Destiny 2: Forsaken DLC Review
I barely consider Destiny 2 a separate game from Destiny. I personally view them as different chapters of the same game, and having your Guardian transfer from the original to the sequel actually encouraged it to feel as such. Not that it was a firm prerequisite to play the game, though — you could start from scratch from Destiny 2 without nary a backwards glance if you so wished. New players did not have to play the original Destiny to feel part of the ever-increasing universe and old players felt like there was some earned history in their Guardians achievements in the first game.
So it would be fair to say that I have an incredible soft spot for the Destiny franchise, which is just as well. Too many times I’ve said that the lion's share of its DLC expansions are overpriced, routinely flirt with a pitiful amount of content and are generally shallow affairs. However the gunplay, gameplay, lore and graphics just keep on drawing me back. I really am just enamoured with its potential.
The resounding exception to this disappointment was The Taken King in the original Destiny. It was an excellent example of a superbly executed expansion providing hours upon hours of content paired with a glut of loot and quests to indulge in. It did, however, underline just how lacking all other DLC content was in substance or longevity to warrant their high price tags.
This unsettling trend seemed ready to repeat for Destiny 2, including that of its main game — what began as a superb campaign, moving along the story and the lore of the Guardians protecting humanity against the (still) ambiguous ‘Darkness’ was marred by almost no end-game content. Or rather, more accurately, giving the player no real drive to complete said content. It all just sort of fizzled out. The Curse of Osiris DLC was laughably short and boring, and while Warmind had the sense to give players a bit more meat on the bones regarding quests and the such, it still felt a little bit too little too late for many players.
So fool me once, shame on me! But fool me for what will be the SEVENTH time (yes, this is the seventh DLC Bungie has released for the franchise) and I’m not only wary about handing over yet more money, but also sneering at Bungie seemingly just taking its player base for chumps. But that thrice-damned potential keeps winking at me. Increasingly, every single time a new expansion has been announced I resoundly state to all who would listen to me “NO! Not this time!”, just as I begin to hand over my debit card and inevitably purchase it. This is because, despite its glaring issues centred around supposed corporate greed, it really is just a whole heap of fun to play and gosh darned, if it isn’t damn slick in its execution. I still do a mild mid-air fist-pump when I pop my Hunter’s super and wreck the encroaching horde of nasties — and I’ve been playing her for nearly four years. That has to say something about how good Destiny can be when it wants to be.
Now I know I’m prattling on about the release timeline of Destiny, but it’s because context is vital when considering where Forsaken sits in within this all and whether or not it corrects the game’s errors as a whole, or if it is just another bolt on for the game at large. So as a dedicated player who has been let down more than a few times, it gives me great delight to to say from the get go: Forsaken gets just about everything right.
But it should do at an eye-watering £40 price tag. While marketed as an expansion, almost everyone would just consider it another DLC — which is fair to say given expectations of such things. Forsaken is very much a complete game in its own right with a solid six to eight hour campaign (admittedly far less if you’re in the mood for just smashing it out without doing side-quests), new patrol zones (yes, plural) to explore, a superb new PVP/PVE hybrid game mode called Gambit, and an enormous and viciously hard new Raid. That’s not even to mention the vast quantities of quests for new weapons, armour and all manner of exotic goodies to fill your vaults and tear apart your foes that will take hours upon hours to complete in their own right. So for your forty coin, you get about the same amount of mileage as a brand new game.
Despite criticisms about its end game, Destiny 2 did get a lot of things right; with its main campaign, in particular, standing bright. With some excellent character development (which, let’s be honest, was hardly a big task given its predecessor’s lack of personality) and some truly good storytelling, it wore its cliches proudly on its sleeve. While, yes it had all been kinda done before, it did it with a good dollop of bravado and it was so engaging as a result (If you don’t smirk during this fan video of the story footage, then I’m not convinced this review is for you). Forsaken takes that momentum and just runs with it. Its trailers gave away the stakes of the campaign’stale of revenge by showing the beloved Cayde-6 demise (though not actually how it actually occurs), but was actually far cleverer in its actual execution. With the format of the campaign being based around the pursuit of the escaped Barons who murdered your mentor, you essentially have a campaign based around event-driven boss battles; which is to say it makes it so much fun. Every story-based mission feels urgent and, with varying dynamics to what is essentially “go find the big bad and shoot a load of bullets into him or her”, it keeps the gameplay engaging and exciting. More importantly, it’s rewarding when you scratch a big bad off your kill list. Revenge may be best served cold, but it's equally as satisfying with a big f*** off rocket launcher.
Not only that, but each class (Hunter, Warlock and Titan) also gets three new subclasses (though technically it’s three new sub-subclasses) for you to blow apart your enemies with. For the most part the new additions offer new dynamics and skills, but it was somewhat inevitable to see some skills from say, from a Hunter, be seen in the Titan and vice versa (Titans can now get a throwing hammer, much like the Hunters throwing knife). Overall, this means each class now has nine options to choose from as the game progresses, meaning that if you started Destiny 2 today and factoring in Forsaken, players now have a whopping twenty-seven different subclasses to consider for their potential Guardian.
For what feels like the first time, Destiny truly embraces its MMO roots in making no apologies that if you want a particular piece of gear and want to level it up accordingly then you’re going to have to grind hard for the materials to do so. That’s not to say it's an unfair uphill battle, though. A renewed bounty system on each planet and patrol zone means that you don’t just have to stumble upon random chests and materials during your travels, but can get a solid handful of a particular material by completing specific tasks; for example ten Phaseglass on Earth for getting thirty Arc kills. You can also trade glimmer and other materials in exchange for things you may need for things you don’t with Spider on The Tangled Shore. So overall the system is balanced.
However, the load times between planets are still an issue (plaguing the lifespan of Destiny 2). It’s not that they’re especially long (you still find yourself on your phone texting while you wait), but planet-hopping for materials can become a bit of an arduous task if you have to do, say, three planets in quick succession. It’s a nigglesome thing to pass comment on, but if a player has to grind then the goals should be the grind and not the loading screen.
With the grind comes a hefty two hundred light levels to climb, which is the largest jump in any expansion that Destiny has released. To the uninitiated, Destiny has a two-type level system: standard levels up to fifty where you get some loot for leveling up as is the case in most games, as well as a light system which is how powerful your actual gear is. It’s this light level that is where the true measure of your progression in the game is marked. Getting to five hundred is a relatively simple task — play the game, do some quests, push a little bit into grind territory and you’ll be there in a reasonable time. However, getting to six hundred (the new max) is another beast entirely and this is where I have to be brutally honest about my abilities as a player and reviewer. I have been grinding for days — I’m only 516. And I am a regular and good player. The recommended level for the new Raid — the ultimate Destiny endgame event — is 550. I am nowhere near high enough to even contemplate entering it, let alone completing it. As such, a fellow regular gamer streamed his Raid run for me to witness, take notes and pass comment accordingly.
Without entering spoiler territory, the new Raid is up there with the best that Bungie has created. Called “The Last Wish” it is also, for the first time in my eyes at least, a perfect example of why Destiny still resolutely stands by its decision not to open matchmaking for its fireteam of six showdown, meaning you still have to have five other players on your friends list to go in with. It is unforgivingly hard, full of puzzles, desperate gunfights and tense boss battles — you simply must communicate and work together as a team to best it. It is absolutely everything you want from an endgame activity, and I’m practically frothing at the mouth to best it. It advances game lore, and is generous in its rewards — besting it requires some true dedication, skill and a good portion of luck. For the first real time, Destiny has content that feels truly elite and out-of-reach for so many players. That may draw criticism from some, but not from me. I adore that there is something I cannot just rock up and casually do. The loot from the Raid is hard earned — and that is 100% okay in my books. Nothing worth having comes easy, anyway.
Since Overwatch got its claws stuck firmly in me, most other PVP gameplay leaves me cold. I can and do play Destiny’s version that is The Crucible (it’s a great way to get more powerful gear), but I don’t find it especially rewarding or engaging. It sure used to be, but that was pre-Overwatch. It has been lamented by its player base as being too twitchy, or having too many easy-kill weapons, or that 4v4 gameplay isn’t as tense (it used to be 6v6) and other nerdy stuff that is simply not important to the casual player. The Crucible is OK, and Forsaken doesn’t really do much more to change my mind in that regard. Though it should be noted that Bungie has roadmapped more game types which should bring back some flair in the weeks and months to come.
However (and gosh is it a big however), Forsaken has brought us Gambit.
Gambit is a PVP/PVE combat experience. Two teams of four, in seperate maps, kill hordes of AI nasties to collect motes to fill the vault to unleash the boss which they then have to kill. The first team to kill the big bad wins the round. However, when certain conditions are met, a portal opens on your map allowing one of your team to travel to the enemy map to start popping shots at the other team. It’s a simple mechanic but holy heck is it intense. Your brazen open-field gunfire against the AI hordes simply won’t work against a player who is actively hunting you (with extra shields and hidden on radar, no less) for thirty seconds or until they are killed. It also has the added bonus of providing an even playing field across different skill types of players. If you’re useless at PVP but love fighting against the hordes, then you’ll still be actively helping your team by collecting the motes needed to win. If you’re a PVP junkie, you’re going to benefit the team by wrecking the opposition every time the portal comes up, or when you’re defending against an invader. It’s a wonderfully ruthless and tense game-mode which far exceeds any expectations I had for it. It is simply brilliant.
The truth of the matter is, though, Destiny’s reputation precedes itself. Its fumbling of watered-down content, the aforementioned costs of upkeep in playing said content (currently, as I’ve purchased DLC as it comes out — my Destiny 2 bill sits at £140 for a year’s worth of content) means that if you hold the opinion that Destiny is a waste of time and money, then very little is going to sway your opinion with the release of Forsaken. Bungie did this before with The Taken King with the original, and while it was excellent, they followed it up with another sub-par offering with The Rise of Iron DLC. They just keep dropping the ball. While I absolutely adore Forsaken, I have real concerns that I’ll be conned again in a few months down the line. So whether or not you purchase it will be heavily based on your previous personal experience and expectations of the franchise as a whole, regardless of the glowing review here.
However, I envy any player that picks up Forsaken as part of a bundle with Destiny 2 and powers it up for the first time. There are hundreds of hours of content, a myriad of quests and hidden areas, lore and strikes that just keeps escalating and getting better as you progress through. It is absolutely worth the asking price, and I implore anyone without any preconceptions to just go grab it and immerse yourself in it during the winter months — you will not regret it.
If you do have preconceptions, perhaps you were a fan that feels let down too often, Forsaken will soothe many of the wounds previously inflicted. It addresses player concerns, fixes them, and then throws in more goodness over the top of everything. It is superb in its execution and offers more of the incredible gameplay that hooked us in in the first instance.
Fool us eight times, Bungie? Let us certainly hope not, going forward.
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