As you might expect, much of what Destiny 2: Forsaken has to offer remains untested and even unknown. Consequently, for now, this review will focus upon our immediate reactions to the campaign and will remain a review-in-progress as we continue to play, explore, level up, and venture into the new Raid.
We knew Cayde-6 was going to die.
Of all the Vanguards, it’s Cayde we knew best. Whilst Ikora and Zavala watched over us like benevolent – if somewhat absent – parents, Cayde fell neatly into the role of that roguish uncle our folks didn’t want us to see too often. In time he would become something of a caricature of himself – the wisecracks a little forced, his humour a little predictable – but without him, visits to the Hall of Guardians – and latterly, the Tower’s hangar – would’ve been very dry indeed.
That’s what makes Bungie’s choice to prematurely reveal his death so shocking. Not only did they take away the Hunter Vanguard (and at the time of writing, the vacancy left by his demise has yet to be filled), they took away the most beloved – and most memorable – one, too. And perhaps most surprisingly of all, despite the mystery that lays heavily across much of Destiny‘s labyrinthine mythos, this event was not a secret; not Cayde’s death, nor the man who killed him.
I’m coming home, Ace
It’s a tough watch, that opening sequence. Throughout Destiny’s numerous adventures you’ll find a curious time management issue across its supporting cast, all of whom tend to show up Just in Time to help you take control of an escalating situation (even in this scene, Petra arrives just as Cayde succumbs to his injuries). Perhaps that’s why Cayde’s demise is so shocking; watching him die on the floor of the Prison of Elders – his fate sealed by a bullet from his own beloved hand cannon gun – it seems so at odds of Destiny’s hitherto blueprint of just-in-the-nick-of-time saviours.
But that’s what Forsaken is about, really: change. Despite a core of dedicated Guardians who dutifully soaked up their weekly milestones despite hitting the power cap several months back (yes, this includes the writer of this review), Destiny’s fortunes have wobbled and wavered, interjected with peaks of casual curiosity that were rarely maintained. Bungie’s been accused of not delivering on its lofty ambitions, and its lore indicted of unnecessary complexity, but just as The Taken King did for the original Destiny, Forsaken firmly addresses many of the issues plaguing players in Year One of this ambitious sci-fi MMO-FPS hybrid.
It’s easily the most cohesive narrative expansion we’ve seen in Destiny to date, not least because it pushes past the science-fiction elements of warring extra-terrestrial tribes and chiefly becomes a story of revenge; Uldren’s on Cayde, and – subsequently – ours for Cayde. It’s a dizzying, emotional chapter, one sealed by witnessing our own usually mute Guardian promising to avenge Cayde’s death – yet another surprising break in Destiny’s tradition.
Forsaking all others
The combat in that opening sequence is frantic; fast-paced, and furious. Where previous errands to the Prison of Elders were restricted to an arena-like pit, Forsaken discloses the depth and size of the complex for the very first time as you, Cayde and other returning Reef character, Petra Venj, grapple to control an orchestrated prison break. It’s unapologetically overwhelming, and surprisingly difficult, particularly as up until this point Destiny 2 has not really delivered the challenge some Guardians expected in the sequel. It’s a welcome change; Destiny may be flawed in many ways, but its meaty, satisfying gunplay isn’t one of them.
As previous expansions introduced us to reskinned enemies, so too does Forsaken. Yes, the Scorn are a twisted, tainted variant on the Fallen species, but to Bungie’s credit, they come with their own challenges and arsenal, and a design that wouldn’t look entirely out of place in a Silent Hill game. Eventually, you’ll encounter the Barons – the “bosses” of the Scorn, and key antagonists of Forsaken – and your mission will be to eradicate every last one of Cayde’s execution squad in a myriad of boss battles that bring their own unique twists to the combat.
But where previously there was a clear black/white divide between the good guys – ostensibly us, of course – and the baddies, Bungie has carefully, and quite intentionally, muddied these waters in Forsaken; Uldren Sov is no clear-cut, one-note supervillain.
Reap what you Sov
Memorable chiefly due to his punk emo hair and temper tantrums, Uldren was one of D1’s more unforgettable supporting characters, and though we heard his anguished scream pierce the Dreadnaught at the purported death of his sister in the opening cinematic for The Taken King, Bungie had carefully shielded information about both his fate and that of his Awoken sister, Mara Sov.
The worlds Bungie paint are bright and believable, imbued with magic and mythos. Stuffed with secrets as well as foes, many of its mysteries we’ve still yet to discover, but that’s always been one of Destiny’s true pillars of strength. While the worlds may not have lived up to the hype we’d been promised all those years ago, it’s a tough heart indeed that can survey the Dreaming City and not be awed by its majesty.
Initially, many of Destiny’s secrets lay hidden within Grimoire cards you could only view on its website, or via obscure missions or side quests, only the hardiest of Guardians would pursue. It’s different, now, though, as Forsaken seeks to deliver additional flavour by way of a reworked system that rewards organic exploration and experimentation.
Rewriting the Rules
Trouble is, Forsaken‘s inventory is problematic not just for newbies, but its battle-hardened Guardians, too. Each time we get a new expansion the rules are slightly rewritten, so each time we get accustomed to how weapons work, or how to heroic public events – pretty much anything – Bungie comes along and shakes it all up again. It’s not a criticism, exactly, because some past changes – such as infusion, for example – have been inherently valuable, but with each change comes the risk of alienating the fan base you have, and overcomplicating a system for the fans yet to come aboard.
Take bounties, for instance. Once an under-utilised means to boost XP, Forsaken is now awash with the things, with everyone from Shaxx to Hawthorn to the Drifter to Tess offering to tie you up with additional challenges. While they vary in difficulty and timescale – some are valid for just a day, whilst others last a week – they’re thoroughly overwhelming, especially as you’re limited by how many you can simultaneously track, and there’s no way to manually organise your bounty cards.
That said, the weapon system has now been simplified, enabling more freedom in tweaking your loadout to your own specifications and permitting Guardians to rock nowt but shotties should that be their preference (yeah, we know; that’s going to be a nightmare in the Crucible). Infusion remains, but requires additional materials that will necessitate additional grinding, and Bungie has reversed the restriction that prevented you from only gobbling up snipers with snipers, and rocket launchers with rocket launchers, and so on.
Is Destiny 2: Forsaken any good?
It’s still early days, and much of Forsaken‘s quality-of-life improvements have yet to be tested. The new cooperative-slash-competitive multiplayer mode Gambit is a joy, albeit already becoming a little predictable, and whilst the refreshed inventory systems frees up Guardians to play to their strengths and utilised the gun types they love best, a consequence of this has been more aggravating, one-note play in the Crucible.
That said, Forsaken is Destiny’s strongest campaign to date, with an emotive story that drives the action and combat in a meaningful, organic way. We’re just still not sure the convoluted progress systems – from bounties to power level – are kind to those stepping into Destiny’s world for the first time. And as the rolls on your weapons are now randomised, the search for That Particular Gun will now be less predictable, which won’t be easy for those who struggle to dedicate the time needed to massage the odds of the right gear dropping.
But what Destiny 2: Forsaken offers most is choice. Never before have Guardians had such agency, and the ability to choose between well-balanced PvE components and PvP modes means there’s now good options for all, regardless of individual play style or weapon choice. Whether you play as a clan or as a lone wolf, there’s plenty to do… and best of all, a myriad of ways to do it, too.