Destiny 2’s Forsaken DLC isn’t so much an expansion as much as it is a journey through the underpinnings of the franchise and a look back at the evolution of its mechanics over the last four years. Many of its tweaks are aimed at hardcore players and min/max weapon enthusiasts. Forsaken's first few hours explore areas that have been underserved thus far, such as The Reef, and it also builds up a revenge story that encompasses the motivations of friends and enemies alike.
At a recent hands-on session, I played through the campaign missions, hunted Barons, and explored two expansive zones: The Tangled Shore and Dreaming City. Despite being underleveled, I also took a crack at the Blind Well, which is a high-level, wave-based event. Bungie is aiming to feed players with content for a long time, and while I can’t say if it will succeed in hooking both casual and hardcore players again, I was initially overwhelmed with the amount of exploration opportunities the DLC provided.
The early progression path through Forsaken seems clear: Play the main campaign at the Tangled Shore and hunt Barons in the 380-500 power level range. Then, open the 550 power level Dreaming City zone, grind the Blind Well, raid on day 10, and then figure out the secrets at the center of the Dreaming City.
The Tangled Shore, where the story starts, is a medium-sized zone located on a flotilla of asteroids. It has plenty of underground areas to explore, including Lost Sectors, and each of these areas is used to deliver story and lore in a way not previously seen, such as wandering into a socially active Fallen prison block. It’s also home to Spider, a Fallen ally of Petra Venj and the only law in town. Spider’s friendly porcupine-looking units fight alongside you on your hunt for Barons. The story that leads you to Tangled Shore isn’t just a nod or regurgitation of Prison Of Elders, it’s a full-on exploration of the famed penitentiary and surrounding area around the Reef. Between the two story missions and a Strike I played, I was able to finally get into the mechanisms that keep the prison running, meet its inmates outside of the arena, and see some familiar characters in a new light.
The story itself sees multiple characters seeking revenge in ways that we won’t spoil but tie into the new enemy faction, the Scorn. From a gameplay perspective, The Scorn aren’t hugely different from other races but they do succeed at pushing and pulling at your personal space. The Scorn are an interesting mix of rushing, shielded, and hit-and-run units. Aggressive enemies such as Screeb and Ravagers charge at you employing explosives or area-denial fire lanterns. Lurkers have small shields that block damage, forcing you to aim for knees. One standout unit drifts around the map like a Wraith, taking potshots. The Scorn also reworked some familiar foes such as the Fallen Walker by outfitting it with a flamethrower and a shield to give it some protection when in a vulnerable state. The end result is that now you have to get up close to hit critical spots, which means hanging back and relying on Whisper Of The Worm or Polaris Lance is less viable.
[Combat in Forsaken involves] exciting and highly mobile firefights that favor smart loadouts, effective use of new subclass abilities, and accurate shooting.
Initially, I was worried that the aggression of these enemies was designed to force players into open spaces where only their power level would matter, but Forsaken offers plenty of cover, so strategic movement and using the environment to your advantage is as important as being able to dish out big damage. The result is exciting and highly mobile firefights that favor smart loadouts, effective use of new subclass abilities, and accurate shooting.
In areas like the The Blind Well, where you're more likely to be pinned in place without cover to retreat behind, Forsaken gives players gameplay options to help them out. The nine new subclass trees include some powerful support abilities, and our play session focused on the Warlock's new Dawnblade Super, which turns the class into a damage sponge. With defense bolstered, we were able to equip multiple short-range weapons such as shotguns and melt high-level bosses in heroic public events and strikes without having to dodge incoming fire.
The new Dawnblade Super is also essential for activating the heroic version of one of the new public events. The Warlock's other two supers still feel more like minion-clearing abilities. The Stormcaller subclass tree, Attunement Of Control, was probably the least interesting of the bunch. It fires a long range electric beam and seemed to do an unimpressive amount of damage to larger foes. The Attunement Of Fission tree lets a Warlock charge up and self explode multiple times while teleporting at rapid pace. It behaves like a bunch of mini Nova Bombs and is more surgical. We were able to use this Super to dodge past enemies fifty levels above us while exploring high-level zones.
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The main Exotic we had time with was Malfeasance, a hand cannon affectionately compared to the Needler from Halo. This kinetic hand cannon causes explosions on the fifth round landed on the same target but that rarely happened because our Warlock equipped the Exotic chest piece Chromatic Fire, which caused targets to explode on precision kills from any weapon in the kinetic slot. The two exotics working together created so many explosions that it was often hard to tell which exotic had caused it to happen. It was an excellent minion-clearing loadout.
The final noteworthy addition to the Destiny 2 arsenal is bows, which come in a wide variety and have different effective ranges, draw times, and perks. Our favorite included an explosive payload and fast draw time. Bows have a specific cadence to them and sit somewhere between sniper rifles and scout rifles. In the few hours of our demo, bows came across as novel but non-essential. They are another notch in an already expansive weapon rework and will probably be loved by people looking for something new to shoot.
By the end of our session my biggest takeaway is simply that there are a lot of new mechanics, activities, places to explore, and things to do that should keep players occupied for some time to come. Those looking for deeper storytelling in Destiny will find some emotional plotlines and fun mysteries in the first few hours. If you’re looking to keep your Destiny 2 habit, Forsaken looks like it could provide plenty of reasons to stay involved, and you fell off Destiny 2 it may be the Taken King-esque expansion that reignites a passion for it.