Destiny: The Taken King review – part two

Welcome to part two of our review of the epic new expansion to Destiny, The Taken King. If you somehow stumbled upon this before reading part one, I highly recommend reading it here, before you continue.

All done? Great… In this segment of the review, I will be covering the new levelling system, how to get your light level up, and some additional tips and tricks to help you along the way.

Those of you who played the original Destiny, will know the struggle of levelling to 20 with XP, then waiting and praying that RNG (random number generator) would gift you something that would take you closer to that elusive level cap for each expansion. This changed slightly when the House of Wolves expansion released, where obtaining armour cores from the Prison of Elders would allow you to buy maximum light level armour. Many Guardians would find that they would be stuck in the situation of being “forever 29” (level cap was 30), regardless of how many times they would enter the Vault of Glass, high light level items would just not drop. This was also the same with The Dark Below expansion, and Crota’s End, resulting in many “forever 31” (level cap was 32) Guardians.


With The Taken King, things have changed in relation to actual level and light level, as these are now separate entities. Levels 1-40 are now built up via earning XP, much like a traditional RPG, and light level is based on the weapons and armour you equip. Light level is now taken as an average of the attack and defence levels of your items, for example I currently have a light level of 291, which is an average of my weapons with attack levels of 285, 298, and 284, and my armour with defence levels of 293, 297, 295, and 296. Along with weapons and armour, your Ghost, Class item, and a new Artefact item will also give you additional defence values, helping you on your way to maximum light level.

Along with giving additional defence values, Ghosts, Class items, and Artefacts have their own perks which can boost your intellect, discipline, and strength values, as well as grant bonus perks. For example, one of the Ghosts I have has a perk which makes it easier to spot the Earth planetary material, or allows me to pick up more of the same material. It also grants additional glimmer (one of the many in-game currencies) when killing Fallen enemies. Class items can increase the speed of which a weapon will upgrade, and give a buff to reputation for either Crucible or Vanguard, depending on origins of the Class item (you can purchase these from either the Vanguard or Crucible mentors).


Of course, many activities are blocked until you reach a required light level, or just below, so how the hell do you get there? As explained above, light level is tied in with the weapons or armour you have equipped, and these items can be acquired in a multitude of ways, either as activity awards, or through decrypting engrams.

Engrams are special pick ups, which drop when killing enemies. When you are low level, in both XP and light, these start as white (common) items, going up through green (uncommon), blue (rare), legendary (purple), and yellow (exotic). Before The Taken King, all high level items would be either legendary, or exotic, resulting in the destruction of lesser items due to their commonality and inability to boost your light level. In The Taken King, it is now possible to gain additional light by obtaining rare items of a higher value compared to a legendary, or even an exotic. So, the question now is, why should I bother with legendaries if my rare items are of a higher value? This brings me onto a new levelling mechanic called Infusion.


Infusion allows you to combine a more powerful item, with a less powerful item of the same type, but this is saved only for legendary and exotic items. For example, say you have gauntlets which are of a legendary or exotic quality, but you have gauntlets of a higher power but they’re rare, you can sacrifice the item of higher value to level up the item of lower value. But why, you ask, should I worry about infusion if the rare item gets me to a higher light level? Legendary items offer more perks to the wearer, and therefore are worth keeping and infusing into, to gain those additional perks as well as the increase in light. It could be the difference between having rare boots at light level 275, which offer a faster reload speed, or legendary boots at 270 which offer a faster reload speed, and the ability to hold more ammo. Infusing the rare boots into the legendary boots will result in a light level boost to that item, approximately 80% of the item being infused, and will also allow you to keep those additional perks. It sounds complicated, I know, but it is a fantastic way to ensure that rare items are still relevant once you hit the higher light levels later on.


So, you’re gaining light level with your drops, but it appears to have plateaued, now what? I did notice that once you start to get into the 280s light level, it started to become harder to reach those higher levels. This is understandable, as I’m sure Bungie doesn’t want everyone to hit the maximum level within two weeks of the launch of The Taken King, however there are a few tips and tricks to keep your light levels climbing.

  • When decrypting engrams at the Cryptarch, ensure that you are wearing the highest power items you can, across armour, weapons, Class item, Artefact, and Ghost. More often than not, the decrypted item will be of a higher light level. However, this becomes less true once you hit 290.
  • Make sure to check each item after decryption, as it could be a higher level. If it is, pop it on before decrypting the next item. Rinse and repeat until all engrams have been decrypted.
  • Factions now have a bigger part to play, and with the new ability to boost your rank with them via Motes of Light, Weapon Parts, Armour Materials, Heavy and Special ammo synths, it is a great way to obtain higher level gear. You also have the chance to receive faction-specific items, such as shaders, ships, weapons and armour. Once again, make sure you have your highest level items equipped before ranking up.
  • The Court of Oryx is a quick and often simple way to get loot. The tier one runs usually take less than two minutes, and the person who initiated the encounter will often receive the best loot. So make sure to visit court as often as possible, even if you don’t have a rune to activate it.
  • Kill everything. You never know when a rare or even legendary engram may pop out of a downed enemy, so make sure to clear the room before moving on.
  • Xur is now selling a new item called Three of Coins, which gives the player a slightly higher chance of obtaining an exotic engram from boss-level enemies. They come in packs of 5, for 7 Strange Coins (I told you there was a multitude of currencies in Destiny now), so make sure to pick up a few when Xur returns on Friday. Ensure you pop one of these before you face up against a strike boss, for example, to increase your chances. However, be aware that these do not currently work on the Psion Flayers strike, or where there are more than one boss-level enemy.
  • Once you hit the 290s, as painful as it may be, drop your level to the 280s before decrypting engrams. Personally I have had a few instances where the engrams have decrypted into 295+ level items, which superseded anything I had equipped. This may just be a luck thing, but I’m not taking my chances.


The King’s Fall raid has a recommended light level of 290, so follow the above steps, and you should be able to give it a go soon enough, but be aware that you can access the raid with a light level in the 280s, but it’s going to be extremely tough for you.

Personally, I feel that levelling now makes much more sense than it did before. It also relies much less on RNG to get you to the higher light levels, but still requires a lot of work to get there. It feels much less “grindy” than it did before, especially as all of the above can be done whilst completing quests, strikes, crucible, patrol, everything.

The Taken King is proving to be much much more than just another expansion. As I said in my previous instalment, Bungie have listened to the player-base and have made changes to an already solid, if a little flat, shooter and made it much more of the MMORPGFPS they set out to create.

Part three of my review, focusing on the new strikes and Crucible modes will be here in the next few days, so make sure to keep checking back.

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