Kyle E. Miller
E3 2015: Destiny: The Taken King Hands-On Preview
The "second year of Destiny" starts here.
06.18.15 - 12:33 AM

This September, Bungie is giving Destiny players not quite what they want, but enough to keep them playing well into next year. The Taken King isn't being billed as an expansion like the last two content packages; in fact, I haven't really seen it given a label at all. It's smaller than a sequel, but larger, perhaps, than an expansion, at least by Bungie's definition.

Expect more loot (including exotics) and strikes and the usual additions, but The Taken King also (finally) expands the game area. The story has it that Oryx, father of Crota, is angered by his son's death, and he has come seeking vengeance. Players will thus board Oryx's funereal ship and take on his horde's of "taken" soldiers: members of the other alien races repurposed for his own torturous ends. The new area seems to offer environmental puzzles and more secrets, some of which might require certain abilities to find. This sort of scultped level design is something that could elevate Destiny and help alleviate some fans' disappointment with the core game.

While what I saw of the new enemies looks neat, they continue the trend of reusing old assets. All the new enemies are transformed skins of old enemies, albeit eerie ones, twitchy and tortured by Oryx's black powers. Fortunately, they also have new abilities, hopefully some of which will require unforeseen strategies to defeat. Oryx's ship also looks like the inside of a lot of Hive structures, and nothing I saw really surprised me, which is Destiny's primary — and evidently permanent — problem once the player hits the end game.

The inclusion of additional subclasses is one of the only things that might actually change the way the game is played. Of course, every player might be using them through the end of the year due to their novelty, but hopefully they don't make the original subclasses irrelevant. The hunter's new subclass — the Nightstalker — is a support class, while the warlock's and titan's are focused on damage. The Nightstalker wields a violet bow of energy to keep enemies at bay, while the warlock's Stormcaller turns him or her into a bastion of electricity, a living lightning rod. I was able to try the titan's hammer-wielding Sunbreaker in one of the new Crucible modes, and the Mjolnir-like hammer can be thrown at enemies only to return of its own will. The hunter seems to have gotten the shaft here: the Nightstalker looks like the least exciting of the new subclasses.

I played a match of the new Rift Crucible mode, which is pretty much capture the flag, although players instead capture a "spark" and carry it with them into a "rift." The other, more compelling mode is Mayhem. In this mode, abilities recharge faster than normal, creating an arena of total chaos as players repeatedly unleash their most powerful abilities until one team wins the deathmatch.

Thankfully, Bungie isn't done showing what's new in The Taken King. There's evidently more on the way and content yet to be revealed in the "second year of Destiny," which begins this Fall with The Taken King. It seems that you can buy The Taken King as a digital download if you own Destiny and its two expansions. Otherwise, you'll have to buy the bundle, which includes all current content. Yes, that means if you haven't bought the expansions by September and you don't want to, you'll be forced to buy the game again at full price. It's an inelegant, yet not surprising, way to offer this expansion-esque add-on. I'm not thrilled that my hunter won't be able to be a living lightning rod, but Oryx's Dreadnaught looks fun to explore, and it'll likely reinvigorate my and my sister's adventures into Destiny.