“The line between light and darkness is so very thin….” - Uldren Sov
Like this commentary from Destiny 2: Forsaken’s Mr. “Most-Likely-to-Take-a-series-of-Bullets-From-Vengeful-Guardians,” it is a delicately thin line that the Destiny franchise rides. At its heart, Destiny is a first person shooter, yet it has flirted with MMO elements for years. So much so that its community has been torn over what to call it. With the release of Destiny 2: Forsaken, Bungie begins to define the relationship. This is our review of Destiny 2: Forsaken.
Be warned, this review will contain some story spoilers. I will try to keep them to a minimum.
The Story So Far…
Many in the Destiny community have likened Forsaken to Destiny’s expansion, The Taken King, and they wouldn’t be wrong. Forsaken and The Taken King not only marked significant improvements to in-game features such as new super abilities, UI Updates, new regions and raids, it also connects within the great story of the Destiny universe. Most significant is with the Family Sov.
In its opening act, Forsaken sets up a story of revenge, loyalty, and justice. Uldren Sov may be the man who pulls the trigger, but he did so in the name of his sister, Mara Sov, the late queen of the the Reef-born Awoken. Mara’s death, and we assumed Uldren’s as well, happened at the beginning of The Taken King as Mara’s fleet sought to stop Oryx, the dreaded Hive prince turned titular Taken King.
Uldren’s survival and conquest leave Cayde-6 as nothing more than collateral damage, a poetic reflection of how most players viewed the death of Mara Sov. There was no reason Cayde had to die, other than the sad reality of any beloved character: he could. And his death fueled a righteous rampage across the Tangled Shore to stop Uldren and his band of twisted escapees, the Barons of the Scorn.
Again, like The Taken King, Destiny 2: Forsaken adds a new enemy to the battlefield: the Scorn. The Scorn are Fallen twisted by darkness-tainted ether. They are the seething rejects from Fallen houses, yet they are no longer subservient to the machine gods or capricious Kells of the Fallen. Even the beginnings of their Barons are sympathetically tragic.
And these are the things that make the story of Forsaken so satisfying. New and interesting characters are introduced while old, familiar faces receive new depth. You drop into a story that began far before you entered it with characters whose moral compasses feel true to them. Uldren wants justice for his sister while you want justice for Cayde. Ikora, who is typically more calculated, wants to storm the Reef while Zavala, normally a man of action, refuses to retaliate. The Scorn were rejected and stripped of power only to return as an actual threat. Even the Tangled Shore itself (a series of asteroids tethered together and the main narrative area of Forsaken) is a lawless frontier where ambitions and moral ambiguities seem justifiable to those who would make this their home.
Enough story… for now.
Where FPS Meets MMO
As mentioned earlier, Bungie is starting to define Destiny’s relationship with the MMO genre with greater commitment to it by delivering on what an MMO is and what it can be. But much like a deal made with an Ahamkara, be careful what you wish for. You may get what you ask for, but it may not come in the way you asked for it.
With a new Director layout, Destiny 2: Forsaken offers a fairly clear system of progression at the end game. Bounties can be acquired on each planet that give rewards and allow you to min/max your questing time. Weekly challenges are offered by different characters for tasks such as completing bounties, running Strikes/Crucible/Gambit daily, or more.
These Strikes, Destiny’s three-man instanced dungeons, are simply fantastic. They augment the main story by sharing side stories of things going on within the greater galaxy. A huge stand out in this area is the Strike called Warden of Nothing. Not only are there satisfying moments of combat, the environment itself leads you through the Prison of Elders. You will dodge its trams and run on rails while fighting through the bedlam within. The new Lost Sectors share this same excellent narrative design, thanks in no small part to Bungie’s partnership with fellow Activision studio, High Moon.
Srikes and Lost Sectors are not the only ways to get loot. There are also Daily and Weekly quests which can reward Powerful Engrams for randomized equipment drops as well as a daily buff which improve the drop rates for Prime Engrams - engrams with significant Power boosting potential. This is one place where the RNG system of traditional MMOs comes in. The second is in random rolls; all loot is subject to them. That means that you could get the same pulse rifle (i.e. Right Side of Wrong) four times, but each on with a different set of modifiers.
While this may seem initially inconvenient, it has its benefits. Let’s say that you happen to get a high Power level piece of gear with terrible rolls, but you have that same one in a lower Power level with the modifiers you want. As long as they have the same name, for a little Glimmer, you can upgrade them for a modest fee. It is worth noting that all gear can be upgraded, but if the items don’t match, there is a materials fee.
PvP continues to evolve in Destiny 2: Forsaken with Gambit joining the ranks alongside the Crucible and Iron Banner. Gambit is an interesting competitive mode which mixes traditional FPS competitive play with a PvE element taking the main focus. Gambit pits two teams against each other in a race to gather and deposit 75 motes before the opposing team. Gathering these motes will summon a Primeval which must be destroyed before your opponents. Here is the hitch: if you die while carrying motes, you lose them. If an enemy player takes a portal to your side, they can kill you. If you have a Primeval in play, player kills will heal the Primeval. It is a refreshing take on objective-based PvP which puts a greater priority on team play than the PvP itself.
Forsaken doesn’t stop the MMO experience with PvP, loot, dungeons, and raids- it also has a series of achievement called Triumphs which can be viewed and tracked within the menus. Within this section, you can view the lore cards you have collected along with achievements that you have to unlock. Once a Triumph is fully completed, players will earn a seal which will be worn as badges of honor, much like nameplate titles.
With all of this MMO talk, I would be remiss if I did not mention the associated cost. Like most traditional MMO expansions, in order to play the new content, you must own the prior content. Keep in mind that while Forsaken does give you access to a majority of the Year Two content, it does not include all of it. This requires a season pass. If you have never played Destiny 2, it means that your buy-in for Forsaken with the Season Pass is going to be around $100. There is a bundle that is just Year One Content and Forsaken for $60. However, if you currently have Destiny 2 along with The Curse of Osiris and Warmind, the digital bundle version which includes the Season Pass will cost around $70.
While this may be a steep buy-in on the front end, if we are couching Destiny 2: Forsaken in MMO terms, this would mean that the entire year’s worth of content would sift down into a monthly subscription fee of around $8.
Destiny has had its share of missteps and shortcomings over the course of its life as a franchise, but in the midst of them all, Bungie has listened to their community, drawn insight from their mistakes, and created something truly remarkable from it all. What they have done so well with Destiny 2: Forsaken is to show measured maturation as they improve upon their weak points by partnering with other developers.
I truly believe that Destiny 2: Forsaken serves as a love-letter to their fanbase who see Destiny for what it can be: a solid multiplayer, sci-fi shooter with a compelling story to tell while using all of their tools (music, narrative, design) to tell it. Forsaken delivers pitch-perfectly on each point… with a only a few pitchy stragglers on the periphery. Yet, even in those slight imperfections, Bungie has delivered an experience that, down to the last bullet, is truly satisfying.
Note: Our copy of Destiny 2: Forsaken was reviewed on PC with a code provided by Activision.
Overall Score: 9.5/10
- Excellent narrative direction
- Remarkable atmosphere created by an epic soundscape and intriguing locations
- Meaningful options for progression at end game
- Gambit brings unique competitive play
- Tons of hidden lore to uncover
- Gear within the Collection cannot be created at end game
- Steep buy-in for new players