Destiny 2 is a western now, and I think I love it

In terms of pure geography, Destiny 2 hasn't gotten much bigger since launch. Curse of Osiris added a piddling take on Mercury, and although Warmind gave us Mars, home of the excellent Escalation Protocol horde mode, there wasn't much else to do on the Red Planet—at least, nothing we hadn't done before. But with Forsaken, Bungie has finally made big, meaningful additions to Destiny 2's solar system. 

Forsaken comes with two substantial new zones: the Tangled Shore, a lawless section of the Reef, and the Dreaming City, a dazzling end-game metropolis. While not technically planets, these zones are considerably bigger than most of the planets we already have, and both are dense with new things to do. Bungie recently brought me up to its Seattle studio to explore the Tangled Shore and experiment with Forsaken's sandbox changes, and after sampling the activities and equipment to be had, I can't wait to return to the Reef. (I'm also eager to see it on PC, as I was only able to play on PS4 at the studio.) 

The Tangled Shore is basically a big mess of asteroids lashed together with chains. The other main area is a desert which, like the ramshackle settlements and roads dotting the Shore, was inspired by classic Western settings. Forsaken kicks off the 'Season of the Outlaw,' and that spaghetti-flavored theme really comes through in the Shore. For starters, the place is overseen by the eight Scorn Barons who escaped from the Prison of Elders and killed Vanguard leader Cayde-6. If Forsaken was a Spaghetti Western, the Barons would be the bad dudes in black hats extorting the kindly townsfolk. 

Of course, the townsfolk aren't actually kind. On top of the Barons, all of Destiny's enemy types have a spot in the Shore, including the new Scorn, and they're constantly fighting one another. More so than any other planet, the Shore feels like a giant turf war between established factions. Zoning in feels like kicking open the door to a saloon where the patrons have been brawling since yesterday's happy hour. 

The new public events in the Shore also echo its Western theme by focusing on high-value targets and good old-fashioned shakedowns. I saw two new publics in my demo. In the first (seen at 14:20 in the video above), a cryo pod crashes into the ground and a boss pops out of it after a few waves of enemies. From what I experienced, the boss can be of any enemy type. The other event, an Ether Ritual (seen at 18:40), challenges you to beat back waves of Scorn and kill a souped-up Abomination, which is basically the Scorn's take on the Hulk. Both events are good fun, and I'm looking forward to working out how to trigger their 'Heroic' versions. However, Bungie confirmed that these events won't appear on other planets, which is a little disappointing. 

Party crasher  

The Shore's Lost Sectors were more memorable. Bungie made a big fuss over reinvigorating these often overlooked mini-dungeons in Forsaken, and if the Shore is anything to go by, lost sectors will definitely be more rewarding going forward. The first one I found (jump to 6:30) was pretty standard stuff, but it was also considerably harder than past sectors thanks to a tankier final boss supported by dozens of enemies. It wasn't a bad fight, but compared to the other lost sector I found, it was practically a patrol mission.

My second lost sector (which starts at 25:10) felt like a full-fat sidequest. Basically, I crashed a party at a Fallen cantina. I mean, sure, technically all I did was kill a bunch of Fallen, but the pacing and setting of the lost sector made it far more fun. It's the little details that sold it: the bouncer out front, the DJ and his neon turntables, the dog fighting arena in the back of the club. It was funny and characterful and utterly unique—everything lost sectors should be. I hope all future lost sectors are just as good. 

I have equally high hopes for the rest of the Baron-hunting adventures that make up a good chunk of Forsaken's campaign. After clearing the intro Prison Break mission in a separate demo, I killed three of the eight Barons, and each one was a distinct encounter.

I started with the Mindbender, a mad scientist-type character who can brainwash other enemies. So in addition to Scorn, I had to fight through tons of 'mindbent' Hive to get at the Mindbender himself. When I finally caught up to him—after clearing a small jump puzzle reminiscent of Destiny's King's Fall raid—he teleported us both to a shadowy Hive arena. To kill him, I had to take down the enemies he spawned at different gates, including the shielding void totems accompanying each wave, and dodge his void blasts. It felt like a mini raid boss, and that's more than I can say for previous adventures, which tend to peter out with a boring yellow-bar enemy.

My next Baron was the Bomber, a deranged pyromaniac who taunts you over comms throughout the fight. To get at the Bomber, I had to defuse mines he'd placed around the Shore Prison of Elders-style, which was pretty difficult to do solo. Finally, I went after the Rider, who leads a pike gang in the Shore. To take her down, I hijacked a pike and outraced her while mowing down hordes of Fallen from atop my newfound metal steed. It was a short fight, but I was happy to play some vehicle combat that didn't involve tanks for once. The Bomber was also a nice change of pace after my long fight with the Mindbender.

The Barons are great not just because they're so easy to hate, but because they all have their own backstory, powers and themes. You can hunt them in whatever order you want provided you're of-level, and I was always curious to see what the next Baron would be like. My time ran out just before I reached the Hangman, and I was gutted. I'll kill him first when I dive into the DLC on my own.

Nice shootin', Tex 

As you may have noticed, I played as a gun-totin', knife-slingin' Hunter using the new 'Way of a Thousand Cuts' solar class tree, which felt great. The new 'Blade Barrage' super hurls a fan of solar knives and is effective against groups of normal enemies as well as individual bigguns, since the knives are distributed evenly across whatever you target. In other words, you can hit 20 dudes with one knife apiece, or needle one dude with 20 knives all at once. 

I tested Hunter's other new supers off-camera, and was pleased to find that the new variants of Arcstrider and Nightstalker are strong and distinct. The Nightstalker's 'Way of the Wraith' tree, in particular, has huge PvE potential thanks to its 'Flawless Execution' perk, which grants around eight seconds of invisibility whenever you headshot an enemy while crouching. In my experience, you can stay invisible almost indefinitely, which is every bit as powerful as it sounds. 

Obviously, I needed a revolver to complete my cowboy getup, and what better choice than Malfeasance, the new Gambit-exclusive exotic hand cannon. Malfeasance has virtually no recoil even on PS4, and its exotic ability makes it great for shredding shields, so I reckon it will be a tantalizing carrot for the Gambit grind. I also spent some time with the new legendary bows, which could well replace hand cannons as my go-to precision weapon.

That being said, I was more excited by the blue-grade armor I got from public events and chests than any other gear. Forsaken is bringing back random rolls on gear, but while chasing perfectly rolled weapons is going to be fun, I'm more interested in building armor loadouts to match them. On top of potent new mods, Forsaken armor pieces come with meaningful perks which can significantly enhance your weapons and abilities. For example, I put on a helmet with the 'Bow Targeting' perk and noticed an immediate difference in how quickly I could aim and draw my bow, which makes perks like 'Scout Rifle Dexterity' and 'Unflinching Fusion Rifle Aim' look promising. It all adds up to greatly expanded customization, which, as Tim explained, is one of the main reasons Forsaken promises to be a return to form for the series. 

The Shore makes a strong first impression, and players are still discovering its best features and stories. It's home to a black market merchant called the Spider, for instance, who specializes in materials and bounties. People are also getting acquainted with more nefarious Barons like the Rifleman who killed Cayde's ghost, and each Baron killed gets them closer to the mysterious Fanatic and the Barons' ringleader, Uldren Sov. Plus, the sooner we avenge Cayde, the sooner we can shift our attention to the Dreaming City which, if anything, looks to be even denser than the Shore. It's a good introduction to what Forsaken has to offer, and I reckon the Shore will be well worth revisiting.