A year can seem like a long time in games, with so many releases packed into such a short amount of time it can seem daunting when it comes to picking some to spend your time and money on. Destiny landed with a great deal of hype, a much vaunted developer with a proven track record and players queuing up to try the next big thing. Then it all went a bit wrong.
For a game that looked so wonderful, and played almost perfectly, it was remarkably hollow. Actual content was sparse and the story was almost non-existent, with the best bits often hidden away on elusive Grimoire cards that could, bafflingly, only be viewed on a separate website. Players that bothered to slog through the rather drab and incoherent missions were met with an endgame grind that didn’t offer much satisfaction.
The drip feed of new content and introduction of raids, which were wonderfully crafted and instantly fascinating to challenge, helped stave off boredom but seemingly not for long. Most players fell into two camps, those who spend a few hours with the game before having their fill and those that would pour hundreds of hours into grinding for minute improvements and bits of gear. It was a big budget experiment seemingly gone spectacularly wrong.
The Taken King, in one fell swoop, actually remedies a lot of issues and makes you wonder just why some changes didn’t come a lot sooner. Cynical people might think it’s to draw older players into slapping down a lot of money, with this expansion pricing as highly as the original game was, on the new content. It’s certainly true that completely new players get the best deal, able to pick up all the Destiny releases to date for one decent sum = but it’s fair to say that veteran players will also be happy with what they get.
The levelling system has been scrapped entirely and reworked in a much more satisfying way. Now the level cap is 40 and everything you do helps you work towards that level. On top of that is your light level which is now and average of all of your equipped gear, the higher this level gets then the higher the level of the gear you get through drops and so on. It’s literally the change players have been crying out for and makes for a far more compelling progression rather than the rather luck based old system that relied on very specific drops and gear to advance.
In fact a lot of older weapons have been nerfed spectacularly, so say goodbye to Gjallarhorn, as you are encouraged to search for the newer content and level it appropriately. You can also use high powered blue gear to infuse your new legendary stuff and power it up if you want to keep using it. It makes the end game feel much less grindy, and means levelling your gear is much more satisfying and easily done.
On top of that the old mix of Vanguard and Crucible marks have been ditched and replaced with the unified Legendary system, which can be snagged through strikes, daily Crucible lists and the Heroic story missions. So it’s easier to grab gear and use it to level up your existing stuff as well. It’s a top to bottom reimagining of the entire gear and levelling system and one that has made the whole game much more of a pleasure to play rather than a chore.
In terms of fresh new content you get a bunch of story missions that actually make sense, have great narration and are interesting to play. They also open up the vast new Dreadnaught area that has a bunch of hidden enemies and content to find. New enemies can randomly turn up in old areas, strikes and content too, making them feel a lot fresher and giving older zones a random flavour that makes you want to explore them again. Finishing off the story missions also opens up a bunch of new smaller quests, a new sub-class for each character and a host of new content, as well as new strikes and a new raid to tackle.
New multiplayer modes have been added, with Rift being a fun variant on old bomb style modes, and the whole playlist feeling much more vibrant on the whole. It’s worth noting that if you stick with vanilla Destiny then a lot of this new content feels gated off, you’ll have less multiplayer options to tackle, fewer strikes (and their playlists) to attempt and the Heroic story and Nightmare Strikes will be off limits too. So avoiding the Taken King may make playing the game a rather solitary experience for people unwilling to stump up the cash.
On the whole this feels like a completely new experience and one that makes Destiny feel like the game it should have been over a year ago. The new story and levelling elements alone make the investment feel worthwhile, and the additional content once those elements end are the cherry on top. On the downside you’ll be exploring a lot of the areas you may have already seen, and that end game grind is still present even though it has been made much more accessible. Still Destiny still has incredibly satisfying moments and the FPS elements of combat and team based play have yet to be bettered. For that alone the Taken King should be lauded, it’s just a shame we’ve had to endure a year of dubious tweaks and changes to finally get the game we wanted.