Preview events offer only brief glimpses at very big games. Who knows how any given game will pan out in its final form? The most we can say is This Could Be Good.
Destiny: The Taken King
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release date: Sept. 15
I have a slight confession to make. Even though I penned a less-than-generous review of Destiny last year, I’ve logged more hours on the shoot-a-thon than any other video game in the past nine months. It’s not that I’m ready to backtrack on any point I made in that piece, necessarily. The plot still feels like it was cobbled together by writers playing a game of pin-the-tail-on-the-science-fiction-cliche, and Peter Dinklage still sounds like he’s reading his clunky lines while trapped in a box carrying him across the Narrow Sea.
But I underestimated how much Destiny’s positive traits can transcend the game’s countless other flaws. It may not be a Nobel-worthy achievement, but the space-themed shooting comes as close to perfection as we’ve ever seen in console games. After two decades under the hood of sci-fi shooters, Bungie has fine-tuned gun-on-gun combat until the engine that powers the action practically purrs.
With The Taken King, Destiny is also slowly solving one of my other primary complaints—a lack of fresh activities to support the quality gunplay. All of the barren lunar vistas weren’t the only reason the game felt profoundly empty when it was released in September. A handful of story missions, multiplayer modes and one epic raid just weren’t enough content to sustain a game meant to be played in perpetuity.
The first downloadable add-ons, The Dark Below and House Of Wolves, filled out Destiny’s thin frame a bit, but The Taken King could be the dessert that puts meat on its bones. The E3 presentation I saw on Tuesday teased an entire new planet to explore (Phobos, one of Mars’ two moons) and some kind of space castle you’ll be invading to fight Oryx—presumably the Taken King of the title. Also promised: a new high-level raid, patrol missions, public events, and jittery new enemies, mind-controlled by Oryx, that behave differently from previous foes.
I only got hands-on time with Rift, a new Crucible game type that plays like Destiny’s version of rugby. A shiny spark charges in the middle of the map; each team attempts to snag it and deliver it to a rift in enemy territory, with bonus points awarded for pulling off a crazy backflip into the goal. It adds much-needed variety to the Crucible, which is too often reliant on deathmatches and capture-the-point style objectives.
With Destiny, sometimes it has felt like Bungie kept too many cards in their hands— like they’re more focused on building toward the future of their 10-year contract with Activision than on bowling over fans now. With The Taken King, maybe the developer‘s finally ready to throw down an ace.