For newcomers to the series, there’s no better time to jump into the Destiny universe than with its latest and biggest expansion to date, The Taken King.
Destiny’s latest DLC feels more like a reboot of the vanilla game that came out last September than your typical expansion.
Developer Bungie has added another area to explore, the Dreadnaught, a new story campaign with 12 missions (about 4-5 hours worth) plus four new strikes (one is a Playstation exclusive), the King’s Fall raid, eight new crucible maps, two more crucible modes (Rift and Mayhem) and a new subclass for each of the three character archetypes.
The third subclasses are great additions that fit in seamlessly, and it doesn’t take long to get the hang of them. Each adds the one elemental variation that particular class was missing. So hunters now have a void subclass (Nightstalker), titans a solar (Sunbreaker) and Warlocks an arc (Stormcaller).
There’s also a slew of new weapons and armor, all of which will quickly replace your old gear. Yes, green weapons and armor are now more powerful than Year 1 legendaries, raid weapons and exotics. You can also infuse new gear with more powerful, like items to upgrade their damage and defense stats.
Bungie has somewhat addressed one of the biggest complaints in the game’s lack of a coherent story with The Taken King. The story hasn’t exactly been fixed, but it has at least advanced somewhat and improved (if all else fails just add some comedy to the mix, which Bungie has done with hunter vanguard vendor Cayde-6).
The Taken King is Oryx, the father of Crota, whom guardians defeated in the game’s first DLC, Crota’s End. Oryx is out for vengeance and he’s amassing an army of “taken” soldiers, which are Destiny’s regular Fallen, Vex and Cabal enemies now under his control.
The re-skinned enemies feature new abilities and elemental shields (such as taken wizards having void shields instead of solar), and now look and act quite different.
There are a ton of under-the-hood tweaks and changes from the base game in addition to just the weapon tuning of update 2.0, which dropped a week before The Taken King.
As far as major changes, your ghost has a completely new voice with Nolan North taking over for Peter Dinklage, completely replacing all of the original voice acting. Your ghost also offers a new defense bonus and other perks you’ll be able to choose from depending on which one you equip.
Your class-specific cloaks, bonds and flags also add defense and perks, and you have new class-specific artifacts to equip with even more buffs. Unfortunately this gives players less options to choose from aesthetically unless you infuse the ones you like most (Year 1s not included).
The bounty system has been completely overhauled to include other quests in a new tab in your pause menu. You can now carry up to 16 bounties at a time, and they occur more organically as you play along instead of straight farming them. Completing bounties feels like much less of a chore.
Vanguard and Crucible marks have been dumped in favor of Legendary Marks, which can be a bit of a pain to get in the early going. Bungie says there is no cap, but there are only so many marks you can really earn each week through game activities with three characters.
Weekly Heroic Strikes no longer give players coins as a reward. Instead, you get Legendary Marks for the first three heroics you do in a week. Heroic strike bosses also drop legendary weapons and armor specific to those strikes.
And the more strikes you do consecutively without dropping out, the better chance you have at legendary drops.
The Nightfall Strike no longer returns players to orbit upon death, and you don’t receive an XP boost for the rest of the week. To help alleviate some of the XP lost from the nightfall buff, you can upgrade weapons and armor with Motes of Light, which allow you to max things out quickly as long as you have the motes (which feel even easier to come by).
If you don’t want to use Legendary Marks to buy materials you’ll have to start farming them again. But Bungie has introduced new perks like the hunter’s Keen Scout ability, which enhances your tracking skills to help you farm more efficiently.
Chests and mats in areas will show up on your mini-map with the perk enabled. Equipped items like your ghost and artifact also have perks that can help you find mats, of which you’ll likely need a lot of now (you can trade mats for faction rep).
And finally, the vault space has been doubled, allowing players to hold on to some of those older weapons they just can’t bring themselves to dismantle. Except now you might rethink that as all Year 1 weapons and armor pieces are basically useless, including many of your favorite exotics (for now at least).
The game is incredibly accessible for new players, and Bungie has lessened the grind for at least one of your characters. That’s where the Spark of Light comes in.
The spark instantly levels one character up to Level 25. So old players who want to try a new class can (I personally run all three), and new players can quickly access The Taken King’s content (lowest mission is Level 28).
The King’s Fall raid is what Destiny’s most hardcore players have been waiting most anxiously for since the revelation of no raid for the House of Wolves expansion back in May.
One of the biggest problems, and somewhat of an embarrassment for Bungie, was the fact that players could solo the Crota’s End raid. Imagine that, six-player end-game content you can do all by yourself — not exactly what Bungie was shooting for when it comes to raids.
So the staff has upped the ante with King’s Fall. Virtually all of the raid requires teammates, and is seemingly impossible if you don’t have at least five people for the Deathsingers checkpoint.
There is still no in-game matchmaking so you’ll have to get five friends or go to third-party sites, which can be hit or miss as far as finding competent players to team with.
And that’s a necessity.
King’s Fall requires near-perfect teamwork and communication And it’s fun and challenging –much more like the Vault of Glass than the Crota’s End raid, which is a very good thing.
Now for the bad.
If you don’t purchase The Taken King, the base game and its two expansions you already own are now nothing more than a glorified demo.
Bungie has given this game a subscription fee and just not told anyone about it, which is shady at best. If you don’t keep paying up when new stuff comes out, you will lose access to content you previously purchased due to things like level requirements.
You can’t level up past the old cap if you don’t have the newest DLC, so you can’t access any high-level content.
For new players, the Legendary Edition of The Taken King, which includes the vanilla game and all three expansions is a tremendous value at $60. For people who already own the base game and first two DLCs, $40 just for The Taken King is too much (and it’s even more expensive for players overseas).
Add in the fact that it’s $20 more just for a few new dance moves, class-specific items and shaders, and it’s clear that Bungie and publisher Activision are trying to squeeze every last dime they can out of the franchise. They’ve even partnered with Red Bull, shilling codes for in-game content with the purchase of an energy drink (what’s next, pull-off codes on McDonald’s french fry boxes?).
For new players, it’s a great value. But on the other hand, Bungie/Activision have done a disservice to long-time, loyal players as far as price point (and taking away content that was previously paid for).
Get used to it because that’s unlikely to change. But despite issues with the way Bungie and its publisher have handled some minor things, Destiny is still a great game.
The Taken King has made it better.