Destiny 2: Forsaken sets itself up as a parallel to Destiny 1’s biggest expansion: The Taken King. It’s an attempt at a revival for the game based on months of player feedback. Thankfully, Bungie has once again brought new life to this franchise through an expansion that, though backtracking on a lot of things, makes the game wildly enjoyable once again.
It starts out with something that also made players excited for Destiny 2’s original launch–there’s a call to action. In the same way that Gaul took our Light and destroyed our home in the base game, here, someone puts a bullet in our favorite wise-mouthing Vanguard Cayde-6. That someone is familiar to Destiny vanilla players as the sassy brother to the Queen of The Awoken and we’ve wanted to fight him for a while. What follows is an engaging and narrative-driven boss-rush filled with eight Skorn Barons (think of them as that prince’s henchmen) who each have a unique fighting style and are each responsible for Cayde-6’s death.
There are a ton of cutscenes this time around. Each mission was followed up by some sort of dialogue or something to remind you just how badly you wanted to kill Prince Uldren. I mean seriously, look at his face. Who wouldn’t want to smash that pretty face in?
At one point a Fallen Captain named Spider, who’s sort of like Jabba The Hutt but a little easier on the eyes, describes each of our targets in this expansion. He does so in a cutscene where each Baron gets their own playing card in a deck which leads them to have an animation. The whole thing reminded me a bit of the character introduction in the Borderlands franchise and that’s a really good thing. It’s good because, outside of Oryx (The Taken King), and maybe Gaul, I never was interested in who I was pumping lead into. Destiny 2: Forsaken builds up these characters, over the course of the 6-8 hour story, so knocking them down feels rewarding.
The missions where you fight each Baron are actually Heroic Adventures: a mechanic that was introduced into Destiny 2 to have players move about the world patrol world in a more organic way. This makes the game’s new main area, The Tangled Shore, feel like more of a destination than just a place for enemies to constantly respawn in Public Events. When my fireteam went after each of the Barons it felt like we had to go to their turf, their little cave safehouse. When we got there, each Baron’s unique voice and mechanics made them feel like we needed to adapt to their fighting style. One of the Baron’s is a Motorcycle gang leader and we had to race around to track her down. Another, a hulking madman with explosives who made fun of us as he hit us with them. Every time one of them mention how Cayde-6 begged for his life I wanted to put them down harder.
There’s a passion present here for the player which pushes them forward through the narrative. That’s something that Destiny struggled with before, but this time I didn’t feel like I was grinding missions just to hit the max level and to start gearing up for end-game.
Early on in the expansion, players are handed a bow–the game’s newest weapon type–for use in hunting down the Barons. It feels incredible. This kinetic weapon, meaning you don’t need any special or heavy ammo to use it, can make you feel like a marksman. Knocking your arrows back-to-back into the heads of the game’s new alien faction, The Scorn, is like nothing else in the Destiny franchise and knowing that there are Exotic bows out there makes me want to play the game even more.
Speaking of new mechanics, the game’s new augmented Supers are just the right amount of change I wanted to see. Some fans speculated since Destiny vanilla that we’d get a new element type to fuel our Supers but thankfully, these new additions simply add mechanics to previously existing talent trees. Their design doesn’t feel like a complete overhaul and I don’t think it should. The Sunbreaker Titan, for example, gets a two-handed hammer this time; the Dawnbreaker Warlock now stabs their fiery sword into the ground to buff allies rather than hurl flames. They’re each familiar to the way we were playing these classes but they’re just the right amount of new to excite the entire player base.
The way they’re unlocked feels a little time-gated, but that’s not a bad thing. In Destiny: The Taken King, a player could’ve unlocked all three of the new subclasses with relative ease and there was nothing stopping them from unlocking all three as fast as they wanted. Now, however, players need to pick their path carefully because that new tree of your Super is what you’re going to be using for the entirety of the Forsaken story campaign, and possibly for some time after. This made my decision to dedicate time to the Dawnbreaker matter. If Destiny 2 can make me feel like my decisions have weight then they’re on the right track.
The new PvPvE mode titled Gambit is an amazing addition to a game that previously struggled with competitive play in the Crucible. The game sees two teams of four players gathering motes of light from killing aliens and then banking them to both send a “blocker” (a troublesome Taken of variable size that prevents the enemy team from banking their motes) and to work towards summoning their own Primeval (A big baddie which, when killed, wins you the game). The interesting part on top of this is that each team is allowed to send one of their players to the enemy team’s section of the map (every so often). This player is tasked with hunting down enemy players. If you’re killed by an invading player you’ll either lose all the motes you’ve gathered or the Primeval you’re trying to kill will be healed.
This race to kill AI enemies is so refreshing and heart pumping that it is already one of my favorite activities I’ve ever experienced in the Destiny franchise. There’s just no comparing the feeling of dread when you’re moments away from killing the primeval and an invading player kills you and heals it. Likewise, when you’re going to deposit a heap ton of motes and right before you get there, the enemy team sends a blocker. Seeing as this activity comes with its own powerful rewards and daily quests, we’ll be playing it for a while and I can’t wait.
What follows in the story after you’ve slain all eight Barons is a bit of a letdown. Like Bobba Fett falling into the Sarlacc Pit kind of let down. Still, the first 90 percent of the story makes up for it. Though it might not make sense in the context of a revenge narrative, it does admittedly set up the story for the raid–which comes out on September 14–so we’ll have to see how this loose end gets tied up.
On a hardware level, Destiny 2: Forsaken reasonably favors those with the pseudo-next-gen consoles. Playing on an Xbox One S was a little frustrating considering my fireteam, with their Xbox One Xs, were out of the loading screens long before I was. They were repeatedly past the first checkpoint of a mission before I even loaded in. While it’s fair to expect performance boosts out of these “bigger-brother” consoles, it would’ve been nice to see the game optimized for the older ones just so much as to allow us to play the game at the same time.
Destiny 2: Forsaken is, in many ways, a return to vanilla Destiny. It takes aspects of the game that players loved from The Taken King and reinstalls them in this sequel. Some might have trouble with the idea that this is backtracking, but for me, it shows a development studio which is learning from its mistakes and continually crafting something that players–like me–want to dump hundreds of hours into. Destiny 2: Forsaken is the most polished Destiny we’ve ever seen. Its story is meaningful, its progression is fun, and its gameplay is faster than ever.
These are my impressions from my time with the game so far. I’ll have to wait until the raid launches next week to give my score and to see how it ties this story together. For now, I’m getting my light level up and seeing how many exotics I can collect in the Dreaming City. Be sure to check back for the full review as well as anything related to Destiny 2: Forsaken. If you’re looking to get into the game before the raid launches you can purchase the game over on Amazon.
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