Destiny: The Taken King (PS4 [Reviewed], Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360)
Genre(s): First Person Shooter, RPG, Shared World Shooter
Release Date: September 15, 2015
ESRB Rating: T – Teen
A little over a year ago I posted my review of vanilla Destiny, which I gave a superb 4.5 star rating. That review encompassed the game from launch to three weeks after launch with a little over 85 hours invested in it and having done everything but the raid. Now here we are a month and a half removed from the release of Destiny’s first major expansion, The Taken King, and it is time to review it all over again.
Since that initial review of vanilla Destiny, A LOT has changed within the game. The Dark Below released in December, and then House of Wolves released in May. One brought a new raid, and the other brought a new end-game activity for three player teams.
Each of those DLC’s changed Destiny, and I think each one changed the game for the better. Then in September, update 2.0 and The Taken King dropped, and everything changed. Destiny has morphed from its fantastic foundation into a better and more cohesive video game.
Whereas the original review was based on 85 hours of gameplay, and no raids, this one is based on all the new changes to the game and a total of 1460 gameplay hours (spread out over nine characters; I’ve deleted six total) played and numerous completions of every raid (except for hard mode King’s Fall, which I’ve only tried once at this point).
In vanilla Destiny, a lot was made out of the end game and how reaching max level (at the time 20) was really “just the beginning.” That was never really the case. Once you hit level 20 based on XP, you switched to a Light Level that was all about acquiring better gear to reach higher light (the cap was 30). In order to hit 30, you would have needed to complete Vault of Glass and been lucky enough to get armor to drop.
For all of the changes that have been made in Destiny over the course of the past year, that aspect really hasn’t changed a lot despite Bungie’s attempts to make it seem like it has. The new max level is 40, but end game activity is still reliant on your light level, which is currently capped at 320. In order to hit 300 Light, you’re going to have to do King’s Fall raid and hope for drops of not just armor, but weapons and a Ghost too.
Unlike previous raids and activities, the loot from King’s Fall isn’t guaranteed to get you to the cap. With the normal mode, any loot can drop from 300 to 310 Light. In Hard mode, you can get loot from between 310 to 320. Like the perks on the weapons and the armor, the drops are random.
In this respect, despite claims and desires from Bungie to the contrary, this is can feel more punishing to the player. It adds RNG on top of RNG. . At least with Vault of Glass you knew if you could get the boots or helmet or whatever that once upgraded you’d have 30 Light. Now you may run King’s Fall and get a 303 chest piece, which is completely useless to you because you already have a 307 one with better perks and what you’re really looking for is 310+ Light gear.
Sure, once you’re above 300 Light, you can have exotic engrams decrypt into 310 gear that you can use to infuse an item of the same slot up. But that’s completely RNG as well. Bungie has stated that the “Forever 29” meme from a year ago hurt them, but they’ve really done it again in King’s Fall with not only having to get lucky to have gear drop, but also get lucky enough to have gear drop that is actually useable (either to equip or use to infuse something else up).
My Hunter has cleared Oryx four times for drops, and an additional three times of Golgoroth, who is the only boss in the raid that can drop armor other than Orxy. During all of that, I’ve gotten three chest pieces and four gauntlets. I was able to use exotics that dropped from engrams at 310 to infuse my helmet, chest, and gauntlets up to 310. I have a 310 artifact, a 310 Ghost, and a 310 class item. My boots are still 297. Why? Because in 11 possible drops, I haven’t gotten the raid boots once and there are no year two boots in the game as of yet (and thus no boot engram).
And yes it’s true that in normal mode Oryx is 300, and thus being over 300 really doesn’t matter much. But that’s not important because of course players are going to chase the highest Light regardless of whether or not there is any need to be 310 or 320.
None of that is a complaint against the game though. Frankly, I prefer it this way the randomness, but I do wish that since the perks and the light can all be random, that you’d be guaranteed drops from each boss on your first completion of the raid per character. Nothing is more frustrating than beating Oryx and only getting two moldering shards. This is the hardest content in the game currently, the epitome of end game content for Destiny, and the time players invest should be rewarded with guaranteed drops of something other than moldering shards. Getting that is a slap in the face. For that matter, armor drops need to be spread out. In this instance, I actually think King’s Fall drops are a step back from how Crota’s End handled drops (gauntlets can drop from the first section, boots or chest from second, and helmet from Crota himself).
Still, on the whole, the infusion system and the ability to possibly get 310 exotics (for everything but boots) allows for a cleaner progression towards higher light than needing one particular item to drop. It’s just funny that prior to the Taken King’s release, Luke Smith and other spent so much time talking about “Forever 29” because VoG boots wouldn’t drop, and now I can’t get 310 because I can’t get King’s Fall boots to drop.
Update 2.0 and The Taken King also completely changed the story presentation, progression, and more importantly for year one players, the economy of the game as well.
In vanilla Destiny, there were 19 story missions, five strikes, and one raid. The Dark Below added three story missions, two strikes, and one raid. House of Wolves added five story missions, two strikes, and a new end-game activity of which there were multiple versions of and four difficulty levels. So at the end of year one, Destiny had 27 story missions, nine strikes, two raids, and the four tiers of Prison of Elders. With The Taken King, Destiny added 18 additional story/quests missions that can be selected for replay at any time from the directory, four strikes plus multiple random versions of a few year one strikes, and a new raid. There’s other missions that can’t be replayed, or are time gated ones, and a new subclass for each of the game’s three classes.
Everything was repackaged into a nice quest based system that spelled out what the reward would be and made it easier to keep track of everything.
On the economy front, great changes were made. Throughout year one, players could earn a maximum of 100 Vanguard Marks and 100 Crucible Marks a week, with a cap of 200 for each. The Vanguard sold legendaries items for Vanguard Marks, while the Crucible vendors and the three Factions sold legendaries item for Crucible Marks. If you wanted to buy the amazing Shadow Price from the Vanguard during Vanilla Destiny, it would have costs 150 Vanguard Marks… or a week and a half worth of Marks. The Faction vendors sold great stuff, and despite being able to earn rep with them in PVE, you had to play PVP to get Crucible marks to be able to actually buy stuff from the vendors. You also had a chance at getting a legendary item through a faction package for ranking up with them.
In The Taken King, all of that has changed. Vanguard and Crucible Marks no longer exists; they’ve been replaced by Legendary Marks. Legendary Marks cap at 200 and can be spent at any vendor, with weapons still costing 150 Marks. However, there is no limit to how many Marks you can earn in a week and they are now account based rather than individual character based as they were throughout Year One. As such, they are much easier to come by now.
You can earn 30 Legendary Marks a day just by doing the Daily Heroic and Daily PVP playlist… that’s 210 a week (which is 10 more than the cap allows, so you should be spending them frequently now). You can get three to five Marks for dismantling legendary gear based on how much XP has been put into it (three for a new piece, five for one that is maxed or near maxed). You can also get 60 a week for completing three Weekly Heroic Strikes and being on the winning team for three Weekly Crucible playlist (10 each strike and Crucible win). It’s all around much easier now to acquire Marks and buy the vendor gear that you want, and you also use Legendary Marks to infuse one piece of gear into another.
Armor materials were condensed into one form conveniently called Armor Materials. No more separate upgrade materials dependent upon class, which is a godsend for those who want to start new characters and won’t have to live with the knowledge that they have 1,500 Sapphire Wire and only 20 Plasteel Plating. The old armor materials can be donated to a faction in exchange for reputation.
All of these changes have helped make Destiny a more cohesive experience as well as one that is more accessible for players who only want to run one character. All changes for the best.
Destiny was already a wonderful game, and each expansion added to it. It certainly had its issues, and of course wasn’t and still isn’t a game for everyone. As a player since the alpha, I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute put into the game and was more than happy with the vanilla game, with The Dark Below, and with House of Wolves. The Taken King expansion, which was $40 for me digitally, or in stores for $60 (a tremendous deal considering it includes the based game and both minor expansions), and I’m extremely pleased with the amount of content added with that and the overall replayability factor.
The Destiny of today is quite a bit different from the Destiny of a year ago; there’s far more content and it’s all around more accessible, but for the first time it actually feels more like a living game world and one where there could always be a new surprise.
There are time gated missions and secrets that allow players to acquire exotic gear, and just recently (and still ongoing as of this review) Bungie surprised players with a fun “Festival of the Lost” Halloween event. It’s always worth logging into to Destiny now, even if you only end up doing the Daily Heroic and/or the Daily Crucible before hopping off.
The Taken King interjected more humor and personality, not just with the new voice of the Ghost (Nolan North replacing Peter Dinklage), but also with the NPC characters throughout the great cutscenes within The Taken King’s campaign and dialogue within the actual missions. It’s more inviting and lively, and less robotic. And of course, it doesn’t hurt that the heart and soul of Destiny, the gunplay, is as strong as ever (although the addition of swords is a most wonderful inclusion… now just give me a real bow and the ability to play all the time in third person and the game will quickly approach near perfection for me personally).
If played Destiny at any point during year one and just didn’t like the actual gameplay, then nothing introduced with 2.0 or The Taken King is going to change things for you. But if you liked the gameplay but couldn’t get past the leveling or grindy nature, you may consider coming back for the revamped economy and leveling changes because it really has made things more accessible. Of course, there’s still a grind, but then there wouldn’t be much reason to come back each day if there wasn’t a grind or something to chase.
Vanilla Destiny was superb in everything but story telling. The Destiny that will be experienced if you own or buy The Taken King is quite a bit better in every aspect including storytelling (The Taken King actually has a story, go figure). There’s a reason I’ve put almost 1,500 hours into this game, and The Taken King has done all it can do to help ensure that I spend another 1,500 heading into year three (and the release of Destiny 2).
If The Taken King is any indication, the future of Destiny is a bright one as this evolving platform will only continue to mature and get better.