Video Game Review: Destiny 2: Forsaken
Someone brought a bow to a gunfight.
Given the success of the original Destiny game it’s no surprise to see Bungie and Activision running the same playbook with Destiny 2, offering a pair of midrange add-ons in the Season Pass and then dropping a massive expansion roughly a year into the game’s life cycle. Dubbed Forsaken, the new content looks to give hardcore players new carrots to chase while also luring back those that have drifted away.
Although there’s sure to be some disagreement as to what the marquee addition is, we’ll go with the all-new campaign centered on the heavily promoted death of Cayde-6. The wisecracking hunter, voiced by Nathan Fillion, has served as the series’ designated comic relief element, so taking him out carries more emotional weight than say Zavala, but there’s only so much grief to be conjured for a one-dimensional character.
Nonetheless, Cayde’s death allows you to embark on a less-than-noble quest of revenge on Uldren Sov, the fugitive from the Prison of Elders that murdered Cayde in cold blood. There’s something of an Old West feel to Forsaken’s campaign with its new location, the Tangled Shore, functioning as a lawless melting pot of factions, including Sov’s Barons and the all-new Scorn, a twisted and corrupted version of the Fallen.
At around seven hours, depending on your power, the campaign is enjoyable. The Scorn provide a much-needed change of pace in combat, utilizing some new tactics and abilities — it’s not a dramatic departure, but after years of killing the same enemies it’s legitimately different and not a simple re-skin. There are also good set pieces and battles contained within the missions, including a few real standouts, such as taking down Sov’s underling The Mindbender.
Of course, in terms of new content, the campaign portion just scratches the surface of what’s packed in the US$40 expansion. Within that is a significant change to the weapons system, which now bunches them by ammo type, moving weapons like sniper rifles and shotguns away from the power slot and allowing for more freedom when it comes to customizing your loadout.
That’s not the only substantive change to the weapon system, either, as random rolls are back, changing the stats of each dropped weapon and giving you a reason to get (relatively) excited about picking up the same gun for the umpteenth time.
On the other side of the spectrum, “masterwork cores,” which were introduced late last year, are now necessary to power up your weapon, making it a far more difficult and expensive process. Whereas it used to be relatively painless to sacrifice a powerful weapon you didn’t want to upgrade one you did, now it costs a considerable stack of resources, including legendary shards, glimmer, planetary resources and the aforementioned cores.
It feels excessive, making you hold off on improving a weapon until you’re really absolutely sure it’s the direction you want to go. It also creates the dilemma of either using underpowered stuff that you actually like or more level-appropriate gear you may not be fond of. Maintaining incentive to play is part of Bungie’s job, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see this dialed back a couple notches in the weeks/months to come.
Destiny 2’s crucible also gets some newness with the addition of Gambit, a new mode that’s essentially a hybrid of PvE and PvP. Here, two teams of four race to summon a powerful Primeval enemy and defeat it. To do that you’ll need to kill regular foes, collect the motes they drop (think Call of Duty’s Kill Confirmed dog tags) and deposit them in a bank.
While that sounds pretty straightforward, Bungie added some smart wrinkles to create tactical aspects. For instance, if you deposit five motes at once it’ll summon a creature(s) into the opponent’s area, blocking the ability to bank motes until its been defeated. Bank 10 or 15 motes and the creature becomes larger and tougher to kill. This incentivizes collecting a large chunk of motes before the deposit, but if you’re killed while carrying them you lose it all.
As you build up to the 75 motes needed to summon the Primeval, portals will open at the 25 and 50 plateaus, allowing a member of your team to invade your opponent’s world, wreaking havoc (read: shooting anyone carrying motes). Once the Primeval arrives more portals will show up, allowing additional PvP action. Overall, Gambit is a well conceived mode that encourages teamwork and communication.
In other co-op news three strikes have been added (PS4 players get a fourth) and are some of the best to date, featuring adjustable difficulty, new locations, story elements and interesting boss fights. You’ll also get access to Last Wish, the latest and, by all accounts, the most elaborate raid to date — for full disclosure, we lacked the requisite power level to make a serious run at completing it, though that content has always been aimed at the most dedicated of players.
There are plenty of other tweaks and changes as well, including the usual level cap increase, an all-new bow weapon, a quest to unlock a new focus for each of the nine subclasses, another new area (the challenging Dreaming City) and plenty more. Bungie has infused Destiny 2 with a ton of new content, and even after a couple of weeks we’re still a long way from experiencing all of it.
If you’ve moved on from Destiny 2 over the months since its launch, Forsaken is the perfect opportunity to jump back in. Most of Bungie’s adjustments were for the better, and the influx of content, including a stirring new campaign and strong new multiplayer mode, make the expansion a worthwhile investment.