The addition of a bow is one of Destiny 2: Forsaken’s strangest choices. In its announcement video for the expansion, the team at Bungie even said as much. After all, why would you use a bow when you have giant guns and rocket launchers?
Because they’re fun as hell, it turns out.
At an Activision-run event at Bungie’s headquarters last week, I was able to get some early, hands-on experience with Forsaken. One of the first things I tried was, of course, the new bow. While I was restricted to playing with a controller on PlayStation 4, the bow still felt like a Bungie weapon. The sights were snappy, the shots were powerful and the payoff felt worth the time investment.
The bow fits nicely around a sniper rifle as well, filling a pretty weird gap in Destiny’s primary weapon types. A sniper rifle can deal heavy damage from afar when given an ideal target, but it struggles up close. It’s a specialized weapon, built for certain encounters.
Bows are a bit more flexible than their long-range ballistic cousin. A quick pull of the trigger will see a heavy arc, but one still capable of dealing damage in clutch situations. Where the bow gets interesting is how you can charge it without aiming down the sights.
The bow lets you pull back the string, then aim and fire, which allows you to prep, aim and let loose in a single, fluid motion. While other long-range tools are perfect for specific target situations, the bow is an instrument of in-the-moment action. It’s far less surgical than a sniper rifle. I found myself regularly nocking an arrow while I was still selecting a target, only to turn and let it fly into some Dreg or Captain on a whim.
Because of this flexibility, the bow doesn’t feel nearly as specialized as the sniper rifle. I still feel like I can come up with scenarios where I would use a sniper instead, although it wouldn’t be nearly as fun. The relationship isn’t entirely dissimilar to the one between hand cannons and scout rifles. Both fire a single shot, and one is perfect for medium to long ranges while the other is great for short to medium ranges. In most cases, I find myself opting for the short-to-medium category and going for a hand cannon, with scout rifles reserved for special situations. The bow and sniper can cover similar ranges, but the sniper is more specialized, while the bow is more broad.
Since I’m a die-hard hand cannon user, the bow pairs nicely with what I like to do — giving me a medium- to long-range weapon to complement my short- to medium-range hand cannon. Once heavy machine guns come back in the Black Armory update, I’ll truly have the perfect loadout at my fingertips.
It’s exciting to see a new archetype of weapon, even with Destiny’s already massive arsenal. What can’t be stressed enough about the bows in Forsaken is how truly Destiny they feel. As a studio known for its gun mechanics, it’s no surprise that Bungie made a gunlike bow feel great. But credit for this also has to go to Destiny’s fabulous art team, which somehow managed to make bows look normal in a world with hoverbikes and space magic.
Most of the bows that I found had some sort of elaborate string apparatus going on all around them. They look like modern compound bows, but somehow more complicated. And because Destiny is in space, there is a glowing meter on these bows that lets you know how tightly you’ve pulled the strings, and if they’re ready to fire or not. But other bows, like the Wish Ender exotic, look more traditional, filling the “space magic” aesthetic of Destiny as well.
My takeaway with Destiny bows after only a few hours of using them is that they work remarkably well, even though they probably shouldn’t. We should all be looking at each other with confusing glares that such a low-tech weapon made it into our space-time-future game, but Bungie has gone through so much work to make it fit that you’d think it had been there all along.