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After two sleepless nights, we still can’t get enough of Destiny: The Taken King

Destiny: The Taken King has arrived, bringing with it the promise of fresh, exciting experiences in Activision’s popular shared-world sci-fi franchise for new players and veterans alike. And along with the massive amount of hype that preceded its arrival, the Destiny expansion also came saddled with quite a few questions — many of them involving elements that were harshly criticized throughout the game’s first year.

Now that The Taken King has been released, however, the question becomes this: Does the much-anticipated expansion live up to expectations?

Related: Destiny Primer: What To Know Before Jumping Into The Taken King

We spent the bulk of the last 48 hours immersed in The Taken King, and here are some of our takeaways from the game.

More To The Story

The universe of Destiny changed significantly over the course of the last year, with two major expansions and countless updates and tweaks to the architecture of the original game environment. One thing that remained relatively constant, however, was criticism of the game’s storytelling mechanics. Even the most positive reviews of Destiny and its expansions touched on the franchise’s narrative problems, and developer Bungie eventually acknowledged that there was room for improvement when it came to presenting the game’s deep mythology to players in a logical, accessible way.

The Taken King features some of the best dialogue and cinematic moments of the franchise so far.

Thankfully, Bungie seems to have taken that criticism to heart and made the story a very real, very clear priority in The Taken King. Along with investing in key characters’ development (instead of relegating them to simple placeholders and mission-givers), The Taken King features some of the best dialogue and cinematic moments of the franchise so far, and weaves all of these elements together in a cohesive, linear narrative that makes you feel like a part of the story instead of just an audience.

Related: Dominate Destiny with these hard-won tips and tricks

While it’s no surprise that Bungie saw fit to give Nathan Fillion’s hunter mentor Cayde-6 a bigger part to play in The Taken King, actress Morla Gorrondona is a pleasant surprise as the voice of Eris Morn, the tormented former Guardian whose cryptic, doom-and-gloom dialogue is the counterpoint to Cayde’s charismatic humor. Their banter is one of the best parts of the primary story missions in The Taken King, and it brings the epic scale of the events down to a more manageable level.

Enter the Nolanbot

Game of Thrones actor Peter Dinklage took a lot of flak for what was perceived to be a soulless, paycheck-grabbing performance as the voice of the player’s Ghost, an ever-present, miniature partner in your cosmic adventures. While some of that criticism might be deserved, one can’t help but wonder how he would read the dialogue in The Taken King — especially after hearing his replacement, Uncharted voice actor Nolan North, read both the new lines and all of the previous dialogue recorded by Dinklage.

North is great as the voice of your Ghost in The Taken King, but the script is also noticeably improved this time around. And after hearing North re-read the previous dialogue originally voiced by Dinklage — another change that took effect with the most recent, preparatory update for The Taken King — there’s a strong case to be made that it might have been the script, not the read, that was the real problem in Year One.

Gjallar-what?

One of the biggest questions voiced by players in the lead-up to The Taken King involved the fate of the weapons and armor they’d spent the last year collecting. Would The Taken King render universally beloved (and for some, frustratingly hard to find) weapons like the Fatebringer pistol and the Gjallarhorn rocket launcher irrelevant?

An hour or so into the story missions for The Taken King, it quickly becomes apparent that old weapons will have no place in this new adventure — but the alternatives make it surprisingly easy to put away the tools of a young Guardian and embrace the new normal. Not only does The Taken King do a nice job of regularly rewarding your accomplishments with powerful weapons and gear, but the gear you receive has some new, intriguing perks for players to experiment with.

Yes, for the first time in a very, very long time, you might feel inclined to equip a heavy-weapon not named Gjallarhorn — and that’s a good thing.

Make A List & Check It Twice

The main story mission in The Taken King is meaty and entertaining, but a skilled player with good gear will likely reach the end in around 4-6 hours if you barrel through without taking time to engage in any side-quests or obsessive loadout-tweaking. Fortunately, that’s where the game really expands.

Once you finish the main story mission, there’s a seemingly endless amount of quests that become available as you interact with supporting characters around the Destiny universe, and many of those quests end up initiating more quests. The method of initiating quests even feels more organic this time around, with certain quests seemingly popping up at random when supporting characters contact you, or when you discover something during your adventures.

destiny taken king quests

More importantly, each series of challenges provides (from what we’ve seen so far) genuinely appealing rewards instead of the ho-hum prizes players had become accustomed to over the last year or so — rewards that were all too often out-classed by their existing gear. Along with the quests being plentiful, they’re also relatively challenging (and time-consuming) at this early stage of The Taken King, providing a nice balance between risk and reward.

If there’s a negative to be found in all of this, it’s that the amount of quests you can accumulate on your to-do list can become a little intimidating. However, with the right amount of focus, you can prevent them from becoming overwhelming.

Secrets Everywhere

To go along with The Taken King‘s myriad quests and the ability to take on more daily bounties, there’s also an impressive amount of secrets that seem to be hidden in the expansion’s new “world” to explore: the colossal, floating Dreadnaught.

Related: Here’s your guide to living life after level 20 in Destiny

Locked chests, mysterious computer terminals, and other interactive elements pepper the interior of the enormous alien battleship, and the lure of discovering what those containers hold and interactive elements do lends even more support to Bungie’s assertion that The Taken King is far, far more than just an expansion.

Just The Beginning…

The first 48 hours of The Taken King is impressively compelling — and let’s face it, addicting — but possibly the most pleasant surprise is that this feels like just the beginning of what the Destiny expansion has to offer. Activision has yet to activate the next major raid activity, “King’s Fall,” and if The Taken King is any indication of what to expect from it, the average player won’t have to worry about running out of things to do in Destiny for a very, very long time.