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Destiny: The Taken King
Score: 75%
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Bungie Software
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 12 (Online Only)
Genre: First Person Shooter/RPG/Online

Year Two:

Destinyís first year felt like a business experiment to me, of which the objective was to find the sweet spot between the least possible amount of content offered and the highest possible amount of money consumers were willing to pay. The core game was an immaculately presented but shockingly insubstantial experience, with its incredible production values scrambling to cover up for the fact that there simply wasnít much game there. Then, over the next year, the boundaries of reason were tested with The Dark Below and House of Wolves, perhaps the quintessential poster children for this "less for more" philosophy. All of it left me confounded; Iíd followed Destiny since its cryptic reveal. Bungieís ViDocs were loaded with promises that, in the end, seemed to have been either broken or based on falsehood. A massive spacefaring fantasy epic with endless possibilities was reduced to a soulless smattering of bog standard shooter content. 2014 certainly saw worse games than Destiny, but I donít think there was a more disappointing one.

Year Two kicks off with the 2.0 patch and The Taken King, a double whammy that upgrades Destiny from a shallow, meaningless grindfest to a worthwhile experience. There are a lot of improvements across the board that go a long way towards making the game much more enjoyable and rewarding than itís ever been before. Itís not an unqualified success; there are still some notable issues that need to be addressed. But this is absolutely a step forward.


2.0 Patch:

In Year One content, once you hit the level cap, the flow of rewards slowed to Chinese water torture levels. Literally everything was based on pure, dumb luck as the ugliness of Destinyís random number generator-driven loot system came into painfully sharp relief. Your Guardian no longer received experience for anything; instead, your level was determined by the gear you equipped. If there was a Light value assigned to it, your level increased accordingly. If it didnít, wellÖ too bad; Iíd say try harder, but skill had nothing to do with it. The only way to earn Light gear was through the dreaded RNG and in the field, where items drops are far less common than they are in most other games of this type. Destinyís 2.0 patch amputates that rotten limb and brings back good old fashioned experience for kills. Light is still a factor, but itís smartly retooled into an average that takes into account the strength of your combined equipped weaponry and armor. And the option to turn in bounties from your quest log is a fantastic alternative to enduring those awful 10-15 minute trips to the Tower.

Deadbeat Dad:

Destiny: The Taken King doesnít quite repeat the narrative sins of its forebears. Claims of it holding its own alongside The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Harry Potter still merit derision, but thereís a noteworthy increase in effort in this department. The events of The Dark Below have set into motion a deadly chain of events; Hive Prince Crota is dead, slain by Guardians (you, if you completed the raid Crotaís End). All would be well, except for the fact that his father Oryx is out for vengeance. His mastery of the Darkness gives him the ability to abduct and enslave ("take") lesser beings of different races. So, aboard his Dreadnaught with his army of Taken, he launches an invasion of the Solar System, complete with a spectacular prologue cutscene that ends with the rings of Saturn punctured like looseleaf.

So you venture forth with your Fireteam or on your lonesome, exploring new locales and purging the Taken from the system. And itís a great campaign, thanks to its refusal to retread old ground. Objectives this time around are far more diverse than "traverse linear and empty hallways, deploy Ghost at door/console, fight waves of enemies," and the level design is also vastly improved. The icing on the cake is a new subclass for each of the three main classes, each of which comes with its own acquisition mission. I hope that future releases will widen the gap between the classes; Supers aside, thereís still not that much of a difference; at least, not enough of one to justify the existence of classes to begin with.

Destinyís art style and technical beauty were never points of contention; theyíve always been amazing, and they continue in that trend in The Taken King. The Taken themselves may be remnants of species weíve all seen before, but Oryxís corruption manifests in a sickly monochrome pallor; they look like photo negatives, and when you kill them, they are forcibly ripped out of your dimension in a sweet-looking personal vortex. Additionally, the Darkness seems to have a hold on the environment itself; holes in the fabric of reality often flank the way forward, giving you a glimpse into the distorted void. Itís like being in line for Space Mountain, only far more sinister.

Destiny: The Taken King is an improvement over its predecessors in almost every way; Peter Dinklage's awful performance has been written out entirely in favor of a decidedly more C-3P0-esque Nolan North, and while the cast of characters remains slight and shallow, special mention goes to Nathan Fillion's Cayde-6, the Exo Hunter Vanguard whose humanity is a shocking contrast with the likes of Eris Morn, Zavala, and Ikora Rey.

I have all these good things to say about Destiny: The Taken King, but it isn't able to completely get away from the problems that essentially define the core release. Once you finish the campaign and the King's Fall raid, Destiny sadly reverts to its old boring self; you can grind for the chance at some legendary and exotic gear, but you'll only be able to use that gear to do the same thing all over again. Even the eight new Crucible maps and the Court of Oryx activity (facing down boss monsters for the chance at loot) aren't enough to keep it afloat after about ten hours. It's unfortunate, but it's just the nature of the beast at this point.


Value:

Bungieís latest may have always been a deeply polarizing game, but what isnít up for debate is its value problem. If youĎre an early adopter of Destiny and have stuck with it since day one, youíve already spent upwards of $100 on it. And sadly, this value problem isn't at all fixed with The Taken King, which is $39.99 by itself. If you took a "wait and see" approach to Destiny, that was an incredibly wise decision that pays off nicely here. Clearly the best deal is the $59.99 Legendary Edition, which comes with the core game, The Dark Below, House of Wolves, and The Taken King. Day one customers, however, will have spent at least $140. This is generally business as usual when it comes to DLC, but what makes it reprehensible in this case is that, with the release of The Taken King, Destiny only now feels somewhat like a complete game.

Destiny: The Taken King is a huge step up over Year One. Granted, thatís partially due to the fact that Year One was almost shameful, but the fact remains, and Bungie are to be commended for not sticking with the creatively bankrupt status quo established by the core release and its first couple of DLC packs. Thereís still a very long way to go before Destiny is able to break free of its complacent, monotonous orbit, but at this point, Iím convinced that itís at least possible. If the team takes a hatchet to its pricing model and finds a way to boost its longevity, Destiny may, in fact, become legend.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

Related Links:



Sony PlayStation4 Destiny: The Taken King Microsoft Xbox One Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 5 - The Vault of the Traveler

 
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