The Taken King, along with a mega update that arrived just days before its release, has re-configured Destiny. Looting is better, there’s now a story with likeable characters, and leveling up is much faster. In short, the third expansion is not really a standalone venture, but a makeover of the online shooter. It’s like the iPhone 6S.
If you haven’t played Destiny, now's the time. Go ahead and spend the $59.99 on the Legendary Edition that comes with Destiny, The Taken King, and the other two previous expansions. You’re in for a treat. If, however, you played the awkward "final" version of Destiny, well, then you get the 17G update for free, but will still need to pay $39.99 to have, essentially, the well-rounded experience you hoped for last year. But let’s not dwell too much on the past…
A quick recap to explain the story of The Taken King: In The Dark Below expansion your Guardian was tasked by Eris Morn to vanquish Crota, a Hive prince. The Taken King is a fight against Oryx, Crota’s dad, God-King of the Hive. In a campaign running about five hours, you’ll board a Dreadnaught ship, following the intel given by Cayde (voiced by the always charming Nathan Fillion) on missions. The objectives are clear, and the ever-expanding mythology of the Hive is actually coherent. Even better, as I stated in my review in progress, there’s plenty of chatter by the Vanguards, which keeps each mission moving along. I was consistently engaged to get to the next mission through the DLC.
On the downside, Destiny is still primarily made to be played co-operatively and can't really be done solo, apart from the first three missions or so, which meant I had to wait to find someone in the Earth Tower lobby to tackle the last few missions. (Still not sure why story missions doesn't have matchmaking.) Thankfully, the game is way less frustrating to play now since leveling up is faster, and if you’re new or have barely played the game, you’re given an item that will automatically level up your character to the required 25 so you can access at least the beginning of each of the expansion's content. The wall of impossible-to-kill boss stages that plagued the original campaign, which made playing a slog, is mostly gone.
One of the best moments in The Taken King, let alone Destiny in general, involves a running joke with Cayde and Fillion's reaction to it. Fillion absolutely nails the humor and the lump-in-the-throat aftershock. While it wasn't a gut-wrenchingly emotional moment or anything like that, the moment stuck with me nonetheless. The noticeable leap in quality isn’t just in dialogue, either. The level design has been improved greatly. Sometimes it’s the visuals which make the world feel much bigger (see gallery below); other times it’s the use of platforming or using your Ghost to scan new areas. If there’s a slight disappointment, it’s that the layout of enemies is pretty much the same as it was in Destiny.
As far as the new subclasses are concerned, I loved how my Hunter got a bow that now shoots glowing blue arrows in the Nightstalker subclass. The effect can stagger multiple Taken Thralls in one shot, which meant I could set them up for other teammates to take down with a final blow by a Warlock or Titan. Incidentally, the Titan subclass gets a flaming hammer while the Warlocks subclass gets the power of an electrical storm.
Some of the extras include four new strikes, two of which take place aboard the Dreadnaught. There are also three revised strikes that rework content from the original Destiny, and fans of the raids will be more than satisfied with King’s Fall as some of the boss encounters are crazy challenging. As is standard now, completing raids unlocks new weapons and gear. Players also have more customizations options, along with three new competitive modes and eight new competitive maps. So in short, there's plenty of content.
One year after its release, Destiny is finally becoming the game most of us wished. The Taken King improves the experience in nearly every way. Destiny still has a few issues that could be sorted out, but The Taken King brings hope that future Destiny expansions will fix those too.
Review based on the PlayStation 4 version. Also available on Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PS3.