To be honest, I wasn't particularly looking forward to playing The Taken King. After working through vanilla Destiny last year, and not really enjoying it a whole lot, I was worried I was going to have to once again battle through a series of protracted encounters, shooting endless rounds of ammo at bosses that I didn't really care about, against the backdrop of a story that made little sense.
As it turned out, nothing could be further from the truth, and I had almost the complete opposite experience. The Taken King has a tightly written, engagingly articulated plot, and a series of story missions that are varied, riveting and thoroughly enjoyable. Some of them are quite tough to beat – especially if you're not a Destiny veteran – but with a bit of perseverance, it's possible to emerge victorious as slayer of the eponymous King.
At the risk of repeating myself, the voice acting is a huge step ahead of where it was last year. The cast does a great job of imbuing characters with a bit of wit and charm, and as a consequence, the game has bags of personality. It's just fun to listen to, and a far cry from the monotone, sometimes incoherent ramblings of Destiny 1.0.
There's a lot more variety in the gameplay too. While the bulk of the proceedings are shootouts – as you'd expect from what is essentially a first-person shooter – there's a lot less reliance on big bosses this time around. Yes, they do exist, but there are also times when there are no bosses – just almost overwhelming numbers of enemies to deal with. Between those kinds of encounters, there are places to explore, and things to find that are tucked way in the dusty corners of maps. Once again, an almost complete reversal of last year, where many areas felt empty and lacked content.
Even when the main story is complete, the game continues with missions and strikes that are entertaining to play. I've been playing strikes and public quests the last few nights, and have really had fun with them. Some are definitely better than others, but put it this way: I've yet to play a strike or endgame mission where I've not enjoyed myself.
A testament to how much I like The Taken King is that even though my review is now finished, I'm already researching what to do next in the game, so I can continue playing. That's not like last year when once I'd completed my review, I walked away from the game and didn't really touch the PvE aspect of it again. This year, I'm really looking forward to continuing to build up my character, and hopefully doing some raiding at some point.
The PvP side of the game is rock solid. I've already gone into detail earlier in this review why that's the case, but I'll just say that while it's a somewhat brutal environment to get thrown into initially, with a bit of practice and lateral thinking, it doesn't take long to get the fundamentals of survival down, and once you learn them, PvP is engrossing and rewarding to play. Sure, it can be a little tough at times if you get put on a weak team, but overall the game is quite well balanced and features a series of interesting and varied environments that are enjoyable to run around.
Bottom line, The Taken King is the game I wanted Destiny 1.0 to be. It's taken Bungie a year to get it right, but now it really does feel like an epic game that has a lot of content to enjoy. Whether you're a single player, want to use matchmaking for PvP or PvE, or are a group tackling endgame missions and strikes, there are plenty of activities on offer. And yes, the game will eventually become a grind as you settle into the long run acquiring gear, but that's pretty much the nature of the beast in terms of an MMO. There's always going to be an element of repetition to the action.
Another downside is that the game is complex and still sometimes hard to fathom – you certainly need to do a fair bit of research to get up to speed on the different factions, gear and to generally understand how the endgame works. And while that is indeed typical of most MMOs, I think that Bungie could still do a better job of providing in-game guidance in terms of setting paths for players, and to explain some of the basics.
But regardless of that, The Taken King is a great expansion to Destiny, and one that really helps smooth out and refine the original's rough edges and ropey plot. The end result is a game that feels quite tight and buttoned-down, and presents a huge amount of content to sample, from its original missions through two content updates to the new story. Last year's Destiny looked like it had potential, but ultimately felt short of greatness. This year, The Taken King has realized that potential, and delivered on it.
Navigating through the game is largely the same as last year - using the joypad-controlled cursor is a little slow and clumsy.
There's plenty of endgame content to get your teeth into this time around, with missions, strikes and a new raid to test your mettle.
Superb voice acting is supported by solid music and effects to deliver a great-sounding game.
The Taken King's vistas are impressive and well worth exploring. Sometimes the game tends to feel a little on the dark side, but overall the game looks terrific.
The Taken King is a huge improvement over last year's release. It features a far better story, much stronger voice acting, more exciting and varied missions, and an endgame that is more rounded out for long-term play. Not only that, but it also refines the overall gameplay and makes the game a far better experience than before - one that is definitely worth playing.