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‘Destiny 2: Forsaken’ works because it makes FOMO a part of the game


Most games build their escapist fantasy around the idea of making your hero the center of everything. Destiny does it instead by giving you, the person playing the game, the most intense FOMO.

Destiny 2: Forsaken is a new expansion of the hit 2017 game that aims to right the ship after a rocky first year. So much of my first week with it has been characterized by excited IM and DM exchanges peppered between lengthy, almost binge-level play sessions.

“You know about the Telesto cheese in Blind Well, right?”

(Translation: Did you know there’s an easy way to cheat your way through a high-level activity?)

“DUDE. I just got Trust. Triple Tap/Rampage.”

(Translation: I got a piece of loot that drops rarely, and it came with especially good stats.)

“I’m up to the ‘wait for that one fucking public event in Four-Horn Gulch’ portion of the Dreaming City quest and Destiny is terrible again.”

(Translation: My progress is halted because of a quest step that the community agrees is poorly designed, and I’m angry about it.)

Destiny fans geek out over these tiny details that read like incomprehensible gobbledygook to people on the outside. For all that it adds to the game in big ways — new story, missions, gear, activities — Forsaken is here to smooth over tons and tons of those tiny details. And that’s what makes describing its success to any non-fans out there so challenging.

Let’s start with the basics: Destiny 2, right now, is the best it’s ever been. It’s the best the series has ever been, even. The scope of the changes Forsaken introduces — many of them easily summed up as “quality of life” fixes — is massive, and the actual new content we’re playing with delivers thrills and fresh ideas.

Bungie, the series developer, wisely cut the story down to its barest essentials: A major character death, a narrative expansion of the universe, and a set of villain-highlighted boss fight “hunts” bookended by a handful of more intricately crafted story missions.

Wise, because Destiny hasn’t ever been about the story that’s written. The game’s lore has its subsection of fans in the wider community, but the elements that actually make this game click relate much more to the dangling carrots players constantly reach for (as well as the mechanical bliss; Destiny just feels fun). That’s where the FOMO comes into play.

Destiny 2: Forsaken

Destiny 2 is what’s known as a “live game,” meaning the activities you pursue change and update from week to week and day to day. Whenever a new release or expansion comes along, the opening weeks are largely defined by the fan community’s near-insatiable appetite to explore every inch of what’s new, to the point of intentionally breaking the game — often in creative ways — to make that happen.

Forsaken is no different. The post-release news cycle on Destiny’s ever-popular DestinyTheGame and RaidSecrets subreddits has been updating faster than the discourse around a showstopping Donald Trump tweet. There’s excitement and anger and everything in between. Nothing new for Destiny.

What is new, however, is the fact that it still feels like we’ve only scratched the surface of the scores of secrets there are to uncover. Yes, Forsaken only dropped a week ago, and most of you might think that’s a short amount of time. But the hardcore Destiny community is both large and dedicated. Secrets don’t last long in this game.

For all that it adds to the game in big ways, Forsaken is here to smooth over tons and tons of tiny details.

Some of that has to do with smart design choices on Bungie’s part. There are elements of Forsaken that simply haven’t been released yet. Some of it we know about; the raid, Destiny’s pinnacle activity for the highest-level players, won’t switch on until Sept. 14, for example. 

But there’s plenty we’re just left to piece together inside the game, as well. References to enemies that haven’t been found yet. Activities that require the completion of named missions that don’t exist on any of the in-game maps. Bungie hasn’t addressed any of it directly, but the hints are all there. 

That’s great. Four years ago, Bungie stumbled backwards into a situation where the activity outside of Destiny had become something of a game unto itself. Destiny geekery is a social media sport that plays out everywhere, from Reddit to social media platforms to Discord chat rooms to IMs and DMs. To play Destiny is to talk about Destiny. Engaging with the discourse is a feature, not a bug.

Without it, for example, the wider community would have taken much longer to find a secret sniper rifle that sneaked into the game this past summer. The moment electrified the community, both because the gun was such a power-boosting joy to play with and also because the act of finding it, fighting for it, unlocking it… it was all a community effort, by design.

Forsaken is filled with stuff like this. From the consciously designed stuff like the new Dreaming City, a max-level location littered with secrets and top-tier activities, to happy accidents, like my above-mentioned “Blind Well cheese.” 

The latter cases are often things that need to be fixed in the long run, but doing dumb stuff inside the game just to take advantage of an exploit is a longtime hallmark of the Destiny experience. Not just the act of doing dumb things — like jumping through unseen holes in the world to find a treasure chest you shouldn’t have access to yet (true story) — but the way the community exults in these activities together.

Destiny 2: Forsaken

On top of all the accidental gameplay, there’s also a significant amount of work that went into the things you do after the story, a phase of play often referred to as the “endgame.” In the past, hardcore Destiny fans have often crashed up against artificial gates that halt their progress on a weekly basis. Frustrating times, especially since Destiny’s most beloved activities are part of the endgame.

Forsaken still has those gates, but it offers so many more options for binge-loving fans who just want to chase more power. You eventually reach a place of diminishing returns each week, but it’s a better situation for Destiny in two key ways: (1) The expanded assortment of power-boosting weekly activities, which I think has more than tripled, and (2) even when you hit the gates, there’s still a chance — an admittedly low one — of finding gear that powers you up.

Engaging with the discourse is a feature, not a bug.

I’m sure that in a month from now, I’ll be screaming about one thing or another that I hate, just like any other frequent Destiny player. That’s just the way the conversation tends to unfold around this game. Its continued existence is shaped by an ongoing dialogue between Bungie and its fans.

In that sense, Forsaken is a love letter. It’s a nod of recognition to the community that’s stuck with the game since 2014, when a bunch of us were still wondering how “the Halo studio” could possibly top its beloved Xbox series.

If Destiny 2 struggled at launch for swinging too broadly to find a larger audience, Forsaken dials things back with a renewed focus on the people who keep coming back for more. It seems smaller, but it feels larger. For the hardcore fan especially, every day isn’t just a new toy to play with; it’s a new conversation.

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