Destiny: The Taken King (PlayStation 4) Review

By David Lovato 07.10.2015

Review for Destiny: The Taken King on PlayStation 4

Activision and Bungie released Destiny in September 2014, and following it came months of disappointment, speculation, broken records, hype, controversy - for better or worse it's been one of the most talked-about games of the past year. Soon after came the first DLC, The Dark Below, which introduced some new content but nothing very special. A few months later saw House of Wolves, which in some ways was the opposite: some special content, but nothing too new or out of the ordinary. Then, at E3, Bungie announced the first "major" expansion, The Taken King with a promise that it would lead Destiny into its second year as a brand new experience altogether.

The Taken King caused a bit of a stir with its price tag and certain comments regarding pre-order bonuses made by Bungie writer Luke Smith. Through a set of weekly reveals, Bungie posted info about The Taken King prior to release, but none of it was very helpful in understanding what it was all about. Thankfully, actually playing the expansion is. Things are overwhelming and confusing and complicated - and fun. After the lacklustre Dark Below and good but short-lived House of Wolves, promises that The Taken King would re-invent Destiny seemed farfetched, but it's immediately clear the game has changed. Green-coloured "normal" items prove just as powerful as year-one "exotics" and old equipment is next to useless - players must return to the fray to stand a chance in the new activities. Speaking of which, there are a lot of them. Quests appear that are similar to daily bounties that have existed since the game's launch, only quests involve multiple activities in multiple stages. The main story is spread out across several of these rather than being restricted to a group of activities on the overworld map as it was in the past.

The activities themselves are also different, which is a welcome breath of fresh air. Destiny has received praise for its endgame content, but most would agree the main story has consisted primarily of "Go here, wait for Ghost to unlock a door, go there, wait for Ghost to unlock another door." This is no longer the case. Objectives change on the fly, and NPCs get - and stay - involved through voice communication, guiding Guardians and their Ghosts from objective to objective. The first new mission, which introduces the titular Taken, is an atmospheric, downright creepy intro that puts that of most horror games to shame. After defeating the first boss, players couldn't be blamed for waiting to see the familiar "mission end" timer kick in, but instead they are charged with a fast-paced escape mission akin to the ending of most Metroid titles. Another mission involves sneaking to avoid enemies, during which the game's camera moves into third-person for the duration of the mission.

Screenshot for Destiny: The Taken King on PlayStation 4

Even the standard daily activities and strikes get a makeover. Most fans love "raids," and Bungie has taken care to implement raid-like mechanics across the entire game. When doing a standard "patrol" (basic free-play) on the game's new location, the Dreadnaught, for example, a certain area called the Court of Oryx allows gamers to spend runes they find to summon mini-bosses. These have varied, complex mechanics required to take them down; a Hive Ogre has a shield that can only be reduced by blowing up explosive Hive Thralls near him, for instance, and another set of bosses include two knights who are impervious to damage unless players lure them to within a specific proximity of each other. Somehow, Bungie has figured out how to include these in a patrol where even random strangers can work out how to win without the benefit of open-mic communication that's basically required for raids.

The expansion includes new maps for the multiplayer Crucible (including one in which gravity effects only living players, leading to things like ammo, orbs of light, and Guardians' bodies hilariously free-floating around), but also adds new modes. "Rift" is a capture-the-flag event that punishes camping with explosions and rewards scoring with more explosions. "Mayhem," on the other hand, greatly reduces all cooldown timers, meaning grenades, melees, and the beloved Supers recharge very quickly, and players respawn almost immediately, leading to a fast-paced, explosive match that tends to be fun no matter how badly the home team gets defeated. The new "mercy" rule will automatically end matches where one team has no chance of winning, so less time is spent running around with no hope of gaining anything.

Screenshot for Destiny: The Taken King on PlayStation 4

Another notable change is the removal of actor Peter Dinklage's lines as Ghost. Bungie has opted to instead use the more commonly available Nolan North, and while his delivery of some lines pales in comparison to Dinklage's ("We've woken the hive!" will never be the same), this was a move that serves the narrative wonders. The story behind the events in Destiny is no longer relegated to the companion app's Grimoire cards; things actually unfold on-screen. Pre-rendered cinema sequences, scripted events, and post-mission dialogue form a cohesive, fun narrative, most of which is carried by North, actor Nathan Fillion as in-game hunter Cayde-6, and actress Morla Gorrondona as Eris Morn. Bungie has brought emotion into the fray, especially in a particular sub-quest regarding Cayde-6 sending the player in search of a missing friend of his.

The story is not, however, without its flaws, for example, during the opening mission, Commander Zavala randomly invites the character Eris Morn to provide feedback on comms. This is an unusual move as the Vanguard basically shuns Eris, viewing her as insane due to her time with the Hive on the moon. Within seconds of her appearing on comms, Zavala openly scoffs whatever she has to say (which raises the question of why he asked her there in the first place), but lo and behold, the events that occur relate directly to Eris and her struggles with the Hive, and she's right all along (yet again). Another curiosity revolves around Oryx - he's supposedly come to avenge his son Crota, yet he parks his ship in orbit near Saturn and calmly waits while guardians scuttle around the solar system building a gate into his dimension to face him; the guy is on the laziest warpath ever, and anyway, if he's this powerful, why is he just now showing up to help his fellow Hive out? There are moments like this throughout, where things are put in place to be easy for the writers, regardless of how little sense they make overall. There's nothing too major or game-breaking, but they are noticeable.

Screenshot for Destiny: The Taken King on PlayStation 4

The same can be said for certain gameplay elements. Several of the story missions end in the same boss, Echo of Oryx, and essentially the same fight, which happens to be one of the duller, less inspired encounters Bungie thought up, and thematically feels lifted straight off of Phantom Ganon from Ocarina of Time. The game's sprint cooldown has been turned up to 11, causing many a mission to fail because of jumping or turning the control stick too far activating it, resulting in Guardians walking at a snail's pace while they get shot and stabbed to death by surrounding enemies. This is particularly annoying during the DLC's new escape missions. Also flawed is the new levelling system; attack and defence are averaged into one overall level, meaning those who wish to use slightly weaker equipment in favour of its perks get punished by having an overall lower level, making certain content more difficult or even impossible to complete. Some equipment can be "infused" with higher-level gear to overcome this, but it costs in-game Legendary Marks, which can be hard to come by. The move is arguably there to increase longevity/decrease attachment to equipment, and is probably a good thing in the long run, but given the minimum level requirements most of the end-game content has, it might instead frustrate players who have to give up preferred perks in favour of reaching the minimum level to even attempt something like a raid, strike, or the Court of Oryx, or abandon a piece of equipment they like because it can't be infused and won't ever get better.

The three new sub-classes are arguably overpowered - ridiculously so - and some of the quests have downright broken the multiplayer Crucible. "Win X game mode Y number of times" only encourages players to quit if their team is losing, and a quest to defeat a certain number of Guardians with in-game swords leads to them running around bashing people with uncharged sword hilts rather than wait for Heavy ammo to drop and make the sword useful. This does nothing to help that team actually win the match at hand. These quests are unlocked at different stages for each player, meaning there will always be new Guardians just receiving them, so the problem of rampant quitting or not helping at all isn't going away until Bungie changes the quests themselves. Another series of quests requires gamers to complete Heroic-level strikes or certain activities within strikes, but strikes have the same problem they always have had (namely, players going AFK, just standing in the beginning zone and not participating at all, or quitting at the beginning or the first sign of trouble), which can make these strikes extremely difficult for anyone relying on the in-game matchmaking.

Screenshot for Destiny: The Taken King on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Flaws aside, there's no denying that Bungie has packed a lot of content into this expansion. Between the story, quests, strikes remixed and new, the new raid, the Easter egg hunts for dead Ghosts and Calcified Fragments, the new sub-classes and public events and mysteries, and as always the oodles and oodles of new weapons and armour, Destiny: The Taken King is meant to carry the game into its next DLC and beyond, and seems more than capable of doing so. The daily grind is still there, but it's a lot more interesting now. Bungie has finally delivered something akin to promises it has made in the past. Destiny is still not the open-world exploration adventure everyone thought it was going to be, but it is carving its own path in the videogame world, and it's getting better and more fun with every step.

Developer

Bungie

Publisher

Activision

Genre

First Person Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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