Destiny 2: Forsaken Reviewby Kirby Yablonski
Since Destiny 2's launch last year, Bungie has taken a lot of criticism from fans of the franchise. Many people felt like it was aimed at 'casual' gamers, and that the diehard players who grinded for many hours in the original Destiny felt left out given there wasn't much to do endgame. Although Destiny 2's story was one of the better ones, the endgame content was critically panned, and the following two expansions, Curse of Osiris and Warmind, generated, at best, lukewarm receptions. Many felt that the expansions were too small, didn't fix a lot of the complaints, and could have been so much more. Granted, the Warmind expansion started to address some of the concerns.
I won't lie, I had around 2000 hours on the original Destiny, but in terms of Destiny 2, I am far off the pace to repeat. I, like others, found my endgame experience not nearly as enjoyable compared to grinding the original game. For me, and a lot of others, the game really is about hanging out with online friends, facing strikes, raids, special events and even some PvP, although I am not the best at versing others in competitive play. With Destiny 2, it started off with a bang, but as time went by during Year 1, but its' light seemed to fade. Well, we here at XBA have been playing the latest expansion, Forsaken, which ushers in Year 2, and although not perfect, the amount of changes and additions do make a difference.
We all know what the theme of the Forsaken story is about, as teased much of what drives its' narrative. We know that Cayde-6 is shot and killed by Uldren Sov. But that is not exactly how the game starts. The first story mission has you helping Petra Venj and Cayde-6 as you all head to the Prison of Elders to stop prisoners who are loose and rioting. This mission leads to Cayde-6's death. After this occurs, you will hunt down all the Barons, who were released and escaped the Prison of Elders, and who teamed up with Uldren. You must kill them and stop Uldren from completing a task that is driven by the surprise return of one of Destiny's past characters, but I am not going to mention who that is, given I don't believe in spoilers. During the 4-6 hour campaign (depending on how you play it) you'll explore new areas and face new enemies.
The new faction enemy is called the Scorn, and there are various types such as Ravager, Raider, Screeb and Chieftan, to name a few. All the previous enemy factions return too, including the Fallen, the Hive and the Taken. To battle these enemies you can use your Year 1 weapons and gear, or if you believe in "out with the old, in with the new", then there are plenty of Year 2 weapons and gear to be had. That being said, as of writing this review, I have been able to get a lot of legendary Year 2 weapons and gear, but I have yet to get an exotic one. In just over 2 ½ weeks, I have only had three exotic emblems drop, and within each of those have been Year 1 weapons or gear. Your emblems automatically decode, so there is no need to see Rahool; however, there are new Prime Engrams, legendary drops that are high level. These need to be decoded by Rahool.
Speaking of weapons and gear, the hunt hasn't been this enjoyable for a long time. The group I run online with counted about 5 or more armor sets to complete, as well as all the legendary and exotic weapons, motes, ships, sparrows, etc. There are many different ways to get the new ‘powerful' and rare items, and you'll be busy completing many, many tasks. This includes daily and weekly bounties like completing a certain number of challenges, strikes, crucible play, and of course the new gambit mode (more on that later). But, and I do mean but, most of this stuff does not open until you reach level 50, so there is a reason to grind to that magical number. Once you hit this level so many options open up allowing you to get new gear, and of course more things for you to do too.
Of course with a new expansion comes a new area, and there are two new areas to be precise, that being the Tangled Shore and the Dreaming City. The Tangled Shore is where you are introduced to new public events, new strikes and a new Fallen NPC named Spider. This is the area where you will be going to complete missions, adventures (where all but one Baron will be) and specific bounties. Spider also has ‘wanted' bounties for various enemies for you to search and kill. Spider also has his own story, and we will leave it for you to learn as you play. Tangled Shores is also where you can acquire resources for the new infusion system.
The new infusion system is based on planetary resources as well as other materials, including masterwork cores and legendary shards. In terms of planetary resources, you can always farm for them, but Spider has certain one's that are available to purchase each day, and they can cost either legendary shards, glimmer or Tangled Shores own planetary resource. The price for these are not particularly cheap. Where infusion becomes quite challenging is the acquisition of masterwork cores. They are hard to find, and if you buy them from Spider, they are darn expensive. To buy them you need to spend legendary shards, and the price doubles for each core. So, you start at 10, then 20, then 40 and so on. At the end of the day it can be quite expensive to infuse weapons, and you really have to pick and choose which ones to level up. It's my hope that they can find a way to make masterwork cores more affordable, or easier to obtain, as this current method makes it hard to infuse on a regular basis.
You are eventually introduced to Dreaming City. This area is a major part of the endgame as well. It is here that once again you can do various activities to complete daily and weekly bounties. As with the Tangled Shores, these can range from specific patrols, new public events, mini-missions, as well as other tasks. Here in the Dreaming City you'll find Petra Venj, and she will be your main point of contact. In terms of the environment, there is lots to see, and a fair amount of things to do. The lore that this area holds is interesting and I found that the two new areas are quite impressive.
There have been some interesting changes to Destiny 2 via Forsaken. The most notable one is that Clan XP is now earned from completing daily and/or weekly bounties. Before the Forsaken expansion was released, you'd just need to complete public events and patrols in order to earn your 5000 max XP each week. Now, you have to collect daily/weekly bounties from Hawthorne and these can range from such tasks as specific element kills, looting lost sectors, etc, to ones that may take more time or planning, such as completing the weekly nightfall (min power/light level of 540), playing crucible with clanmates, completing a certain number of rounds of escalation, etc. The various levels of each bounty can range from 750, 1250, or 2000 XP. These new bounties definitely encourage daily logins in an effort to complete the bounties, especially if you have more than one character to level up. I almost think that this will also be a determent to smaller clans, but we will have to wait and see.
Another change is to the planetary flashpoint. It used to be that when you would complete a flashpoint challenge that you'd also get credit towards your Clan XP; however, given the above, this has changed. Now the flashpoint is separate of your Clan XP, and you get a separate reward from completing it. It seems to take a bit longer to complete your flashpoint as well, but hey, it's not hard to do and really isn't that much of a chore, just don't expect progress in this area to go towards your overall Clan XP.
We can't ignore the changes that Bungie has made to how you can equip weapons too. You'll find that a wider array of weapons now falls into different groups, which are of course kinetic, energy, and heavy/super. You now get weapons that were not available in some of those groups, such as shotguns and snipers in the kinetic or energy classes. When Destiny 2 was launched, there was an outcry as to how some secondary weapons were locked in the heavy/super class, but cry no more. There is also the addition of a bow, which can either be kinetic or energy, and let me tell you, it is more fun to use than I thought it would be, and is a nice addition to the game.
Oh, have I mentioned the menu changes. Yep, there are changes here too, but I won't go into too much depth. What is notable is that you now have a slew of Triumphs to complete, and I do mean A LOT (caps added for emphasis), as there are over 800. It is amazing how many Triumphs there are, and this will be a completionists nightmare or dream. You can also check out the Collections tab and see what you have collected during Destiny 2 adventures since the start. You can repurchase some previously obtained items, so if you are looking to add a Sleeper Stimulant or Colony grenade launcher to a secondary character, you can do it here, but for a price (either glimmer or shards or both).
So, you've heard me ramble about some changes, but there is a whole lot of new that comes with the new Forsaken expansion too.
One of the new additions is Gambit, what is best described as a PvEvP mode. There are two teams of four, and each team collects motes that drop from killing enemies on the map, and these motes are deposited at ‘the bank'. Once you deposit 75 motes a boss (primeval) appears with their minions, and you must defeat the all enemies and the boss to win. Oh, and did I mention that the more motes you deposit at one time can send enemies to your opposing teams ‘bank' and causing them to fight said enemies (called blockers) before they can deposit their motes, and they can do the same.
I have to say that this mode is more intense than I anticipated. Seeing the progress, the other team is making towards spawning their boss, and then seeing their progress of whittling down the boss' health, all while you're doing the same, can be tense. Adding to this pressure is the chance of having an opposing team player coming into your area at both stages. In the first stage if you or your teammates are killed it results in a loss of motes if your holding any. In the boss stage, killing opposing players gives health back to the boss you're trying to defeat. Of course you can send one of your own players to their area too. As with so many of the game's regular activities, you can complete Gambit specific bounties, earn Gambit specific weapons and gear, and level up your Gambit specific rank, called Infamy, which is separate of your crucible rank.
We can't forget that each class of player now has new supers added to their repertoire. The Titan gets Banner Shield, which becomes barrier of light (Void), the Siege Hammer Super (Solar) and Thunder Class. The Warlock gets Nova Warp Teleportation (Void), Arc Beam (Arc) and Well of Radiance (healing) (Solar). Finally, the Hunter gets Spectral Blades (Void), Blade Barrage (Solar) and Whirling Guard. I'd love to go into great detail about this, but this review is already getting too long. That being said, you will be granted a ‘Seed of Light' during the game's campaign, and you can earn other seeds in the The Blind Well. The new supers are very useful, and I am still opening up new ones on my secondary character(s) as well as my main.
Another notable new addition is called aforementioned Blind Well. It is found in the Dreaming City. The best way I can describe it, in terms of gameplay, is that it is similar to the Court of Oryx, found in the original Destiny. Up to nine players can play and one player inserts a key, which can range from Tier 1 to Tier 3, and a few special ones beyond these. You face wave after wave of enemies while trying to collect enough ‘light' to move on. There are four waves and then a boss wave. These are very hectic with a lot of Scorn coming at you all at once. You'll have to be on your toes to beat the higher levels.
There are also three new strikes that have been added to the game (PS4 owners once again get an exclusive strike). These are: The Corrupted, The Hollow Lair, and Warden of Nothing. I have to say that the Prison of Elders based strike (Warden of Nothing) is one of my favourites, as it really is a ‘tip-of-the-hat' to the Prison of Elders mode in the original Destiny. From the recognizable play modes, the voice that guides you along, to how the original level from the first Destiny is integrated into the strike. Regardless, all the new strikes are fairly enjoyable.
There are also new crucible maps, but at the time of writing, only one is playable, Convergence, based on an original Destiny map, and there are three more coming. All the information I have gathered indicates that they are coming on the 2018-09-25, but I have not confirmed this.
There is also a new raid called "Last Wish". Now, I have to admit that I have not played it yet, as it has a recommended light level of 580, and my highest character is 526. If there is any indication of what this raid is all about, it took over 18 hours for the first group of players to beat it. Yes, I said 18 hours. As with other raids, there are a lot of mechanics to it. I don't think that this review will be affected by me not playing it yet given the Last Wish raid is only one piece of the Forsaken puzzle. One neat tidbit though, once the raid was beaten, it opened up even more content for all Destiny 2 players, including a new strike, which we think is kind of cool.
In terms of what the expansion looks, and sounds, like, Bungie has always done amazing work in this area, and Forsaken is no different. From Tangled Shores to Dreaming City to the new strikes, each area has a sense of size and scope. Dreaming City is amazing in terms of how big it truly is, versus how it looks when you get there. Of course, the ambience of the new areas is large too, which is evident when you first see Dreaming City's grand entrance. Also worth mentioning is the orchestral soundtrack, as it is on par with previous music in the franchise, and it continues to set the tone depending on what activity or mission you are doing. I have always been so amazed with the music that Bungie has mixed with their content, and once again I am impressed here.
Phew!!! As I start to wrap up this review, I can't help but think there is some detail or some small activity I have missed. What this says to me is how big this expansion really is. Sure, it is early in Forsaken's lifecycle, as we are only just over two weeks into Year 2 of Destiny 2, but man, there is so much to do in Destiny again. I truly believe that Bungie has tried to make the changes in the game to cover a split audience. The hardcore Destiny fans have something to ‘chase' again. There is a heck of a lot to do each week if you really want to level up your characters. On the other side are the casual or recreational type of gamers. They can still get into Destiny 2 and develop a feeling of accomplishment as they level up and get new gear; however, it will take them longer to get where the hardcore are getting, and they have to be aware of that (e.g. don't assume you'll get the same types goods and items).
Bungie has done a solid job with Forsaken. Sure, it's not perfect, as the new Clan XP system is kind of an unnecessary grind, the new way to infuse weapons is costly (in-game currency), and it seems that the reward system for exotics is wonky (there is a reddit thread on this), but these are the only things that I feel are a strike or two against the new expansion. Of course, as an Xbox centric site, I also have once again shake my fist at Bungie, and Activision, for making PS4 exclusive content again, that they get in on the action with a few extras and all for same price as Xbox owners. Regardless, Forsaken feels like a much-needed course correction in Destiny 2's gameplay. I know there will be critics and detractors out there, but given how I feel, as well as the people I run with online, who are enjoying this new content too, I think Bungie has righted a lot of wrongs, and I can't wait to see where the next expansion takes us.