Reviews

Do it for Cayde — Destiny 2: Forsaken review

Destiny 2 Forsaken’s opening campaign mission sets the mood for the rest of the expansion. What starts as an explosion-laced, joke-filled quest to end a prison break suddenly turns tragic when the most beloved member of the vanguard, Cayde-6, is killed in action. After drying your tears and dusting yourself off, you go rogue and take it upon yourself to avenge the fallen hunter, space western style. The premise sets the expansion up for a darker tone than Destiny has had in the past, and delivers on that promise with a campaign that focuses on revenge and loss.

Forsaken’s big baddie is Uldren Sov, an awoken prince who fans will remember as the dickish blue guy from Destiny 1. Predictably, Uldren’s douchiness has not dulled since we last encountered him, and now he’s claimed the throne for himself with the “scorned” at his side. Throughout the expansion, you’ll be taking on this new enemy faction, and hunting down their leaders known as the barons. The scorned are one of the toughest factions we’ve seen in Destiny — raiders blast you with powerful sniper cannons, chieftains throw totems at you that wreak havok on the battlefield, and “screebs” run at you like wild animals with the singular goal of exploding in your face and killing you in an instant. The barons are even more dangerous, each with their own unique tactics. The Rider will try to turn you into roadkill atop her floating space motorcycle, while the mindbender will attempt to turn you into a warm jelly with his hive spells. Hunting each of these barons down and dealing with their hordes of enemies along the way is some of the most fun I’ve had in Destiny, and presents a sizeable challenge, especially for those taking them on alone and underleveled.

Like many of Destiny’s campaigns before it, Forsaken fumbles a bit near the end of the campaign, particularly with an incredibly underwhelming final boss fight that seems entirely unrelated to the rest of the campaign. Rather than serving as an ending to the story of Forsaken, the final level of the campaign is used as a way to transition away from the revenge quest and launch the beginning of the endgame experience, which focuses on the postgame “Dreaming City” and the mysteries that lie therein. Although I’m glad that Bungie finally gave the endgame experience for Destiny more focus and a more fleshed-out narrative that stands on its own, it’s a bit disappointing that the finale of the campaign trails off in the ways it does. It would have been nice to have the final payoff that players like myself were anticipating, especially after the stellar setup that had me champing at the bit to see my quest through.

After players are done with the main campaign, they can gain access to the Dreaming City, a new area that’s dedicated entirely to the endgame experience and has players chasing mysteries surrounding a Taken corruption and mysterious forces working from the shadows. Unlike other destinations we’ve seen in Destiny, this place has no purpose other than serving as a hub world for the endgame experience. There are unique bounties, quests, public events, lost sectors, a raid, a strike, and a fighting arena called The Blind Well — all of which are designed as post-campaign experiences for you to discover on your own.

It’s hard for me to express how awesome it is to have an area dedicated to the endgame experience. Since the beginning of Destiny the two biggest issues that players have had with the franchise is that the endgame is quite lean, especially considering that many players spend the vast majority of their playtime in the endgame, and that the game lacks depth. The Dreaming City aims to solve both of those issues at the same time by providing a space that’s filled with mysteries, high level gear, and tons of things to do.

Once you’re done with Forsaken’s campaign and you’ve had a chance to explore the Dreaming City for a spell, you might want to try out Destiny 2’s new PvE/PvP hybrid mode called “Gambit.” Gambit pits two teams of four against one another in a race to kill enemies, collect motes, and defeat a final boss before the other team can do so. The twist comes when players activate portals that allow a member of their team to invade the opposing team and kill them to delay their progress to the finish line. Once a primeval is summoned, the opposing team can invade as many times as they like on a 15 second delay, with each kill healing the primeval and buying time for the opposing team.

To put it bluntly, Gambit is fucking awesome. It’s easily the most unique activity Destiny has offered, and becomes downright addictive when you’ve got a squad of four running in to steamroll teams. Killing enemies and collecting motes is frantic and amusing, and invading the enemy team makes you feel like a cruel, dangerous badass. The Drifter serves as an entertaining MC and is one of the most likeable newcomers Destiny has had in a while. I’m looking forward to maxing out my “Infamy” rank and getting my hands on all of the unique rewards that Gambit offers.

Finally, there’s Forsaken’s raid, dubbed “The Last Wish.” At the time of this writing, I’ve spend nearly 20 hours in the raid getting my ass kicked, and watched my fellow guardians beat their heads against the wall trying to get to the end. I haven’t fully finished it myself, but after the first few encounters and from what I’ve seen and heard of the parts I’ve yet to conquer, this is easily Bungie’s most challenging activity that they’ve ever created. Massive, unforgiving, and chock-full of demanding mechanics, only 2 teams were able to complete the activity within the first 24 hours, which is saying something given how determined and skilled the Destiny community is. Once the raid boss fell for the first time, changes took place within the Dreaming City for all players. A new cutscene has been added, a new quest has unlocked and an additional strike has become available, all of which are fantastic. As the community searches for additional changes in the coming days, we’ll learn what else has changed with the death of Riven. Regardless of what is uncovered, the Dreaming City already seems to be fulfilling the promise of changing over time and serving as a trove of secrets for players to discover and riddles for players to solve.

And this all represents the tip of the iceberg in terms of things to do in Destiny 2: Forsaken. You can play some awesome new strikes, destroy your fellow guardians in Crucible, hunt for new exotics, and chase after powerful items gated behind quests and bounties. There’s also tons of stuff left yet undiscovered in the Dreaming City and beyond, some of which is surely hidden behind time gates and will become available at a later date. And let’s not forget about the new subclasses, which gives each of the three classes a new super and other abilities for each of their subclasses. This means that there are now nine new ways to defeat your enemies and feel awesome doing it. The sheer amount of things to do, collect, shoot, smash, and achieve will overwhelm you even after dozens of hours of play.

The beginning of Destiny 2’s fourth season, dubbed the “Season of the Gunslinger,” brings with it many sandbox changes that, while not technically a part of the Forsaken DLC, are important changes that permeate through every part of the game. The biggest of these changes is the modifications to weapon slots. For the past year, players were limited to using small arms for their kinetic and energy slots, like scout rifles, submachine guns, and hand cannons, and had to reserve their power weapon slot for all of the more interesting weapon types, such as shotguns, swords, snipers, and rocket launchers. Now, things have been opened up so that shotguns, snipers, grenade launchers, and fusion rifles can be equipped to either the kinetic or energy slots depending on their damage type. The power slot is reserved for the truly powerful weapons. Ammo management is based entirely on which weapons you decide to use. You can make things easier on yourself by utilizing small arms, which are easier to find ammo for, or equip an embarrassment of powerful weapons and pray you’re able to find enough ammo.

Weapons and armor now have random rolls when they drop instead of static perks, which is a return to the system that Destiny 1 had in place. This comes with pros and cons, depending on which side of the argument you’re on. The good things are that now there are never going to be drops that you should immediately dismantle. Now, even if you get a weapon or armor piece that you already own, you’ll want to check out its perks and decide if it’s worth keeping. This also means that those who want to grind their faces off can do so as they’d like, which is something fans have (somewhat disturbingly) been begging for since Destiny 2’s debut. The cons are that the sandbox is now going to be an unbalanced, chaotic mess, which just comes with the territory of introducing randomization. In other words, randomness brings the sandbox closer to Borderlands and farther away from Halo, which is a bad thing when it comes to maintaining a competitive environment. The other drawback of random rolls is that you can now grind for an item that you really want only to get a bad roll, which means you probably need to keep playing until you get a better one. This isn’t fun if you’re like me and don’t want to have to play Destiny every day for 10 hours just to stay competitive.

The weapon mod system has also been overhauled, which corrects one of the major issues I had with Destiny 2 vanilla. No longer do mods grant power and confuse players. Instead, they’ve become rarer and more elusive, and can be applied to weapons to grant specific modifiers that aren’t attainable through normal perks. For example, you can apply a perk that helps a weapon do more damage to bosses, or gives your armor a boost to mobility. I haven’t had a ton of opportunity to play around with the perk system, seeing as perks are much harder to obtain and shouldn’t be used before you’re sure you’ve found a weapon you’ll keep and use regularly, but so far this seems like a huge improvement upon the mod system we’ve had up until this point.

 

Two of the biggest additions to Destiny 2’s UI come in the form of the “Collections” and “Triumphs” tabs, which track all the gear you’ve acquired and all the in-game milestones you’ve completed respectively. The Collections tab is a great addition for the game’s most hardcore collectors, who can now view all of the items they’ve obtained in one place and see all that they’ve yet to acquire. If there are any items that you’ve dismantled and want to reacquire, you can do so from this tab and pay a small fee of glimmer and other minor currencies, which makes the collections system a serious game-changer. Gone are the days of living with the regret of having dismantled items that you suddenly later desperately need.

The major caveat here is that the ability to reacquire items you’ve collected only applies to gear from Year 1 of Destiny 2, which is a massive oversight that makes the collections system feel unfinished and far less useful than it could have been. The in-game reason for this limitation is that you aren’t able to reacquire gear with random rolls (one of the other new features that Forsaken brings to the table), but this excuse is laughable. It would have been simple enough to create a generic version of each piece of gear which could be reacquired on-demand, or better yet, let players choose any version of an item that they’ve gathered and assign it as their collection version of that item. But alas, this something like this doesn’t exist, which severely limits the usefulness of this feature.

The Triumphs tab, on the other hand, is flawlessly implemented, which gives you a seemingly endless list of in-game achievements to complete and rewards various cosmetic rewards as you progress. Whereas Destiny 2 vanilla left many players wanting more to chase, the triumph system ensures that you’ll almost certainly never run out of things to do. In the week or so that I’ve been playing, I’ve made it my quest to complete as many of these as possible, which has proven endlessly addictive and satisfying.

Finally, I feel the need to point out, once again, that Forsaken has timed-exclusive content for the PS4, a feature that has annoyed players (myself included) for years now, regardless of which platform they choose to play on. It would be one thing if this exclusive content had a more reasonable exclusivity window, but as has been the case for most of the content in the past, the exclusive window will last a full year. I understand the business reasons behind this decision, but always try to point out in every review I do for Destiny that this is a dumb policy that makes the game worse for players, not better.

90

Excellent

Destiny 2: Forsaken

Review Guidelines

Destiny 2: Forsaken is shooting and looting at it's best. Taking down Uldren and conquering the Dreaming City is an absolute blast. And with the changes and additions to the sandbox, there are more ways to be a badass than we've ever seen before. Destiny is back, baby. And this time it's in it for the long haul.

You know that jerk online that relentlessly trash talks you after every kill? That guy was probably Travis "Tie Guy" Northup. Competitive, snarky, and constantly wearing a tie--he's like the Barney Stinson of nerdy stuff. He has been writing his opinions about electronic media since he was a teenager, and is pretty much the only person to hold his opinions in high regard. When he isn't busy heckling video games, he is working as the operations manager for a technology media conglomerate or partaking in various comedic pursuits.
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