Version reviewed – Xbox One
I was three or five missions into The Taken King when I realised something.
First, I visited a moon and watched all manner of bad things happening to the Cabal. Deciding that the badassery that had been unleashed would require more power than my Warlock had at the time, I went to become a Stormcaller. Then, I stopped by the Cosmodrome for a stealth drive. And finally, went after the Dreadnaught itself.
At some point of time during all of this, three or four missions after the start of The Taken King, I went back to the Tower to have some engrams decrypted. Everything was so … normal. People walking around, talking to each other, selling stuff, jumping around, dancing. I stopped and stared for a minute, wondering how everyone could be so normal. There was a goddamn war going on, or had everybody forgotten?
And that was when it hit me. I wasn’t just enjoying The Taken King. I was invested.
First, things escalate quickly
When I finished Destiny, the vanilla version, my reaction was largely, “eh?” The game didn’t end with a bang, not even with a whimper; it was more of a wheezing ‘eh’. I killed the bad guys, there was a speech, I got a fancy gun, and … er, that was it? Really? What kept me going in Destiny was the fact that the environments were gorgeous, the shooting was excellent, the weapons were awesome, and my Warlock’s super turns hostiles into glowing space dust.
The Taken King ups the ante – right at the beginning – by beating down some of Destiny’s most badass bad guys. Landing on one of Saturn’s moons, watching the Cabal running in fear, seeing what looked like holes in reality, was genuinely overwhelming. There were times when I’d stop in the middle of a corridor and look for another way around, asking myself, “Do I really want to walk straight ahead into whatever’s waiting for me?”
From the get-go, The Taken King adds tension, scale, and a sense of ever-present danger to Destiny – something I had gotten used to doing without in the vanilla game.
And characters feel like they have character, now
Aside from the immediate escalation in tension, the second most noticeable change is in the characters. Whoever decided to have the bulk of the mission voiceovers handled by Nathan Fillion’s Cayde-6 is a goddamn genius. He manages to entertain continuously, from start to finish, without once undermining the genuine threat that Oryx presents to life, the universe, and everything in it.
Not only does he offer briefings at the beginnings of missions, but he also chips in as events unfold, making him as much of a constant companion as your Ghost. This holds true for other characters as well; the Warlock Vanguard will pitch in as you complete objectives on her missions – a deeply satisfying set that unlocks the Stormcaller subclass for the Warlock.
The sense of having other people, important people, paying attention makes missions in The Taken King feel more important and more meaningful to the overall storyline than anything in the vanilla game did.
The Ghost felt more real, with more personality – there was one standout moment with my little light, involving a malfunctioning stealth drive and a hilarious reaction to its abrupt failure. There’s another line involving having a tomb husk and not needing it, which again, because of the impeccable timing of its delivery, was laugh-out-loud-worthy.
And even my Warlock, who was mostly a loot gathering, level gaining, enemy exploding machine, suddenly felt like someone who belonged to something bigger than himself. The addition of a short set of missions to unlock his Arc abilities was a nice touch, adding more depth and significance to acquiring a new set of abilities than simply swapping out the old for the new from my character screen.
And finally, there’s the Dreadnaught itself
After Destiny’s satisfying large environments across the Moon, Earth, Mars and Venus, I was expecting them to open up Saturn’s moons in The Taken King and was surprised to see only the Dreadnaught available. Yet, the sheer size of the ship means that it more than matches each of the planets previously on offer in terms of scale and things to do.
Of special note – which may or may not have been by design – is how utterly small the ship made me feel. Other environments always felt designed for roughly humanoid size inhabitants, but the Dreadnaught felt as though it was meant for something much bigger. Every time I was wandering through the ship’s corridors, in between firefights, I couldn’t help but feel like a mouse creeping around in someone else’s house, fully expecting to get stepped on.
And that, as with many of the other emotions that The Taken King successfully inspired, is a mark of how successful it is as a game and how much it brings the original Destiny forward. Destiny was, in my mind, always meant to be the Halo killer. With The Taken King, that’s finally happened.
So, to sum this up …
I haven’t played through the strikes and the raids that The Taken King added yet – 218 light at the time of this writing; no way am I trying anything until I’m well over the recommended 240 – but when I do, I might write about them separately.
But, because the single player component is so stellar and such a big part of Destiny, it merited (I felt) a review entirely by itself. Simply put, the original Destiny had hints of greatness. A foundation was laid, systems were put in place, but it never quite got there for a variety of reasons.
With The Taken King, greatness has finally arrived.
Simply put, the original Destiny had hints of greatness. A foundation was laid, systems were put in place, but it never quite got there for a variety of reasons. With The Taken King, greatness has finally arrived.