Day one of Destiny 2: Black Armory was not good. The reason couldn't be more obvious: people couldn't play it. The DLC's headlining act is the Lost Forge horde mode, but the Lost Forges scale up to 630 power, so on day one they were impossible for most players even if they were at the old power cap of 600. Bungie quickly lowered the Forge power level by five, but the damage was done. Players were all hyped to try the new content, but when it finally arrived, they ran smack into a 'you must be this powerful to ride' sign. Then they had to go grind old content before they could even attempt the new stuff because there were no new ways to level up. The same thing happened with the Escalation Protocol horde mode in the Warmind DLC, and it still sucked.
But now, a little over a week after the Black Armory opened its doors, things are starting to come into focus. The new Scourge of the Past raid is out, and while it's only a little bigger than a raid lair, its encounters are refreshingly different and its final boss is freakin' sweet. Just as importantly, the Lost Forge is now much more accessible thanks to its emergency nerf. Five power levels might not sound like much, but after the nerf I was able to clear the first Forge at 606 power while playing with random teammates (who were 608 and 618). To put it in perspective, I couldn't even tickle the enemies on wave two before the nerf.
The Lost Forge is very much another horde mode filled with dudes, but the focus is less on killing the dudes and more on racing the clock. There are slight differences between the two Forges we've seen, but the core mechanics are the same: you and two teammates drop into an open arena where you have a few minutes to collect and deposit 20 Forge components. Special, highlighted enemies drop these components, and killing them also extends the timer. You can probably see where this is going. To deposit a component, you just have to pick it up and chuck it into the Forge core like a basketball. This gets more difficult because the backboard - that is, the target area on the core - gets smaller once you've cleared round one. After you clear two rounds of 20 components, a boss spawns and you have a few minutes to melt it.
This isn't a complicated game mode, and it really doesn't need to be. Shooting dudes in Destiny 2 is fun, and sailing through the air to sink half-court components doesn't get old. The Lost Forge also benefits from matchmaking - and thank goodness for that. If it didn't have matchmaking, I guarantee the day one Reddit riots would've been much louder, and would still be going on. But it does, so it's easy to hop in, grind a few Forges with some friends or strangers, and move on with your milestones. And it's worth grinding a few Forges now that the rewards are much better than those of previous horde modes. There's a nice armor set and a couple of redux weapons to hunt, which is a lot better than the - checks notes - nothing that you get from Blind Well.
So, Black Armory's new horde mode is good, and after a couple of days most players can finally, y'know, do it. This has freed them up to focus on Ada-1's Black Armory bounties, which have added yet more things to the weekly to-do list. Most of them are pretty familiar bounties to kill stuff or - shudder - gather stuff, but the most worthwhile ones revolve around completing Forges. Beyond another source of powerful gear, these bounties offer a more deterministic way to acquire new guns - which is what the whole DLC is about, after all.
The Forges are worth it for a shot at a god roll of the new Hammerhead machine gun or Orchid hand cannon. The process of completing easy bounties to obtain materials used to purchase tougher bounties also reminds me of an actual forging process - you know, heating and folding metal and all that - which is pretty neat. Is that just me? (It's probably just me.)
Black Armory is never going to hold up to the standard of Destiny 2: Forsaken - nor did Bungie ever say it would, though the studio could've been clearer about setting DLC expectations in the months leading up to launch. But as an addition to Destiny 2's weekly grind, it's holding up so far. There's a cool new raid for hardcore players, a fun new matchmade horde mode for casual players, and some sweet Exotics for everyone.
That said, I am a little worried about the DLC's staying power. Ditching a campaign in favor of distributed content updates is one thing, but many players were at least hoping for some new Strikes or a refresh of vendor items from Black Armory (or Season of the Forge), and it doesn't have those either. More to the point, Black Armory was pitched as three months of regular updates, but according to the latest annual pass road map, there's basically nothing new coming in February. The rest of the Forges will be out in a few weeks, and The Last Word Exotic quest coming in January probably won't take long. What are we going to do in the final month of the Season of the Forge? Iron Banner and Crimson Days in the Crucible? Right after the release of The Last Word, no less? Oof.
I get the impression that players were on board with Destiny 2's annual pass because it was designed to prevent the content droughts that inevitably follow traditional expansions, even ones as grand as Forsaken. If we run into a drought anyway… well, that's not going to bode well for the Season of the Drifter and its Joker's Wild DLC, which doesn't have a raid but does have a big ol' blank spot on its calendar. But that's still months away, and Bungie may well have some surprises in store. We've only found one of the four new Exotics coming in Black Armory, for example, and the Destiny community is still trying to crack the mysterious runes dotted around the Forges.
Hopefully Bungie does have something more up its sleeve, because now that it's firing on all cylinders - well, at least two cylinders - Black Armory is actually pretty good. It's been a week, and there's still a stupid amount of things that I want to do. That's when you know Destiny 2 is in a good spot.
We spoke to Bungie community manager David 'Deej' Dague about future Destiny 2 DLC and the nature of the annual pass.