If any game at E3 deserves a "Most Improved" award, it's Destiny. The popular but polarizing space shooter got some welcome changes with its recent House of Wolves expansion, but The Taken King, its next add-on, due in September, has the potential to make Destiny feel even more fresh.
I played a brief story mission from The Taken King, which sends Guardians to Phobos, one of Mars' moons, a brand-new location for Destiny players. I selected my trusty Warlock class, eager to see how Bungie had upgraded the character type for The Taken King, and was not disappointed.
If Destiny's House of Wolves doubled the scope of the game's missions, The Taken King could damn near triple it. I was in awe the second I dropped into the mission, gazing at Mars' massive silhouette as warring starships loomed above. The whole scene felt like something out of Star Wars, and like a huge step up from the beautiful, yet desolate, worlds of the original game.
My mission had me up against the Taken, a ghastly new enemy type consisting of possessed, spectre-like aliens. To make a long story short, Destiny villain Oryx is pretty angry that Guardians killed his son Crota in the Dark Below storyline, and he's taken control of a bunch of powerful aliens to try and crush you.
The introduction of the Taken let Bungie make Destiny's most eerie missions yet. I was spooked waking thorough Phobos' war-torn space station, which was rife with mysterious black holes that distorted my view every time I walked near them.
Things didn't get any less creepy as I progressed. Right before my first major firefight, a ghost-like hologram of the imposing, insect-like Oryx appeared in the room, taunting me before sending an army of Taken my way.
The Taken King gives new ability sets (called subclasses) to Destiny's Warlock, Titan and Hunter classes. I took advantage of my Warlock's Stormcaller subclass, which infused my grenades and melee attacks with a charge of electricity. The Warlock's new super attack is a thrill -- once I activated it, the game shifted from first to third person and let me channel my inner Sith by blasting away my Taken foes with massive bolts of lightning from my fists.
I'm eager to try out the other classes' new abilities as well. Titans will soon get to wield deadly flames with their Sunbreaker moves, while Hunters will gain new mystical bow-and-arrow attacks using their Nightstalker subclass. As with all Destiny expansions, The Taken King introduces a variety of new rifles, pistols and heavy weapons, all of which felt mighty satisfying.
In addition to adding new Story missions, abilities and gear, The Taken King will introduce two six-versus-six competitive multiplayer modes. Rift has two teams fight to control a Spark bomb and blow up the enemy base, while the appropriately-titled Mayhem features faster-charging special abilities, more heavy ammo and quicker respawns for constant action.
Despite being one of the most popular shooters currently around, Destiny's drab story and sometimes repetitive gameplay turned many players off when it launched last fall. Last month's diverse House of Wolves add-on was an excellent step in the right direction, and, based on my brief taste, The Taken King could very well make Destiny the content-packed, endlessly fascinating game we all want it to be.
Of course, you could argue that it shouldn't take additional paid content to make the game better, but I commend Bungie for attempting to build on the game significantly with each new expansion.
The Taken King hits Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3 and PS4 on Sept. 15. It'll cost $40 as an add-on, or $60 as part of Destiny's Legendary Edition, which bundles the original game and all of its expansions into one package.
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