“Take me with you.”
I remember chuckling when I heard Cayde as voiced by Nathan Fillion say this in the Phantasy Star Online-like lobby known as The Tower the first time I set out for adventure in Destiny. Once I finished the story’s campaign I felt like Cayde was lucky not to have endured such extremely repetitive level design.
The Taken King, the most expensive ($39.99) and biggest expansion to date for Destiny, makes good on Cayde’s throwaway line. I’m only about three hours into the story, but things are looking up, and it’s in no small part by the inclusion of not just Cayde but a few other notable characters too.
The substantial 17G update that preceded Taken King's release replaced all of Peter Dinklage’s voiceovers for your Ghost companion. The big get is Nolan North who has now taken over. He’s superb. Though he doesn't voice Ghost in as charming a fashion as say, Nathan Drake, he’s actually quite funny, which is huge in a game like Destiny that struggles for personality.
That’s a large improvement for someone like me who tends to play games solo. It’s great to have Fillion, Noth, Gina Torres, and Lance Reddick all vying for my attention while exploring newly-created words. My Level 25 hunter might only have one physical companion (the ghost) but the coms are filled with plenty of chatter. “Exploring” is a stretch since you can’t do much more run and gun, but the fantastic art direction is appreciated. Sometimes I forget how pretty Destiny can be.
So far my favorite new area is an old Dreadnaught spaceship, which feels enormous as endlessly high ceilings lead me onward. There are also new bad guys called the Taken Thralls that zip from left to right like actual ghosts. Very spooky. Alongside a few other modified foes, the army of the Taken reminded me of The Collective in Mass Effect 2 with their hive mind-like feel.
Sadly, progressing from mission to mission is pretty much the same as before. You kill wave after wave of creatures, and then eventually hit a “no respawn” zone where you have to defeat a witch or some other endboss monstrosity. The upside is that through the five levels I’ve played there is at least an attempt to spice things up before the predictable end with platform jumping, scanning statues, and blowing up artifacts. It helps to make players forget that they’re actually doing the same shooting pattern over and over.
For the most part each level ends by kicking you back up to your ship as before, but there's at least one instance where that did not happen. Instead, the mission ended, and a cutscene occurred which then transitioned to a new level. Yes, there are finally more cutscenes. Along with the constant chatter, these moments make you feel like your guardian is a part of something much grander. I am actually looking forward to seeing how this tale concludes.
I just unlocked the new hunter subclass, Nightstalker, which allows me to equip a super weapon: the Shadowshot bow, as seen in the commercials, so yay for that! (The mission in which you get this is a rather personal one for Cayde which again gives Taken King a much needed dose of personality.) So far even though the level takes place on a location we’d seen before (boo), it’s one of the highlights.
I also seem to be leveling up much faster than in the original game. I started at the minimum required level 25. A few hours later, I am already at level 31. This sort of progression keeps me going.
Stay tuned for the full review of Destiny: The Taken King next week!