‘The Taken King’ breathes new life into ‘Destiny’s’ bland universe

Brian O'Kelly

With the release of “Destiny’s” third installment, “The Taken King,” the series is finally beginning to feel like a full retail game. Upon “Destiny’s” release a year ago, the game’s lack of content, story and balanced gameplay left many players feeling cheated.

“The Taken King,” released Tuesday, promised to remedy these issues by overhauling the series through streamlined game mechanics and a developed narrative. For the most part, the game addresses these items but is not the fix many fans expected it to be.

The expansion details a new threat to Earth, Oryx and his horde of Taken, as they crawl through space in an attempt to destroy the world, and the guardians are once again compelled to hold back the oncoming threat.

“The Taken King” introduces a new enemy called the Taken, versions of the original game’s enemies that Oryx has turned into his mindless zombies. Despite being forms of older enemies, their attack styles have been redone, forcing the players to think about how they approach fights. Certain enemies will push players off an edge if approached, some will split in two if given time and others will teleport in patterns to throw off the player. The bad guys found in “The Taken King” are a welcome improvement to ones in the base game, which were more of a nuisance to deal with than anything else.

“The Taken King” heavily restructures the existing quest system, improving its interface and expanding the available loot. These small changes, while barely noticeable, highlight Bungie’s new efforts to improve their game.

However, “Destiny’s” flawed infrastructure limits “The Taken King’s” ability to improve. There is a dependency on a randomized loot system, which artificially lengthens the game by turning the experience into a seemingly endless grind.

Bungie uses the randomized loot system in order to solve “Destiny’s” biggest issue — the game’s dependence on little substance. “The Taken King” offers more gameplay than the previous expansions, but the player can breeze through the first run of the expansion’s three strikes and campaign in three to four hours. Players should still expect to muddle through these strikes again and again in order to get better loot.

“The Taken King” seems to focus on quality over quantity. The new story missions are unlike anything else in the series, as they offer an actual narrative, accompanied by stunning cutscenes and masterful voice acting.
From the very beginning, the expansion differentiates itself from its predecessors by presenting the player with a scene of an intense intergalactic space fight that sets up the story’s villain, Oryx. More importantly, the story communicates to the player what their role is in relation to the events unraveling, unlike the first game which dropped the player into the missions with little context or purpose.

Voice actors, Nolan North and Nathan Fillion, expand on their performances in the original game, bringing new life to existing characters. Fillion’s character, Cayde-6, steals the show by bringing a lighthearted touch to “The Taken King.” It’s a welcome contrast to “Destiny’s” stiff narrative which took itself too seriously.

While the single player and cooperative portions of “Destiny” have been revamped in “The Taken King”, competitive play remains the same. There are seven new Crucible maps, but the gameplay still suffers from balancing issues that cause certain weapons to be vastly superior to others of the same caliber.

Despite all the steps it takes in the right direction, “The Taken King” doesn’t manage to fix “Destiny’s.” countless problems. The game proves to be more compelling than its predecessor and acts as an adequate apology to fans.