It’s been a year since the first-person shooter/action-adventure game Destiny 2 hit consoles. And the game’s third expansion, Destiny 2: Forsaken has just become available. We at Plugged In don’t always review expansions since, generally, the content doesn’t change things up all that much. But in this case, there’s enough new stuff to warrant a look.
For those new to this franchise, you’ll need to know two things right out of the box. First, you can’t play this game unless you already own Destiny 2 and all of its other DLC expansions. You’ll be able to buy the whole shebang in a bundle, but that will be pretty pricey.
Second, if you’ve never ventured into Destiny 2′s world and met its characters before, you’ll have a difficult time starting with Forsaken. Oh, I suppose it’s an easy enough game to jump right into, with its own special battle sites, weapons and a stock of new enemies. But the emotional connection of the game comes from knowing a particular character from past installments.
The heart of this story beats for a quick-quipping hero named Cayde-6, one of the most beloved battlers of the Destiny 2 universe. You and he set out to quell an uprising at the Prison of Elders, only to find that what you thought was a riot is really a breakout brainstormed by a devilish dude named Uldren Sov.
This Sov character is working on some fever-dream quest of his own (that involves his dead sister and her possible resurrection), and his research has given rise to a new breed of undead creatures called the Scorn. Not only does Sov set free his eight powerful underlings, the Barrons, he also sets a trap that snares Cayde-6 and kills him mid-quip.
That emotionally harrowing murder becomes the catalyst for the rest of the action in this expansion. Most members of the good-guy class, known as the Vanguard, want to let sleeping dogs lie. But your character, called the Guardian, takes it on him- or herself to seek revenge for Cayde-6’s shocking death.
And so you form a shaky alliance with an overboss alien who goes by the warm-and-cuddly moniker of the Spider. You set off to kill eight different Barrons—Rekis Vahn the silent sadist; Kaniks, the mad bomber; Hiraks, the mindbender, etc.—as well as facing off against their teeming masses of minions.
Gameplay-wise, things feel pretty similar to the earlier game. The action centers on blasting anything that moves, mixed with gathering up new weaponry and armor, then leveling up everything that can be leveled up.
Those new Scorn adversaries scuttle about as they wave flame maces, explode in a spray of glowing muck and swarm you with their overwhelming numbers. And each of the eight Barron boss battles demands a different, creative approach due to their individual strengths and special attacks.
The killing parts of the game are still T-rated. So as you pull the trigger of futuristic guns and bows, or toss out grenades or unleash magic-like abilities, there’s rarely anything more than greenish alien goop to worry over. Profanity includes very rare uses of “b–ch,” “d–n” or “a–hole.”
But while the content issues here match previous iterations, this Destiny title has a much darker feel than what we’ve seen in this franchise before.
Perhaps it’s the game’s visual focus on sulfuric-looking battle locations, or the fact that a devious and grotesque demon lurks at the heart of this unfolding story. Or maybe it’s the sense that some of the swarming challenges feel more overwhelming. Another part of the game’s negative vibe might also come from its creepy-creatures-raised-from-the-dead narrative. Then, of course, there’s the central thing that motivates you here: You’re not set upon honorably saving the world as much as taking any path you can to wreak revenge.
In that sense, the whole adventure feels more morally corrupt. You’re not blasting away relentlessly to save some desperate group of people in need. Instead, you’re blasting away relentlessly to murder someone that you think deserves it. That may be a very subtle difference for some, but it’s an ethical difference you simply can’t avoid here.
Near the end of the game, we hear one character say, “The line between light and dark is so very thin. Do you know which side you’re on?” It’s a good question in an engaging sequel that, unfortunately, drifts across that line toward the dark side itself.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.