Every Friday, A.V. Club staffers kick off our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What Are You Playing This Weekend?
Destiny 2 was an odd duck when it launched back in September 2017. Defying the model of its predecessor, which was dragged down by a lot of extremely repetitive gameplay and dull grinding, often requiring you to do the same level over and over again just to get a slightly better piece of equipment, the sequel essentially went in the opposite direction. Rather than making it hard to get anything, Destiny 2 made it easy to get everything, which meant that the serious players kind of ran out of things to do after a while. It was fantastic as a game, but as a supply of fun, new things to do, it quickly dried up even across its first two expansions.
The new Forsaken downloadable content, on the other hand, almost makes Destiny 2 feel like an entirely new game. I’m still shooting aliens and collecting progressively fancier pants, but there’s new loot to acquire, new kinds of weapons (space bows that shoot space arrows!), a new story, and a bunch of small changes that make everything weirder and more obtuse in a way that works inexplicably well. The base game was bluntly straightforward, giving you direct paths to go down in order to get good weapons and armor, but Forsaken mucks things up just enough that you’ll feel more like you’re on a crazy sci-fi adventure, and less like you’re just navigating your way through video game menus.
To be clear, you’re still navigating through a lot of video game menus, but at least they’re more interesting ones: The entire weapon system has been redesigned to be more customizable (you can go into a fight with three shotguns, if you’re really weird), and some of the formerly meaningless items you’d gather on the game’s planets have been repurposed in fun new ways. Destiny games are at their best when you find an unexpected surprise while stumbling through a dark cave, whether it’s a new gun or some lore reveal, but vanilla Destiny 2 made the path through the cave too clear. Forsaken makes it all less obvious, requiring you to actually do some critical thinking to figure out how to get to most of the new stuff. To put it another way, Forsaken brings back the “what the hell am I supposed to do with this?” feeling that Destiny 2 lacked, and I think that makes poking around at its mysteries significantly more fun.
That being said, mechanical tweaks can rarely stand up to pure spectacle. Luckily, Forsaken has some other cool new stuff, most notably its main storyline. The opening sequence kills off Cayde-6, the wise-cracking robot dude who happens to be the closest thing the Destiny series has to a mascot, and the rest of the campaign is a Western-style revenge story about hunting down the nine super-baddies (including a familiar face from Destiny 1) who murdered him. Naturally, each super-baddie has a gimmick, whether it’s making you defuse bombs, chasing you on a space motorcycle, or planting holographic decoys, making each of the battles feel fresh even though they all take place in the same basic area and feature the same enemies (a new alien army called the Scorn). It’s cool, it’s exciting, and it doesn’t detract from the basic gameplay at all, which is the best you can hope for with an expansion for a game like this. For better or worse, Forsaken has gotten me back into Destiny 2. At least now I know what I’ll be doing every night for the next month (killing aliens to get fancy space pants).