Destiny: The Taken King Review

September 27, 2015

It’s been a long time since Destiny was first announced by Bungie back in February 2013. Their first new IP since Halo was released in 2001, when the announcement of the new Sci-Fi shooter sent shockwaves through the gaming community. Understandably, expectations were extremely high prior to Destiny’s release given the calibre of games Bungie has produced in the past and the revelation that Destiny would be the most expensive game ever developed with a $500 million investment by Activision. Those same expectations were quickly dashed for many players after Destiny’s release. While the gunplay, music and graphics were fantastic, many of Bungie’s trademark touches were missing from the game. Story content was sparse and unconvincing, missions almost all played out in the same fashion and content was gated behind a level system that was based on random chance and grinding through the same missions over and over. Small steps were taken in Destiny’s second DLC, The House of Wolves. Delivery of story content was improved, new mission types and designs were introduced, but the amount of content was still low and the excessive grind was still there. Initially, when The Taken King was first announced and shown, the expansion was marred in controversy after an interview with the expansion’s director was released. After the interview was published, Bungie started saying the right things about The Taken King. They stated that they had changed the way they conveyed their story and characters, were improving the loot system in the game, introducing more varied mission design and completely overhauling the level system to make progression fairer and faster. So, has Bungie lived up to their word with The Taken King? The short answer is yes, but the long answer is more complicated.

 Goodbye Sepiks

Personally, my biggest complaint with Destiny was the story content and how it was delivered. There was such a vast universe to be portrayed, yet the majority of story was relegated to the backs of grimoire cards that couldn’t be accessed from within the game. In fact, within the game, characters were introduced in cutscenes with no background given as to who they were or why we were talking to them, or they simply disappeared from existence without any explanation. Coming from the story and lore-rich world of Halo, it was unbelievable that Bungie had dropped the ball. Thankfully, Bungie really have taken people’s comments to heart and have vastly improved the story content within The Taken King. Without a hint of exaggeration I can say that The Taken King conveys a more meaningful story within the first cutscene than Destiny did in its entirety. There are now regular cutscenes giving context to what you’re doing, more radio chatter within missions from characters and more characterisation than ever before. It is that characterisation that makes the biggest difference in The Taken King. For the first time, I see Ghost as more than a stupid little robot that gets me into trouble, and the development of characters such as Cayde-6 and his interactions with the characters and other Vanguard leaders make an incredible difference to the game. Cayde-6, played by Nathan Fillion, quickly becomes one of the focal points of the story, and his quips and jokes are incredibly well written and set the tone for the story in general. Without a doubt, the story at large is written well, with a great mix of tension and light heartedness and is a massive improvement on the original Destiny.

Caydes Stash environs

The things that Destiny got right from the beginning were its music, graphics and gunplay, and it’s safe to say that The Taken King has continued to excel in those areas. Graphically, The Taken King is sharp and just as beautiful as ever, however that is largely aided by the fact that the majority of the games takes place in environments that already existed in Destiny. While the Dreadnaught brings a much needed new area, it is largely reminiscent of earlier Hive areas from Destiny with some new tweaks. The graphics really are great, with the skyboxes during the Cayde’s Stash mission being the highlight, but with so little of it being new you will quickly begin to stop noticing. Tone and pace are effectively matched and set by the excellent soundtrack, which now mixes in the odd electronic track as well as the expected orchestral pieces. The biggest positive is that the gunplay is just as tight as ever, with new guns managing to feel fresh, while also carrying forward the great feeling provided in Destiny. The Taken King is definitely the tightest controlling shooter of recent times, with only the run and gun mechanics of Titanfall giving it some competition.

The biggest change to the mechanics comes with the three new subclasses, the Sunbreaker, Stormcaller and Nightstalker. The introduction of these three subclasses gives players the possibility to completely change their playstyle within their chosen character classes. The Titan, previously a close range fighter with either strong melee or defensive capabilities, now has a ranged super with the Sunbreaker, which feels amazing to play. The best part is that this is an accolade that can easily be applied to all three of the new subclasses. Bungie have created three classes that are emphatically fun to play. Whether you’re throwing hammers, shooting lightning or chaining enemies to the ground with arrows made of darkness, you’ll definitely have a great time running with the new subclasses.

The House of Wolves made steps to correct the perceived issues with the mission design in Destiny, but due to its nature as DLC there was only a small number of missions present to show this. Previously, almost every mission had found you running to a point, holding a button for a second and then fighting off 1 to 3 waves of enemies as Ghost tried to unlock something. It was fine the first few times, but after being repeated at least 3 times in each world it quickly became a chore. In The House of Wolves, you found yourself racing through a canyon on a Pike until you came across a Devil Walker that needed to be felled. Suddenly, the game was exciting again and that feeling has been extended with The Taken King. The only time I used my Ghost in the opening mission was to scan optional items to get more backstory as to what was happening. There is more platforming than we’ve seen before, outside of the Vault of Glass, and with the capabilities of our Guardians it really is fun to jump around and manoeuvre oneself from platform to platform and along high wires. The introduction of stealth sections, including a mission that is based almost entirely around stealth, is a wonderful change of pace compared to the run and gun of the rest of the game. The Taken King definitely impresses in the pacing and variety of content within missions when compared to Destiny, and is a vast improvement.


While the story and missions are what I would consider the big focus in Destiny, there is a large and dedicated base of players whose main focus is PvP. The biggest introduction within the PvP of The Taken King are three brand new modes, Zone Control, Mayhem and Rift. Zone Control is similar to the Control mode that is currently available, however kills do not count towards the score. This leads to a frantic race to capture as many points as possible and hold on to them. Mayhem is similar to Clash, but with your super recharge turned up to the max. Mayhem is hectic and can be hard to follow at times, but being able to trigger your super continuously is incredibly fun and fulfilling. Rift is the biggest introduction, with there being nothing quite like it prior to The Taken King. Similar to Capture the Flag, Rift has players attempting to carry the Spark to their enemies rift to destroy it. While carrying the Spark you can continue to use your weapons and skills, however you cannot unleash your super. Points are awarded for distance travelled with the Spark, kills and destroying your enemies rift, with bonus points being given for dunking the Spark in your enemies rift. With 7 new maps being introduced, including the first maps to include portals, the introductions bring some much needed variety to the PvP mode of Destiny.

As with every loot based game, the end game is always one of the most important aspects of the game. With the release of The Taken King, the variety of end game activities to complete hasn’t changed, but the number of possibilities within them has. The three new strikes are all interesting and introduce a variety of new mechanics to their fights. In The Sunless Cell you find yourself engulfed in darkness fighting thralls and a rampaging Knight, and in Fallen S.A.B.E.R. you fight a giant Shank as you run between the ever changing cover and escape the electrified environment. The new variety of mechanics within these strikes are a nice change of pace when compared to past strikes. With the introduction of new strike playlists that help prevent you from playing the same strike over and over, The Taken King felt fresh for longer than Destiny did.

Strike Shank

All in all, the included content within The Taken King is of a high quality and is a large step up when compared to Destiny, but there still isn’t enough of it. The main story quests last for around 3 to 4 hours, which is a step down compared to Destiny. While this is an expansion, with it costing almost the same price as Destiny here in Australia, I feel that it’s a valid point to make. The small amount of included content also means that you will quickly find yourself repeating missions and strikes as you grind for better gear and reputation. The quality of the content included, and the lacking amount of it, left me wanting more and feeling disappointed. While quality is definitely better than quantity, it would have been nice to see more of an equilibrium being reached with The Taken King.

Additionally, while Bungie promised a better loot system that would more fairly assess what you had previously received and try to prevent awarding you rewards which you already had, I have had more repeated rewards in The Taken King than ever before. While the new level system splits the Light and character level systems, content and damage is still locked behind the gear controlled Light system. This means that repeated items requires you to grind more to obtain different weapons and armour, requiring you to play the same missions and strikes over and over, which lead to my enthusiasm quickly waning.


While the inclusions and additions within The Taken King are largely positive, there is one thing in particular that is overwhelmingly negative, and that is the removal of content for players who do not purchase it. Players of Destiny who were content to play it for longer before buying The Taken King have had swathes of end game content completely removed from them. They can no longer access daily heroic missions, weekly nightfall missions and any strike over the level of 20. While the argument can be made that end game content should be shifted to follow along as the playerbase moves, it is worrying to see particular kinds of content being removed from players.

Finally, the last thing to discuss about The Taken King is its value for money. This is not normally something I would cover when reviewing a game as I am firmly of the belief that enjoyment is a better measurement of value than time, but with the controversy surrounding The Taken King and its pricing in Europe and Australia in particular, I feel it is worth mentioning. At a cost of AU $69.95 for owners of the base game and both DLCs that were previously released, it is hard to disagree that this expansion is expensive. This is especially true when considering that many players will have purchased the base game, which had more content, at a lower cost than this at launch. Without a shadow of a doubt, the content included in The Taken King is better than what was included in Destiny, but the premium that past owners are paying is inexplicable and disappointing. It is abundantly clear that the pricing of The Taken King was decided to bring new players in, with the bundle including The Taken King and all past content retailing at AU $99.95, and the existing dedicated players expected to pay a premium. While this is honestly speculation, it is how the pricing and lack of explanation behind it has made myself and many players feel, and having now played the game I feel that the amount of content included does not justify the high cost.

The Taken King is a great game, with many steps being taken to improve the systems and quality of life introduced within Destiny. It looks and sounds beautiful, plays wonderfully and has an engaging storyline and cast. However, the amount of included content is low, the randomly generated loot system still gates content, and the idea of content being removed from players who do not upgrade is worrying. The high cost is daunting for existing players, and the value proposition is lower because of it. If you’re a new player coming into the series for the first time, or a player who left without purchasing the previous DLC, The Taken King is highly recommended and is excellent value for money. However, if you’re an existing player who has purchased the previous game and DLC, I would suggest waiting for a price drop unless you’re a diehard fan that cannot live without more Guardian on Guardian action.


Much improved story delivery
New subclasses are fun
Improved mission design


Lack of content
High price for existing players
Content removed for people who have not purchased The Taken King

Overall Score: