Review: Destiny: The Taken King (PS4)

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Title: Destiny: The Taken King
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (38.55 GB)
Release Date: September 15, 2015
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Bungie
Original MSRP: $39.99 (Add-On) / $59.99 (Full Destiny Package)
ESRB Rating: T
Destiny: The Taken King is also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox One, and Xbox 360.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Golden Minecart Award Winner 2015
– Best Multiplayer (PS3)

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 447 of the podcast at 1:40:14.

Destiny: The Taken King is the largest expansion Destiny has seen to date. Check out our review of the original game.

This review will focus on The Taken King content and some of the changes that have occurred over the last year of Destiny. The development team at Bungie has given this game its own genre called “Shared World Shooter” and it’s really the easiest way to describe the game.

Gameplay:
Most of the content in Destiny is a minimum of one player and a max of three on your Fireteam. The game takes place hundreds of years in the future and you play as a Guardian. Your power and abilities come from the Traveler, who showed up to protect The Tower during an event from an enemy called the Darkness. This story is all very poorly explained in the original game, but the story really has nothing to do with the game or gameplay.

The focus of Destiny: The Taken King is Oryx, father of Crota, the final raid boss in Crota’s End Raid which was part of the Dark Below expansion from December 2014. Oryx brought his Floating City, called the Dreadnaught, into Earth’s Solar System and declared war on the Guardians since he is pissed off that you killed his son (multiple times or even weekly).

Oryx also brought an army of new enemies for you to deal with. But are they really new? Well, not really. They are re-skins of the current enemies that you have been fighting. They do at least act differently than their core counterparts. However, I was really hoping that we would have gotten a completely new enemy race to face off against.

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Now, as I mentioned above, Bungie did a pretty poor job of telling the core story of Destiny in the base game. Some of the story content got slightly better with the first two expansions, The Dark Below and House of Wolves, but still left the fans asking many questions. There was not a solid beginning, middle, or end in the base game.

All of that has changed with The Taken King. There are long, well written cut scenes with solid voice acting, plenty of moments that left me shocked, and plenty of moments where I was laughing for a few minutes.

… the introduction of the infusion system …
Let’s talk about the first major change that Destiny made with the launch of The Taken King. Your Light level and XP level have been separated. In Year One they were essentially combined an in order to increase your level, you needed to equip better gear.

In Year Two, your Light level and XP level are now separate. For the XP, level 40 is the cap, while the Light level maxes out at 320. The separation of XP and Light is very helpful in the early stages of The Taken King. However, once you hit level 40 and have done a few of the end game content activities, the Light system is the only number that matters to the player.

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Another major change in Year Two is the introduction of the infusion system. In Year One, when gear dropped from end game activities, the attack level was predetermined to be at the max Light. This was good and bad. The good was that you got gear at the max attack/defense rate. The bad was when you didn’t need that weapon to drop for you anymore. Trust me when I say this, the same weapons dropped a lot.

In Year Two, when you are doing what is considered normal end game activities at Light level 280-300, you have a chance for gear to drop at a Light level of 300-310. When doing hard end game activities you have a chance to have gear drop at a Light rate of 310-320. Also in Year Two, the perks that each gear drop gives you could be different.

… loot drop has improved tremendously …
So what did Destiny do to let you play with the gear that you wanted to play with? “Not going to use it? Infuse it!” In Year Two you can take a 280 Light primary weapon that you love playing with and when you get a 305 primary raid weapon from your end game session, you can then sacrifice the 305 into your 280 weapon and increase your 280 to around 295.

This system works very well compared to last year. Now every drop you get is meaningful. Either you have infusion material to make your great weapons better, or you just got an awesome gun or helmet to drop that has the perfect perks you have been hunting for in the past few activities.

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Now on to more changes that came in Year Two that tie into why I think the infusion system works perfectly. Destiny has missions called Strikes. You and two other Guardians embark on a mission to destroy a boss. On the way there are small puzzles and plenty of enemies to fight. Once at the end of the strike, you have a boss battle. When the battle has been completed, you get XP and some loot.

The loot drop has improved tremendously, both visually and in terms of what you actually get. Each strike now has “strike exclusive gear”. For example, you can get a sweet looking warlock helmet to drop from the SABER strike, or some sweet Titan Gloves from the shield brothers.

… whether your next encounter ends up being successful …
In my opinion, this adds great value to just playing through the strike playlist for XP and the exclusive gear. Now the gear visually dropping has been given an upgrade as well. In Year One, you beat the boss and the loot just showed up on the right side of the screen. In Year Two, the loot now shoots out of the boss once you defeat them. This gives you an awesome feeling of accomplishment.

Destiny is a game that is genre defying. Is it an RPG? Yes. Is it a first person shooter? Yes. Is it an MMO? Yes. Is it all the genres I just listed mixed into one game? Yes. It does all of those things very well.

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The perks you decide to equip on your Guardian make a huge difference as to whether your next encounter ends up being successful or not. The team you are playing with matters in how you experience the game. The shooter mechanics are what keep me coming back day after day, week after week, month after month and The Taken King has left very few things unchanged in terms of the gameplay department.

In my opinion, Destiny is the best first person shooter on current gen consoles. The shooting mechanics are just dead on and every weapon comes with a random set of perks. Some increase the range the weapon has while aiming while others may trigger an explosion upon landing a critical hit on your enemy. All these different perks make each weapon unique and special.

… you could have eight to twelve active quests going …
There have been some really good quality of life upgrades to Destiny in Year Two. The interface has been cleaned up a lot and the game is much clearer on what you need to do and what you are working towards.

One of the new features is the introduction of the Quest system. In Year One, as you progressed in level more areas became open to you. However, you really didn’t know if you were playing the missions in the correct order.

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With the new quest system, there is now a step by step within each quest for you to reference on your journey. There is also a bit of a negative to this system. I feel that as you progress through the base story, quest after quest is unlocked for you and this starts to feel a bit overwhelming, as all of a sudden you could have eight to twelve active quests going. Having to continue to fly back to The Tower to just be told to go back out and do another mission is annoying.

Some other improvements are with the bounty system. You collect bounties from The Tower and, once completed, the bounties give you XP along with other needed upgrade materials as rewards. You can now turn the bounties in for your rewards from anywhere in the game world. In Year One, you had to go back to the bounty boards to turn them in.

… Everyone has a role …
The vault space has almost tripled in size compared to the first vault we used in Destiny and it’s organized in different screens now. It is still unfortunate that you can’t store items in your vault without being in the tower, but there are many third party apps on the market that have improved this game inventory management system.

Now let’s talk about my favorite part of the new game: King’s Fall, the end game raid that came with this expansion. The previous two raids were pretty good. Some parts of them required teamwork and mechanic/puzzle solving, but as time went on more and more flaws came to light in those raids.

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As of this writing (mid-January 2016), there have been no major exploits of the King’s Fall Raid. I feel this raid is the goal Bungie had in mind when making Destiny. All six members of the team have to do their part and hold their own. There is no “you just stand over there and don’t die”. Everyone has a role and has to execute that role correctly or you pretty much have to start over.

The most fun I had was trying to complete the raid for the first time a week after launch of The Taken King. This took my Fireteam about eight hours to complete. There is no better feeling then running this with a group of five friends and after banging your head against a wall for hours, finally figuring out and executing the fight to perfection and getting that final kill as a team.

… as great as, if not better than, the original …
Visuals:
With The Taken King being an expansion to Destiny, not much has changed in terms of visuals. Now when you fight the taken or enter the Dreadnaught for the first time they look just as good as everything else has in the original game.

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Audio:
The voice acting is great, the cut scenes sound perfect, and the music in The Taken King is just as great as, if not better than, the original Destiny. Sometimes I find myself just hanging in orbit listening to the game’s soundtrack. “Fight the Shield Brothers” feels like an epic encounter and the soundtrack only increases this feeling of grandeur.

The sounds the weapons make are also amazing. The Taken King added a whole new arsenal of weapons and each and every single one of them sounds different. It is so awesome that I can be playing with a friend who has a new weapon and I am like “What’s that sound? Is that gun new? When did you get that?”

… this game has worked since day one …
Online/Multiplayer:
Destiny: The Taken King can be played as a single player game and you can do about 80% of the content on your own. However, there are activities that require you to play with online matchmaking such as Crucible or the weekly strike playlist. There is also end game content that requires you to have a pre-made Fireteam and does not have any matchmaking whatsoever.

Some of these activities require you to have five friends online with you to complete an activity. This can be a challenge for a lot of people. It is very unfortunate that the game does not at least offer some kind of in game matchmaking for end game content. It’s sad that the large community of people that continue to play this game have to use outside resources to find players to complete the content.

Something else to keep in mind is that this game has worked since day one. It does go down for maintenance about once a month for about six to eight hours. However, when it’s active, it works. You don’t get dropped from your friend’s game and you don’t have problems connecting to your friends like you do in some other games.

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Conclusion:
When comparing original Destiny to The Taken King, the improvement is tremendous. Bungie has done an amazing job of listening to its player base and making the changes they want. There are still major improvements that need to be made.

My main issue with the end game content is how awful the loot is. I know in this review I have raved about how great the infusion system addition has been, however the gear that drops from doing the King’s Fall Raid or Trials of Osiris is just bad. The guns look cool but only a few perform well.

As you grind to your goal of hitting Light 320 and you are at let’s say 312-317 it is very disappointing to see a 311 item drop that you already have. I really wish there was a system in place that could monitor the Light level you are and the gear that you need and maybe have a slight chance of increasing the drop level.

By no means do I want this game to just drop higher level gear for no real reason. I just wish that you didn’t play for hours and not increase your Light level at all. Scoring this expansion is not an easy task. Do I score it based on the Taken King content alone? Do I score it based on improvement over original Destiny?

Taken King is head over heels better than original Destiny in every category. The improvements to storytelling alone make this expansion better than what we got at launch. Some things stayed the same but got a new shine to them while others changed the way you grind through the game entirely.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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