As with Destiny release, Forsaken has its share of compelling highs and worrying concerns.
After much waiting, many threats from diehard fans to quit for good and all the controversies that Bungie has faced, Destiny 2: Forsaken is finally upon us. The latest DLC promises a strong upgrade for what’s been a fairly lacklustre sequel thus far and given the limited time it’s been out, that seems to be mostly true till now. We say “mostly” because honestly, there are several different kinds of Destiny fans (not to mention the non-fans). So let’s take a look at 5 reasons we think you should care about the DLC and 5 reasons you should be a bit wary. Let’s start with the reasons you should care.
Story-telling and Lore Abundance
On a whole, the story-telling in Destiny 2: Forsaken’s campaign is a huge step above the base game and its expansions. One might dare say this is the natural evolution of The Taken King’s story and wouldn’t be wrong. It’s amazing looking back on the direction that Bungie took with its story after that, especially when it decided it needed more comedy. Whether Destiny is best taking a darker, sci-fi fantasy approach or not remains to be seen. But for what it’s worth, this is a much better look for the game than the terrible humour of Failsafe or the Ghost.
However, perhaps the biggest thing that fans of the series will appreciate is the abundance of lore. There are several volumes – yes, volumes – of lore to explore, ranging from the history of the Awoken to…well, a bunch of other things that really shouldn’t be spoiled. More importantly, Bungie has provided an in-game interface to catalogue and read all of this lore. Tying into the new Triumphs score is fine and all but I’m interested to see the gameplay implications of actually having a high score. Regardless, besides the fact that all of the above should have been quality-of-life features from day one, it’s great to see well-written lore, front and centre, like it should be.
We say it all the time and it bears repeating – Bungie’s production values for the Destiny franchise are simply top-notch. They’re among some of the best, even if you need the PC version for something like 60 FPS. So when we say that Destiny 2’s Forsaken DLC takes it to another level entirely, expectations begin to form. Does the Tangled Shore capture that old, space Western appeal that it so clearly wants to imbibe? Is the voice acting up to snuff? How is the soundtrack?
All of these things are pretty good, whether it’s the booming epic orchestra that plays during the final campaign boss encounter or the ethereal, medieval feel of the Dreaming City, Bungie is at its best here. It’s kind of crazy how one doesn’t expect the developer to keep finding new compelling ways to showcase its top-notch production values but here we are. Suffice to say that if the raid has been the pall-bearer for artistic and visual excellence in the franchise thus far, then Forsaken’s Last Wish raid should be something truly fantastic.
Even the voice-acting, which in the past has been horrible (the terrible writing also didn’t help) is pretty good this time. Somehow, you actually feel like there’s passion in these characters’ voices. Petra’s rage, Cayde-6’s slow realization that the end is near, Zavala remaining stoic in his desire to not war with the Reef, Ikora’s genuine mourning at the loss of Cayde – it’s all on point. Even new characters like the Spider and the Barons are on point with their delivery. Not every line is a cinematic masterpiece, particularly when it comes to the Ghost, but it all works. How in the world does Bungie have such terrible writing and voice-acting for its base game and smaller DLCs but somehow ekes out a better than average effort for these Taken King-like expansions? The universe will never know.
As one might expect after last week’s preview, Gambit is pretty cool. The concept of Gambit, of fighting for the Drifter in an arena devoted to bloodshed and battling other Guardians, is also cool. The game type itself combines PvP and PvE action to provide an interesting mode brimming with possibilities.
The main purpose of the mode is to gather Motes and deposit them. Collect 75 Motes and a Primeval spawns – kill that before the enemy team and you win the round. However, depositing a certain amount of Motes also spawns Blockers for the enemy team, hindering their progress. You can also open portals to invade the enemy team’s instance and kill them, causing them to lose any Motes that haven’t been banked. As the match progresses, invasions can be important for buying time or just slowing down the enemy team when it comes to Mote collection.
There are many things that come into play here. Will you just create a whole bunch of small Blockers to buy time? Will you assign team roles for slaying and collecting Motes? What load-out will you be using? Should you be sending in players with Supers and Power ammo for invasions or conserving resources? Gambit is a very, very interesting mode and while the concept of a PvEvP framework may not be original, Bungie does a good job of structuring it and slowly ramping up the tension as matches progress.
Random Rolls and Loot
Random rolls have been back since last week. For that matter, Forsaken weapons have been dropping for players (unintentionally, of course) as well. However, the loot influx of Forsaken, the addition of bows and full extent of the content on offer further highlights how good it is to have random rolls back.
Picking up No Turning Back, a Legendary Compound Bow, the difference between the Explosive Tip and Snapshot is palpable, especially if it’s catered to precision damage. That slight difference in explosive damage versus precision damage may seem understated but not only are there different types of bows, but they can also roll with different perks. That alone fundamentally changes the dynamic and makes checking in, grinding out activities and just playing the game more interesting. Look no further than Shaxx’s current roll of the Better Devils, which makes it extremely good for the Crucible (unless you’re on console, of course).
Furthermore, Mods 2.0 is also in effect, allowing players to further customize how their weapons act. So if you want a bow that has better control in the air or that deals more damage to bosses, have at it. Do you want to Masterwork a single stat on your weapon for a stronger edge? That’s a significant resource sink but have at it. On top of that, resources like Masterwork Cores can be now be purchased. Hallelujah and so on. This may all sound like the fundamentals of Destiny 1 and they are, but finally seeing them here adds a whole lot to the experience.
PvE Content and Activities
Comparing Forsaken to The Taken King is unfair, at least in their general plot treatment and direction. However, they’re definitely similar when it comes to the influx of things to do. Quality-of-life changes have brought Eververse bounties for Bright Dust, bounties to hunt different escapees from the Prison of Elders, challenges for different activities (like completing one Crucible match or Strike in a day) and so on. Couple that with Heroic Adventures, which provide tougher versions of the already intriguing Barons to fight, Public Events, Heroic Story Missions, Vanguard Strikes, Nightfalls and so on. And yes, each Baron is fun and unique to fight.
That’s not even getting into the Dreaming City’s activities, the new Escalation Protocol events, Heroic Strikes, Exotic Quests or the raid. Or the new subclass nodes that will be coming. Or even the purported changes that the Dreaming City will have in the next few weeks. Essentially, if you love Destiny, be it the first or second, there’s going to be plenty for you to do here. Whether you’re a hardcore player who wants to min-max every single darn thing they can get their hands on, chasing after the best-rolled items, or just someone who likes shooting the breeze and random aliens with friends, Forsaken definitely provides a strong influx of content.
Sounds all nifty right? Well, let’s now move on to the reasons you should be worried.
Make no mistake – the story-telling in Destiny 2: Forsaken is definitely leagues above the base game. Uldren is a genuinely hateful villain. The Barons all have interesting personalities. Even Ikora, Zavala, Spider and Petra Venj have their own views on things and are affected differently by the death of Cayde-6.
That being said, not much feels different in terms of the story-telling. There’s a revenge vibe and interesting angles about our Guardians being about nothing but murder, beyond redemption in many ways. And it’s all…fine. It doesn’t lead to this amazing catharsis for the player character (who finally speaks, by the way, but with just a few words thus far). For now, the vengeance part of the story seems to be wrapped and we’re currently diving into the mystery of the Awoken and the Dreaming City.
If you’re not a fan of Destiny’s characters, there isn’t much here that will change your mind. The characters are a slight step above the boring vendors of the past but only a bit. Ghost doesn’t have as many annoying lines as before but Nolan North’s voice just isn’t as fit for many of the encounters as, say, the player character would be. As for the actual story to hunt down Uldren and the Barons, it lasts roughly 5 to 6 hours. If you’re buying in just for that and nothing else, then Forsaken may not be your cup of tea.
As inventive and interesting as Gambit is, there are some problems. Weapons like Sleeper Simulant have proven to be extremely effective, especially against invading Guardians since it one-shots them (and no, this is not an indirect call for a nerf). Invading Guardians in general can abuse spawns to keep killing enemy players, which isn’t a terrible mechanic but feels too heavily weighted in their favour. Lag can be an issue as some enemies will slightly teleport though that could happen once in a while at best.
And finally, Gambit’s structure can ultimately be its undoing. Coordinated fireteams that are grouped together are just going to have a much better time than solo players. That’s normal for PvP games, right? The problem is that Destiny 2’s matchmaking has a tendency to pit random solo players together against stacked fireteams. Given how much of a difference communication and coordination can make in Gambit, more so than regular Crucible, I can foresee solo players having a rougher time. At the very least, Bungie is adding (or has already added) the ability to join in progress so if someone on your team rage-quits, it won’t be a 3v4 affair.
General Gameplay Variety
Gambit does introduce some interesting twists on Destiny 2’s Crucible gameplay, mixing some PvE elements to good effect. Fighting the Barons in the campaign is also interesting and fun. However, fundamentally, this is still Destiny. No, not the annoying Destiny 2 that you love to hate while reminiscing about the good ol’ days of Destiny 1. This is the same Destiny gameplay with the same shooting mechanics, the same emphasis on running away when wounded and the same weapon archetypes.
Bungie has introduced some interesting new weapons, make no mistake. But if you’re going in, expecting some zany Borderlands-style weapons of mass destruction, don’t. If you’re going in and not expecting to chase a number on your gear for the majority of the initial hours, then think again. To be fair, Infusion mechanics ensure some choice but that’s just for Legendaries and Exotics. Rare weapons are still pretty much fodder here.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you the gameplay for Destiny outright sucks. But it still has this repetitive feel to it. New Supers add some spice and the new Mods, random rolls and changes to cooldowns could add up to a greater sum in the long run. However, if Destiny’s gameplay never really appealed to you and just came across as “fine”, it’s a toss-up as to whether Forsaken will change your mind. Thus far, there isn’t much that really rocks the boat, unless the raid turns out to be super-fantastic with space combat and whatnot.
Crucible and Balance
Have you loaded into any Crucible games lately? Forget about PvP matches being sweatier or being matched against fireteams while playing in a group of randoms or the horrible peer-to-peer servers in general. For all intents and purposes, there is no balance in the Crucible. Blame it on the weapon types, the map design, the movement speed, ammo economy, weapon slot changes, so on and so forth. But don’t go into this expecting a balanced PvP experience, especially when many people consistently run around with shotguns (or bows, as the case may currently be).
The problem is that this won’t stop Bungie from pooling a good amount of resources into trying to balance the Crucible. Some weapon archetypes may see nerfs and changes because…well, there’s a very strong history of that happening. Those awesome Supers you’re enjoying may not be the same a few months later. By virtue of this being a loot game, PvP will never be balanced.
While the community may have its own ideas on what constitutes balance, the exercise in itself is pretty pointless. If you can stomach a PvP game that’s just about randomness and insanity, then Destiny 2’s Crucible might be for you. Heck, it’s getting new maps and modes in the coming weeks. If someone having better gear and a competitive edge or Power weapons which can mostly one-hit kill being prevalent sounds like a horrible time, then avoid the Crucible as much as possible.
Lack of Direction
Because it needs to be repeated one more time, both for those who outright bag on Destiny’s story and those who love it, the story in Forsaken is fine. It’s not amazing but it has some good moments, a good overarching theme, interesting villains and a very, very intriguing pay-off. Did I mention all that nice lore?
That being said, while I like how Forsaken ties back to The Taken King, especially with regards to the Awoken’s involvement in that conflict, the overall long-term direction of the story is just baffling. Remember those triangle ships at the end of Destiny 2? What happened to those? Will they just crop up again in Destiny 3? Maybe the Dreaming City story arc is going to completely dump on my concerns and actually provide some payoff to that. And yes, Forsaken linking back to events in Destiny 1 is good especially if rumours are true on it actually showcasing a long-requested entity.
However, I just can’t help feel that the overall direction of Destiny’s story is fragmented. We had much of the old Grimoire wiped away. Now we have many tie-ins to the old games in the lore but a few conflicts here and there. We had the Exo-Stranger in the first game and she’s completely disappeared after that. Ana Bray, Rasputin, Xol, Nokros and Osiris all felt like throwaway characters and sure enough, they don’t even get much of a mention in Forsaken. Now those triangle ships are gone. But something else is out there. Are we just going to kill that and move on to the next thing? Time will tell.
Destiny 2: Forsaken may have its ups and downs for the average person. However, if you’re a fan, then definitely look into it more and decide for yourself if it’s worth coming back.