I’ve always been a bit of a Destiny apologiser. I’ve had my rants about pricing issues, and I’ve voiced concerns over the loot and leveling systems. I lobbied with everyone else for matchmaking on Nightfalls and Heroics. I complained that Bungie took the loot cave away and nerfed the guns, made it harder to level the Cryptarch and hot-fixed every tiny glitch we could find. But beyond my little gripes, I have never once turned away from Destiny. I love, unapologetically and unashamedly so.
I had the daunting task of reviewing the vanilla release and I said, at the time, something along the lines of “Maybe after a year of patches and expansions, Destiny will finally be closer to Bungie’s grand vision”. I’m paraphrasing, but that that’s the gist. Now, twelve months, three expansions and a hell of a lot of patches later, I’m happy to say that I was exactly right.
The Taken King is the update that has finally allowed Bungie to redeem themselves for a year of near-misses, disappointments, odd decisions and outright missteps. I’m not simply talking about the fundamental changes, either, but the small touches that should have been there from the start, that actually now make vanilla Destiny look like the unfinished extended beta that the naysayers have been calling it for the last twelve months.
To cut a long story short before I make it long again, if you’ve walked away from Destiny, or if you’ve never even dipped your toe in, now is the time. Not to be facetious, but it finally feels complete – even though the end of The Taken King’s short, exciting campaign leaves the ongoing story wide open for the Year 2 expansions.
For a start, there’s something approaching a story. Characters have meaningful lines and meaningful conversations, short interactions manouvre previously small-fry characters into lead roles as Vanguard leaders Zavala, Cayde-6 and Ikora Rey lay down your strategies with the help of the enigmatic, seemingly unhinged Eris Morn. No longer is Cayde-6 just a voice when you take on a certain patrol mission – he’s now much more prominent, voiced with effortless, scene-stealing cool by Firefly and Castle’s Nathan Fillion. Eris adds heaps of simmering madness to the newborn atmosphere, and although the story is still sci-fi hokum peppered with old school bombast, it all makes a major difference. For the first time, Destiny has personality to go with all the posturing. It’s early days, but it hints at greater things to come and if this the way forward now, I’m all in. Well, I was anyway, but you get my point.
Likewise, major changes to the quest system bring Destiny: The Taken King more in line with MMORPGs. More bounties and quest lines mean more to do outside of the grind, which has returned in full but with much more variety. ON PS4 the number of Strikes now sits at 13, and they’ve been changed up, with added enemies and conditions. The new Raid promises “twists” that we’ve yet to understand, while the revamped levelling system makes looting and shooting purposeful again – no more farming for Raid gear to finally hit the level cap.
The Taken King hasn’t fixed all of Destiny’s faults. There are still slight balancing issues in PvP, there are still areas that alienate soloists, and the ever-present is never, ever, going away – but it’s such an improvement on what was there before. Even smaller elements like the increased Vault, weapon-infusing and Exotic blueprints so you can remake any Exotic you accidentally or purposefully “shard” – they make a difference. The new way of handling Shaders, Emblems and vehicles make it more fun to collect them, and the Gunsmith’s “Armsday” gives us something else to look forward to besides the reset and Xur’s cluttered counter.
Even PvP has been dressed up. Older maps are back in circulation, while two new modes add a fresh sheen to proceedings – especially Mayhem, which gives you limitless supers and lets you go absolutely nuts.
I said recently that I believed The Taken King could redeem Destiny, and I say now that I believe it has. I don’t know how long the new content will last, but I do know that with a new area to patrol, new quests, new bounties, new public events and Strikes, on top of House of Wolves‘ Arena and the new PvP modes, no one can argue anymore that it’s light on content. For brand new players, it’s something quite special, while those who have turned their backs will find renewed excitement in the improved gameplay and deeper systems.
If you’ve sworn to boycott Destiny for all eternity, nothing will make you go back, but if you gave up because you got bored or frustrated, I’d urge you to give The Taken King a blast. It’s still not perfect, but this is as close to Bungie’s original grand imagining than we’ve ever been, and if any game ever deserved a second chance, it’s Destiny.