Destiny 2 is one of those games where it takes weeks to properly analyse, and appreciate, its various systems, quirks, upgrade paths and more. But with Destiny 2: Forsaken, it’s immediately apparent how much has changed, and how intently Bungie has listened, and learned, from its community and its game over the past year thanks to the introduction of new opportunities that should keep you coming back day, after day, after day, etc.
These are all important, necessary lessons too. With more games vying for our attention on a daily basis nowadays, from the likes of Fortnite or PUBG to upcoming AAAs like Black Ops 4 or Battlefield 5, Destiny 2: Forsaken does have to up its game. Not to mention that with Forsaken, Bungie is asking fans to invest again. For a game series that has made a good percentage of its fans sad over the past year, it's a big risk, both in terms of finances and goodwill. Bungie has proved once before that the second year is the best (thank-you, Taken King), so we should have faith, right?
Well, yes. You're about to be rewarded for your patience and your dedication to the Destiny cause. I've spent a full day with Destiny 2: Forsaken and the new systems that Bungie has layered on top of its core is about to change the game substantially, adding more depth - and arguably complexity in some cases - to everything you do in Destiny 2.
For me the biggest new addition is the new Triumphs system. On the surface they resemble World of Warcraft's achievement system, complete with their own version of titles, known as Seals. The more Triumphs you tick off in a specific section, the higher your seal will rise, allowing you to show off your particular title. Triumphs are grouped around different activities, ranging from destinations or lore, to the Vanguard and Gambit, and might include something simple like win a certain number of Gambit matches, to killing a specific number of enemies in one match. But there are plenty of them, including a mere 185 Crucible Triumphs. Think of them a bit like the Fortnite Battle Pass Challenges, but on a much, much larger scale. They're going to be the sort of thing you do in the background, like a long-term goal version of your milestones, and add some much needed focus to activities outside of the kind of checklists we've had so far.
Woven into this is a new way to build an almost literal tome of lore, building out the backstory of Forsaken and its characters. A bit like Grimoire from back in the days of original Destiny, you can collect lore from dead ghosts, completing challenges, taking out enemies and collecting other items. But instead of having to go onto an entirely separate website, it's all built into the pages of your Lore Triumphs, with wonderful stories written by a selection of different authors for you to peruse at your leisure. I've only unlocked a few to date, but they're beautifully told.
Tangled Shore is a bouldered land of intrigue and adventures...
Of course, an expansion like Forsaken would be nothing without new areas to explore. How else are we meant to complete all those Destination Triumphs? The majority of Forsaken's story takes place on the Tangled Shore, where Spider has made his home as he absentmindedly fiddles with a Ghost shell like a Rubik's Cube and calling my Guardian pet names like "Little Morsel". This is the locale that's described as a "patchwork wasteland on the edge of the Reef", where the land is made by strapping together multiple asteroids for a kind of makeshift landscape. But boy, is it beautiful. It has that kind of aesthetic that makes sure it wouldn't look out of place in a Star Wars movie, with bulbous metal shacks adorning the landing area of, well, Thieves Landing, while metal walkways bridge gaps across the cosmic abyss. Elsewhere though, you'll find lunar boulders protruding from grey sands littered with the Scorn and Dredge. New public events on this boulderous locale include stopping an ether ritual protected by high-level Dredge Chieftains, followed by a huge Ether Abomination. There will, of course, be a way of turning this firefight heroic, but that's for us all to work out come launch.
What I particularly love about the Tangled Shore is its Lost Sectors, because they're absolutely chock full of personality. Just to the left of Spider's lair, for example, is one known as the Seedy Underbelly, which basically plays out like a Taken version of Mos Eisley's Cantina, complete with Paul McCartney playing in the background (yes, again). Beneath that though are caged dogs waiting for their turn in the fighting area that lies beyond, where foes loiter to watch, seated on and around a throne nearby. It's a bit mad, but it caused chuckles to erupt around the entire playing area as other Guardians discovered it's location. And from the stories I've heard, that's just the start for the Tangled Shore's lost sectors, so I can't wait to keep on exploring.
...But it's nothing compared to the Dreaming City
Then you come to the Dreaming City, which I was fast-tracked to with a light level 500 Guardian. Bearing in mind that the new level cap is 600, even attempting to explore the Dreaming City at this level proved incredibly difficult. This is your new, ultimate end-game destination full of vast open-areas and a palace-like fortress that's intended to be explored only by those who have worked their way up the ranks of Forsaken and claimed that coveted level cap for themselves, or at least can see it on the horizon. It's a wondrous maze of intrigue, of challenge and of secrets, just has Bungie has been promising ahead of Forsaken's launch. At its core will eventually be the new Raid, known as the Last Wish, which will go live ten days after launch on September 14, but there's plenty to do and discover here.
At the centre there's something known as The Blind Well, which functions almost like a mini Raid, with several tiers to work through with your fellow Guardians. You have to defend a series of wells against wave upon wave of enemies for each tier, but when we reached tier 3 - each of which are triggered separately at the central well with a token obtained by completing the previous tier - we suddenly found ourselves pitted against enemies with question marks by the names that were immune to all our attacks. The same can be said for areas we wandered into deeper within the Dreaming City's main building - although because of its sheer size, I feel like I've only just scratched the surface of what's on offer - so when Bungie alluded to a metroidvania-esque structure for this end-game area, I fully believe it's going to deliver.
And that's all without even going into the new weapon slot system, mods and random rolls, all of which play into the longer game that we'll dive into fully post-release. What I will say is that it's clear that with the added depth on offer with Forsaken - including that 20+ hour long story campaign, new vendors with swathes of daily bounties and tasks, Gambit, new Strikes (including one that takes you back through the Prison of Elders), adventures and more - it's clear there's an added layer of complexity here.
Take infusion, for example, because it's much more costly that it was before. Infusing some legendary gauntlets with some higher level rare alternatives now means spending 9000 Glimmer, 15 Legendary Shards, three Masterwork Cores and 25 Phaseglass Needles. Compare that to a current average infusion cost of a rare into legendary, which is 3500 Glimmer, 15 Legendary Shards and 10 Alkane Dust and you'll see the difference. Safe to say that it's going to be all about the grind for Forsaken, although Spider does serve as a kind of black market for infusion-related items, although every unit you buy per day puts the price up exponentially. But it's also that constant tension between keeping and infusing, because when the latter costs so much more, you're not going to be doing it as regularly as you have been for the past year.
It's interesting too that during my day long session pre-launch with Forsaken, Exotics are very much a rare commodity. Playing through the start of Destiny 2 it felt like Exotics dropped like candy, but here I've yet to see one arrive. I assume they're going to be linked to specific story missions, but let's hope getting each one isn't a total grind or locked behind Whisper of the Worm-style extravaganzas. After all, we all deserve an Exotic or two for avenging Cayde, right?
From everything I've seen from Forsaken so far, it's got the key ingredients to make Destiny 2: Year 2 really great. Attention to detail when it comes to long-term gameplay with the Dreaming City, a really great new PvP/PvE mode in Gambit - which I'm sure you've all already trialled - and enough content to keep you coming back day after day to boot. Not to mention there's already evidence of the necessity of grind, and although that might be a contentious subject, there's more than enough here to entice lapsed and new players alike to Destiny 2: Forsaken.