Disclaimer: While Destiny 2’s Forsaken Expansion is now live, the nature of it being a “live service game” means there is a lot of content to plough through. Rest assured, we will update this article in due course. At this point in time, however, we can discuss the campaign (and other new additions) with some authority. That said, we will be doing our best to avoid story spoilers outside of everything shown in the pre-release marketing material.
“Forsaken” is a “life or death” expansion for Destiny 2. While the original Destiny’s Taken King expansion rejuvenated the fledgling franchise, it remained disappointing to see Bungie need to rectify so many mistakes a year on from the launch of the sequel. Can Forsaken FIX Destiny 2? Forsaken starts strongly. Stepping back into the shoes of your Guardian, you’ll head to the Prison of Elders, a lock-up for the galaxy’s most wanted which was last seen in the original Destiny’s “House of Wolves” expansion. This time, however, the inmates are loose and you’ll fight alongside Cayde-6 to get them back in line. Needless to say, things go awry and…
SPOILERS FOR THOSE THAT HAVEN’T SEEN THE TRAILERS
Cayde is murdered. No resurrections, no “just kidding”, Cayde is dead. What follows is an unevenly paced but thoroughly enjoyable revenge tale across a new location, “The Tangled Shore”, hunting high-level enemies implicated in Cayde’s death (known as Barons), as well as the big bad himself, Uldren.
Unfortunately, after that strong opening (stuffed to the brim with gorgeous cinematics) it isn’t long until you’re sent on a short fetch quest, completing small (and easy) bounties. While it is a decent enough excuse to explore the new locale, the (admittedly very pretty) purple skybox and craggy asteroids never feel particularly inspired. Thankfully there is an endgame location which I hope will feel more like Oryx’s Dreadnaught. After running these very violent errands, it’s time to face the Barons. Most Baron encounters are marked as “Adventures” which mean no cutscenes.
That disappointment aside, some of the battles are truly epic – one tech-loving Baron known as the Machinist rains fire from the skies, sending you dodging and diving in order to line up your shots. Meanwhile, The Hangman’s enclosed arena caused constant misery, his minions laying traps as we danced the dance of death. Unfortunately, other encounters such as “The Rifleman” were a lot less exciting and in fact even when defeating him, completing the mission, the in-game “Triumph” system failed to recognize this. A minor gripe, admittedly.
These Barons head up an army of twisted Fallen variants known as “The Scorn”. Yes, that’s right – since Destiny’s launch in 2014, we still don’t have any truly new enemy races, at least visually. It’s disappointing but The Scorn are quick and aggressive, often rushing in with melee attacks. The original Destiny was at its best as a power fantasy – something the sequel lost at launch. Forsaken (and the patch that preludes it) rectifies this with true aplomb.
Weapon slot changes allow for more flexibility and tactical depth (and in many ways feels like a return to the original’s way of doing things), while the speed at which your Guardian moves feels positively supersonic compared to the plodding ways of the launch game. That said, nothing gets the party started like a “Super Move” and Forsaken adds nine (one for each subclass). On top of that, throughout the campaign new gear is doled out so liberally that the entire system felt Diablo-esque – at no point was I ground to a halt in my pursuit of leveling, always at around where I needed to be for the next Baron fight.
The joy of Destiny’s leveling has always been the ways in which it can be achieved, and Forsaken is the purest iteration of that ideal. You can level up by playing three player strikes with your friends, fighting in the Crucible against other players, or just playing the game at your own pace, seeking out treasure. While the new content is great, the patch prior to Forsaken reinvigorates existing content too – strikes are more fluid with the speed in which you can move, and Crucible now has those “oh-my-goodness-did-you-see-that” moments that had once been replaced by roving packs of players hunting stragglers.
So much of Destiny 2 feels new in the same way that The Taken King bought the predecessor back from the dead. All that said, I have a long way to go. When finishing the campaign, my main character now sits at a level of 500, with the level cap being 600. Unlike with prior campaigns, there is so much left to do – the aforementioned endgame area “The Dreaming City” needs to be opened through a quest, and who knows what I’ll find there?
Update – 11/9/18
After a few more days with Destiny 2’s Forsaken expansion, I have quests coming out of my ears. There are two Crucible questlines (much more enjoyable with the changes to PvP), and each daily objective is helping me climb the power levels. I’ve also unlocked the Dreaming City, a beautifully pastel new location with it’s own public events and NPCs. There’s also a new activity to complete there but, alas, I’m under-leveled at present. I’ll get there soon! What I wanted to focus on in this update is Gambit, a new third prong of the Destiny 2 “trident” alongside PvE (Player Vs Environment) and PvP (Player Vs Player). Essentially an amalgam of those, Gambit pits two teams of four against various enemies (decided at random at the start of the match).
Killing an enemy will relieve them of “Motes”, a currency which must be deposited. The bigger the enemy, the more motes they’ll drop. Deposit five motes and you’ll send a “blocker” into the opposition’s arena which will prevent them from depositing motes until it’s defeated. Ten motes will send a bigger blocker and fifteen will send an even tougher one. The catch is that any motes held are lost upon death, so try and go for the tougher blockers at your peril. Once you reach the endgame, you’ll have to fight a “Primeval”, a tremendously powerful enemy. First team to kill their Primeval wins.
Complicating things further is a portal connecting both team’s arenas – opening at certain points in the match, one player from each team will have thirty seconds to invade the opposition. Kills here can heal the opposition’s Primeval, or simply cause them to drop the motes they’re hoarding. There is nothing more satisfying than flying through the portal and eliminating the enemy team before hopping back to finish off your Primeval. While the entire match setup sounds complex, it plays remarkably well. New character “The Drifter” acts as your announcer and does a great job at explaining mechanics as you go. With it’s own set of loot, Gambit might be the most exciting addition to Destiny in years. Hopefully Bungie can keep it relevant with new gear to be earned.
I’m doing my best to be raid ready by the weekend, but what I can say is that even without it, Destiny 2: Forsaken is worthy of a purchase. If you’re burned out on Destiny, it may well bring you back – and given the way the fanbase has had to suffer at times, that’s high praise indeed.
Update – 18/9/18
Forsaken’s “Last Wish” raid landed on Friday 14th September, taking almost nineteen hours for the World’s First team to clear – congratulations Clan Redeem! While I’ve been unable to complete the Raid myself, I can confirm that Last Wish is a great blend of mechanic-heavy gameplay and damage dealing, and knowing the way Forsaken is – almost certainly laden with secrets.
I can, however, say that I’ve explored the Dreaming City – Forsaken’s end-game area. Between puzzles to solve and the Blind Well, as well as NPCs to speak to and bounties to complete, there is plenty to do here. This, tied to endless bounties from seemingly every vendor, means there is always something to inch toward. This progression is reinforced by a new milestone system – whereas before you’d be working toward a handful of objectives per week, these are doled out more liberally on a daily basis, and missing a day will cause them to stack – those who can only play at weekends will find plenty to work on, whereas those that play every day will be similarly occupied. It’s a real step up.
There are nitpicks – the current infusion economy makes bringing weapons to a higher power level a chore, requiring an inordinate amount of materials, while the Sleeper Simulant is making Gambit matches tricky – being able to invade, with a one-hit kill weapon, and immediately see every opposition player seems a tad on the overpowered side. There have also been several disconnects from the server – something a cursory browse on Twitter shows I’m not alone in.
Having been playing Destiny 2 on a near-constant basis over the past week, that’s about the highest compliment I can give – I can’t stop playing again. Whether it’s bounties, challenges or milestones, I’m inching my way up the light levels – a slow but varied progression path. The important thing is that those looking to level up will have great fun doing so, whereas those looking to hit high-level content with a dedicated group will be grinding for weeks to level three characters. Forsaken makes Destiny 2 a better game, no doubt about it.
In short, if you loved the original Destiny, you need to play Forsaken. If you loved Destiny 2 at launch but fell off (as I did) because of the disappointing endgame and dumbing down of the core mechanics, then you need to play Forsaken. The only thing more surprising than the turnaround Bungie have achieved is that they have done it twice now – lets hope they don’t need to do it a third time.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.