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Destiny 2: Forsaken Review

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Destiny 2: Forsaken Review

Destiny 2: Forsaken on PlayStation 4

From top to bottom, Destiny 2: Forsaken is complete re-haul of just about everything that was not right with Destiny 2 in its first year. That would be enough for some fans, but in addition, Bungie has gone over the top in adding new worthwhile content that elevates the game to a point where we can finally call it great. There’s a few problems that are still going to need to be addressed in the coming weeks, but overall, Destiny 2: Forsaken is the best expansion in the Destiny series to-date.

Let’s very quickly sum up what I discussed in our launch day review-in-progress. Destiny 2’s story is by far the best we’ve seen so far in the series. The campaign is well-done, and Cayde-6’s death is handled tastefully and feels like it served a purpose other than shock value. It has kicked off a chain of events that we’re starting to see take shape in the form of post-game content that is taking place in The Dreaming City (a lot more on that later). Gambit, although it opens up a Pandora’s Box of even more balance issues on top of the struggle of keeping PvE and PvP in line, was an endeavor I’m glad Bungie set out on. It’s extremely fun, replayable, and there’s a lot that I can see Bungie doing with it in the future in terms of making it more competitive, a la Trials of the Nine/Osiris.  Finally, all of the stuff like random rolls, supers recharging faster, new supers in general, weapon loadout changes all have combined to make all preexisting content way more enjoyable, especially the Crucible.

What mattered most, though, for so many players, especially now that most of the issues in the Crucible were handled pre-Forsaken, was how the PvE content would be improved in Forsaken. We’re going to break this up into two parts. First, the more subtle tweaks, and then second, the more overt additions like the end game area, strikes and more.

What you’ll notice after playing Destiny 2: Forsaken for a little bit is that exotic drop rates, and the loot economy as a whole have been quietly overhauled. Exotics are way, way, way more rare. They can still show up as random drops after defeating powerful enemies, but that is few and far between now, and they aren’t handed out like participation trophies for mindless Heroic Strike farming runs anymore either. To a non-Destiny player, this might sound like a negative, but what lots of hardcore players may or may not be willing to admit is that it is a good thing. The ubiquitous nature of repetitive legendary drops (which are now interesting again thanks to random perk rolls) and exotic drops in vanilla Destiny 2 was such that the excitement was completely sucked dry of them. If you played a lot, like I did at first, drops just started meshing into the background, and there wasn’t really anything that could drop that would get you pumped anymore because either A: you had it or B: even if you didn’t, who cares, most of the stuff was boring and nondescript anyway.

That is all out the window now. The new Forsaken exotics, combined with the revamped ones from earlier this year, create a loot pool that is worth grinding for again, and since they are rare and powerful now, the joy of seeing a yellow engram in your inventory is restored, as well as the anticipation of seeing what Santa Xur has in his inventory each week.

Infusion also received a big change that has had a substantial impact on the Destiny 2 experience. Prior to Forsaken, the infusion was mindless. The costs were so low, and the drop rate of legendary/exotic equipment so high, that there was nothing stopping you from always having all of your gear at the highest possible power level. It was to the point where everything might as well have just dropped at the max power level. In Forsaken, this changes dramatically. Now, almost all infusions will require Glimmer, Legendary Shards, Masterwork Cores, and various planetary materials such as Simulation Seeds. The exceptions are if you’re using the same item, or using an exotic to upgrade a legendary. It’s cheaper in those cases.

From a gameplay design perspective, the changes to infusion make sense. Now, I need to think long and hard about what equipment I want to bring with me. Do I take a weapon that I found that has a high power level, but perhaps isn’t my favorite or is one that I haven’t used before? Do I bring something I’m familiar with that’s weaker? Or do I pay the high cost of infusion, and power up the gun I want? These were the questions that I was sweating over while preparing for the release of Last Wish this past weekend. The fact that something as mundane as equipment statistics can cause players such stress is a big win on Bungie’s part. There’s just one thing holding it back: the lack of a more important the Cores are for Infusion, and how hard it is to get them. The solution definitely shouldn’t be to make Cores easy to get, but at least making them something that we could grind reliably for, say, through the Strike Playlist, would be nice. Still all that said, it’s better than the thoughtless system that preceded it, that’s for sure.

Speaking of the Strike Playlist, the other area that Bungie will need to think long and hard about when the dust settles on Forsaken is progression and activity rewards. While yes, leveling up and getting new gear is more fun now, the process in which gear upgrades are doled out on a weekly basis is still pretty dumb. The soft cap nonsense is still a thing. For whatever reason, Bungie refuses to go back to the near-perfect system seen in Rise of Iron where grinding out an activity would very slowly, but surely, get you to the point where you reach the recommended Light (now Power) Level. The soft cap acts a wet blanket thrown over what is otherwise wonderful new activities such as the amazing three/four (PS4) new strikes, and Blind Well, a new public event a la Court of Oryx, Archon Forge, and Escalation Protocol. The best solution I’ve seen tossed around is that activities should always just drop gear that incrementally improves your Power Level until you’ve reached the recommended level for it.

Speaking of which, Blind Well is fine. Despite the complaints over a lack of matchmaking in Destiny (which is still a valid complaint for most things), I actually like that there has consistently been an event that is designed for forcing total strangers to complete something challenging on the fly. It’s unique and interesting.

Specifically, for Blind Well, it’s not a cluster like Escalation Protocol was. It feels more structured, and it is something that more casual players should be able to figure out without toning down the difficulty at the higher tiers. It doesn’t feel particularly rewarding at the moment though. However, at the time of this writing, the final tier of Blind Well is beginning to surface, so that could change. But even still, if tier 1 through 3 are what they seem they are, it’s mostly just a grind to get to the more useful, final tier. It’s fun to play at least, so again, overall, it’s fine. Not terrible, but not a major highlight either.

On the other hand, the four new Strikes, especially The Corrupted and Warden of Nothing, prove to me that the non-Strikes we saw in Warmind and Curse of Osiris, were aberrations. Bungie did not forget how to create compelling Strikes, and Forsaken’s batch in particular proves it. From shifting in and out of Ascendant Realms, taking a scenic tour of the rundown Prison of Elders, and diving deep into a Hive breeding ground, Forsaken has no shortage of memorable experiences that take place during Strikes.

As you’re playing Destiny 2: Forsaken, you’ll certainly notice these small gripes I had, and it may end up bothering you a little like it did me, but when you finally get to The Dreaming City, and are willing to soak in the massive effort that Bungie clearly put into crafting this beautiful end game playground, it certainly makes up for a lot of those shortcomings.

The Dreaming City is your new end game hub, and it is by far the prettiest, and most feature-laden area seen in the Destiny series so far. It sets free the fun of hunting for secrets that we saw in the Dreadnought, out of the dreary confines of that dusty old ship, and into this wide-open Awoken paradise. I’ll let the images throughout this article do the talking for me, but yeah, the foggy and mysterious Dreaming City is gorgeous.

There are more secrets than ever before to discover, ranging from massive hidden portals that take you to another realm while under the effect of a consumable item, to little teeny-tiny, well-hidden cat statuettes that will give you a reward if you find them and a have a small gift for them. There are new Public Events, including Blind Well of course, and Lost Sectors that are way more creative, useful, and visually appealing across The Dreaming City and Forsaken in general. Whether you’re pragmatic, and want something that will reward you for your time, or just want a lovely playground to play and explore in, The Dreaming City is there to provide.

The Dreaming City also appears to be the stage where Bungie’s post-launch content and story will be playing out. Even in the two weeks since Forsaken’s launch we’ve seen players discover new things with each weekly reset. Just going on now as I write this, players have started to discover mysterious plates all around the Solar System that weren’t there before, It appears to be connected to the world first completion of Last Wish, which has triggered a chain of events leading to a Taken corruption of The Dreaming City. Bungie, I think, realizes completely now that their fans love this kind of unexplained, shady, tinfoil hat-worthy content. And now, there appears to be a whole zone and storyline going forward that can house all of that stuff. Bungie appears to be done appealing to their more casual fans, and are very clearly going back to making their hardcore fan base happy.

And with that, we reach the most hardcore, of hardcore Destiny 2 stuff, and that’s Last Wish. The two Raid Lairs that preceded it were fine, but they lacked the punch of some of Bungie’s lengthier work. With Last Wish, Bungie has gone to almost comical lengths to make this one their most mechanic-heavy, and difficult raid activity they have ever done. I’ve only experienced the first part for myself because of how strict the Power level and skill requirement is for Last Wish. Just that small taste though has me very hyped for what is to come. After I dropped out of the world first race myself, I grabbed a six pack, scooted on over to Twitch, and watched the world’s best players try to conquer the beast of a raid and was just flabbergasted by the thought that clearly went into building Last Wish to be the ultimate challenge for Destiny 2 players.

Destiny 2 was among the most watched games on Twitch this past weekend thanks to the release of Last Wish. The enthusiasm for the game is real, and well-deserved. Destiny 2: Forsaken has reinvigorated my love for the series, that, if I’m being honest, I thought might not ever return. I felt obligated for work to play through Curse of Osiris and Warmind. Now, with Forsaken, I’m on for hours on end, just helping people with stuff I already did because it’s just fun to play, and not even worrying about rewards. Sure, my enthusiasm now might ebb and flow depending on what’s going both in and outside of Destiny 2, but at least now if I decide to play something else, it’s not because I got fed up with Destiny 2. The game feels like a hobby again, like it was during the good old days of Destiny 1.

If you were a big fan of Destiny 1, were disappointed by vanilla Destiny 2, but have it in you to give the series one last shot by trying Forsaken, I believe that you’ll walk away being happy you did. It surpasses even the high bar that The Taken King set for great Destiny expansions. It’s not perfect, and there are definitely areas that will need be worked on as the year goes on. However, the changes both big and small have radically improved the game. Forsaken has taken the best of Destiny 1, and put it together with the best of Destiny 2. Forsaken has removed the monkey off the back of the series, and for the first time, it feels like Bungie can stop worrying about fixing mistakes, and focus entirely on achieving new heights.

Score: 4.5/5 – Great


Pros

  • Gorgeous visuals & phenomenal soundtrack.
  • The Dreaming City is the best end game area/content that Destiny has ever seen.
  • Bungie fully embracing that fans love the drip feeding of secret content.
  • Gambit is a worthwhile new activity.
  • Drops feel meaningful again.
  • A brutally hardcore raid.

Cons

  • Progression is improved, but still far from perfect.
  • Infusion economy is whacked right now.
  • Would be nice if the old raid content was made more relevant.

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