While its moment to moment gameplay – reminiscent of Halo’s oh-so-addictive grenade-shoot-melee-repeat loop – hit the spot right from the get-go, the amount of grinding required to get the best weapons and armour has always been something of a turn off. There’s only so many times you can do the same co-operative Strikes before the whole process becomes simply unbearable.
The Taken King is to Destiny what Reaper of Souls was to Diablo III, in that it makes decent items much easier to procure, yet keeps the very best stuff tantalisingly at arms length. The net result of this as that you’re rarely coming away from a play session feeling like you haven’t really achieved anything, as had often been the case before, and are far more inclined to keep coming back as a result.
But as much of an enormous step in the right direction as The Taken King is, a number of key bugbears remain. Here’s the 3 worst of them.
1. Liberally recycled content
Many of the new Strikes and story missions take place in environments from the original, pre-expansion Destiny and feature enemies that deviate only slightly from what we’ve seen before. In fact, if you were feeling particularly cynical, you could argue that the entire premise of Oryx (the titular ‘taken King’) ‘taking’, Vex, Cabal, Hive and Fallen to fight for him is to allow Bungie to get as much mileage as possible from existing assets. Granted, Taken foes look and behave slightly differently to a their vanilla counterparts, but a fully fledged new faction would have made things far more interesting. As it stands, the Taken Kings is just on the right side of feeling a little cheap, which is particularly galling given how not cheap it is in monetary terms.
2. Lack of Raid matchmaking
Raids, the game’s highest level challenges, still do not feature any kind of automatic matchmaking. Bungie claim that this is to encourage true co-operative play as opposed to the utter chaos that comes from fumbling around with headset-less strangers. While their argument for this design choice does hold some water, they don’t seem to have taken into account how difficult it is to have 6 people on the same game, at the same time, all willing to do the same activity.
Simply put, I don’t think this is Bungie’s call to make. Yes, I realise it’s their game, but what I mean is, surely we should be able to decide for ourselves if a particular challenge is best served with pre-arranged teammates willing to, y’know, talk to each other and stuff? Unless this changes at some point in the future, a great many Guardians will likely miss out on ever attempting a raid at all, and that’s a real shame.
3. That original campaign still sucks
The Dark Below, House of Wolves and Taken King all feature story content that is a substantial improvement over the clumsily told snore-fest that Destiny launched with last year.
Peter Dinklage’s uninterested dolcet the tones have now been replaced by those of videogaming voice actor veteran, Nolan North, giving proceedings a much needed injection of personality. He’s even re-done all of Dinklage’s original dialogue, effectively airbrushing the Game of Thrones star out of Destiny altogether. Sadly, this doesn’t remedy the painful dullness of the game’s original campaign, which remains a chore of monumental proportions.
Thankfully, because none of your character choices are permanent, there’s no reason to ever play through it more than three times (once for each class). Still, it should have been better, shouldn’t it? Rumours of an 11th hour rewrite are hard to ignore.
In the state in which it was released last year, Destiny felt quite unfinished, with blank spaces on the map and interface placeholders in alarming abundance. Now everything feels substantially more complete, although recent rumblings from Bungie suggest that more content is in the offing, funded at least partially by micro transactions.
If you’ve never played Destiny, there’s never been a better time to try it. If you did, but left it on the shelf collecting dust shortly after launch, it could cost you a whopping £75 to get up to speed – that’s £35 for The Dark Below and House of Wolves plus an additional £40 for The Taken King. In short, don’t bother – you’d be far better off flogging your original copy of Destiny and picking up the newly released Legendary Edition, which includes absolutely everything to date, for as little as £40.
While the Taken King streamlines and refines Destiny in such a way that it is now far more enjoyable, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Bungie are still figuring out exactly what they want the game to be. If we’ll see a sequel for the forseeable future is something of an unknown at this point. After all, Bungie could change or add anything they wanted through patches and DLC, and given the game’s mixed reception, splitting the player base might not be a smart move in the short to medium term.
So, to summarise, The Taken King improves Destiny immensely, but for the above reasons and more, stops far short of turning it into the truly revalatory online shooter experience – the post-Halo, if you will- that we all wanted it to be. The good news, though, is that we’re a hell of a lot closer to seeing that become a reality than we were a year ago.