Can the Forsaken expansion turn around Destiny 2's fortunes on PC?

Given how Destiny 2 has hemorrhaged players since its release last September, it seems almost perverse to name its next expansion, which will also be the game's biggest so far, 'Forsaken'. But perhaps it's also a sign of confidence. According to Bungie, this DLC represents the fruits of months of community feedback (read: fury) over the perceived wrongs of vanilla Destiny 2, and specifically its puddle-deep endgame. 

We broke down the key features coming with Forsaken earlier today, and the changes on the way as part of the game's second year of content look to be substantial. But will they be enough to turn the game's fortune's around on PC? That's the question put to our writers who are either lapsed players, or in at least one case, still hopeless addicts. Speaking of which…

First impressions

Tim Clark: Okay, okay. We pretty much all know I'm somewhat of an unreliable narrator on this one, because I never stopped playing Destiny 2, despite being all too aware of the stuff that it had done wrong. But even with that caveat, I have to say that today's reveal surpassed my expectations. The last sizeable thing I wrote about the game was a shopping list I felt Bungie had to do to save it. Versions of a lot of those ideas are going to arrive with Forsaken. 

Random rolls returning to guns is huge, and rights one of the most ridiculous design wrongs I've ever seen a game like this make. It should ensure that for the grinders, there's always that hope of dropping a gun with perfectly rolled perks. Nine new supers will also inject substantial freshness and greater choice into the subclass skill trees. And perhaps biggest of all, freeing up the weapon slot system so players can create completely bespoke loadouts without having to plink away at high health pool bosses with two primaries is massive. I'm a 41-year old man, so I don't really get 'hype' about anything, but friends… I'm close. And now I'm bracing for what cynic-in-chief (but also secret addict) has to say.

James Davenport: As much as I was happy to see the weapon system set free and random rolls make their long-awaited return, I’m happiest to know there’s another raid on the way and that it looks rad. All we know about The Dreaming City is that it takes place in the Awoken homeland in some sort of shifting mountainside temple. Every shot we saw looks like something from a high fantasy book cover. With the promise of more bosses than any raid before and a new ‘living’ structure that will see the raid changed (meaningfully, I hope) over time, I’m so down for Forsaken. But I suspect you guys won’t be sold on pretty vistas alone.

There's fantastic sci-fi imagery all over what we've seen of Forsaken. 

There's fantastic sci-fi imagery all over what we've seen of Forsaken. 

Austin Wood: My immediate response to today's reveal stream was to reinstall Destiny 2 on my PS4, and then begin the arduous task of clearing my hard drive to make room for a reinstall on PC, so it's safe to say I'm on board. I'm interested in the new raid, and especially  the new PvPvE Gambit mode, but more than anything I'm excited to have a reason to come back to Destiny and experience all the stuff I've missed while I prepare for Forsaken. This is exactly the carrot I was waiting for. Like a lot of players, I dipped out after a few weeks in the hopes that Destiny 2 would improve while I was away. Tim tells me it has, and Forsaken looks like the overhaul it so desperately needs, so I'm looking forward to putting on the suit again, so to speak. 

Andy Chalk: Overall, I really like what Bungie showed off during the stream. The back-of-the-box features, like the new raid and the Gambit multiplayer, don’t actually do much for me, but the increased flexibility in character builds, the new weapon loadouts, and new rewards sound really promising. I mean, that’s what a game like Destiny 2 is all about, right? Give me stuff to chase after, and let me do it how I want. I’m not ready to preorder yet, and the reality is that I’m still torn a bit between the parts that I’m genuinely excited for (of which there is quite a bit) and the silly hype weighing it all down. (I’m trying not to be cynical here, but you can stop telling me how game-breakingly craaaazy it’s going to be now. Please.) But I’m absolutely paying a lot more attention to what’s coming in September than I was yesterday.

Space bows and new bad guys 

Tim: One thing I didn't quite parse on first viewing is that there is an entirely new enemy type in Forsaken—The Scorn (or Skorn?) who look like refugees from Rage. I am therefore taking this as a victory in my running battle with Rami Ismail about Destiny on Twitter. Are you guys into them?

Andy: Are they new, though? I thought they were just Fallen and Cabal and other such pre-existing flunkies that Cayde-6 had tossed into the interstellar slammer. The Barons look interesting, and I dig the idea of different Barons having different capabilities, strengths, weaknesses, and so forth. I hope the Baron Hunts are fairly structured and formal, rather than the bullet-sponge boss beatdowns we’ve enjoyed so far. I guess they’re going to be bullet sponges, but I’d like to see something a little more involved in the process of getting to that point—a little bit like a public event, maybe, where particular conditions have to be met before they come out for their ass-kicking.

That’s not exactly what you were asking though. Too soon to judge the Scorn as a faction, but I hope there’s more to it than just a Taken-like reskin. A Cabal Valus with a neon mohawk and nose ring isn’t going to cut it.

James: The Scorn are cool, but they’re also Fallen. Again. Granted, it doesn’t appear that they’re a copy of the existing Fallen archetypes, and that we’ll have some new behaviors to contend with, but I so desperately want to shoot someone besides these guys. When are the evil triangle men coming? This has to be the last time they can remix the same alien race, right? Right. How about those space bows, though?

Austin: I am very into the bows, but then, I will play virtually any game with bows in it. I've always loved shooting bows in games, from Dragon's Dogma to Far Cry. It's something about the arc, the satisfaction of leading an arrow just right and watching it fall perfectly into place. You don't get that kind of feedback from bullets. And Destiny already has some of the most satisfying bullets in the business, so I cannot wait to see what it does with bows. 

Tim: Pretty sure the Exotic bows will be sick. Do the young people still say sick?

Austin: No one has taken away my young person card yet, and I distinctly remember muttering "sick" under my breath when the bows were revealed. 

James: I don’t know where bows fit in Destiny’s arsenal, or how they make sense thematically. Whatever though, if they feel good to use, I’ll take ‘em. Shooting stuff in that game still feels better than most. If Bungie gave us an Exotic rock to toss at our enemies, we’d take it, and it, too, would own.

Andy: I have a machine gun. I have a rocket launcher. I have a thing that shoots little exploding hamsters that will literally chase you down and blow your ass 50 feet into the sky. Why would I want a bow? Who am I sneaking up on? It looks cool on the cover, yes, but this is not a selling feature for me. Three shotguns? Sure, we can talk about that. But bows feel out of place. Maybe I’m picking nits in a game like D2, where “looking sexy” is a lot more important than “making sense,” but it’s not a selling feature for me. 

Tim: I wish they'd bring back actual heavy machine guns. Those are still notable by their absence from Destiny 2. I miss my Thunderlord.

Andy: There were heavy machine guns? Why the hell are we getting bows and not heavy machine guns? Who’s in charge here?

Austin: Hear me out on this: a machine gun that shoots arrows. 

The price and new annual pass 

Tim: What do you men think about the cost? For the amount I play (I run the raid three to six times per week, for example), it seems reasonable. Others will I'm sure balk at the $70 cost of Forsaken plus the annual pass. The way I look at it is I'm paying for a year's worth of participating in my hobby. (It's also a snip of what I spend on Hearthstone.) But given that a couple of rounds of drinks in San Francisco costs almost the same amount, it's possible I've lost all sense of value.

Andy: It’s steep. Really steep. I don’t have the Destiny 1 experience to give it context (James and Austin mention that it’s comparable to The Taken King, which I guess is a plus) but $70 for the full package, which is close to $100 in my strange homeland, is an awful lot for the privilege of doing the same thing I’ve already been doing in September. Maybe not too much, but I’m going to need more convincing that the changes in Forsaken justify the price.

Austin: I don't mind paying $40 for Forsaken. That's about what I paid for The Taken King, and that was well worth it. That expansion delivered some of the best Saturday nights in my gaming career, and I get the same vibe from Forsaken. However, I'm also in the fortunate position of still having a lot of new-to-me Destiny 2 content to chew through, and I'm definitely factoring that into the experience my $40 will get me. I imagine players who never stopped playing and have long since run out of new content have greater expectations, and I can't fault them for that. 

I'm not sold on the annual pass, mind. We know basically nothing about it, only that it contains three pieces of content which will arrive over the next year. It's not clear how big or impactful each one will be, but I'm willing to bet that the three of them together won't hold a candle to The Taken King or even Forsaken, so I think I'll hold off on them for now. 

James: It’s fine. $40 for Forsaken alone will be worth it if it’s comparable to The Taken King in scope, and it looks bigger at a glance. I’m a bit more skeptical about the annual pass. $30 for a year of support and new stuff sounds great, but even if Bungie forsakes (ha) cutscenes in favor of more regular updates, I’m not convinced they’ll be fast or meaty enough to sate dedicated players. Tim, you know you’ll tear through every small expansion in no time. Will random rolls take the rest of your pain away?

Tim: They really will. I'm a collector. I'll keep playing basically ad infinitum for the chance of making my loadout even slightly more optimal. There has to be stuff to chase in a loot game or what's the point. Who knew, eh? (Apparently not Bungie.) 

Gambit mode and a new raid 

Tim: I'm intrigued by the new Gambit mode. I don't love competitive PvP, but this feels like a fun marriage of shooting aliens with your friends with an added edge. It'll live or die on whether the gear behind this mode is worth grinding for, but I'm fascinated by the social dynamic of who on your team you send through the portal to screw with the opposing players. Austin, I vote you're our guy.

Austin: I wanna be the guy. The thing I love most about Gambit, at least on paper, is that it harkens back to Destiny 1's Crota raid, where one party member uses a sword to kill Crota while the rest of the party protects them. Running the sword was always such a cool, spotlight moment. I can't think of any other game that's delivered such an exhilarating mix of empowerment and stage fright, including Destiny 2. If Gambit can tap into that, and deliver a fun horde mode besides, it could well overtake the new raid as my favorite part of Forsaken. 

We're guessing this happy guy gives you tokens for winning rounds of Gambit. 

Andy: I didn’t think I would get as caught up in the “collecting” aspect of Destiny 2 as I have, particularly following the release of Warmind. I’m still nowhere near the level cap, I’m grinding for Sleeper Nodes and Exotic Catalysts, and I’m really more hooked on the game than I have been probably since the initial rush wore off. So the loot changes are definitely what I’m looking forward to most, I think: More flexibility in my loadout (and looks, because that’s really what it’s all about) is what will keep me coming back. Gambit, I’m a little less enthusiastic about. Maybe it’ll be fun, maybe it’ll wear thin in a week, but I can’t imagine grinding it for loot if it’s going to require some sort of Herculean effort to progress. I don’t do it for raids (sorry, Tim) and I won’t do it in Gambit. (Probably.)

James: Calling it now. Gambit is going to be as empty as quickly as the Prison of Elders unless they pack it with that polygonal space candy you all love so much. 

Tim Clark: James, it's interesting you mentioned The Taken King earlier. That had one patrol area (the Dreadnought), whereas Forsaken has Tangled Shore and The Dreaming City. That makes me optimistic it might be a pretty big expansion. I'm also really curious to understand how the raid is going to alter The Dreaming City. The reveal video mentioned that it would change that location over time depending on what players did. Sounds promising, but so did The Infinite Forest and we know how that turned out.

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James: Well then, I didn’t catch onto the fact that The Dreaming City would also be a patrol zone (too busy taking pictures of the pretty vistas). I’m not getting my hopes too high for the raid though. Changes sound great, but if we get some creative six-man puzzles and a handful of equally creative and climactic boss fights, I’ll be OK. I, and maybe only I, couldn’t care less about random rolls and masterwork whats-its. Bungie already has the shooting bit down. Just let me dress up as an elegant space wizard and shoot bad guys in fantastic settings.

Andy: I didn’t realize The Dreaming City was a patrol zone either. That’s a big plus. Destiny 2 presents itself as a big game, but it really feels small far too often: The relatively tiny patch of land in Curse of Osiris is one obvious example of that. It’s a real drag to be an immortal, ultra-powerful defender of humanity/mass murderer trapped in the interstellar equivalent of a hamster cage, so having a pair of distinct, hopefully fairly sizable zones to bang around in makes Forsaken a lot more appealing. 

Austin: I am glad the new patrol areas actually look big and worth patrolling. The last time I played Destiny 2 was just after the Osiris DLC dropped, and that was abysmal. If Destiny 2's end game is a puddle, the Osiris patrol area is a fuckin' Dixie cup. 

Closing thoughts 

Tim: As with all things Destiny and Bungie, I still have some nagging concerns. We don't yet know what happens to our old gear once the new weapon and armor mod systems come into play. If they're all going to be mothballed, I'll be pissed. (I say that as someone who completed Escalation Protocol 30+ times to get all three of those weapons.) We also don't know how the ammo economy will work if you're running, say, the three-shotgun meme loadout referenced in the reveal video. And perhaps most significantly, it sounds like the current story-based DLCs like the Warmind are going away entirely, replaced by seasonal injections of stuff. Exactly what we're getting for our money there is unclear as of now.

Austin: More than anything, I want to know how the three-shotgun ammo economy is going to translate to Crucible. I'm not as big into PvP as I was in my Destiny 1 golden years, but with 6v6 and Rumble returning, and the Redrix Claymore still looming tantalizingly on the horizon, I'm planning on putting a fair few hours into the Crucible in Forsaken. But only if it's fun, obviously, and triple shotgun city does not sound like fun. Shotguns weren't terribly fun in Destiny 1, and we only had one apiece back then. 

The new, free-form weapon loadouts sound really cool for PvE, but how the hell are they going to balance them? Are weapons going to share ammo? Does a rocket launcher deal the same amount of damage when equipped in my primary slot? For that matter, are primary weapons even going to matter anymore? The current double-primary system is kind of lame, I agree, but I reckon never using primaries would be just as bad. Basically, I'm excited for the new loadouts, but I hope they don't go too far and obviate half the guns in the game.

One of the new Titan supers summons a giant, fiery hammer. 

Andy: I’m still using a lot of gear I picked up in the early stages of Destiny 2. Most of my armor is from the EDZ, and New City and Origin Story are still my go-to guns. I’ve tried plenty of others, but I’m so deeply into the groove with my current loadout (and I love the way I look in that Wildwood couture) that I really have no interest in giving it up, and I’ll be damned disappointed if Bungie forces me to. But what’s the likelihood of that happening? Giving players a year to settle into comfortable habits and then yoinking it all away for no particular reason wouldn’t be smart. Would it? I’m not too concerned about changes to the economy or ammo reworks or the specifics about swapping my primaries into different slots, but by God if I have to give up this precious piece of handheld death, I will not be happy.

I’ll do it. I’m not a Tim-level machine but let’s not kid ourselves, I’m hooked. But I won’t be happy about it.

James: Take my hand, Andy. It’s going to be OK. If anything, I think Bungie is moving to reinforce your decision to stick with Destiny’s backwoods truffle forager look. Destiny 2’s biggest problems at the start were with restrictive design meant to reinforce pure efficiency. By cracking the egg wide open with Forsaken, your Duck Dynasty build may not be as mathematically efficient as Tim’s E=mc² supermath loadout, but I have a hunch Bungie is intentionally going for messier, open design this go around. Irreverent design may forsake (ha) the perfect balance devs might want to strive for, but the ability to choose space camo over all else and not feel useless is a far better reward than any .05% increase in damage efficiency.

Andy: That really cuts to the heart of something that bothered me about Destiny 2 for a long time. I've spent hours poring over forums and sites, looking for the best weapons, optimal character builds, and everything else that would give me the "best" character possible. But it was never satisfying, it never seemed to work out, and I'd always end up going back to what I knew and liked. Which is the proper way to play, I know, but that nagging feeling of "I'm doing this wrong" never entirely goes away, and within a week or two of pulling my tried-and-true hardware out of storage (again), it’s back again in full force: I should be doing this differently. 

Making that go away would be big—not the kind of thing that's going to show up on a review checklist, maybe, but being able to play my own dumb style without worrying that I suck at Destiny 2 (and everybody knows it!) would be a really welcome change. I hope you're not just messing with me here, James.

Austin: It's my hope that the new supers, coupled with the new subclass skills that come with them, will not only make optimizing your character more involved and rewarding, but also increase the number of viable builds. Anything to get away from the current meta: pick your favorite color and its least horrible skill tree. 

Tim: My closing thought is that it's incredible that Bungie ever thought it was a good idea not to design their game in such a way that people would want to play it as much as possible. The penny seems to have dropped for them now in terms of what the players—at least those of us who've stuck around—actually want. Will that be enough to reverse its fortunes on PC? It's hard to say. Our platform has a lot more alternatives, if you're looking for this kind of experience, than there are on console. 

Nonetheless, I maintain the bedrock is there. The guys and girls I play with every week are intensely into the shared world shooter idea, and it feels like year 2 is going to give us a lot more tangible reasons to keep coming back. Also, how can you not be excited about this?

The defence rests.