The crack of a rifle. The boom of a hand cannon. And now, the snap of a bow. Destiny’s gunplay is sublime. And keeps me coming back despite the game’s faults. Destiny 2 isn’t perfect. It probably never will be. But Forsaken takes a big step towards it.
We’re about a week out from launch, and I finally got some quality time in with Forsaken over the weekend. I wrapped up the story, hit level 50, played a whole bunch of Gambit, dipped into the Crucible, and started chipping away at the level 600 light cap. Here’s what worked for me, and what didn’t.
The game’s marketing gave us the lowdown on the story before launch. Cayde-6 is dead. At the hands of Uldren Sov (brother of Mara Sov) and his Barons. Forsaken opens as our Guardian and Cayde-6 show up at the Prison of Elders to help tamp down a prison riot.
It’s not the serious backdrop of Destiny 2’s original story, which is why we also see a goofier Cayde this time around. Cayde’s always been the ‘fun’ one out of the other Guardians, but the devs leaned into even heavier in Forsaken. Some might not like it, but it landed for me. Voiced by Nolan North this go around, Cayde’s quips and banter match the situation.
Minutes into the story, it takes a dark turn. Cayde-6 is dead. And the Guardian takes his body back to Earth. Zavala is his usual brooding self as he talks up how he must protect the people. Ikora wants justice for her friend. Then boom, our character speaks.
Zavala: “I refuse to bury another friend.”
You: “You won’t have to. Uldren Sov is mine.”
Too bad that’s pretty much the only line you say. I enjoyed Forsaken’s story for what it is, but having our Guardian banter with our Ghost or with the Barons would only elevate the story. It doesn’t help I’m not a big fan of our Ghost. I like the main story beats, but it struggles when our Ghost does the heavy lifting.
Forsaken’s story does a good job. Cayde-6’s death lands its emotional punch. And Uldron Sov and his Barons are compelling bad guys for the most part. But our Guardian getting only a couple of lines is such a tease. And wastes the potential for an even more engaging story.
Hunting down the Barons
High Moon Studios and Bungie did a great job giving each Baron a distinctive visual flair. And each one plays out like a mini-boss battle. It’s just too bad most of them turn into ‘keep moving, keep shooting.’ While visually distinctive, the mechanics play out mostly the same.
There are a couple of exceptions. During the Mad Bomber fight, I was running around defusing mines. It’s not an intricate mechanic, but it was still fun to do. The Rider puts you in a Pike vs. Pike battle. I’m not asking for raid mechanics, just a little something extra would be nice in the boss fights. For the most part, they felt like drawn-out fights against stronger enemies.
I still enjoyed each one, but there is room to make the fights as distinctive as the bosses themselves. I also liked hearing each one before you fought them. Again, having your Guardian quip something back during these moments would have been great.
My invisible sci-fi backpack is stuffed with rocket launches, assault rifles, fusion rifles, etc. And all I want to use is a bow. Yeah, it’s silly – but the devs shouldn’t have done such a fantastic job with it. The visual snap as you draw the bow to full power is so damn satisfying. Just look at this GIF I made.
There’s a couple of visual cues here telling me when I’m at full power. The color changing from red to green is one. But that snap sells how great it feels to use. Drawing back and landing headshot after headshot feels even more satisfying than the rest of Destiny 2’s arsenal.
The new Super(s)
My Titan traded his fire hammers in to fly like a missile. Yes, it’s awesome. Yes, I love it. But you only get to unlock one of three new Supers during Forsaken’s story. After that, you have to grind away in an area called The Blind Well in the new Dreaming City endgame zone.
Who the hell thought that was a good idea. Placing an integral part of your character behind a grind? Seriously? Terrible design decision. I’m glad I like my current one, or I would be pissed. It’s baffling decisions like this that always leave me shaking my head.
Where are the loot engrams?
Here’s another area Bungie can improve on. You get plenty of loot (at the end of missions, Gambit matches, Crucible matches), but it’s how you get it that could be better. Not once did I see an Exotic (best quality loot) during all the hours I’ve played so far. Hell, only one Purple Engram dropped during the moment-to-moment gameplay. The rest was a handful of Blue Engrams.
I’ve always wanted to see a system like Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls. The top tier loot should always have a chance of dropping. I’m not saying the exact loot table from the raids. That loot should always be reserved for only that activity. But Destiny 2’s gunplay would feel even more rewarding if you know, you were rewarded from time to time. Imagine Purple Engrams dropping more frequently while playing. Or, an Exotic Engram. Remember Destiny 1’s Loot Cave? Engram drops need to be better.
Destiny could even adopt a system like Diablo’s Ancient Items. This higher tier would be reserved for Exotic quests, Strikes, Raids, etc. While the base tier could still drop during Patrols, Missions, and other activities.
The loot is good; a couple of tweaks could make it better.
I still love Gambit
I loved it during the free trial before Forsaken’s release. And I love it even more now. It’s a great change of pace from regular Crucible matches while still giving you a little bit of that PvP action. There’s also a ton of strategy involved when it comes to banking ‘Motes,’ and invading the other team.
This becomes immediately apparent if you happen to play with a team of randoms against a team of four friends. Some matches were over from the get-go. But that’s the case with pretty much any multiplayer mode involving teams. Grab a friend, or three, and it’s a blast.
Matches often have thrilling ends as you juggle between burning down the final boss (the Primeval) or invading the other team. It’s fast-paced and fun. And with four maps and different enemy combinations, Gambit has staying power.
Beautiful, fun, exciting, emotional, and sometimes, a little frustrating
Destiny 2 Forsaken is more than worth the price of admission. The story does an excellent job for the most part, and nails the parts it needed to. Shooting aliens in the face never gets old, especially with the new bow. Gambit is the real deal. And the Dreaming City gives diehards plenty to do and discover in a beautiful new zone.
It’s not perfect. There are several head scratcher design decisions (supers, shaders, and the infusion mechanic). But it does feel like Bungie is taking a big step towards what they want (and we want) Destiny to be.
My backlog of games only continues to grow (hey Spiderman), but I’m already blasting my way through Barons again with my Hunter. I’d say Bungie and High Moon Studios did what they ultimately set out to do with Destiny 2 Forsaken. Make a quality expansion that puts Destiny 2 in a better place than it was a week ago.
Activision provided a review copy for the Xbox One