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‘Destiny 2: Forsaken’ impressions: The first 24 hours

Image: bungie

It’s too early to say if Forsaken truly fixes what ails Destiny 2. But it sure is fun to hunt down a bunch of evil space criminals.

The breezy story is the most up front new addition in Bungie’s first major expansion of its hit 2017 game. It’s less involved and more open-ended than previous major story arcs in Destiny, but story missions are still where lots of players will likely spend the bulk of their first week playing.

The plot side of things is a lore-addled dive into the past; fans of Star Wars: The Last Jedi will pick up on a real “let the past die” vibe here. Forsaken‘s violent trip down memory lane includes an expanded location from the first game, familiar faces coming back, and the death of a major character.

All you really need to know is this: There’s been a breakout at the Prison of Elders, a facility built to house the solar system’s worst criminal offenders. Among the escapees are eight barons, united under the banner of a guy named Uldren Sov. 

Without getting into Uldren’s full history — suffice to say, he was kind of a dick in the first game — he’s back, and he’s killed one of your dear in-game friends. So over the course of the story, you track down each of the barons, plus Uldren, and use your many space guns to kill them in the name of vengeance.

Like most story-related matters in Destiny, the deeper lore behind all this is out there on the internet for those who wish to understand it. But the game never thrusts it in your face, lingering only rarely on longer cutscenes or scripted moments that pull you out of the action.

Image: bungie

In fact, Forsaken‘s story takes more of an open-ended approach than even longtime fans might be used to. Instead of sending players off on a gauntlet of linearly arranged, discrete story missions, the expansion opens up the middle section of its baron-hunting, allowing players to tackle six of the eight barons in any order.

These mid-story baron hunts are realized as Adventures, a sort of lower-impact Destiny story mission that plays out — in part — in the same public patrol spaces where other players are running around. They’re shorter than your average, more traditional story mission in Destiny, and most of them end up feeling like a drawn-out boss fight.

That’s not a bad thing! Each of Forsaken‘s barons is defined by their weapon of choice or some other outward personality quirk. So as you hunt down Uldren’s barons, you’re facing a real variety pack of things to do (and shoot), like a boss that rides around on a tricked out speeder bike or a teleporting sniper.

Once the story’s dusted, the sprawling mid-game that leads into Forsaken‘s toughest challenges — such as the raid, which won’t be out until Sept. 14 — begins. This is the bit that’s harder to talk about. Once you hit the new max level of 50, there’s a significant power climb that involves amassing increasingly higher level gear until you’re strong enough to take on the tough stuff.

It sure is fun to hunt down a bunch of evil space criminals.

Forsaken carries forward all the mechanisms from Year 1 that let you “level up” old, outdated gear, but with some major tweaks. That process of Infusion (that’s it’s called) is more expensive than it was before, and it leans on a wider array of in-game currencies. That, in turn, pushes you back toward older content, since some of the materials you need for upgrades come from those.

Alongside that is the actual process of amassing higher level gear, which mostly revolves around completing challenges the game refers to as Milestones. This holdover from Year 1 has been re-tooled for a post-Forsaken Destiny. 

The small handful of activities used to reset on a weekly timer, meaning you could only do so many things to level yourself up further in the space of a week. With Forsaken, several of those Milestones — ones that task you with completing simple, solo play-friendly things like PvP matches and cooperatives Strikes — now reset every four days. So you ostensibly have a much easier time leveling up.

Sitting alongside all of that is a major change to the way weapons and armor work in Destiny 2. During Year 1, each piece of gear that dropped came with a locked set of perks and stats — leading to a situation where the game started to feel stale and overly concentrated around loot that had been crowdsourced as the “best.”

Image: bungie

With Forsaken‘s release, the perks and stats on all the loot you collect are randomized. So now, even when you’re not chasing a higher-level, there’s value again in Destiny’s basic loot grind. The thrill of a “god roll” weapon dropping with the perfect perks has returned.

Even with all of that, I still haven’t gotten to the most promising new up front addition in Forsaken: Gambit. This entirely new way of playing the game is a four-player activity that sits somewhere between cooperative combat and competitive PvP.

Each team starts out on their own private battlefield that’s been split into three loose zones. At any given moment, enemies spawn in one of those zones. Each team needs to gun down foes as they storm in and collect the “Motes of Light” pickups each one drop. Collected Motes can then be deposited in the team’s centrally located Bank.

The new Gambit mode is a revelation.

The overall goal in each round of Gambit’s best-of-three matchups is to deposit enough Motes to fill a meter, which makes a large boss appear. The first team to kill their final boss wins the round.

But the Motes can bring complications: Depositing in multiples of five (5, 10, or a maximum of 15 at a time) spawns a small, medium, or large miniboss, called a Blocker, in the enemy team’s map. As long as Blockers are present, the team’s Bank stays locked.

Depositing enough Motes over time also opens up a portal that allows one team member to visit the enemy team’s map. They then have 30 seconds to go after the opposing players and sow as much chaos as they can before being zapped back to their own map.

Speaking as someone who hasn’t ever felt a strong interest in Destiny PvP, I have to say: Gambit is a revelation. The cooperative portion of the mode is good, old-fashioned Destiny gunplay mixed with teamwork and communication as groups manage Mote collection and when/how many to deposit.

Image: bungie

Then, the PvP stuff is largely optional and never overbearing. Even those not using the portal eventually have to take on invaders from the other side. But the odds are always stacked against invaders, so dealing with human opponents is manageable and rarely frustrating, even for a PvP-hater like me.

It’s more than that, really: Gambit is designed in a way that makes the PvP stuff enjoyable. At this admittedly early moment in Forsaken‘s life, I feel like I could play it endlessly. I’ve never been able to say that before about any Destiny competitive mode.

If you’re waiting for a proper “review,” keep waiting. It’s impossible to know at this point how Destiny 2 is going to feel, from a player progression standpoint, in a month from now. The newly redesigned loot chase seems promising, but time and experience will tell the full story.

As first impressions go though? There’s new ideas to play with, more gear to pursue, and fresh alien environments to explore and hunt around in for secrets. It’s a little early to make any grand proclamations about the state of the game, of course, but so far Destiny 2: Forsaken feels like it’s exactly what dedicated fans have been asking for.

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/destiny-2-forsaken-first-impressions/

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