We visited Bungie's studio in Seattle to get some hands-on time with Forsaken.
Seattle is one of the best cities in the world. Perhaps even the best. There's something special about the northwestern parts of the United States. It's clean, the residents are incredibly friendly, the views are striking, the food is good. One other thing that is great about Seattle is that Bungie has its offices on the outskirts of the city - in Bellevue - a beautiful place with wide streets, amazing restaurants and a generally cosy atmosphere. However, this isn't an article in a travel magazine, the reason for our time in Seattle was, of course, to play the new expansion coming to Destiny 2 - Forsaken.
Those who are already familiar with Destiny 2's past year know that Bungie has been changing the game from the rather difficult path it's been at since it was released a year ago. We did like Destiny 2, we rewarded it with a solid nine out of ten, but as time went by it became more and more obvious that there had been too much simplifying and streamlining the experience rather than making sure that the loyal Destiny players had something to enjoy. Destiny 2 was a polished game with decent content but it was lacking in terms of depth and end-game activities. That's going to change now.
The reason for this change comes via the start of the second year of Destiny 2. In addition to a new campaign and more story content, it also means new gameplay mechanics and other tweaks. Things like weapon slots, balance changes and other features are already unlocked for all players, whether you buy the new expansion or not. Of course, those changes are included in our general impressions of Forsaken - a combined package is what defines the experience that Bungie wants to give us with the expansion. It may be worth noting that the segment of the text contains at least one giant spoiler (although it has been included in the marketing for the expansion) and if you definitely do not want to know anything, you have now been warned.
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Forsaken begins on a classic Destiny premise. As a player, you travel to The Reef with Cayde-6, the ever happy exo, to prevent a riot in The Prison of Elders where the galaxy's worst villains are hold up. After a handful of clashes with various enemies, it is clear that the actual riot was a diversion, what is actually going on is that Uldren Sov (the queen's brother) has released the so-called Barons; an extra naughty bunch of horrendous Fallen who have been in prison for a long time and who now want out so they can spread terror around the system.
Narratively, the tone that comes as a direct consequence of the above events is obviously dark. What does it actually mean when a Guardian actually dies and how do the vanguard handle it? The player's task is usually to keep the peace of humanity's last cities, not take on revenge-driven missions, but it doesn't matter. Uldren Sov will die. He's going down.
Immediately thereafter, Cayde-6 will meet his death. Uldren executes our loving exo with his own weapon, after a little bit of smart mouthing from Cayde. This is what will define the story. Revenge. It's a fresh take in a series that tends to be about subduing any extra powerful force that threatens the whole universe's existence. It's more personal - more gritty and actually easier to be motivated by. We take the murder personally; we want to avenge our friend.
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What we got to see at Bungie was a small taste of what the Forsaken offers. We played through the first mission from the campaign, Cayde-6 died and then we started out on the hunt. In order to get to Uldren, we got help from a returning character, Petra Venje, and a new allied Fallen called The Spider. The Reef is now a lawless place where everyone is fighting for survival and there are the eight barons who will lead us to the end of our path, direct to the man who killed Cayde.
The new destination is called The Tangled Shore and it's a combination of junk and asteroids that are linked with chains. It feels like the wild west: lawless, barren and lonely. Scattered around there are secret caves, enemies and a lot of surprises. The whole place is bathing in that unlucky purple light we recognise from The Reef and, as usual, Bungie's overall design and skybox impresses every time.
We got to face off against two of these barons on The Tangled Shore. The Mad Bomber and The Rider - and those two missions didn't resemble anything else we've ever played in Destiny. The battle against The Mad Bomber itself takes place in a relatively small cave that he constantly decorates with mines that need to be defused, while an infinite number of enemies try to interrupt our brave attempts to survive. Quick, challenging and different - exactly what Destiny 2 needs. We're guessing that all eight barons will offer distinctly different experiences and increasing difficulty, and after that, when all eight have been slain, it'll be time to face Uldren.
Forsaken will include a whole lot of content and come with some fundamental changes, new mechanics, new supers, secrets, and surprises - there is no doubt that there will be plenty. Exactly how the different parts will change the actual experience we'll save for our big review, which is scheduled for about a week after the expansion has been released. During our time at the studio we also got to play more of the new PvP-PvE mode Gambit (still amazing) and if you want to know more about that you can read our hands-on impressions right here.
We think that Forsaken will be exactly the fuel that Destiny 2 needs right now. We think and we hope so. We'll let you know for sure in a few days...