Destiny 2: Forsaken is being billed as a rebirth for Destiny 2, a great game that saw a massive dip in players after only a few months, and has been going downhill ever since. For most games, a month’s worth of quality engagement would be great, but an online game like Destiny 2 needs more longevity if it wants to keep players coming back. At an Activision-run event at Bungie’s offices last week, I was able to sit down and play about six hours of Forsaken, and I’m pleased to report that it delivers on nearly every front ... so far.
From Forsaken’s opening mission, Destiny 2 feels different than it did two weeks ago. Maybe it’s as simple as the weapon slot changes, but it certainly seems like more than that. The world, the music, the story; it’s all much darker than it was before. It’s a marriage of the overly serious mentality of the first game and the bit-too-lighthearted feeling of the second. Things start bad in Forsaken, and there isn’t any guarantee that they’ll get much better by the expansion’s end. But the worlds appear alive, despite the dark nature of everything surrounding them.
I spent quite a bit of time in the new Tangled Shore destination, which is filled with resources and chests, and Fallen — both friend and foe. When you first land on its utterly barren front, the location looks like the rough-and-tumble desert that Bungie promised. But as you dive deeper, making your way into the anchored-together asteroids via cracks and gravity lifts, the wasteland goes from moisture farm to Mos Eisley.
The depths of the Tangled Shore are compact and cluttered; you can’t walk more than a step or two without running into a pack of enemies or the Spider’s goons. Makeshift huts and toppled ether canisters are everywhere, giving the wasteland a lived-in feel. But the Reef is in a state of war when you arrive, with the Fallen fighting against their undead brothers and sisters: the Scorn. The two races look and act fairly similarly, making their conflict appear from afar like a strange civil war — something that Guardians will be only too eager to interrupt.
But the Tangled Shore isn’t all dark Western space opera. A fellow member of the press discovered a Lost Sector that made them burst into laughter, which of course led to them sharing the coordinates with the rest of us. When I walked in myself, I found some sort of Fallen nightclub. Other previews have detailed this Lost Sector before, but they failed to mention that Paul McCartney's very silly “Hope for the Future” Destiny song is blaring loudly over the speakers, followed by some kind of space banjo music.
The Dreaming City, a location we only got a brief look at, is easily the most beautiful space Bungie has ever created. Every part of it looks handmade — not by the developers, but by the Awoken people that supposedly lived there. It feels like hallowed ground, something that an entire species poured their culture and aesthetic into before being wiped out.
But like the Tangled Shore, the Dreaming City is already in trouble by the time we get there. Some kind of curse has gripped the surrounding areas, leaving Guardians with a lot of work to do. One activity we played in the Dreaming City was the new Blind Well, Forsaken’s equivalent to Escalation Protocol.
While I didn’t get to spend much time with it, what was there was already more interesting than the wave-based mode from Warmind. You spend your time ducking in and out of a small safety zone, which rapidly expands to cover more ground as the mode goes on. It was fun, and failure left me eager to try again, rather than move onto something else. The only thing we can hope for is that it comes with the kind of rewards that players will want to grind for — and that it’ll avoid some of Escalation Protocol’s matchmaking issues.
Of all the Forsaken-specific content I played, the Warden of Nothing strike was by far my favorite. It takes place in the heart of the Prison of Elders, and has some of the best callback moments of anything I’ve played in Destiny 2. I found myself — and the rest of the room — laughing at each surprise and silly death. It brought me back to the original Destiny, and the great times I had raiding the Prison of Elders with friends.
And from what I’ve seen so far, that’s what Forsaken is all about. Every aspect of it seems like a step in the right direction (backward): armor pieces and weapons with random rolls, a deeper level of customization, and locations that feel like they’re alive around you. For an old Destiny player like me, it’s like coming home.
But Forsaken still feels like a Destiny 2 expansion. Instead of giving up on Destiny 2 and reverting wholly to the original game, Bungie has made Forsaken an amalgamation of the two. There is so much to do and see that it seems like you’ll never finish it all, even if some of that content is the same grindy nonsense that players saw in Destiny. But with the gameplay improvements of Destiny 2 still intact, Forsaken is an expansion that I can also see appealing to vanilla players who stepped away for a bit after they ran out of interesting things to do.
There is so much left to discover in Destiny 2: Forsaken, but the sections I've seen and played are the best that Bungie has offered us yet in Destiny 2. Forsaken feels like the transformative expansion for Destiny 2 that The Taken King was for Destiny. But Forsaken has the potential to surpass our bout with Oryx, ushering in the best age of Destiny we’ve ever seen.
We’ll have to see how Forsaken ages, and what happens when that six hours becomes 40. But for now, I have more ... hope for the future for Destiny than I have in a long time.