Destiny: The Taken King First Impressions – Content Overload
About two weeks ago, I entered the doors to Bungie’s studio in Seattle and prepared myself to play Destiny: The Taken King. My guardians were imported to the dev server and ready to go, just as if I were playing the game on my home console on release day (though any progress I made did not carry back over). Last week, I shared my thoughts on The Taken King’s additions to Destiny’s Crucible mode, and I also gave my impressions of the latest update 2.0 which changed the base game in preparation for Oryx’s arrival in our solar system. As such, I will not be talking much further on either of those subjects. Finally, with the arrival of the Dreadnaught, I can speak freely about my time in the presence of The Taken King and the content that he brings.
To be clear before I get much further, this is not a review. You won’t see a score at the bottom, and it does not reflect my final thoughts on the latest Destiny expansion. The beginning of Year Two is much bigger than a couple of days at Bungie’s studio, and while I spent a good 15 or more hours playing The Taken King, I feel like I barely scratched the surface of the new content, new mechanics, and new loot, not to mention that we didn’t even get to glimpse the coming Raid. Our full review is in progress and will be released after I’ve had enough time with the game once it’s in the wild, with the ability to play with my regular fireteam and get a good feel for how the loot drops work over a period of time. If I need to issue any updates before my full review is ready, you can be sure you’ll see them here.
Whew! Now that that’s out of the way, we can get on to talking about The Taken King. I’m an avid Destiny player, having completed my Moments of Triumph to get the Laurea Prima emblem after hundreds of hours of game time and three characters, I took on every challenge that was thrown at me in Year One. Destiny evolved vastly over time, and Year Two feels like a brand new game. An epic cinematic introduces Oryx and the opening mission introduces the Taken army in a way that’s far more story oriented than Destiny has ever been before. In my original review for Destiny, I commented that it felt like a prologue, laying the foundations with the lore for great moments to come. The Taken King is one of those great moments.
Nathan Fillion. I’m just going to throw that name there on the Vanguard war table. Were you aware that he’s the voice of Cayde-6, the Hunter Vanguard? Fillion gets his time to shine in The Taken King, along with the rest of the Vanguard leaders, with a wealth of hilarious dialogue and scenes that fill a huge hole Destiny has had for far too long. Destiny took itself too seriously (that long opening cutscene where the Speaker rambles on, anyone?), with stiff characters and dialogue that became laughable and the end of too many jokes. It finally feels like they are providing a deeper identity and personality behind the people that you interact with. Learning more about the Vanguard politics is fascinating. The banter between Cayde-6 and Eris Morn throughout The Taken King’s campaign was easily one of the highlights, though it wasn’t even close to the only great thing I experienced.
Using my Titan who was maxed out at 34, The Taken King’s main campaign took me roughly four or five hours of play to get through, and I was level 39, closing in on 40 by the time I was done. I had also stopped off to take on my Titan specific subclass quest, which must be completed to gain the third subclass for each respective character. Instead of just being granted to you, each class must undertake a quest to obtain their lost subclass while learning more about just what makes them each special. This is another highlight of The Taken King, which is adding meaning to everything you do in Destiny, or at least making the meaning much more apparent, rather than locked behind some lore that you had to use a website or app to see.
Don’t lament the relatively short length of the main campaign. When this first act of The Taken King comes to a close, an entire war with the Taken is opened up across everything we’ve known so far, in addition to gaining access to the Dreadnaught, Oryx’s massive mausoleum of a ship, for patrolling. The Dreadnaught is massive and filled with a wealth of secrets for those interested enough to find them. Hidden tunnels, locked chests, and random events litter the maze of corridors, and multiple hours of my time were spent simply delving into these secrets, trying to find out which keys went to which hidden chests, and why there were a bunch of thralls on a secret platform that I couldn’t damage even though I was level 40.
Court is Now in Session
The Court of Oryx on the Dreadnaught puts event control into the players’ hands, allowing them to spend runes to summon bosses that require different Raid-like strategies to beat. For example, two Knights will have shields the make them immune unless they are close together, or three wizards will continue to respawn unless killed in quick succession. The player who spends the rune gets the privilege of opening the chest for the best rewards, though everyone else is rewarded for their assistance, and assistance from players in the area will definitely be needed, especially as you spend higher tier runes for more difficult encounters.
Yes, I did say rewards, and The Taken King seems to be improving Destiny’s gear game. It was weird to break down exotic and legendary gear that I had held onto for so long in favor of blues, and even green items were outclassing my current gear. My attachment to my maxed out Mythoclast didn’t last long though, and soon my entire loadout was filled with blues and greens, and the funniest part? I was actually excited by all of it! It felt great to rush towards a blue engram hopeful that it would actually be good gear, instead of just thinking of it as something to break down. It felt good to let go of my attachment to old gear and experiment with the new drops. It felt good to feel excited about getting new gear again. This might be a thorn for some players, but give it a chance. I bet you’ll like what you see.
I mentioned that the main campaign is simply act one, and opens up an entire second act, which is a much more expansive war being pitted against the Taken. This includes additional campaign missions, the game’s eight new strikes, and Taken making their presence known in a variety of seemingly familiar places such as Earth patrols and existing strikes.
I have to reiterate that in my 15 hours of playtime, I only played as one character (my Titan), and even then, barely scratched the surface of the quests that were made available to me. I didn’t play all of the strikes. I didn’t play all of the missions. I barely explored the Dreadnaught. And I didn’t even get to so much as breathe on the Raid. There’s a huge amount of content added in The Taken King, and that doesn’t include the fact that all of the Destiny Year One content is still intact and playable as well. Do you still want to talk about a price-to-content or time invested comparison with other games? I sure don’t.
I could keep going, but this is just supposed to be an impressions piece, and I do want to save some things for my review, such as the new challenges that the Taken present by twisting familiar enemies into something different or how the strikes now add more read-lite elements to their presentation and execution. I do feel confident in saying that The Taken King is a great addition to Destiny in terms of the content added.
Given that my lengthy first experience was in a controlled environment though, I am curious to see how everything works once Oryx is set loose into the real world. Is the difficulty curve really smoothed out over the light levels? Will gear drops be a little more generous? Will the Raid be another wine and cheese party? Stay tuned, Guardians. We’re going to take a little journey to the Dreadnaught, and when we return, we’ll come with our final review in tow.
Disclosure: Destiny The Taken King pre-release impressions were obtained at an event at Bungie’s studio, provided for by Activision.