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The Taken King Hands-On Impressions With Destiny

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Bungie opened its doors to us a few weeks back to show off what the team has been busy working on in recent months, and gave us the chance to play not just a few select missions, but the full scope of what’s on offer in The Taken King. We have a wealth of in-depth details in our monthly magazine cover story, but we decided it was worth sharing more about our own personal experience playing through the content, along with some choice tidbits that we couldn’t squeeze into our 14-page cover story.

Ben Reeves and I each played a great deal of the content solo, and also teamed up for everything from Crucible matches to strikes. We sat down recently to discuss our takeaways from our time with the game. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get started.

First Impressions

Matt: Ben, we had a pretty cool opportunity a few weeks ago when we visited Bungie. They  pulled back the curtain and let us play through as much of the expansion as we could, and share what we discovered with our fellow fans. Were you surprised about how much we got to experience?

Ben: I was blown away with how much they let us play the game. We sometimes get to play games on cover trips, but rarely to this extent. We spent a whole day getting hands-on time followed by a full day of interviews, which really helped me appreciate Bungie’s new approach to design. The game and story feel much more integrated and each area feels new and different. I think this is probably the best Destiny content to date. Would you agree?

Matt: Yeah, I’d agree with your points, both about their openness and how good the game is. It was awesome that Bungie was open to us exploring so much. I think it speaks to their confidence in this being a really stellar step forward for the franchise. For fellow fans and readers out there, it’s worth noting that Bungie showed us a work-in-progress version of the game. We’re going to talk about a lot of stuff today, and we’ve had a lot of interesting articles already appear in our game hub. But it won’t surprise me if some of what we saw is different in its final incarnation. With that said, the core experience is really solid.

So, amidst all we got to play on that day – any favorite things stand out?

Ben: Well, like I said, the story isn’t embarrassingly bare this time around. It’s an actual story, for one. And the game remains a blast to play with friends. I love the grind to collect new gear and weapons, and that push to 40 will really give me a lot of reason to start playing again. Collecting gear remains one of the main reasons to play the game, in my opinion. And now there are even more things to equip.

Matt: Yep. No doubt. There are so many new weapons. I think they’ve said that there are more guns in The Taken King than were present in the base game’s launch.

This is the first time they’ve really reset the weapon and armor economy. We were getting new green weapons that out-powered our best raid gear from Year One, even after the first mission. I also really like that the game seems to pay closer attention to what you would want. Creative director Luke Smith told me that the loot backend pays attention to what you need for a meaningful improvement, it offers variety in armor or weapon type from what you’ve recently gotten, and also tries to avoid repeating the same gear, although he admits that you’re not always going to get exactly what you want on every drop, which is good, because that would eventually get boring.

Ben: In terms of gameplay moments, one of my biggest highlights during my solo time was the mission to collect my new subclass. My primary is a Warlock, and the new Stormcaller class is a lot of fun to use. You’re basically throwing chain lightning, which allows you to turn large groups of enemies into ash very quickly. The mission to unlock that class basically lets you go all out with the ability to get a feel for how it works, which was very empowering.

Matt: I played around with all three of my guardians, but I spent the most time with my Titan. And I fell in love with that flaming hammer pretty fast. As you said, there’s a potent power fantasy at the end of those missions where they give you your super on an extremely fast recharge, and you go to town on whole squads of enemies. On the surface, it’s super fun wrecking so many enemies so fast. But under the hood, it’s a way for the designers to get you familiar with the super and its use very quickly, and then set you loose on the world. It’s a great idea.

Story

Matt: You mentioned story before, which I don’t want to gloss over. It’s not as if they’re changing everything about their fiction or anything. It’s just that the new storytelling feels much more cohesive. Characters engage in more conversations, rather than everything being a declarative sentence without any context.

Ben: Agreed. The basic plot is simple: Crota’s father has returned to seek vengeance on the guardian that murdered his son (that’s you). You’re basically fighting a space devil, but I think the simplicity of the story makes it easier to follow what’s going on. I also loved how the story allows for some of the characters in the tower to interact more. It was nice to see Eris and Cayde better display their personality in these moments. It makes the Tower feel a little more alive and worth visiting.

Matt: I completely agree. Within the framework of that simple story, they can then stretch their wings as storytellers, and play with both the inherent zaniness of ideas (expressed through Cayde), but also the melodrama inherent to the setting, with characters like Zavala and Eris. I also enjoy how much The Taken King makes me feel like I’m the tip of the spear, so to speak. It’s something they experimented with in the base game, but it’s so much more powerfully expressed here. This story really casts your guardian as the true hero who breached the Vault of Glass, and brought down Crota. When the Vanguard needs someone to face Oryx, you are their first choice. I love that when you go to the Dreadnaught, you’re the one planting the patrol beacons for the guardians who will come after you.

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