Des­tiny 2: For­saken

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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

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