Editor’s Note: This is a review in progress. Check back later for additional updates as we work through the content in Destiny 2: Forsaken.
Bungie’s space-faring adventure Destiny 2 is a weird game. One of its biggest problems, though, is that the developer seems unwilling to fully embrace that weirdness. The result is Destiny 2: Forsaken, a big new expansion with lots of cool ideas that are never fully embraced.
There’s a huge new chunk to explore in The Tangled Shore, a series of asteroids lashed together to make up a shattered landscape. Of course, it’s covered in bad guys to shoot in creative ways.
Forsaken also brings a new story to Destiny 2, one that starts out with the death of one of the franchise’s mainstay characters, Cayde-6. That’s supposed to infuse the proceedings with emotion, but as with every story Destiny since the first game’s release in 2014, the possibilities presented at the start never pay off with a satisfying conclusion.
A revenge story. Kinda.
Forsaken is a more personal story than the big, world-threatening adventures players have previously faced. It starts with a prison break (in space!) and ends with the death of Cayde at the hands of an old Destiny character called Uldren Sov.
The setup puts the player on the path of seeking revenge for Cayde (who had the most personality of character in Destiny 2, by far), by taking out Uldren and each of the Barons that helped him break out of space jail.
Forsaken is a major improvement for Destiny 2, yet also another weak entry in a series of weak expansions.
That’s about it for the story, unfortunately. Players head to the “lawless frontier” of the Tangled Shore (read: full of bad guys, like everywhere) to hunt the Barons and kill them. This isn’t a sanctioned mission. The player heads out to kill the guys who murdered your friend, basically abandoning your role as protector of humanity for a personal crusade. Forsaken occasionally brings up that conflict, and mentions you’re hunting and executing criminals who would otherwise leave you alone. Is that what good guys do?
While the game asks that question, it never tries to answer it. Instead, Forsaken focuses on cool boss fights. You’ll take down one guy while battling on hovering “Pike” bikes; another sets traps everywhere, requiring you to be extra vigilant (and use them against her); another uses decoys and sniper fire to try to take you out before you can corner and confront him. It’s great that Forsaken makes each of the boss fights feel unique and fun, even if the Barons have little to nothing in the way of characterization.
The campaign culminates in hunting down Uldren. The story hints it’s up to something weird that has to do with the Taken, a spooky set of baddies from the original Destiny. Here, though, Bungie is unable or unwilling to fully embrace its own ideas and premise, and there’s no pay-off to the tease. The climax is a frustrating, strange battle that makes no sense and doesn’t offer a satisfying end to the revenge tale, or any other plot point set up through the campaign. It’s all flash, no substance.
Changes for better and for worse
While there are plenty of other hooks in the Tangled Shore — new strikes, new public events, new weapons to hunt down and new secrets to find — the most striking (and welcome) things in Forsaken are its changes to how Destiny 2 works.
The new Collections menu is a great quality of life change that allows players to get rid of all the crap they might be carrying.
Some of those changes are distinctly for the better. Destiny 2 now tracks just about everything you do in the game in a list called “Triumphs,” which is basically a big snapshot of players’ Destiny 2 career. It’s a handy thing to have for organization, but more than that, it’s filled with goals for players to accomplish even after they’ve worked through all the content of Forsaken. The Triumphs list should help keep people engaged for longer in those gaps between content drops, and that’s great news.
Also great is the expansion of “Collections,” a big running list of all the guns and armor players have found in Destiny 2. A big organizational helper, the Collections menu allows players to get rid of all the crap they might be carrying around that they don’t need.
Any loot they’ve unlocked in the game can be reclaimed for a price from Collections, allowing players to just hang on to the best stuff. That’s a quality of life improvement that should make the entire loot side of Destiny 2 cleaner, while adding an extra incentive to show players exactly what they’re missing, so they can go back out into the world to find it.
Not every change is for the better, though. A few frustrating features have returned from the original game. Increasing the power of weapons, for example, forces players to track down a bunch of different currencies and items. Doing this isn’t option, because your power level in Destiny 2 (and therefore, what content you’re able to access) is based on the power level of your stuff. It’s the return of mandatory busywork.
More to see
So far, Destiny 2: Forsaken is an expansion with lots of ups and downs. The revenge tale Bungie might have hoped to spin feels half-hearted, like most of the storytelling in the Destiny universe, despite an abundance of strange and interesting lore to tap.
The boss fights, however, are wonderful. Destiny 2 is always at its best when Bungie is injecting creative alterations to the core shooter formula, and a lot of that’s on display in this new expansion.
Changes to the core systems, meanwhile, take two steps forward and one step back. The game’s long list of improvements is paired with the return for grinding for grinding’s sake.
Check back later this week for our final impressions.
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