Destiny 2: Forsaken
PC, PS4, Xbox One
Developer Bungie Publisher Activision Format PC, PS4 (tested), Xbox One Release Out now
Blow out the candles and call off the vigil: Cayde-6 is very much alive. Sure, he pops his clogs early on in Forsaken’s campaign, but his death at the hands of Uldren Sov is the spark for a thoroughly entertaining space-western revenge tale. His little cubby-hole in the Tower social hub, from which he spent Destiny 2’ s first year selling treasure maps, handing out Flashpoint rewards and quipping like it was going out of fashion, stands empty. And his fellow NPCs speak in saddened tones about the ally they’ve lost to Destiny’s latest big bad. But dead? That’s impossible in a game built on repetition. With the campaign completed and our comrade avenged, we load into one of last year’s strike missions and there he is on the comms, bantering away as always. Closure? Hardly.
It’s made even more jarring by the fact that Nathan Fillion, voice of Cayde throughout Destiny’s lifetime, has left the cast. His replacement, Nolan North, is presumably on Bungie’s speed dial: he was also parachuted in to take Peter Dinklage’s place as the voice of your Ghost in Destiny’s second-year expansion, The Taken King. While North and Bungie’s audio teams do their best to make the two roles sound distinct, the build-up to Cayde’s demise does lose a little of its impact when you realise that most of the opening mission’s dialogue is being performed by one man talking to himself. You can almost see the sock puppets.
Yet North’s expanded remit is appropriate, since Forsaken does for Destiny 2 what The Taken King did for the first game in 2015: taking a promising, wellmeaning but deeply flawed game and fixing it up. In a certain light, this year’s effort can be seen as the greater achievement, given the sorry mess that Destiny 2’ s first year turned out to be. Yet it’s equally true that it should never have come to this; that Forsaken is the real sequel to Destiny. It is the game we should have received last year; one that benefits from and builds upon, rather than abandons, all that Bungie learned from the first game and its expansions.
The result is a game that feels a lot more like, well, Destiny. Forsaken is not an expansion, but rather the latest and biggest milestone in an ongoing process across Destiny 2’ s first year, which Bungie has contritely spent walking back many of the changes it made in the transition to the sequel. Crucible, the PvP mode changed amid much bluster to a 4v4 format last year, is now mostly 6v6 again. Nightfall strikes, an endgame pillar in Destiny that were neutered in the sequel, are nails-hard once more. Destiny 2 did away with random perks on loot drops; Forsaken brings them back.
The Destiny 2 weapon system has also been abandoned, and is now more flexible than ever. Get lucky with loot and you can stick a shotgun or sniper rifle in all three slots, although this is more a theoretical benefit than anything, used by Bungie in its marketing effort to show the extent to which things have changed. As ever, it’s not the guns that matter so much as the perks, and these have been overhauled. So too has the mods system, with the base game’s vast pool of slender buffs replaced by a smaller set of perks with more noticeable impact. The result is that every new weapon or armour drop is exciting, at least at first. Once you inspect its perks and realise you’ve still not got the god roll you’re after, the thrill evaporates, but it’s still a marked improvement over last year’s version, where duplicate drops were pointless, and dismantled on sight.
Away from the minutiae of structure and game balance, however, Forsaken does represent several strides forward for the series. First and foremost, it is packed with things to do, since Bungie appears to have finally settled on a way to make every activity type worthwhile. A new challenge system offers a series of weekly routes to powerful rewards, and at least one daily activity that guarantees the same. This ensures there’s something to do every day, and brings many neglected activities back into worthwhile rotation. Adventures, Lost Sectors, missions from the base game’s fine campaign; all have been returned to the endgame fold, offering a greater challenge and a valuable payout.
Bounties also return, offering not only dollops of XP, materials and the occasional new toy, but often asking you to play an activity you’d otherwise ignore. They might require you to tweak your playstyle, nudging you out of your comfort zone to use a shotgun or sword instead of your trusty sniper or rocket launcher, or switch subclass to rack up kills of a certain element. The new Pursuits screen tracks bounties and active quests; you can hold up to 50, and there’s an innate pleasure in surveying your shopping list and looking for an efficient way of crossing off a swathe of it in one mission. Some bounties last a week, and require a little more effort. Most expire after 24 hours, further incentivising efficient play. To those who prefer a longer chase, Triumphs is a sprawling achievement system built to last for months, offering real-world rewards as you increase your total score.
The result, as you might have gathered, is a tremendous amount of stuff, which is all the committed Destiny player could reasonably ask for. In the unlikely event that you run out of things to do, a daily buff increases the chance of a powerful Prime engram dropping from strong opponents. The odds are long, but it theoretically means you need never stop playing. Maintaining multiple characters was a necessity last year if you wanted to play every day; now it is at best a luxury, and to most it will be a struggle.
It’s worth the work, however. Each of the game’s three classes has been given a new super and skill tree for each subclass – meaning there are nine new
Forsaken is the real sequel to Destiny. It is the game we should have received last year
playstyles in all, the most any Destiny expansion has ever introduced. All of them are absolute beauties, offering perfect synergy both within themselves and when partnering up with other players. The Warlock, for example, can throw a Kamehameha-style beam of arc electricity, drop an AOE field that heals and buffs damage, or gain access to a teleport ending in a quick, damaging burst of energy. One offensive super, one for support, another tailor-made for PvP: perfect. The other classes have been similarly well treated. Sentinel Shield finally gives the Destiny 2 Titan a useful support class, while the Hunter’s Blade Barrage might be the most satisfying super-move to ever appear in Destiny.
Storytelling is much improved, too. Cayde’s demise necessitates a shift in tone, since Fillion’s character was the fulcrum of Destiny 2’ s light-heartedness. Last year it felt like a welcome departure from the self-important tone of the first game, but it quickly grew cloying.
Forsaken is naturally darker, and not just because Fillion is gone. This is a tale of revenge, for a specific reason, on a known foe – well, foes. Sov may be the ultimate goal, but to get to him you’ll need to take down the eight Barons who do his dirty work for him. Each has their hook. One rides a fire-spitting vehicle; another’s a sniper with an army of hologram decoys; another still lays dummy engrams and ammo boxes that explode when you try to pick them up.
We’re not exactly talking about raid-style levels of mechanical complexity here, but each fight feels unique, and is about more than simply equipping your strongest gear and melting the boss’ health bar as quickly as possible. All, naturally, are meant to be replayed, and are repurposed as Heroic Adventures once you’ve avenged Cayde’s death.
As you’d expect, once Sov has been dealt with, the endgame begins, but this time it does so with the addition of a brand-new destination. The Dreaming City is a gorgeous, baffling region, packed more full of secrets than any previous area in the series. The endgame’s been structured to take you all over the solar system, but The Dreaming City is its focal point, home to the highest-level enemies and some devious mechanical challenges. When, ten days after launch, the Last Wish raid was cleared for the first time, the City changed, with new missions and activities unlocked.
As for the raid? We’ll have to get back to you. With the progression curve longer in Forsaken than in any previous Destiny expansion – the base game’s Power cap of 400 has been raised here to 600 – it’ll be a while before we’re truly ready to take on the toughest challenge Destiny has offered to date. That hasn’t stopped us trying, but – well, let’s just say it didn’t go quite as planned.
Yet Forsaken’s biggest achievement is that it doesn’t matter that we’re weeks away from being raid-ready. For the first time, Bungie has successfully remedied two of the most frequent criticisms of Destiny: that there isn’t enough to do, and that its endgame is overly focused on raiding. For now, Last Wish can go whistle; we’ve got rather a lot on, you know. We’re cautious – history shows us Bungie is only ever one new release from messing everything up again – but it finally feels like the developer is really listening and, more crucially, learning. Cayde-6 may be gone, but the game he leaves behind is in better shape than ever.
Forsaken introduces AI allies to the Destiny formula. Spider, deposed kingpin of the new Tangled Shore area, wants your help in reclaiming his throne, and lends you his forces. They’re mostly useless, however