Games Review: Destiny 2: Forsaken (PS4, 2018) is the expansion you’ve been waiting for

It’s been three weeks since Forsaken, the latest expansion for Destiny 2 launched, and in many ways I’m still struggling to wrap my head around the enormity of it. I’ve got a life outside of my work on this website — I have a side job, I have obligations to friends and family, I have other bloody games to review — which meant when it came to being ready for the opening of the expansion’s major Raid, I didn’t have a prayer.

There were a few in my friends list I saw jumping into the Raid on opening day but they were the dedicated hardcore, the ones who’d been grinding nonstop since launch to be Raid ready. This should tell you a lot about Forsaken. After a pair of expansions that left fans feeling like Bungie weren’t playing to their strengths, Forsaken reorients the series around the things that players loved about the original Destiny — a muscular campaign, equally strong multiplayer in PvE and PvP, the never-ending loot treadmill — and Destiny 2 is better for it, even if the demands it makes on your time and patience can be extreme.

Destiny 2‘s campaign was fairly straightforward — Guardians must come together to defeat a singular, 100% evil maniac. Simple to understand if you don’t want to dive into the lore, and enough to give players a goal to push toward. Forsaken has no interest in such an easy, morally black-and-white story. Fan favourite Hunter character Cayde-6 is dead, his death sending your Guardian on a quest for revenge, determined to find and destroy the monsters responsible for this act.

And monsters they certainly are — there are a total of eight Barons, extremely powerful generals that are a part of a new race called the Scorn. The expansion’s gloomy tone and its one-boss-at-a-time structure allow Bungie to create a campaign that is more interesting than anything in the first two expansions combined. Rather than feeling like you’re being made to hop from world to world as a means of stretching the total play time out, the felling of each boss lets you feel like you’re a step closer to avenging Cayde. It’s not especially deep — no Destiny story ever truly is — but it’s better than I’ve come to expect from Bungie and they’re to be commended for that.

What’s more, Bungie don’t force you to jump planets too often in Forsaken. Most of the expac’s events go down in the Tangled Shore, the game’s newest locale. Setting the expansion in this unfamiliar territory lets Bungie have some fun with each of the Baron bosses. One is a lunatic on a tricked out Pike that rapidly drives rings around the player, cackling like a madwoman. Another is a real asshole called the Trickster that has strewn his stronghold with bombs disguised as engrams. You’ll never look at an engram drop the same way again.

Along the way, you forge an uneasy partnership with a Fallen mobster named Spider, united in your desire to destroy the Scorn and not much else. Spider becomes your go-to vendor for the expansion and his manipulative tasks are you best method of quickly exploring the Tangled Shore.

I rolled through the campaign solo (which has an entry requirement of Level 30, so if you haven’t dinged that yet you’ve some work to do) and my total play time clocked in at around 10 hours. Knocking over the campaign opened up a second new location, the Dreaming City. The level requirement for this area jumped again so if the campaign didn’t see you grind up a fair way, you’ll have to spend a bit more time on Weekly Challenges to get there.

How you want to approach this is up to you — if you’re in no rush, then the standard strat of popping in on the weekend to see Xur and running a few challenges will get you there eventually. If you want in right away, you’re looking at two or three pretty intense days of grinding.

The harsh grind is mitigated somewhat by the thing that has always been Destiny‘s true strength — its loot treadmill. Shooting things is what you do in Destiny 2 and it remains as fun and satisfying as ever, which is good because completing weekly challenges are mostly about shooting and tend to reward you with ever stranger and more powerful weapons. This helps keep the grind from feeling too dull, and it’s always interesting to see how easily you’re able to turn bosses that gave you hell in earlier iterations of the game into paste.

But the best new addition to Forsaken has to be the new Gambit mode. A multiplayer offering that is part PvP and part PvE, Gambit has players fighting against an enemy team on a separate map. The idea is that you wipe out computer-controlled enemy waves and hoover up the motes they drop. These motes are then banked and used to summon a final boss enemy, which must be destroyed before the enemy team can wipe theirs.

Throughout each match, the opportunity for players on each team to invade the opposing map and go looking for day-ruining PvP kills. I love this new mode. It’s some of the smartest multiplayer design Bungie have implemented since their Halo days. It perfectly blends a number of existing modes into something new and exciting, and I can’t stop playing it. The urgency of trying to stay ahead of the other team and diving for cover when an invader turns up, it’s exactly the kind of hectic I’m looking for. If you’re looking for a way to level up quick, Gambit is the mode you’re looking for.

Once the campaign has been knocked over, a final quest line called Cayde’s Will unlocks and for those who love collecting rare or exotic weapons, this will be worth all the trouble. The quest rewards those who complete with Cayde’s hand cannon, Ace of Spades, and sees you bouncing from several different planets, participating in Strikes, Gambit matches and over to the Crucible. Every part of the quest emphasises the use of hand cannons, before wrapping up with a narrative quest that closes the book on the expansion’s main story while also leaving a number of lore threads unanswered. Plus the Ace of Spades kicks a huge amount of ass and the damage it outputs is well worth the effort spent obtaining it.

It took me about a week of solid daily grinding to gear up to a point where I felt confident entering the Dreaming City. It’s one of the game’s most beautiful areas, full of crystalline buildings and walkways. But the Dreaming City is also crawling with Taken, and you’ll be charging through various portals and teleporting around the city as you try to wipe them and move about. There’s two main things to do in the Dreaming City: the Blind Well and the Ascendant Challenge.

The Blind Well is a public event in the style of a Horde Mode and you can try it out in a few different difficulty tiers. The harder tiers will require two or more Fireteams before you can really progress up the difficulty ladder. The Blind Well is no joke. The Ascendent Challenge is a weekly event, not public, that must be tackled with a Fireteam. Absolute best of luck to anyone trying to run this thing solo or with randoms. The challenge changes each week and could be anything from toppling an especially powerful boss or a platforming speed run. As with other events and challenges, knocking both of these activities over will get you high-grade gear, which should be enough to convince most Raid-preppers to jump in.

Forsaken has so much to do that it might be a bit overwhelming for anyone jumping back in for the first time since launch. It will take even the most dedicated players quite a bit of time to chew through all the content it has to offer but, far more than previous expansions, there is an apparent expectation that you’ll be playing regularly.

For those weekend warriors who like to check in on Saturday morning or Sunday night, this means they’ll be chewing through it for a very long time indeed. For those who want to gear up and get raiding, they’ve got a real hike on their hands. There’s plenty of variety in the activities available, but there’s so much work you have to do that some may hang it up before they really get started. But if you can get through it all and get your hands on that sweet Raid gear, boy the end game content is worth the arduous hike to the top.

 

FOUR STARS OUT OF FIVE

Highlights: It’s nice to be pumped about a Destiny 2 expac again; Great new locales; Strong campaign
Lowlights: Woah, that’s a lot of grind
Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Activision
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows PC
Available: Now

Review conducted on a PlayStation 4 Pro with a retail code provided by the publisher.

David Smith

David Smith is the games and technology editor at The AU Review. He has previously worked as a freelance games journalist and critic, appearing on PC World Australia. He tweets at @RhunWords and plays the odd game at twitch.tv/RhunWords when the internet works.