Before the release of The Taken King, I’ve put well over 250 hours into Destiny, along with countless sleepless nights spread across my three guardians. With that said, even I had to take a break from the game due to the lack of content between DLC releases, and the random nature of all loot drops. Destiny: The Taken King, however, successfully reinvigorates Bungie’s sci-fi epic adventure, introducing an all-new campaign, updating just about every aspect of the game.
Oryx (Crota’s pissed off father) has invaded the Solar System, bringing with him tortured and consumed Taken versions of familiar foes. Before setting his vengeful gaze on the Guardians that took his son’s life, Oryx has systematically overrun the Cabal outpost on Phobos. Starting the narrative-driven campaign, you must investigate the strange sightings under the guidance of the mysterious Eris Morn (who first arrived in The Dark Below) and the Vanguard trainers that have been in the Tower since day one.
The first mission in the lengthy new campaign (yes, Destiny now features a narrative driven quest system) has more atmosphere, more character, and more heart than the entirety of Destiny (Year 1). The new, deadlier forms of enemies will scare you, offering a challenge rarely seen in the game before. Taken Thralls jittery and sudden movements are straight out of horror movies, as they glitch about the screen, appearing suddenly directly in front of you. Psions are capable of duplicating themselves, forcing you to quickly take them out before you are overrun by countless Psions. Every species you thought you knew, now features new skill sets that aid them in your demise. Worst of all, Goblins will shield comrades, and when they are shielding the now invisible Minotaurs in the middle of a firefight, hearing “guardian down” is going to become very familiar to you.
A major point of contention amongst fans was the recycled environments used in both Year 1 expansions. The Taken King does return you to many key locales in the game, but for good reason. With the Taken invading, these locations must be revisited, however Bungie has learned from their mistakes and has added new content and new sections to these areas. Early on in the narrative, you’ll be tasked with visiting Cayde’s (the Hunter Vanguard voiced by Nathan Fillion) secret vault on Earth. Along the way, you’ll pass through the location where you fought Sepkis Prime for the first time, but it eventually leads to an all new area to explore. Many of the quests utilize the same tactics, taking you somewhere familiar, but then throwing a curveball midway through. I appreciate the little details along the way, showcasing the everlasting effects on each planet from Oryx and his army of slaves.
Those that have not purchased the latest expansion can still gain access to the recent 2.0 update; retooling the asinine light system. Previously players were at the mercy of what became known as RNGesus. Raid gear became the most sought after commodity, but with the extremely low drop rate, and the fact you could get duplicate gear, only those with luck on their side prevailed. I still recall my first playthrough The Vault of Glass that took over 6 hours to complete, only to walk away from the game with nothing, but an armor shader. Groups running raids became even more exclusive, as already having some or all of the raid gear became necessary.
While light still exists in the game and plays a major component when players reach level 40, the logic behind it has been completely revamped. Using an algorithm that uses a weighted average for the attack/defense on all your equipped armor and weapons, players now have many different options open to them to reach the recommended light levels for the higher end game content. I was able to reach the necessary light level to complete the new King’s Fall raid just by completing quest chains, and running Strikes with random players.
Thew new infusion system also plays an important part in the revamping light system. If you find an item with a perk that you don’t want to be rid of, dismantling stronger items (those with higher attack or armor rating) and infusing them into the item allow you to increase its current values. in doing so, you can keep your favorite piece of equipment without being forced to equip the same thing that everyone else is using, and stay competitive in the process. Not seeing the same class wearing all the same set of armor is a pleasant sight.
The Taken King contains two previously unavailable locations: Phobos and the Dreadnaught. Being a very tiny moon, you’ll only be visiting Phobos a handful of times, but Oryx’s Capital Ship plays a much larger role in the narrative. Even after the main campaign is completed, the side missions will take you to new locations not only on the Dreadnaught but across all of the planets. If you plan on completing the new raid, you’ll want to complete these side missions to unlock quests that provide rewards for the raid.
The Court of Oryx adds some of the most challenging aspects to The Taken King through triggered public events. These arena-style events require the aid of other guardians, whether they are part of your fireteam, or they just happen to be in the vicinity. Triggering an event requires the use of a rune with three tiers of difficulty. Some of the bosses are straightforward, but the enjoyment comes from the more complicated encounters. For example, a pair of knights may spawn, one utilizing melee attacks and the other with long-range barrages. Both are invincible until they are within close proximity to each other. The higher level tiers take these encounters and spawn multiple bosses at the same time. You don’t know true dread until you must take out multiple ogres, wizards, and knights, while constantly under the threat of exploding thralls. The player that places the rune receives rewards upon completion from a chest, but any guardian that assists will be able to receive loot from defeated enemies.
The three new subclasses add new a dynamic to fireteams, focusing on area of effect Supers and shaking up how you approach everything from standard encounters to bosses. The Sunbreaker Titan subclass tosses flaming hammers at groups of enemies from a distance, Stormcaller Warlock’s lightning strike can chain to nearby enemies, but the Nightstalker subclass for the Hunter is by far the most useful and unique. Firing from a void bow, Hunters tether enemies together to a single spot, rendering them vulnerable to attack. Very useful for keeping large groups of enemies under control.
Spread across eight new Crucible maps, Bungie has added two additional game modes: Rift & Mayhem. Rift is a take on the classic Capture the Flag formula, where a single spark (orb of light) spawns in the center of the map, tasking players to carry it to the opposing team’s base and dunk it in the rift. If the player carrying the spark, called the runner, is downed, the spark resets back in the center of the map. I thoroughly enjoyed the mode for a time, but it seems players have opted for a camping strategy with sniper rifles which has soured my opinion on the mode. Mayhem, which isn’t available at all times, is a chaotic mess and I loved every second of it. Everything from Supers to grenades recharge at an increased rate, so seeing Supers triggered constantly is a common occurrence.
The King’s Fall is a crowning achievement on how to implement an end-game raid to a cooperative online shooter. Bungie certainly has learned from the mistakes in Crota’s End, adding new mechanics that require precise timing and dedication for teams of six. I don’t expect to see any exploitation in this raid, so don't count on seeing videos about soloing certain encounters. The boss battles are cleverly made, featuring mechanics that are both engaging and fun to discover. I know most players will research how to beat it before trying it, but the discovery is half the fun.
Destiny: The Taken King successfully adds refreshing content to a game that has been growing stale over the past few months. Not only that, but just about every aspect of the game has been revitalized with the expansion and the 2.0 update. Depending on your view on grinding for gear after completing everything else, you should be able to get upwards of 30+ hours (per character) to complete all of the newly included quests before you reach that moment.
Note: Destiny: The Taken King review is based on a digital PS4 copy of the game, provided for review purposes.