Published on October 21st, 2015 | by Jimmie Dodger0
Destiny: The Taken King – One Month In
Midnight on Monday 14th September was a big deal for fans of Bungie’s latest $500 Million venture Destiny. It marked a time when Year Two would start and right all the wrongs of the First Person, Third Person, Role Playing, Shoot ‘Em Up, Mass Multiplayer Online, Single Player fantasy game.
Destiny: The Taken King was mostly advertised as ‘A great time to start playing’ and very much not ‘A great time to keep playing’. Year Two seemed very much set on the idea of bringing in new fans and new players, rather than thanking the players who’d already dropped up to £100 on Year One, and been patient enough to play the partial game we loved and loathed; the best quote I saw which summed up people’s emotions was ‘It’s the worst game we can’t put down’.
Buying The Taken King could be done in a few ways; as a digital download from the Xbox Store or PlayStation Network, or as a disc in the form of Destiny: The Taken King – Legendary Edition which included all the previous Year One content as well as the Year Two content. Personally I sold my previous Collector’s Edition for store credit and re-bought the Legendary Edition, as it worked out cheaper than buying the digital download; which is clearly madness.
There have been several changes to the game as a whole, from the currencies, to the user interface and even how your Attack & Defense are calculated. To new players these differences won’t be obvious, for anyone who has been playing since September 9th 2014 you should notice some change.
Firstly a big difference is the leveling system, which has been simplified. Previously your level was capped at 20 which was attained with general experience, and then you could raise it to 34 with the Light imbued in your armour. Light is still a massive part of your level but in a different way. Now your Light level is calculated by taking an average of the attack and defense of all your equipped items – for example, if everything you wear is rated at defense or attack of 280, your Light level would be 280.
On top of your Light level changing, there are two additions to what affects it; one is your ghost shell and also a new item, Artefact. Artefacts are essentially ‘stat-sticks’ as they’d be known in MMOs, which give you other character bonuses and stats. These are similar to jewelery or trinkets you would wear in games like Diablo, World of Warcraft or Guild Wars.
Currency and consumables had a big overhaul also, slimming it down a great deal. First of all Vanguard Marks and Crucible Marks have been replaced by a single item, Legendary Marks, meaning you are no longer limited to buying high level items from your Vanguard, the Crucible Quartermaster or your Faction Leader (Future War Cult, Dead Orbit etc) depending on if you prefer PvE or PvP. Now you can buy anything from anyone. The consumables from breaking down armour have been simplified also; before each Class had their own consumable to upgrade your armour (Sapphire Wire, Plasteel Plating and Hadronic Essence) and is now just the generic Armour Parts mimicking the Weapon Parts you get from dismantling weapons – which is helpful if you get an item of the wrong class, now you can use the dismantled consumable, unlike before.
There are also several minor differences in the game which players would spot over time and have less of an impact, such as:
- Eris has moved to by the entrance of the Vanguard
- To ‘scan’ an item with the Ghost is now determined by your reticle, and not your proximity; which is much better
- Motes of Light can now be ‘used’ to add experience to your equipped items
- Motes of Light are also gifted in an experience based leveling system once you hit level 40, but how much experience is needed is not explained; this is visible at the bottom of the screen
- The addition of being able to ‘Imbue’ items with other items of a higher level is great if you want to keep a certain weapon; but you don’t know what change will occur until you apply it
- Bounty icons are ‘flatter’ in style
- The sub-class icons have been re-designed
- I’m sure the inventory background image is different
- Your character doesn’t wear a helmet on the inventory page…at least I think that’s new
- You can now hold 32 quests and 16 bounties (more below)
- The gunsmith (Banshee-44) now has weapons for testing and you can order a weapon each week for collection on a Wednesday
- If you hover over the messages icon on the tower, your number of unread messages is displayed
- Emotes are now purchasable via micro-transactions (from October 13th)
Once I jumped into playing the game I noticed some immediate changes, designed to quickly transition you into Year Two and to forget about Year One. Firstly it seemed all armour and weapons had their ratings altered to fit the new year; and items you had worked for, quickly seemed useless. Also all Exotic quests were auto-completed, almost as if because the end result wouldn’t matter too much anyway, so you may as well have it. After going to the Tower for the first time I had to speak with practically every NPC that you had interactions with previously to be given gifts as a thanks for your first year of service, it was all around the 170-200 rating and replaced most of my current equipped items, but were themselves replaced shortly after.
One change which I embrace with both hands is the new section for Quests, even though the page seems too big for the screen, and you have to move the cursor around to see it all, it allows you to see the steps in the quests you have and aren’t limited to taking part in just the main story missions; followed by just repetitions of this until you get bored. Now you are given multiple missions to run simultaneously, you can drop in and out of them as you wish, some do require a fireteam so if you, like me, haven’t got your own squad waiting for you, you may have those quests waiting for a long time. In addition to the quest section there is the ability to track quests and bounties, which are displayed on this page now, instead of the inventory page. This is especially helpful to know how far along you are with them both. The tracking occurs as notifications appearing on screen when playing as you complete them piece by piece, and are also displayed when you take North-Bot out of your pocket; also known as Nav-Mode.
As you go to start The Taken King quest line, you may notice the Solar Map feels larger, it appears Bungie have given the map more room to breathe, they’ve added the Deadnaught as a section so this would have required a bit of extra space but it definitely feels roomier than before; perhaps more planets and areas to come. When you start the first new mission The Coming War you are sent to a small new section by Mars called Phobos. You are sent to investigate distress signals from the Cabal while they fight The Taken. This mission is a real change from the Year One content as it has a big air of mystery about it and is centred around finding out what is going on, as opposed to just open fire and ask questions later. Most times you find an enemy Cabal they are either running away or being ‘Taken’ by Orx, not giving you enough time to shoot. This level also shows you what appear to be rifts in the environment, almost as if The Taken are absorbing the whole area slowly, not just the troops. A development of using your Ghost is shown in this mission also, scanning items and objects is very similar to how you’ve used your Ghost before, but this seems more optional and unlocks more information about what is happening, another nice addition to the mystery and story of Year Two.
During The Coming War you get to fight The Taken for the first time, before being instructed to leave Phobos as it’s ‘too dangerous’ with Oryx so close by. The Taken are clearly a new breed of evil in the game, yes they look like the old enemies, in blue, but they are far deadlier with more abilities than before such as: being able to shield their allies, being able to move via ‘Blink’, duplicating themselves and then there are the Conquered Captains, who have an attack that fires what looks like a Black Hole at you; it blinds you temporarily and can be a real problem. The best comparison I can think of for the new scenario, is that the Taken and the Cabal feel a lot like the Flood in Halo: Combat Evolved, when your main enemy (The Covenant) are more afraid of a new common enemy (The Flood), which again is introduced via mystery and uncertainty of what is going on, which leads to the eventual ‘Get out, it’s too dangerous’.
Once you manage to escape Phobos you are shown another cut scene, which shows Oryx turning up where you just escaped. He is told by one of his minions that the Leaders are his, but the rest await extermination, and he replies ‘No, I’ll Take Them All’. These new cut scenes really do help with the story development. I remember there being little of this in the first Year, or at least what there was had little content, now we have what we wanted from day one. This is followed by a scene between all the Vanguard discussing how they need a Guardian inside the Dreadnaught (being you) and this involves comedy from Cayde and more explanation to the situation. This is a real breath of fresh air from what we’ve had before and I enjoyed it thoroughly; although I should note there are no cut scenes beyond the main missions, once you hit the end-game content it’s back to forgettable speech in your ear.
Outside of the new story missions there is quite a lot of smaller side quests, most of these are attached to other parts of the game, such as the Neverending Battle Mission which involves ‘Complete five strikes’, which is followed up by ‘Complete a Nightfall Strike’. There are also quests specific to your Class, such as Path of the Gunslinger and Path of the Bladedancer for the Hunter. Other missions are a bit more story centred but not destructive to the story, these involve tasks such as killing Taken Champions all over the Universe, and the newest Raid ‘Kings Fall’.
A new addition to the game is the extra content with the Tower Gunsmith (Banshee-44) who is now more involved in the game, previously you’d only interact with him for extra ammo, or for a reward. But now you can use weapons for research which gives you reputation with him, this then unlocks higher level weapons that you can order via Armsday which is every Wednesday. This is a sure fire way to get a rare or higher new weapon each week; don’t like your sniper rifle, then order one for next week and you might get lucky.
Finally, there has been the chance to gain exotic gear during the daily Heroic Missions by going off the normal story line and finding a side mission. Of note is the Black Spindle Sniper Rifle which was available recently in the ‘Lost to Light’ mission (which has to be ran as a daily heroic mission), bring a fireteam with a Light Level of 290+ and if you can find and empty the room full of enemies in under 10 minutes, this will end in you receiving the Black Spindle. There are also various other side missions that are discussed on Reddit and Twitter daily, so keep an eye out for that.
After picking up my copy at launch I played all the next day to truly get a flavour of The Taken King, albeit at first I didn’t realise the update wasn’t truly live and playable till 10:30am on the 15th (in the UK), so I spent a good half an hour being very confused at the lack of new missions and still having Vanguard and Crucible marks available to me; oddly this didn’t totally surprise me. I waited and was very quickly drawn into the story that was being portrayed in front of me. The new cinematic is instantly a difference to Year One as there were very few of these in the vanilla game to explain what was happening and why; but this one is awesome. It starts off explaining, briefly, about the Traveler and how before him there were no Ghosts or Guardians, and how your Ghost (now being played by Nolan North, a.k.a ‘Northbot’) looked for you for centuries – the visuals for this are very pretty and look like they are hand drawn schematics or cartography, like previous artwork.
This short history lesson is followed by a fairly hefty and epic space battle between The Taken (on the Dreadnaught and smaller Dreadnaught-y looking ships) and the Queen’s army of Awoken – this all takes place in the rings of Saturn. Ultimately after a lot of destruction, we see Oryx use his sword as a form of key, by stabbing the ground, to unleash a devastating shockwave of bluey/green mist that decimates everything within a large radius around the Dreadnaught; seemingly including the Queen.
I won’t go into too many spoilers to do with the story as I believe you should play it for yourself, but we sort of have one now. We now have some backstory and some history, and some more depth to characters, Cayde-6 (voiced by Nathan Fillion) is now funny and has some personality beyond the odd bit of speech in your ear when starting a mission, which was ultimately very missable and forgettable.
Overall I’m pretty happy with this expansion as a whole, I still have faith in Bungie and in Destiny as a franchise, and I still enjoy playing the game. I’ve had a good few lengthy conversations with various people about whether the expansion is worth it and if the game as a whole is worth it. Personally I think if you bought The Taken King as a new player, the game is absolutely worth it, but if you’ve spent over £100 on the game, which is easily done if you’ve bought the original game and then the expansion, the game isn’t worth that – I don’t believe there is enough original content that one person can play to fathom that price. I still think there is some work to be done, and currently I think Destiny feels like a new company has been given a lot of money to make a game, but with little guidance from a key visionary, and are only now realising that the game wasn’t what was promised and needed to change.
My original impression of what Destiny would involve was taking back the Earth that we lost, exploring each continent, and then the stars and planets beyond to find out what caused it, exploring vast areas – something almost similar to the promises of No Man’s Sky – but we didn’t get that. We got limited space on a few select planets with no map to know where we are and little story to go with it, just a series of minor story motives that essentially consisted of ‘Go with it, this is all we have to offer right now’. Yes the world is pretty, yes the mechanics play amazingly and yes I too enjoy playing an hour or two of this game each day; but at the same time part of me isn’t sure why. I still feel slightly cheated that everything I worked for in Year One was pretty much voided on day one of Year Two, and how if I’d not played a minute of the game until then, my experience would be only slightly different; even the red Ghost Shell I was proud of is useless now with its measly Armour Rating of 3.
I also think the current Solar Map can only live for a little longer, it’s already a cluster-f**k of randomness with little to no guidance of what came in what order, the only slight help you have navigating it are the little icons of what expansion the missions came from, and what difficulty level the mission is rated at; this is not good enough if you plan to play the story missions in order more than once. The new tracking helps with where to go for some missions, but having no map when you are patrolling makes it very difficult to find your way around unless you can memorise it or use a map external to the game; again, not good enough. And speaking of having to use external help to navigate the game, I wish they would add matchmaking for sections that are currently not permitted, I understand Bungie want a certain experience for players when attempting the Nightmare Strikes and the Raids, and Iron Banner, but it should be my choice if I want to try it with or without matchmaking. If it goes wrong then that’s fine, I accepted that potential eventuality when entering matchmaking; just make it mandatory to have an active mic and we may work it out.
I would love to hear other people’s comments on Destiny: The Taken King and any opinions on whether they feel the game is worth the price they’ve paid so far.