“Six of you went down into the pit. You slew a god. With his last breath, he reached out across the night, and now, the night has answered.”
Destiny’s first year was an interesting experience full of highs and many lows. At its heart Destiny is a MMO hybrid loot collecting shooter with tight controls and amazing cooperative options. On the downside, Year One was just…..empty and very repetitive. The daily grind was very real to a point where many players lost interest once they hit the level cap. Leveling was an issue. Loot was an issue. Engrams were an issue. Upgrading was an issue…you can see where I’m going with this…
Destiny begins Year Two with major changes across the board. We are are not talking minor changes either. Virtually every game mechanic and system has had a radical overhaul. Comparing the Destiny we are playing right now to the one twelve months ago is like comparing Call of Duty to Battlefield. Destiny – The Taken King is that different. But before we get into the changes, let’s take a look at the story. One of Destiny’s weakest points from the initial game through the expansion packs.
Bungie finally gets it right with the story..
The new story follows our Guardians in their fight to defeat Oryx, who is pretty pissed and is out for revenge because will killed his son Crota in The Dark Below expansion. These story missions for once are fun and interesting and deliver a story that is easy to follow. Fighting through the story missions is more varied than before. The Taken are ghostly clones of Destiny’s other enemy factions. Fallen captains can blind you, Vex goblins shield their allies and Cabal scions split into triplets to cause much mayhem.
The story cutscenes are beautifully rendered and we actually see characters emote and react to the events happening around them. The vanguard leaders actually have personalities and motivations now rather than just standing around a table giving out droll one liners. Nolan North now voices the Ghost and is much better than Dinklebot from Year One. Just think of Guilty Spark from Halo and you know what his take on the Ghost is. The standout has to be Nathan Fillion though as Cayde-6. Criminally underused in Year One, he shines here and takes center stage. He is funny to the point I found myself laughing out loud at some of his lines. Good stuff.
Overall this is the best ‘story’ content in Destiny so far. Let’s hope they continue down this path.
Now, let’s get into those changes..
The Leveling System
Destiny players have had it pretty rough with the leveling system in the game. The underdeveloped system in the base game was replaced with an atrocious system for the first expansion, The Dark Below. Things got a little better with a slight revamp for The House of Wolves expansion but things were still a little….off.
The Taken King offers a more standard leveling system for your character this time around. Earn XP and level your character up. Simple. Clear. Easy. XP is gained from completing story missions, doing bounties or competing in the multiplayer suite of The Crucible. Gone is the system of finding new armor and gear to level your character with light. Why this system wasn’t used in the first place is mind boggling.
The light level is still around but is used in a different way now and is separated from your characters ‘rank’ level. Your light level is now determined by the average of the attack and defense attributes for all your gear. This new light level is used to determine the damage given/received and the strength of your weapons.
Weapons and Gear
Say goodbye to all your Year One items. As soon as you get your first few loot drops your character will be dumping the exotics and legendary items you amassed over the past one year. Yes. Green and blue engram items are better than the Year One items you have. As you progress you will start to get legendary items and of course exotics. In some cases blue engrams are scan still be better than a legendary item. This allows you to build a character how you want. Legendary and exotic items can also be upgraded by ‘infusing’ them with an equal or higher value item of the same class. This again allows you to keep items you like rather than dump them once a higher level item comes along.
Some Guardians are going to be disappointed by the fact that only certain Year One exotics transfer over to Year Two. Goodbye Gjallahorn! For the items that do transfer over, you can purchase the new Year Two version from the Tower via the new blueprint terminal. The brand new exotic items that have been added to The Taken King are earned slightly differently now. You can still get exotic drops from doing strikes, playing the crucible or raiding but now there are certain exotic items that can be only got from completing certain quest lines. There are also exotic weapons that are exclusive to certain classes. This makes the hunt for exotics a little bit fresher ans not so much of a grind.
One of the best additions to the expansion is a new subclass for each character type. Yes, your Titan, Warlock and Hunter are getting new abilities.
The Hunter is getting a Void subclass titled Nightstalker. Its super move, called the Shadowshot, is an ethereal bow that can tie a group of enemies together using a Void Anchor. This will slow and incapacitate them so that your teammates can mop them up. Nightstalker’s new grenade, called a Voidwall grenade, makes a wall of Void Light upon detonation. Nightstalker Hunters can also throw smoke to blind and disorient enemies. Finally, this subclass gives players an evade move to quickly dodge attacks.
The Titan’s subclass, called Sunbreaker, is a Solar moveset. Its super is titled the Hammer of Sol, and lets players summon a flaming hammer to attack with. Sunbreaker Titans get a Thermite grenade which sends fire in a line upon explosion. Its melee is called Sunstrike and is a powerful Solar attack. Finally, the Firekeeper skill lets Hammer of Sol last longer and gives Titans an overshield when they’re near Sunspots.
The Warlock’s Stormcaller subclass focuses on Arc energy. Its super lets Warlocks fling lightning bolts that chain between enemies. The Storm grenade casts a lightning storm in a radius around its impact, and its Thunderstrike melee attack hits enemies at long range. The Perpetual Recharge skill recharges grenades when you get a melee kill, and melee when you get a grenade kill.
All these new subclasses are very fun to use and are amazing to watch in action. The only downside is that they feel a little over powered. I can see a nerf in coming at some point.
The Taken King feature a new location and it’s huge. The Dreadnaught is a massive Hive ship with its own Patrol mode and other activities such as the Court of Oryx. This activity is like a smaller version of Prison of Elders and can earn you a lot of engrams. The Dreadnaught also includes many raid-like secret locations and puzzles that you can revisit and solve to earn special rewards. You could spend hours in this location uncovering all the secrets and finding new hidden areas. Going back to the Venus or Earth locations after this makes those areas seem pretty dull and empty.
Ghosts have a meaningful existence now. There are many different types of Ghost shells, each with different perks. These perks range from showing where resources are on the map to giving you extra glimmer when killing enemies. There are now scannable objects for you find around the various locations which yield little extra snippets of story. It’s a nice little touch.
One of the biggest requests to Bungie was having an expanded vault space. Well they listened. You’ll now have 72 slots each for weapons and armor. The number of general slots is staying at 36, but the new “collections” feature for emblems and shaders will reduce the number of general slots you’ll be using. This is a great change but in a few months time I’m sure players will be asking Bungie to increase the size again.
Poor old Banshee-44. Stood in the Tower for over a year and not really doing anything worthwhile. Unless you like collecting crappy green weapons. For a while there was a glimmer of hope for him as he gained the ability to re-roll weapon perks but then his slipped back into obscurity. Well he’s back with a vengeance! Banshee-44 is actually useful. For one he dishes out exotic weapon quests and on a certain day each week he has an Armsday.
On Armsday players can gain reputation with Banshee by accepting weapon challenges. Banshee offers a selection of five random experimental weapons to test in the field each week. So long as the player is at least level 38 and has room in their inventory, the player can take as many as they want. These weapons act as their own bounties, requiring use under a specific set of conditions. Upon completing the bounty, the weapon will automatically grant +250 Gunsmith reputation and can be dismantled or kept for future use.
At a high enough reputation level, Banshee will allow players to purchase with 2500 glimmer (as opposed to Legendary Marks) a legendary weapon that will arrive on the next Wednesday with randomized perks.
Four new strikes have been added to The Taken King and they are a vast improvement over the older strikes. The reason being the bosses are different and not just bullet sponges. Each of the new strikes bosses are very much individuals and have their own unique mechanics and locations. As an example, one strike sees you battling the boss in near darkness another sees your team requiring to move relics so they can damage the boss. These make the encounters fresh and less of a slog.
The Crucible hasn’t really seen that many changes for The Taken King. Eight new maps have been added and they are all pretty good and offer a well balanced arena for the Guardians to wage war. Three new modes have been added too. Rift, Mayhem and Zone Control.
Rift is basically a Capture the Flag mode. A ‘spark’ will charge somewhere on the map and once it’s fully charged, players need to capture it and dunk it into the enemies rift. A player who dunks the spark into the rift will get a whopping 1,500 points per dunk. The matches are fast and chaotic as players are either scrambling to get the spark or are trying to stop the opposing team from dunking.
Mayhem is just like the name suggests. In this mode all supers, melee and grenade cooldowns are decreased so that the player can get them faster and use them more. It’s a fun little diversion but comes across as more of a gimmick than anything else.
Zone Control is Destiny’s version of Domination. Like the regular Control mode, the idea is control the three zones on the map. However, this is not ‘kill to win’ like Control. The difference begin once the zone has been captured players must defend the zone or the team score will not increase. This mode is a more tactical game and is definitely not suited to ‘lone wolf’ players.
The UI has had a massive overhaul with all story missions, quests and bounties are consolidated into a new quest page. Additionally, quests and bounties are now tracked in the HUD, allowing you to follow your progress without having to go into a menu. Just bring up your Ghost and your progress will pop up. You’ll also be able to hold even more bounties, up to 16 at a time now. Finally, players will no longer have to go back to the Tower social space to turn in bounties. You can complete them from the quests page in the menu.
King’s Fall Raid
They say leave the best for last and the new raid is the best thing about The Taken King by far. After the huge disappointment of the Crota raid from The Dark Below, Bungie had a point to prove and they delivered. King’s Fall is like The Vault of Glass on steroids. Bigger, badder and better. The raid challenges all aspects of your Guardians abilities. The focus on this raid is definitely teamwork and during the raid you will need to split up many times in order to progress. Maybe Bungie were sick of seeing raids being soloed..
The sub bosses in the raid are wonderfully designed encounters with unique mechanics to defeat them and again stressing the importance of good teamwork. There are three sub bosses before you reach Oryx himself and when you do….just wow. Not to spoil anything but Destiny has not seen anything like that before in a boss encounter.
The raid exclusive weapons and gear a pretty awesome too this time around. Equipping these items is the only way to get your character the maximum light of 300 which is still a little disappointing for players who don’t have a bunch of friends to raid with.
The size and scale of King’s Fall is breathtaking at times and hopefully Bungie will continue down this path with future raids.
The Taken King is the expansion that Destiny desperately needed. All the changes that have been implemented are for the good of the game going forward. Most of the questionable design choices and annoyances from Year One have been eradicated and we are left with maybe what Destiny should have been at launch.