Destiny 2: Forsaken review – expansion is addictive to play, but don’t get trapped
Think of Destiny as a digital resort – it’s predictable and consistent, and boasts eye-catching environments. But once the fun turns to stagnation, it’s time to get out
Destiny 2: Forsaken
The games in the Destiny series have always aspired to keep players busy not for hours or weeks, but months on end. When the first game launched in 2014, it appeared on track to accomplish its mission.
Despite the fact that Destiny came under fire for its patchwork story, it supported a community that appeared quite content running through its various activities repeatedly to acquire rare loot, exotic weapons or armour.
Last year’s Destiny 2 launched to much more positive reviews, but failed to produce the same type of long-term buzz as its predecessor. (Some faulted the game for the distribution of its rarer items and wondered if the developers were trying to steer players into spending money on loot boxes.)
Over the course of Destiny’s lifespan, video game producer Bungie has proven itself highly skilled at creating major expansions that put out a siren’s call to lapsed players. Destiny had The Taken King expansion, which proved that the developers could tell a coherent, if ultimately forgettable, story and now Destiny 2 has Forsaken. The new expansion pulls the classic shake-up-the-franchise move of knocking off a well-known character to inject a feeling of urgency into the narrative.
Forsaken’s campaign mode begins beneath the purple skies of the Prison of Elders, where you and two other Guardians (the game’s good guys) attempt to quell a prison uprising. After things go calamitously south for one of your comrades, your Guardian sets out on a path of retribution.
Though this revenge tale builds to a predictable reversal of fortune at the end, it’s told with breezy economy. Try as I might, I failed to spot any promising new howlers to compete with Destiny’s infamously cheesy dialogue. (My cousin, with whom I played through most of the game, is quite fond of quoting one of the more choice lines from Destiny 2: “Back off, you ugly piece of work.”)
Most of Forsaken’s missions take place in a section of the Asteroid Belt known as the Tangled Shore, a new addition to Destiny’s many stunning landscapes. Roaming through the area with a friend, I found myself in agreement with his observation that the environments recall the galactic splendour of old science fiction book covers. (I played Forsaken on a PS4 Pro hooked up to a Samsung 4K QLED TV, and was impressed with the game’s chequerboard rendering, which delivers a remarkably clear, if not, quite native 4K image.)
Forsaken offers some of the most spectacular light shows in all of gaming. Numerous times, as I watched projectiles whizzing through the air while Guardians deployed their “supers” or comic-book-heroesque special attacks, I couldn’t help but wonder how the developers managed to cram so many effects on screen without a dip in frame rate.
Besides adding more of what players have come to expect from a new Destiny add-on – new gear, side quests, cooperative missions, and a raid – Forsaken introduces Gambit, a new activity that fuses co-op and player-vs-player gameplay. In Gambit, two four-player teams compete against each other over three rounds by taking on waves of enemies controlled by artificial intelligence. Slaying an enemy causes it to drop a mote – a silvery triangular object – that can be picked up and deposited in a team’s bank.
After a team deposits 75 motes, it’s able to summon an AI-controlled boss known as a Primeval. The first team to destroy a Primeval wins the round. Complicating matters, if your character dies before banking his or her motes those potential points are permanently lost. That said, the more motes that you bank at one time (up to 15 can be carried by a single Guardian) the more powerful an AI-controlled enemy you’ll send to stand over the other team’s bank. (Motes cannot be deposited as long as an enemy is standing in the vicinity of a bank.)
Furthermore, once a team has banked 25 motes, a portal opens up allowing one team member to invade the other side. Doing so allows the team’s invader to either collect additional motes by downing other players or, if the opposing team has already summoned a Primeval, to heal it.
Gambit is tailor-made for a person like me, someone who gravitates to co-op but doesn’t mind a dash of player-vs-player every now and then. I enjoyed my time with it, except when I got stuck on a team whose players were more concerned with killing enemies than banking motes. Grr …
As much as I like Gambit, I won’t be playing it incessantly. I’m wary of open-ended games because of the time commitment. I’m certainly not immune to the charms of grinding for a slightly better gun, but, for me, the spell inevitably fizzles and what was calming, even meditative, turns vacuous.
Then, sometimes, the cycle repeats itself. So I think of Destiny as a digital resort. Like a tourist trap, it provides a predictable, consistent experience that’s enlivened by its eye-catching environments. It’s all good until the feeling of stagnation sinks in.