• Navigation
View RSS Feed


Destiny 2: Forsaken Review -- The Road to Redemption

Rate this Entry
For both long-time fans and newcomers, Destiny 2 was seen as a bit of a disappointment at release. While the initial release was met with high praise, in an effort to respond to criticisms and issues raised by the community over its predecessor’s three year lifespan, Bungie made a number of design decisions which ended up having a negative effect on the long-term experience. Over the past year, Bungie has taken great strides to remedy many of these problems and has made a number of significant changes to the Destiny 2 experience. All these changes culminated in this Fall’s expansion, Forsaken. Forsaken is intended to serve as a turning-point, not just to the gameplay experience, but also to the franchise’s narrative journey.

Early on during the reveal and marketing for Forsaken, Bungie revealed that the narrative journey of this expansion would be driven by a single stunning event: the death of Cayde-6. Across the franchise’s four years, Cayde-6 has had the biggest personality and is widely regarded as Destiny’s most beloved character. The game’s opening mission has players team up with Cayde to stop a prison break. The first half of this mission is more of a tribute to Cayde than anything else, and his interjections and actions throughout serve as a final sendoff. However, by the end of the first mission, Cayde is killed by Uldren Sov, a largely irrelevant character from Destiny 1. The personal element of the Forsaken campaign is a nice break from the narrative tone of most other Destiny stories to this point. Whereas most Destiny campaigns have focused on battles against major threats to humanity and pitted players against gods and conquerors, Forsaken is a story driven completely by revenge. An enemy killed one of our closest allies and we are going to kill him, regardless of what it takes.

The Forskaen campaign unfolds as players set out to the Reef and the Tangled Shore, one of Forsaken’s new explorable regions, to hunt down Uldren and his eight Barons. The Barons lead a new type of enemy, the Scorn, which are dead Fallen which have been revived and transformed. The Forsaken campaign opens up to let players choose the order they want to hunt down the Barons, although the level requirements create a recommended order. The eight Barons are intended to be unique encounters which pit players against different mechanics and challenges. I say intended, because although the Barons are each unique, there is no denying that each fight is little more than a bullet-sponge. Take the Rifleman, in the lead-up to Forsaken, the promotional material presented this adversary as an ace sniper who would pick you off from any direction if you stuck your head out too long. Now, I wasn’t expecting a Metal Gear-style sniper fight (I mean, I was hoping for something like that..), but I don’t think it is asking too much for the sniper fight to not be winnable with a sword. Additionally, while it is clear that each of the Barons has a different, unique personality, players simply don’t spend enough time with any one Baron to really know or care about them. All that said, although the Baron fights might not be the best part about Forsaken, the narrative story of the campaign and beyond is immensely satisfying for long-time Destiny fans. While players hunt the Barons, Forsaken’s story reveals Uldren has other goals which connect to mysteries and secrets which Bungie has been building up and hinting at for many years.

Since the initial release of Destiny 1, one of the biggest criticisms against the Destiny franchise has been the lack of content for players who reached the endgame. Yes, the games have featured amazing raids which pushed and challenged players, but for players who reached the pinnacle, there has been essentially one challenge per expansion. Enter the Dreaming City, the second new explorable area in the Reef which is Bungie’s answer to the player-base’s requests for more endgame content. The Dreaming City is a gorgeous endgame region that players gain access to after completing the Forsaken campaign and is an area exclusively devoted to endgame players full of powerful enemies, challenges, and secrets. Honestly, I don’t think it is a stretch to say that the entire Forsaken campaign works in service to setting up the Dreaming City and the endgame. For many of us, there is no denying the nostalgic sensation of Final Fantasy XI’s Sky. From invisible platforms, to strange symbols, to peculiar enemies which reappear in different locations, the Dreaming City is full of mysteries that players have been eagerly attempting to unravel. Additionally, since the second week, the Dreaming City has changed in appearance in response to events in the world which has introduced new stories and mysteries.

While the Destiny franchise has had its share of issues over its lifetime, one area that has always excelled has been the core gameplay. Nowhere better exemplifies Bungie’s expertise with shooter mechanics than the latest addition to players’ arsenals, combat bows. Bows feel incredibly crisp and precise and I have yet to encounter someone critical of the gameplay experience of using a bow. At release, one of the biggest complaints against Destiny 2 was that the load-out changes made the game feel less fun than Destiny 1. Personally, I really enjoyed the Destiny 2 load-out system, especially the way it put an emphasis on primary weapon skill in the Crucible, but I understand the complaint from other players that it was more fun to have access to a shotgun or sniper rifle at all times. As I said in the beginning, Bungie has worked to respond to the criticisms levied against Destiny 2 this past year, and one significant change has been reverting load-outs to more closely resemble Destiny 1. Players now have far more freedom to craft their load-outs, albeit with some ammo restrictions that prevent players from running rampant with three shotguns.

New load-outs aren’t the only things that have changed the Destiny 2 sandbox. With Forsaken, Bungie has introduced new supers and subclass nodes for every existing subclass. These new supers are meant to fit within the existing mythos for each subclass, while also offering players a new way to play. In some cases, these new supers feel like an organic evolution of an existing super. For instance, the Sentinel new super allows Titans to turn their handheld shield into a portable wall that can protect and empower allies. Other supers are a drastic departure from the existing subclass. My favorite new super is the Gunslinger’s new Blade Barrage super which has Hunters hammer enemies with a deluge of flaming knives. It is incredibly satisfying jumping into the air and unleashing this attack against a boss or army of enemies. For the most part, these new supers and their associated perks synergize incredibly well to create fun play-styles and experiences. At the same time, it also serves to highlight how some of the old supers are not as well balanced and could use some updating.

Bungie repeatedly stated that a number of the changes made to Destiny 2 with Forsaken were intended to rekindle the desire to come back, day after day after day and to reward the most ardent Destiny fans. One of the most welcome changes has been the reintroduction of random rolls to Destiny 2. In an effort to appease Destiny 1 players who complained about good guns made irrelevant by bad rolls on random perks, every weapon and armor in Destiny 2 was given a fixed roll. This had the unintended effect of making repeatedly running content largely pointless -- after all, what was the point of running a raid if you already had every piece of gear? With random rolls, there’s always a reason to sign in and play the game. Sure, you might not be increasing your character’s power, but there’s always the possibility of getting a better roll on a weapon or piece of armor. Bungie has also thrown in a few curated rolls on weapons to appease collectors. In addition to those more tangible rewards, Bungie has also introduced pages for collections and triumphs to give players things to chase from day to day, season to season. Triumphs track specific accomplishments which reward points which add to a player’s triumph score. While many accomplishments are visible for players to chase, there are more than a handful of hidden accomplishments to encourage players to scour the world for secrets. Similarly, collections serve as a way for players to track which items they’ve collected and which still elude them. Collections and triumphs are just one way out of many that Forsaken encourages players to spend more time with Destiny 2.

As is the norm with prior major Destiny expansions, Forsaken challenges the most powerful players with a new raid, Last Wish. There is no denying that the three raids released during Destiny 2’s first year are some of the best PvE content available to players. While they’ve all had their strong points, they’ve also had their share of flaws. I personally felt that some of the encounters veered too far into the realm of strange mechanics, while also straying away from the emphasis on teamwork and instead drifting back to encounters that could be carried by one or two strong players. I honestly questioned whether the raid team would ever be able to top Destiny 1’s best raids. It is too early for me to say this definitively, but I think Last Wish might be my new favorite Destiny raid -- which is saying a lot, given my fond memories of Destiny 1’s first raid, Vault of Glass. There are challenges that emphasize timing and group coordination, there are puzzles that require solving mental puzzles, and there are encounters that put the onus on every player to perform and hit their targets. Best of all, Last Wish is hard. This new raid now holds the record for the longest time to world’s first and fewest first twenty-four hour completions -- only two groups managed to finish Last Wish in the first twenty-four hours. It took my group over twenty-four hours to complete, twelve of which were spent struggling against the final boss. Yes, in subsequent runs I’ve been able to clear the raid far faster, but figuring out the mechanics and encounters the first few days was such an incredible experience that reaffirmed my faith in Bungie’s raid team. One of the best parts of Last Wish is that the raid isn’t self contained, but has been the impetus for the changes occurring in the Dreaming City. Last Wish ties directly into the Dreaming City storyline in a way that no other Destiny raid has done, making it feel more like an essential part of the Forsaken experience, rather than something for only the most hardcore players.

For the most part, the Crucible and Destiny 2’s PvP offerings have not changed too drastically with Forsaken. Over the past few months, Bungie has been making minor tweaks and adjustments to the Crucible to make it feel more chaotic like Destiny 1. From increasing the speed of combat, to decreasing time to kills, to increasing the number of players in quick-play, to the new load-out changes, there have been a number of adjustments that have dramatically changed the Crucible over the past year. Most of these changes take some time to get used to, but I wish Bungie would return to the larger map sizes of Destiny 1, especially now that they’ve increased the number of players in quick-play. Bungie has also done more to give players reasons to participate in PvP. Destiny 2’s last DLC, Warmind, introduced powerful exclusive weapons that could only be obtained from playing in the competitive playlist, and Forsaken builds on this by introducing a quest system for these rewards. As ever, there are also a number of quests for exotics that are tied to achievements in the Crucible. Personally, I wish there was more incentives for players to participate in the competitive playlist so that the ranking distributions actually resembled Bungie’s stated goals. Of course, I understand that there are a lot of players that do not enjoy PvP and will complain whenever any type of reward requires spending time in the Crucible. However, Destiny 2 is a game with both a PvE and PvP element, so players who want everything should be expected to participate in everything.

Forsaken also introduces a new game-mode called Gambit which is PvE/PvP hybrid mode. Players work in a team of four to defeat AI opponents to collect points needed to spawn a boss. During this, an invader from the other team can come over at set intervals to hunt down players with a lot of points. Gambit was clearly designed to bring players from both sides of Destiny 2 together. The PvP players can show their expertise by invading or taking out an enemy invader, while the PvE players get to shine fighting waves of enemies and against the powerful bosses. It is a chaotic game-mode that is still fresh and in need of adjustment, but shows a lot of potential. Strategies and metas are still being worked out, but playing Gambit with three friends, working together and coming back when down by a significant margin is an exhilarating rush.

A lot of people, myself included, would argue that the Destiny experience is in the best place it has ever been. Many of the problems that were present when Destiny 2 originally released have been corrected, and it finally feels like Destiny 2 is building on the lessons Bungie learned with Destiny 1. That doesn’t mean I don’t have concerns about the future of Destiny 2 and the franchise. In the past, I’ve touched on my issues with the Destiny community. Bungie reintroduced random rolls on gear, and the community has already complained that they are too random. The community wanted exotics to feel rare and they wanted it to be memorable when you finally received an exotic you’ve been chasing, but now they’re too rare. The community complained that it was too easy to reach max level and it didn’t mean anything, but now that there is a significant grind which requires doing challenging content, it is too hard and it takes too long. Players have even complained that there is too much to do everyday and they can’t keep up. The Destiny community has a hard time admitting it, but the state of Destiny 2 at release was directly the result of Bungie’s efforts to respond to community complaints during Destiny 1. My biggest concern is what is going to happen when Bungie tries to appease these voices again.

I will admit, I am in no ways an unbiased source when it comes to the Destiny franchise. I did pretty much everything there was to do in Destiny 1, I kept playing Destiny 2 from release until Forsaken, and I’ve already no-lifed Forsaken pretty hard during the first two weeks to be able to beat the Last Wish raid. Still, I feel confident saying there has never been a better time to pick up Destiny 2. I’ve logged in pretty much every day for the past month and have always had numerous things I needed to accomplish. Everyday there are challenges to overcome, secrets to uncover, milestones to complete, and rewards to collect. There have been days I just haven’t had enough time to get everything done and I think most would agree that this is a great problem to have. It may have taken four years to get here, but Forsaken is finally the Destiny experience so many of us have been waiting for. And it has been worth the wait.

Everybody, sooner or later, sits down to a banquet of consequences ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

All images owned by Bungie.