Update: In light of recent and constant changes to Forsaken that have added more content to the game during the Season of the Outlaw, the score has been bumped up from 8.5 to 9.0.
Cayde-6 is dead. He died with his Ghost, fighting a horde of Scorn and their Barons just before the Forsaken prince Uldrev Sov delivered a killing blow. Three: in certain extreme situations, the law of the Last City is inadequate. In order to shame its inadequacy, it is necessary to act outside that law. To pursue… natural justice. This is not vengeance. Revenge is not a valid motive, it’s an emotional response. No, not vengeance.
Destiny 2: Forsaken isn’t an expansion with a heroic story to it. In many ways, it’s a game that attempts to finally bring balance to Bungie’s topsy-turvy narrative, throwing players into the deep end of a tale that has no clearly defined heroes or villains. Make no mistake, Uldren Sov is still an absolute bastard and the Scorn are more a force of nature than a united species of anarchists who worship the flames of their hatred, but there’s a sense of grey in the morality of Bungie’s latest chapter in the Destiny universe.
Beyond that, Forsaken is also Bungie’s attempt to rewrite its own future. To draw back the fans who eventually parted ways with a game that began to show cracks in its foundation after it arrived in September last year. Does Forsaken manage to do for Destiny 2 what The Taken King did for the original game? For the most part, yes. Forsaken puts Destiny 2 back on track to be the game that it was supposed to be last year, albeit with a few speed bumps on the way.
Forsaken’s real draw isn’t its story which can easily be finished within an afternoon of play, but rather what it brings to the table. Part of those massive changes include a substantial rework to just how weapons work in Destiny 2, bringing the game back to a template that the original had perfected. Shotguns, Fusion Rifles and Sniper Rifles can now all be used in your secondary slot, emphasising a more flexible approach to combat that also focuses on giving players the sense of power that was missing from the sequel.
Maybe that’s the biggest takeaway here, as Destiny 2’s biggest problem was its drive to carve out space for itself in the PC market by offering a multiplayer game that catered to those specific tastes. It resulted in players returning to a universe where it felt like their power to behead the god of an ascendant realm with his own blade had been stripped from them in much the same way that Dominus Ghaul had ripped the light from their avatars in the opening minutes of Destiny 2.
Instead, there was an idea that pedestrian four-on-four multiplayer games would hit the mark, an idea that impacted negatively on the rest of Destiny 2. Bungie’s biggest mistake was in casting aside the thrilling power fantasy that they had developed across three years of experimentation and expansions, in favour of a game that was…balanced. In other words, Destiny 2 became absolutely boring.
All of that has changed in recent months, for the better. A Go Faster update added more power and speed to Guardians, Exotic gear was heavily reworked to be blisteringly powerful again and several events were retuned to restore a sense of mystery to Destiny 2. Forsaken continues along that path, introducing players to the Tangled Shore and the Scorn, a vicious new enemy that reworks enemies into brutal new antagonists who boast rejiggered attack patterns and abilities.
Chief among them are the Barons who all played a hand in the death of Cayde-6, with each of these primary new antagonists receiving their own adventure that players can tackle in any order. It’s brilliant stuff, as Guardians find themselves racing through deadly obstacles whil pursuing one Scorn Baron, engaging in a tense sniper fight with another sharp-eyed killer and dodging to the best of their ability when facing a mad bomber what bombs at midnight.
On its own, the Tangled Shore feels like a great step forward for Destiny 2, but more along the lines of one of the previous greatest hits in the library of that game ala The House of Wolves. Not bad, but not enough right? We’ve seen hunts for bounty targets before, a few new weapons can only add so much value to the expansion and the fight against Uldren Sov is over before it even begins.
That’s when Forsaken truly begins to shine, when players get given the keys to the Dreaming City.
That’s right, there’s not one but two new locations for players to explore in Forsaken. While the Tangled Reef feels like a perfect home for any Guardian who dreams of slapping leather and drawing iron in a landscape that floats amongst the debris of Saturn and features dusty landscapes aplenty, the Dreaming City is something else entirely.
The Awoken capital is a gorgeous land of mystery, filled with scenic vistas and a mysterious mist that hides the secrets and treasure of one of the most elusive races within Destiny 2. That it has been infected with a Taken and Scorn presence adds to its mystique, and a week later after exploring it I’m still finding surprises around every corner. Ascendant challenges, preparation for the Raid ahead and new Lost Sectors filled with dozens of enemies adds value to Forsaken when viewed from a distance.
There’s also the new public event space in the form of the Blind Well, but the third time is definitely not the charm here as Bungie continues to make the exact same mistake it did with Rise of Iron and Warmind, forcing players to pray that the space will be sufficiently populated so that they can survive an encounter and earn some necessary loot to help them survive the trials ahead.
Spoiler: The Blind Well is never populated, I’m wasting charges of light here and even a full fireteam isn’t enough as the challenge presented to players is ludicrous even when they’re scraping the ceiling of the power available to them. The fact that players need to tackle the Blind Well to earn a chance at obtaining Seeds of Light with which to unlock their other new subclasses, feels like salt in the wound as well.
Which is a pity, because those subclasses are fantastic. You’ll have a chance to unlock one early on in Forsaken, choosing from new abilities that give you pure new offensive skills to Raid-essential Supers such as the Warlock’s new Well of Radiance powers. If there are other ways to unlock these new sub-classes,then Forsaken is doing a poor job of guiding players along the right route to do so, intentionally tripping them up and providing a nearly impossible method for obtaining more power.
Where the Blind Well falters however, Gambit succeeds. A new mode that actually does provide the perfect mix of challenge and fun, Gambit sounds easy enough: Face a horde of enemies with a team of three, bank the motes of light they drop and summon a Primeval enemy to defeat before the opposing team can do so as well. Gambit introduces a new spanner in the middle of this however, by giving players a chance to invade the opposing side and deal some damage that hinders the team.
It’s exhilarating stuff, a showcase of Bungie at their very best in a mode that quickly becomes tense and will have your armpits drenched in the sweaty disappointment of being that one fireteam member who dropped all their motes because they got too greedy. It also ties into the current direction of Destiny 2, as Bungie attempts to turn the game back into a hobby that’s worth visiting daily or even weekly.
The path to power now requires a more constant grind, with powerful gear doled out from several activities across the solar system. Crucible matches, Flashpoint events and daily heroic stories all add to the grind, giving players a reason to revisit and recycle the actions of older events in addition to the new content available.
The question then, is in the value of that grind. Beyond the obvious increase in power, Destiny 2: Forsaken adds to its cycle of focused violence by also giving players a chance to unlock entire books of new lore, earn new weapons and fight for the materials needed to obtain and upgrade them. There’s an eye on not only reinvigorating the series, but also on making certain aspects easier while also giving the more hardcore players a true sense of achievement.
More than a week after launch, and I’m thoroughly enjoying Forsaken and all of the much-needed improvements that it brings to the table. Forsaken arrives with a ton of momentum behind it, but how it’ll maintain its current explosive direction remains to be seen. For now at least, the Tangled Shore is a mess of fugitives and danger that needs to be tamed in exchange for a fistful of Glimmer, and being the one Guardian who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty as brings the law to a lawless frontier is still a whole heap of fun.
Last Updated: October 2, 2018