Prior to its release in September last year, Destiny had been pitched as a revolutionary multiplayer title that would evolve over the course of ten years. The final product was rather more prosaic and developer Bungie has struggled to prove the worth of its persistent, online sci-fi universe in the 12 months since. Two expansion packs – The Dark Below and House of Wolves – improved things incrementally but it’s not until now that Destiny has begun to deliver on the promises made so many months ago.
The Taken King represents Destiny’s first major add-on and marks the start of “Year 2” – a chance for reinvigoration and reinvention after what players have archly referred to as an extended beta phase. It’s a much-needed shake-up and shifts the game’s structure significantly enough to make actually playing it far more enjoyable. Where leveling a character had been an exercise in endless repetition, Bungie – now more respectful of players’ time – has streamlined in-game progression. The Taken King makes the act of shooting aliens, rather than farming materials, central to how you move forward and new quests with immediate rewards give a constant sense of advancement.
The expansion’s titular King is Oryx, a giant demon who wants you dead because you murdered his son. Thankfully, Bungie has paid real attention to the story this time around, drawing you in to the tale while injecting moments of humour (largely thanks to a wise-cracking Nathan Fillion) and self-aware eye rolls at the nonsensical jargon that plagued Destiny’s first year. Oryx’s giant ship, the Dreadnaught, is the new playable area and is a masterclass in level design: a maze of tight corridors and cavernous halls filled with puzzles, secrets and the game’s new enemy faction: The Taken.
New quests continue to crop up after the main story is completed, as well as brand new strikes – longer missions that require teams of three to complete, such is their difficulty – additional multiplayer maps and modes, and a completely new raid called King’s Fall – as smart and brutally challenging as the base game’s lauded Vault of Glass.
Some will frown at shelling out full-price for an expansion but this add-on is far more than a few bonus levels. The Taken King places Destiny firmly on a trajectory towards realising its true potential. Welcoming to newcomers (one character gets an instant boost to level 25) while giving veterans a streamlined re-working of the core game they’ve poured so many hours into, Destiny is finally showing signs of the revolutionary shooter it first set out to be.