The latest, and hopefully greatest chapter in the Destiny 2 saga has now been released to the waiting public. Called Forsaken and released in a bundle with the previous two expansions, can Destiny 2 get back on track after a rocky patch, or is it too little too late? Let’s fire up our Ghosts and find out.
I’ll touch first on the other expansions that are included – The Curse of Osiris and Warmind. These are what I’d class as mini expansions, introducing new story missions, weapons and characters, reminiscent of the House of Wolves from Destiny 1. They did expand the Leviathan Raid with new content, called Raid Lairs, rather than introducing a whole new raid. The first expansion, Curse of Osiris was largely a disappointing affair, with the character of Osiris, who has been built up in Destiny folklore since the first game, appearing in the first and last missions, for no more than ten minutes. He feels criminally underused. The introduction of the Infinite Forest on Mercury was a great idea, and the idea that any reality can be simulated inside its borders is fascinating, but the execution on Bungie’s part didn’t live up to the potential.
The second expansion, Warmind, deals with the last AI Warmind in existence, Rasputin, and how he can be used to defeat an ancient Hive worm god. This is a better expansion, with the story missions being more of a challenge, and a couple of fun Strikes being created. The character of Rasputin, the voice over of Stephen Fry, and the introduction of Ana Bray, heir to Clovis Bray made the story a lot more engaging. This expansion also introduced the Escalation Protocol, a horde type experience where the partaking Guardians are required to defeat increasingly tough waves of enemies. This is a lot of fun, but you really need a fireteam or an obliging bunch of nearby Guardians if you hope to progress. I have noticed that since this expansion released there are a lot more Guardians floating about, so the potential is there for fun times.
On now to the meat of why we are here – the Forsaken expansion. In what is probably the most heavily trailed story event I have ever seen, Cayde-6, everyone’s favourite member of the Vanguard, is dead. I’m saddened by this, as I feel that we could have lost Zavala or Ikora with just as much impact on the story. Nathan Fillion’s delivery of his character has always been one of the highlights of Destiny for me, so to lose him is a real blow. He was killed by Uldren Sov, Prince of the Awoken and brother to the missing Queen Mara, in a prison break from the Prison of Elders. It was good to see the Prison again, after the amount of time we spent there in Destiny, and the scene where Cayde dies trying to stop an escape is very emotionally charged. One thing Bungie have always been great at is the extended cut scene, and this is one of the greatest, with Cayde brought down by a gang of Fallen Barons working together from the shadows. After he is down, and his Ghost is gone, Uldren kills Cayde with his own gun, and the scene is set for a good old fashioned revenge mission to bring his killers down.
This introduces new areas to the story, starting with The Tangled Shore, an outpost on the edge of The Reef, the traditional Awoken homeland. When we land there, we get to meet the Queen’s Wrath again, Petra Venj, and a new character, known only as Spider. Spider is a Fallen, with a kind of spider leg chassis, like the final boss in the Rise of Iron raid from Destiny 1. It turns out Spider used to run the Tangled Shore, at least until the Fallen Barons rocked up on his doorstep, and he’d quite like to rule it again. What this translates to is a series of missions that you have to complete to get him on your side, after which he will reveal the location of the Fallen Barons and you can get your vengeance underway.
Each of the Barons has a recommended power level, and the missions are very challenging, so it’s best to pay attention to the level requirements. Of course, if you can rope in a friend or two it will make progress very much smoother. The Barons in question, and their followers, all started life out as Fallen, but have changed and mutated to become very different now. There are ones that rush you and explode – the Screeb – there are other with metal shields that deflect bullets, some that channel the power of fire and try to set you alight, and others who just wear stupid crown like hats and snipe with crossbows from afar. Add to this the presence of both the Hive and the Cabal, along with regular Fallen on the surface and the scene is set for some epic battles.
Luckily, loot drops come thick and fast, and follow the familiar Destiny pattern for expansions, where blue rarity gear soon starts dropping at a higher power level than the legendary and exotic kit you were wearing at the end of the last expansion. I must admit, most of this is used as infusion fuel for my favourite weapons, but this system has undergone a change, with the introduction of extra consumables being required to infuse. No longer is it just a matter of infusing away, you now need masterwork cores and various planetary collectables to achieve your aim. Luckily, Spider will sell a rotating inventory of these items, and so you are never really stuck. It’s worth mentioning the Masterwork cores though, as these are very expensive in terms of legendary shards, and each one you buy in a day doubles the price of each subsequent Core. But with suitably powered up gear, Baron hunting can commence.
The Barons are a varied bunch, with wildly different looks and tactics required. Their design is well up there with the best of Bungie’s work, and the missions are also a varied bunch. One of them has to be taken down while riding a Pike, and there’s a whole section in the mission where Ghost has to attune the Pike to you to enable you to control it. Another mission sees you reassembling a Drake tank, and then using it to deliver justice to the bad guys. In a cool part, Ghost provides covering fire with the tank while you scavenge parts, and it’s in imaginative parts like this that the old Destiny magic begins to shine through. The dialogue between you and the Ghost is again top notch, and in a shocking move, in some of the cutscenes our Guardian actually has a voice!
Once the story is over, it’s time for the end game. Now when it launched, and arguably even after two expansions, the end game content in Destiny 2 was weak. It appears that Bungie have listened to the criticism, and now there appears to be a plethora of things to do. In addition to the Tangled Shore, a whole new area is unlocked – The Dreaming City. In here are new public events, new missions, a new end game activity called the Blind Well, and also a brand new Raid called Last Wish. Petra is your host for this part of the Destiny Universe, and there’s also a new style of Crucible match – Gambit. It is gratifying to see that the regular Crucible, and by extension Iron Banner has reverted to 6v6; 4v4 was a bit limiting in terms of people to hunt down and kill. With the move back to larger battles, the scope is there for even more fun and it is very enjoyable once again. With both weekly and daily rewards for completing activities, there is a real push to build your character and raise their power level. The cutoff for the raid – and for the Nightfall Strikes – is now 540, and boy is it a grind to get there. I have to say though, the helmet that you get from the completion of planetary activities is absolutely hideous.
So the Crucible is back to business as usual, but what of this new Gambit mode then? Well, it’s best described as PvPvE, as it is two teams of Guardians who inhabit separate worlds, but with a portal in between. In each world, AI enemies will spawn, and as these are taken down, they drop tokens which can be deposited in a central bank point. When enough tokens are deposited, you can either send extra monsters to the opposing team area, or open a portal there and invade. While invading, you can use your powers to kill enemy Guardians, making their job much harder. If you die, tokens you were carrying are lost, and so jumping through a portal with a Super primed is a great tactical move and can cause some real damage. The tokens can also be spent on sending an extra powerful enemy over to the other side, or on summoning a boss type enemy to your side. The winner of a round of Gambit is the first team to summon and defeat this boss, so there are a great deal of tactics and things to consider when entering a round; just be aware that communication is key.
The new raid is another end game activity that will need some serious team work. It looks to be an order of magnitude harder than the Leviathan raid, and will provide a real challenge to higher level players.
So far, all good with Destiny 2: Forsaken and thankfully the list of complaints is small. Loading times, either from the title screen or from orbit into a strike now seem very long, and in particular if you go to the Tower, it’s not unusual to have a black screen but still be able to hear all the sounds of the Tower going on around them. Other than that, it’s pretty much business as usual, and with the added power of the Xbox One X the game looks even better than before.
All in all then and I’ve got to say that Forsaken is the shot in the arm that Destiny 2 needed. I don’t mind saying I had really fallen out of love with it after two lacklustre expansions, but Forsaken has dragged me back in and reignited that familiar Destiny grind. Now it feels like there is a purpose, something to push for in grinding the end game content, and this makes a difference. The exotic drops seem to have been adjusted down too, but this just adds to the rarity.
In fact, Destiny 2 Forsaken feels like a backwards step, and that is a very good thing.