Bungie Launches "Destiny: The Taken King" Expansion

DestinyA year ago I reviewed Bungie’s newest video game, Destiny. In essence, I said it was quite good, but with some flaws, and gave it an 8/10. I reviewed it as a relatively linear experience, with a solid, yet skeletal story and excellent gameplay mechanics. What Destiny was really missing at that time was an endgame. Destiny was marketed as something in between a multiplayer first-person shooter (FPS) and a massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG). As far as being a multiplayer FPS goes, Destiny wanted for nothing. The competitive multiplayer (PVP/player versus player) was very well-done, and the story was better than what you would expect in a multiplayer FPS. However, as far as being an MMORPG goes, Destiny was unfinished. It launched without rewarding endgame player versus environment (PVE) activities, a virtual must-have in modern MMORPGs.

Since then, three expansions and numerous updates have been released, and with each one Destiny has become more of an MMORPG. Several flaws from launch have remained, and several new ones have emerged, but there has been consistent net improvement.

Prior to my review of Destiny: The Taken King, I’d like to cover the major updates and two expansions which preceded it, The Dark Below and The House of Wolves. Destiny launched without a raid (a typical MMORPG activity in which multiple players cooperate and take on a gauntlet of challenging activities). The first major update added the Vault of Glass raid, and helped to improve the endgame considerably. In Destiny, the aforementioned raid tested group communication, teamwork, shooting skill, movement skills, reaction time, and one’s ability to solve puzzles. There was even a higher level of difficulty for those who wanted an additional challenge. It added a much more consistent way for players to get equipment/materials and gave us all a challenge to overcome. As a whole, this raid was an unequivocal success. Unfortunately, it launched without an automatic group-finder, and despite criticism from the community and critics, Bungie has not seen fit to add one to date.

The Destiny expansions both added more story content and endgame activities (such as a second raid, a PVE arena, and more competitive multiplayer maps/modes). However, The Dark Below introduced a new problem: gear from the base game were less powerful than new items introduced with The Dark Below due to the higher attack/defense stat on newer weapons/armor. House of Wolves then added an item called etheric light, which raised the attack/defense stat of any weapon/armor it was used on to the max, eliminating the problem of gear becoming obsolete.

The third Destiny expansion, The Taken King, launched on Sept. 15 and represents a bit of an abnormality in gaming releases. The Taken King isn’t really an expansion; it’s about halfway between an expansion and a full game (readers can be assured that its price tag reflects this status). In summary, Destiny: The Taken King launched with more unique gear, a new raid, additional story content, a new quests system, a new PVE mode that is essentially a boss arena, rebalanced PVP, various refined mechanics, the dreadnaught exploration zone, and a new enemy faction. Overall, this amount of content feels right for what The Taken King professes to be: something in between a game and an expansion.

First of all, the story of The Taken King is quite good, exceptional even. Peter Dinklage (who plays Tyrion in Game of Thrones) did not reprise his role as Ghost (the robotic Destiny companion/narrator, not the Game of Thrones direwolf). Instead, he was replaced by veteran voice actor Nolan North, who has more experience with voice acting than Dinklage and, perhaps more importantly, costs substantially less. The general consensus among the player base seems to be that the Nolan-droid is a step above Dinkle-Bot in voice acting quality. Ghost isn’t the only character with more lines; if you include all of the side content, I suspect there is more narrative content in The Taken King than there was in the Destiny base game.

Emphasis has been placed on Destiny’s fictional weapons manufactures in The Taken King, which leads to the weapons having a much more unified feel when compared to each other. This little bit of diversity goes a long way in making each weapon feel unique (which is impressive as there are literally hundreds of guns in Destiny right now). Further, the new quests system is also pretty much a home-run. Following linear questlines with guaranteed rewards provides a much more consistent method for acquiring gear. Previously, one had to run around completing various events, hoping for that one in 100 chance to get a specific item within various time constraints. The quest system also adds narrative and helps Destiny with its lack of endgame content; there’s enough here to keep casual players busy until the next Destiny expansion. While the more hardcore players will likely be left wanting more, it’s an important step in Destiny’s growth.

New features and innovation aside, Destiny: The Taken King is not without issues. First of all, the problem of obsolete gear was brought back, with maximum attack/defense stats of older gear being capped. Bungie doesn’t consider this to be a problem, but many players of Destiny, myself included, do. If you’re only playing the normal multiplayer modes, then you’re fine—weapons won’t become obsolete. If, on the other hand, you want to use older gear against new opponents in PVE or more competitive multiplayer modes, then you’re out of luck, and you’ll have to find new gear for this purpose. Many players are, perhaps understandably, frustrated by this decision, some having spent hundreds of hours collecting gear which is now worthless.

Possibly the worst thing about Destiny, and this expansion, is the business model/pricing. Over the last year, veteran Destiny players have spent approximately $140 on the game and its expansions. Newer players, on the other hand, can get all this content for $60 with Destiny: The Taken King, Legendary Edition (which, to veterans, represents a legendary rip-off by Bungie). Destiny has also added in a controversial micro-transaction purchase, whereby players can purchase digital content for money ($20 for in-game dance moves, color schemes, and armor). It’s starting to feel like Destiny is reaching into my wallet, but at least for now it’s good enough to justify the expense.

Despite its flaws (which are considerable) and its pricing model (which feels unfair), Destiny is an excellent game, and The Taken King is an innovative expansion. I’d rate it at 9/10, and would recommend it to anyone that can afford it. If you like MMORPG and FPS games, I’d go so far as to say that this one’s a must-try, but be prepared to pay.