny, with each one feeling unique and have a different approach, it now gives players meaning to do each and every one. Having a new playlist that rewards players for staying in strikes longer is helped by how well designed they actually are. Even the PlayStation exclusive (The Restorative Mind) feels very unique, given it’s another take on the Vex mind strikes from Year one, the new mechanics that task fire teams to play together and use their wits to battle through make everything about the strikes feel really good.
  5. The King’s Fall Raid
    House of Wolves left us disappointed with the lack of a raid. Crota’s end was far too short when compared to the Vault of Glass… did we expect a flop or a hit?
    It actually took me longer to drop Oryx after I accidentally infused my raid sniper into a shotgun, leaving me rather ‘limp’ from a distance… but with a Black Spindle, four other guys and Haydn himself… I dropped him. I have done so more than once as well! I have to say that the raid itself is very good in every way. Mechanics reminiscent of the Skolas battle and then some, length, jumping puzzles that were actually a good laugh. This is as close to perfection as I would ever give credit for… and I wouldn’t call it perfect in the hopes they can further improve! Bungie’s best raid to date without a doubt. Very, very enjoyable.
    This for me was the big selling point of the expansion. Being a hardcore raider on other MMO’s I was curious whether King’s Fall would hold up; especially when you consider how much of a fail Crota’s End was. Luckily I was proven that Bungie still have the magic in them. New MMO like mechanics that require coordination and timing have now been implemented. There is no longer areas that can be pushed through by one person while the others sit and wait, each player has a job to do, and has to know exactly when to do it. It’s not as hardcore as they first said, though with the Heroic difficulty coming later, the normal is here to ease players who are new to the genre into the groove.
  6. The Tower/Allegiances
    Something in the year one catalogue that could easily be avoided. What has been done to rejuvenate this area of the game?
    The factions seemed rather pointless in year one with people really flocking to the likes of dead orbit just for the revenant shader. They work pretty much the same way but you can only align with one faction, once per week. At a much higher level, you get a faction quest for an exotic mark/cloak/bond which has a unique respawn animation and allows equipping a regular armour piece alongside it. 

I learnt the hard way not to earn that piece, rely on it (I had it at 300 light) and then switch factions because the game with unequip it immediately. You cannot wear a Dead Orbit piece and then start supporting someone else so think before you act!

 It goes without saying that it feels like Bungie are beginning to pave the way for something more unique down the line so I can cross my fingers and hope.
    Little tweaks in the tower and with the allegiances that can be made to the factions have made Destiny more fun! In year one I found myself constantly getting frustrated because I had forgotten to equip my New Monarchy cape and losing out on all the reputation had me feeling like I was wasting my time. The new way of just aligning with your chosen faction and then going off and completing things makes everything so much easier, completing everything now and seeing my rep build slowly makes the prospect of getting that exotic class item makes me want to keep running through missions to rank up.
  7. Weapon Balancing
    Last but not least before we summarise. After wading through tears of joy and tears of sorrow at the loss of some of the year one power houses… here are our thoughts.
    Keeping it short and sweet here because it is ever changing really. I don’t want to commit too much to it now in the event it gets mixed up again. Nevertheless, very good in most ways. Guns are beginning to feel more balanced without everyone relying on the Fatebringer or the Gjhallarhorn – at least year two equivalents. Good stuff.
    Weapons have needed to be balanced for a number of months, my go to weapon type is the Hand Cannon, last year I found myself out sniping players with my Hawkmoon when they were taking time to pick their shot with a sniper. All these new changes make the weapons type feel more balanced, with close quarter shots rewarding player with higher damage, meaning no more hanging back and firing from a safe distance with a Hand Cannon for me! There are still improvements to be made, but with Bungie now taking on board player feedback it’s just takes a small hot fix to sort some of those pesky weapons out.

Overall, Destiny: The Taken King has proven to be quite good. But if we were to summarise everything into one small paragraph – which is nigh impossible given the amount of content… these are what they would be.

I’m very pleased with The Taken King and hope that this sets the bar for future instalments and DLC. Bungie have proven that they can deliver and cannot afford to go backwards, especially with the price tags that their DLC tend to go for. They can either start pulling masses of people in, or push them away.

 The latest notification of micro-transactions could mean a very slippery slope but time will tell. Perhaps premature but roll on year three.
My whole attitude about Destiny has changed with the release of The Taken King. Missions and quest lines now have me looking for hidden areas and items to pop some sort of pre-requisite, and having things to do in the game besides bounties each day is a nice change of pace. There are still things that could be fleshed out to compete on an MMO scale, but Bungie does seem to have the right response team ready for those now. Hidden weapons are still yet to be found by anyone in the world and these little hidden extras prove how much Bungie is invested on making the series a massive hit for anyone willing to either put a lot of time in, or just want to log in for an evening and shoot stuff. I’m now on the edge of my seat for what is coming next for Destiny, as if it can give more of what we’re received with The Taken King, then I am completely invested in giving my time for it.

So there you have it folks. The views on the game from both an RPG specialist and shoot-em-up specialist. Thanks for reading and a special thanks to Haydn Meredith for committing his time to cross reference our thoughts.

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