‘The Taken King’: Finally, ‘Destiny’ Has Been ReleasedFiled inside: Reviews
It’s been a long road, Destiny.
We’ve been together through thick and thin, you and I. I never even thought I’d play you in the first place. Not being a major FPS or MMO player, I’d written you off very early on, until I caught a few glimpses of gameplay from some friends during the beta, and my oh my, was I impressed.
But when you initially released, I changed my tune. I let myself be fooled by drip feed loot mechanics and found myself all too willing to overlook several instances of what I might otherwise have called catastrophic mistakes in other games. After hundreds of hours, I came to the realization that you and I have a special relationship, however.
You had solid mechanics, but were going through some teenage growth spurts. You didn’t know who you fit in with. Your identity was disjointed. Great gunplay, terrible (see: nonexistent) story. Repetitive mission structures, dull enemy AI without a lot of variety, pretty areas with curiously little to do with them, and a grind that was almost painful, requiring nigh insanity to take part in.
But I persisted. You had a special charm to you that was difficult to deny. And you did grow, albeit slowly. The first expansion, The Dark Below, gave us another raid and some more guns to grab, and some insight into what the game had the potential to be: introducing the extra-dramatic Eris Morn as a character and giving a raid that gave us a little more control (but was still easy to exploit). Patrolling planets had a bit more to do, but it still felt too hard to get the equipment we wanted, Guardians were still gravitating toward identical equipment sets, and there just wasn’t quite enough to justify that twenty dollar price tag.
Then House of Wolves dropped and you started to feel a little more grown up. More characters came into play. The story mission added were some of the most compelling to date. New PvP modes really challenged those involved to perform on a new level (I failed miserably at Trials of Osiris). Some of the new Exotic weapons were truly unique, if a little underwhelming. Patrol almost constantly had something going on. We were fighting a sizable enemy, but it lacked the impact that Crota had. Skolas wasn’t a terribly compelling enemy, at his best. Players had a reason to come back week after week, but only the truly hardcore were there day after day, instead of just on Tuesdays.
I came to an interesting conclusion during my HoW time. I finally got my third character to maximum level. I didn’t have every Exotic item in the game, but I did have every Exotic weapon in the game by now. Outside of a few rare drops from the arena and Trials of Osiris stuff that I was terrible at, there was little in the game I couldn’t find much to surprise myself. So I arbitrarily decided I was done. I finally put the game down for a time. I knew The Taken King was coming. I knew some of what it involved, but didn’t go out of my way to learn too much more about it.
Then I went to E3, and Taken King was there, available for me to get my hands on, and I must say, it awakened something deep inside me. A nagging voice that quietly, but persistently, told me I should keep an eye out. After all, the tiny taste I got let me sample some of the new foundry weapons, the new subclass, and a new Crucible mode (the capture the flag-style Rift mode. I took notes. I remained steadfast.
I religiously stayed subscribed to the Destiny subreddit, monitoring it every so often, and seeing the new updates come in before the release. And when release day came, my feed exploded, and I was unable to resist. The voice had been gathering its strength and it was released all at once, and let me tell you one thing: it was worth it.
The price was the first thing that put me off, but I quickly changed my tune on. The previous two expansions were twenty dollars each, and this is double that: $40. Add another twenty if you want to upgrade to the digital collector’s edition, adding a few special class items, emotes, and shaders. But even after dropping sixty dollars in, it became apparent that the other two “expansions” were hardly that, but were rather glorified DLC—a few new weapons, a few new missions, and one or two other special activities.
The Taken King obliterates those by a mile, and was accompanied by a sizable quality-of-life improvements that have drastically improved the way players interact with the game, has better metrics for keeping players going, some critical rebalancing, and some major formula changes that illustrate not only Bungie’s ability to react to player feedback while maintaining the game’s integrity, but also the fact that the game finally knows its audience better and has found its niche.
It’s difficult to know where to start, but we’ll begin with the story. In The Dark Below, one of the Hive’s gods, Crota, threatens to return to our realm, and the Guardians are tasked with preventing the reclamation of his soul. You supposedly succeed, though the Raid leads a team of Guardians to have to face off against the Hive god himself, with little explanation as to why this occurred. Still, there were some rumblings of greater threats out in space, specifically another of the Hive pantheon: Oryx. Fun fact: Oryx also happens to be Crota’s father, and he is not happy about his son’s murder. House of Wolves challenged us with facing off against a rogue house of Fallen warriors and introduced us to some more of the Awoken, an enlightened race living out in the asteroid belt.
Queue the opening of TTK, a dramatic and powerful cinematic brings us further out into the solar system than we’ve been since, to a terrifying Hive flagship in the rings of Saturn: the Dreadnaught. The queen of the Awoken sends a massive attack force to engage the Deadnaught, but most, if not all, the fleet is annihilated by a single blast from a Hive superweapon.
Meanwhile, the Guardians receive an emergency transmission from the hostile and militaristic Cabal from the moon Phobos. Upon arrival, you find the firebase to be aflame, as Cabal flee an unknown threat that is slowly stealing hosts away through interdimensional space. It is swiftly revealed that this is the doing of Oryx, who takes and corrupts other minions of the Darkness into his own pawns, in an attempt to secure revenge against those that murdered his son, and continue his conquest of various worlds.
This gives us the first major improvement over the previous expansion: a big bad. The vanilla game and HoW both suffered from a lack of what felt like a true threat. The Vex and the Black Garden were silent enemies with difficult to ascertain motivations. The House of Wolves was led by a rogue Kell, but was so short and lacked a major encounter, aside from fighting him over and over again in the arena. With Oryx, like Crota, we have a singular vision for our enemy—a monolithic evil to fight against that motivates us to move forward. This is especially compounded by the fact that the DLC doesn’t necessarily focus on one of the existing alien enemies, but a corrupted, stolen army made up of horrifying versions of all our foes.
Combine with with more missions led by the NPCs back in the Tower, and we have a definite improvement when it comes to storytelling. The game also learned it can’t take itself too seriously—letting the voice actors and the writing take a more fantastic and sarcastic tilt to the whole game, embodying the ways the players felt about the characters and letting us see the more “human” side of our vanguard leaders. Eris was far too dramatic in The Dark Below, but now every other character in the game simultaneously recognizes her crucial expertise on matters related to the Hive and the Taken, but are also constantly exasperated by her melodramatic speeches and off-putting metaphors. Cayde-66, our resident Hunter Exo Vanguard leader, voiced by Nathan Fillion, also steals the show, clearly channeling his inner Malcolm Reynolds and giving the other Vangaurd members plenty of opportunities to react and flesh out their own characters.