AFTER 12 months, two expansion packs, dozens of patches and hundreds of hours of gameplay, megabucks blockbuster Destiny is only now reaching its potential.
Millions of avid players will disagree, of course. But they’re wrong. They were seduced by Destiny’s subtle rewiring of gamers’ brains, generating a Pavlovian response to its loot-dispensing machine. So they invested days, weeks, months in the pursuit of raising their character stats a fraction at a time by repeating the same gameplay loops for loot over and over. And over.
The Taken King shifts the axis of this eternal quest for higher numbers – better armour, more powerful guns, etc. Underneath, it may be the same game – a finely honed sci-fi shooter, albeit a repetitive one.
But developer Bungie has layered on top a semblance of story, some sparky voice performances (including a typically droll Nathan Fillion cracking wise with fellow denizens of the Tower), plus a torrent of new quests, secrets and, of course, upgrades. Bungie has sensibly simplified the levelling system and increased the generosity of loot drops, which should go some way to easing the infamous Destiny grind.
Peter Dinklage’s morose turn as your Ghost buddy has been excised completely, replaced by an unrecognisable (and, in my book, not actually improved) performance from the ubiquitous Nolan North.
Each of the three character types gains a thrilling new subclass, unlocked by an amusing side-quest designed to showcase its awe-inspiring power. In the case of my warlock, for instance, you’re sent on a short expedition to learn the Stormcaller ability. Like a benign version of the Emperor in Star Wars, you gain the skill to channel and chain lightning bolts, granting you massive destructive power at short range via your recharging Super.
Many familiar locations feature heavily but with a twist. An enormous new area aboard a space cruiser named the Dreadnaught promises many hours of happy hunting, laden with side missions and little riddles to explore. Bungie avoids explicit explanation, leaving you to uncover the mysteries of the Dreadnaught with friends.
Dozens of additions – a fresh, complex raid, several multiplayer maps, a stealth mission, quest tracking, enemies’ darkness grenades, to name just a few – ensure the Taken King has something new for even the most jaded player.
Doubtlessly, Destiny eventually falls back on its core loop. But what a loop. For all its troubles, Destiny nailed the beautiful mechanics of shooting aliens in the face for fun from day one. Yet it was still the psychological pull of loot collection that kept most of us playing the same content ad nauseam.
The Taken King dramatically lifts the bar with coherent questing and a mountain of new content. Destiny has finally fulfilled its destiny. Anyway, by the time boredom sets in this time, another expansion will be ready for download.