Also On: Xbox One, PC
Developer: Bungie, High Moon Studios
Up until this point in time and space I?d say that most Destiny fans would proclaim Destiny: The Taken King and Rise of Iron to be among the pinnacle of Destiny experiences thus far. It goes without saying that fans were expecting to jump into the sequel exactly where the original Destiny left off in terms of storytelling, pacing, post-game activities and otherwise. That wasn?t quite the case however, in many ways, especially when compared to the quality-of-life strides that the original Destiny had made towards the tail end of its run (not that it?s totally dead and buried or anything).
Out of the box, much of the Destiny 2 experience did not fully live up to expectations set by the Destiny: The Taken King expansion. From the well-paced player progression to the enjoyable and always active post-game activities, there was certainly more than enough to keep players coming back for more on a daily, if not weekly, basis. The objects that shined brightest in that era of the original Destiny were the across-the-board improvements that Destiny 2, at launch, was strangely missing. There was likely some overlap between the development efforts of later, superior Destiny 1 content and systems and early Destiny 2 content and systems, which would explain the lack of certain features and niceties that players grew accustomed to. It was something that veteran players complained about and had to live with until Bungie and Activision put forth the effort to right the wrongs. Thankfully, they did.
The fans were loud and clear since then and Bungie and Activision sister devs High Moon Studios worked on improving the Destiny 2 base game and developing additional content in an effort to reach or transcend what Destiny: The Taken King brought to the table. It?s taken a while — well, a full year — but Bungie and company were able to seemingly bring Destiny 2 back to glory just in time for the Destiny 2: Forsaken expansion. And for those not aware, many of the QOL updates are actually tied to the base game, so even those who delay or forgo picking up Forsaken will benefit from the hard work that Bungie and friends have been putting in. Really though, fans not considering leaping into Destiny 2: Forsaken would probably be making a mistake.
Destiny 2: Forsaken is not just a little DLC content pack, it?s a full fledged Destiny story campaign with unique characters, environments, adventures and quests, and as you’d expect, a lot of loot and equipment to acquire. There are new PvE and PvP maps and rewards and the hybrid Gambit mode has turned out to be quite a lot of fun and very pick-up-and-play friendly. Of course there?s the fresh new The Last Wish raid (which took a whopping 19 hours to first complete), The Blind Well PvE challenge and more updates, enhancements and new content than is worth listing out individually.
As for the story and campaign, what Bungie has crafted for Destiny 2: Forsaken is both memorable and interesting, and most importantly, paced just about right. Killing off Cayde-6, surely one of the series? most beloved personalities, was a pretty risky move but with revenge as one of the central themes of Forsaken it?s a way to raise the stakes and have players care about the events unfolding around them. There?s only so many times and ways you can save the universe and care about it — though hunting down the enemies involved in murdering one of your friends and mentors makes it way more personal. The campaign is actually somewhat of a challenge with a set of unique Baron mini-boss encounters of increasing difficulty requiring players to spend time working on other activities to rank up to the point where they won?t be slaughtered. The level cap has jumped all the way to 50 with a soft light level cap of 500 until players get involved in the myriad of post-game activities and content with more powerful equipment drops. At this point, elite dedicated players can potentially reach a 600 equipment light level, which we?re sure will still take quite a lot of effort to spite the relatively smooth progress and pacing.
Character classes have a number of new subclass paths to unlock and abilities to earn which does a lot to spice up what players have been using since the launch of Destiny 2 base game. Titans, Warlocks and Hunters are a lot more flexible in terms of gameplay styles since each have access to all the elemental-based abilities (Solar, Void and Arc). The combat bow weapon archetype introduced in Forsaken is also extremely fun to use and surprisingly fits into the existing equipment very nicely.
One of the most obvious improvements to the Destiny 2 experience with Forsaken is the increase of opportunities to pick up better gear and weapons. You don’t always need to gather a fireteam to complete the Raid or Nightfall activities since there are many, many options, on a daily and weekly basis to pick up legendary and powerful gear just by playing. In doing research for this review, it helped to play through a couple of weekly Tuesday resets as a reminder of the solid variety of milestones, bounties, challenges and pursuits out there to get involved in. There?s a good balance of casual PvP and PvE activities in Destiny 2: Forsaken, and players do not need to log on every day to feel like they are making forward progress in the post game. The grind is there for players who love it, it?s just not a requirement.
In general, the systems in Destiny 2 have changed mostly for the better since the launch of Forsaken. You?ll definitely hear some (not totally unfounded) whining about the gear infusion/upgrade economy works now as compared to what was rolled out with the base Destiny 2. Keeping your favorite gear and just infusing it with higher level gear from your inventory now requires many more materials, some of them being fairly rare and uncommon and seemingly not related to the process. On the other hand, the more randomized gear drops are generally more generous so players may not feel the need to constantly upgrade what they have, and take the opportunity to mix it up a bit.
Destiny 2: Forsaken is definitely a gorgeous looking game, of course, so was the original Destiny, Destiny 2 and all the expansions and DLC. Once again, Bungie?s art direction, from the new Scorn enemies, Barons and bosses, to the dramatic in-game skyboxes, to the UI overlays is always consistently high quality and top notch. The new Tangled Shore area of The Reef is well designed, and neither too big nor too small, and always full of action and activities. It?s a rare sight if there?s not waves of enemies or public events kicking off every couple of minutes with players right in the middle of the action.
In terms of the post game, if players follow up on the optional quest to reach The Dreaming City they will be presented with a rather stunning, generally bright and almost serene new outdoor environment littered with activities, patrols and bounties, along with difficult enemies. There?s a bit of a catch, however. Once that first team of Guardians successfully completed The Last Wish raid and took down the boss, the location became a little more chaotic and gloomy than before for the entire player community. Apparently the location will change and evolve on some sort of cycle and based on other world events, which is a great way to keep it interesting for regular players. There?s also a wealth of secrets to be discovered and it seems that players are just uncovering the tip of the iceberg thus far.
Whether or not you agreed with the semi-lukewarm reception of Destiny 2 and the earlier DLC content, Destiny 2: Forsaken is the real deal. The platform as a whole still feels like a work in progress with the systems and equipment subject to balancing and enhancements, but the game is undeniably in a place similar to where the original Destiny was at the launch of The Taken King expansion. If Bungie?s blueprint for Destiny 2: Forsaken is accurate, dedicated players, casual or hardcore, will be kept rather busy with new seasons of content and evolving activities. At the very least, Destiny 2: Forsaken is a great place to get started as a new player — or re-started as a Guardian with a few notches on his or her belt.
Note: Activision provided us with a Destiny 2: Forsaken PS4 codes for review purposes.