Destiny 2: Forsaken
Forsaken does more than expand Destiny 2. It rewrites it for the better.
Destiny 2 was not the game many players wanted at launch. It was a fun shooter, but shallow and further marred by poor post-launch design decisions. It is, therefore, a relief to say that Forsaken is the second wind Destiny 2 needed. It’s a full-fat expansion for Bungie’s space opera of a shooter, and comes with everything you’d expect: New missions, activities, and environments. But Forsaken also delivers expanded RPG elements and quality-of-life changes which make Destiny 2 more compelling. As you may have heard, the expansion opens with a big story beat: The death of Cayde-6, the chattiest and most lighthearted of Destiny’s Vanguard trio, a sort of council of leaders. Cayde bites it at the hands of Uldren Sov and the eight Barons who lead the Scorn, a scrappy new enemy faction loosely based on the Fallen. So begins a quest for revenge. The Man Who Shot Cayde-6 is somewhere out there in the badlands, and you’ve got to go through his oddball gang of henchmen to get to him.
The bulk of the campaign consists of Baron hunts, which are more than your typical Destiny boss fights. These hunts are unique missions which reflect the personalities and powers of the Barons you’re pursuing. I start with The Rider, the leader of a hoverbike gang. To lure her out, I hijack one of her precious ‘Pike’ vehicles and use it to slaughter some of her riders in her own territory. Thoroughly pissed off, she rolls up in her own souped-up Pike and challenges me to a death race through an acid-filled thunderdome.
As I dodge missiles, steal replacement Pikes, and evade the trail of fire that the Rider leaves in her wake, it occurs to me that this fight doesn’t feel like Destiny. I mean, I’ve hardly shot anything with a regular gun. But it feels great. Memorable, flavorful, and above all, unlike anything I’ve done before, which also describes much of Forsaken.
The next Baron to really stand out is The Rifleman. Blind, save for a single cybernetic eyeball, this bastard played an especially big role in Cayde’s death by shooting his Ghost—a floating resurrection-granting companion. As you may have deduced, he’s a sniper, so what better way to get his attention than to take potshots at him from his own nest? Eventually he gets tired of playing tag, and lures me to an arena where he and his army of hologram clones have the upper hand. While the actual fight is a fun challenge, it’s The Rifleman’s dialogue that elevates the encounter. He’s a marksman who delights in mocking my aim, which brings home one of my favorite parts of the Baron hunts: They’re not just about killing the Barons, but beating them at their own game.
I beat The Rider in a death race and I outshoot The Rifleman. Likewise, I take out The Mad Bomber by defusing his explosives and hunt The Machinist using a tank stolen from her personal arsenal. I’m genuinely surprised I can rattle these Barons off from memory, because going in I didn’t expect to remember them at all, let alone so vividly. Incidentally, The Machinist is my favorite Baron, again because of what she has to say rather than the fight itself. She talks about the other Barons like they’re part of her family, and she reveres Uldren Sov as a benevolent leader. The Barons stick together, she says. I can kill them, but never break them. Which is the first line in all of Destiny to ever give me pause. That’s what the victims tell the bad guys, right?
I’m genuinely surprised I can rattle these Barons off from memory
Shades of grey
Arguably for the first time ever in the series, Destiny’s story has become a bit ambiguous, and it’s a massive improvement. Destiny 2 has spent the past couple of years telling players to fight the Darkness and save the solar system, but maybe these Guardians that we play as aren’t the golden heroes they’re made out to be? After all, they are all corpses, having been reanimated countless times. Enemies revile them as the zombie warriors that they technically are, and it feels like Bungie is finally ready to tap into that. This kernel of doubt is further explored in Uldren’s storyline, which delivers a more conflicted, interesting
villain than anything the series has seen so far.
Forsaken’s campaign ends with a boss fight out of left field, but then it wouldn’t be Destiny without at least one bizarro moment. It’s still head and shoulders above every Destiny story before it, and, as Cayde’s friend Ikora is fond of saying, the end is just the beginning. Forsaken only ramps up once you finish the story. I quickly reached the soft level cap of 500 and began the slow climb to the hard cap of 600. Right now I’m not even halfway there, but I can already tell you that the leveling experience is way more enjoyable in Forsaken. For starters, there are just more things to do. With weekly and daily challenges, new dungeon-like Lost Sectors and Strikes, and a virtually endless stockpile of subquest-esque Bounties, I can hardly keep up.
There are over two dozen challenges to complete each week on each of my three characters. Many of these are returning challenges, like completing Strikes, PvP matches, and various activities on specified planets, but Forsaken introduces many new challenges. I can replay story missions for loot now, which is a fun way to revisit Destiny 2’ s genuinely great missions. Or I can hunt down highpriority targets scattered around the solar system, many of which are high-level. And every day I log in, I’m guaranteed at least one powerful drop from whatever I choose to do that day. More difficult challenges reward bigger power jumps, but the smaller, easier ones are just as important and exciting because they give me short-term goals to tide me over until the next big challenge. Most importantly, they mean I can’t burn through a week’s loot in one day like I used to.
I started hoarding guns and armor the moment I finished the story because gear is actually exciting now that it drops with randomly rolled perks. Even if new items don’t raise my level, at least every drop is another shot at a better roll. Getting a ‘god roll’ combo of perks like Outlaw (which gives near instant reloads after headshots) and Rampage (which stacks damage on kills) for a sweet hand cannon feels almost as exciting as finding one of the game’s bespoke Exotic weapons.
I’m particularly obsessed with armor. Some armor perks make ammo easier to come by, some improve your abilities, some buff the performance of specific weapons, and I haven’t even gotten to the mods you can socket. Coupled with the weapon changes that preceded Forsaken, that made weapons such as shotguns and sniper rifles available in every weapon slot, a staggering range of potential loadouts is suddenly at my disposal. I now can’t bear to part with anything that might end up being useful down the line.
I’m also loving the new bows, which are every bit as snappy as I’d hoped. I like pairing them with shotguns and rockets launchers, so I’ve been rocking a helmet that makes bows more accurate, gloves that give me more shotgun ammo, a chest piece that lets me hold more rockets, and a class item that gives me more heavy weapon ammo. I plan to build a perfect loadout for all of my setups, and I know I can if I put the time in. The hard part is building a perfect and fashionable loadout, which is difficult given how small Forsaken’s loot pool is. I’m happy to move on from Destiny 2’ s year one equipment, but I desperately wish year two launched with a bit more variety.
Even so, it’s nice to want to grind again, and to be doing so using new subclass trees. Forsaken didn’t add new subclasses per se, but the supers and ability nodes—clusters of skills that define your playstyle—that each subclass gained in the expansion feel like new classes in their own right. They’re more creative than the original subclasses, and many of them feel more powerful.
My favorite so far is the new Hunter subclass tree, Way of a Thousand Cuts. Hunter’s original Gunslinger branches are mashed-together messes of super and grenade abilities with no real synergy to them. In contrast, the Way of a Thousand Cuts branch has a proper combo built into it: My flaming throwing knives recharge my dodge ability and my dodge recharges my throwing knives. If I get multiple kills with my knives, they can also reduce their own cooldown to a frankly absurd degree. And if I equip an old, previously useless piece of Exotic armor called Young Ahamkara’s Spine, I can add fast-charging sticky grenades into the mix for even stronger synergy, enabling an endless chain of knives and grenades. Get good with this loadout, and you can run whole missions without firing a shot.
Forsaken is still fresh out of the gate, and has a lot to prove in the coming months. At the same time, it has already proven a lot. It had a lot of mistakes to correct, and between an engaging campaign and an engrossing endgame, it’s managed to right almost all of them. I’m coming up on 100 hours logged in the expansion, and I don’t even feel close to done, nor have I slowed down a bit. After a precarious first year, I’m finally enjoying Destiny 2 again. It feels good to have it back.
After a precarious first year, I’m finally enjoying Destiny 2 again