Destiny 2: Shadowkeep Review

Destiny’s annual yearly update is upon us, and this year we’re going back to somewhere we haven’t been since the end of original Destiny. Destiny 2: Shadowkeep isn’t as big as last year’s Forsaken expansion, however, Bungie are leaning more into the MMO features of Destiny and even though the expansion isn’t big – it could be just as significant. Moon’s haunted.

Destiny 2: Shadowkeep is year 3 of Destiny 2 and takes us back to the moon location and on a trip down memory lane through various activities while driving forward the story and lore. This is Bungie’s first release since the split from Activision earlier in the year and gives them the opportunity to show the audience what they are all about. Luke Smith has been clear for the vision and direction of the game – “An action MMO in a single evolving world where you can play with your friends whenever and wherever you want”. It’s an ambitious vision but acts as a good north star to where the franchise is heading after a year of correction through the Forsaken expansion.

Destiny 2: Forsaken had some great content; The Menagerie, Last Wish Raid, Exotic Weapons, the introduction of their first dungeon, a move back to random rolled weapons and sandbox tweaks that have turned around the state of the game in the best possible way, much of the work correcting the errors of Destiny 2’s initial launch. Where Destiny 2: Forsaken was a correction, Destiny 2: Shadowkeep is starting to look ahead to where Destiny could be in the future. Luke Smith gave a great account in his directors cut articles in the summer months about the state of the game, so I won’t repeat that content here, but if you are a fan of Destiny and haven’t read these articles I would thoroughly recommend it.

There’s a bunch of changes in Destiny 2: Shadowkeep including Armour 2.0, Sandbox, UI, New Light, Battlepass, the Seasonal Artefact and seasons structure.

First of all, Destiny 2 New Light is a new free-to-play version of Destiny 2 that will be available for all players on PS4, Xbox One and PC. So if you are new to Destiny, then this is a great place to start. Included in this package is:

  • The first year of Destiny 2 campaign content (The Red War, Curse of Osiris and Warmind)
  • Access to all the patrol spaces (including Tangled Shore, Dreaming City and the Moon)
  • Year 1 exotics, nightfall strikes and raids (Leviathan, Spire of Stars, Eater of Worlds)
  • Year 2 exotics (Thunderlord, Outbreak Perfected and Bad Juju)
  • Year 2 Activities including Gambit, Gambit Prime, Black Armoury, The Reckoning, The Menagerie
  • Gambit and crucible private matches
  • The first campaign mission for Shadowkeep
  • New Shadowkeep strikes and crucible maps
  • All crucible maps, modes and Iron Banner
  • New Armour 2.0 and finishers
  • The free tier of Season Pass

There’s a lot there and if you haven’t got into Destiny before, now is a great time because there’s a lot of great content and all available for free. On PC specifically, there are big changes due to Bungie’s split from Activision. The game is no longer available on launcher and now is available on Steam. So if you’re a PC player then you’ll have to migrate your account, instructions for that can be found here. This migration to Steam and the new free-to-play aspect of Destiny 2: New Light likely will mean a huge influx of new players. This is great for veterans who may want to pick of some fresh fish in crucible or Gambit, but not so good for Bungie Dev Ops as we could see during the Destiny 2: Shadowkeep launch.

The game launched successfully but was up for only a few hours before having to be taken down for emergency maintenance leading to queues of 1000s and long wait times. Since the launch, there have been sporadic server issues too with hotfixes and patches going out. This is all understandable given the influx of new players. Destiny 2 is also coming to Google Stadia, meaning you can now play Destiny 2 on the go – a long dream of many who’ve wanted to visit Xur (a weekend specific vendor) while on a weekend away.

Destiny is changing it’s access to seasonal content to a more ala carte model. Whereas before you bought an annual pass (which got you Destiny 2:Forsaken, The Black Armoury, Season of the Drifter and Season of Opulence) now you can pick up the seasons individually if you want to. In year 3 of Destiny 2, we’re getting 4 seasons, which works out to a rough 3 months schedule. Destiny 2: Shadowkeep is the overarching name for this year’s content (October 1st until approx next September), however starting this week was the Season of the Undying which is Vex themed. Included in your Shadowkeep purchase is:

  • Destiny 2: Shadowkeep story campaign
  • The new raid and dungeon
  • End game activities like The Vex Offensive and Nightmare Hunts
  • New Exotic Quests
  • Premium version of the Battle Pass (where you get more rewards early)

New to Destiny 2 is the Battle Pass system where you can level up through XP gains throughout the season and earn rewards as you go. This has been successful in other games like Fortnite and Apex Legends but is something we haven’t seen from Destiny before. It makes sense now that Bungie is the developer and the publisher, as they have to make back their money somehow. Luke Smith went on to describe in the summer how they invested some of the money they gained through Eververse skins, for example the money they earned by providing a custom ‘Whisper of the Worm’ skin (an exotic sniper rifle that was found through a hidden and challenging quest set against a timer) went directly into funding the development team behind The Shattered Throne Dungeon (a new ‘raid-like’ activity for 3 person fireteams).

This kind of transparency went down really well with the community and now Bungie has severed the cord between themselves and Activision they are hoping Destiny fans will be more likely to part with their money if they can clearly explain the value Bungie intends to deliver. The Battle Pass comes in 2 flavours – the free or the paid-for versions. You can earn everything on the Battle Pass for free, however, it’s going to take you longer to do so, or you can pay for the Shadowkeep expansion and get some rewards early – like the new Exoctic Hand Cannon Erianne’s Vow. As well as rewards, the Battle Pass gives more meaning to the XP levelling in the game. This is the leaning more into the ‘MMO’ aspect of ‘action MMO’ that Luke Smith described earlier in his vision.

Bungie has introduced the Seasonal Artefact in Shadowkeep too which allows you to unlock season-specific mods and also gives you a power boost to your gear. The power gains are unlimited too, which means for the hardcore they can keep grinding and in theory keep getting more and more powerful, however, the hard cap at the moment for the season is 950 and when the seasonal artefact changes at the of this season then those unlimited gains will go away (something to be aware of). This season’s Artefact is called The Gatelords Eye which is Vex themed due to the Season of Undying. It’s a nice new mechanic which introduces seasonal (and temporary) changes through mods, which allows Bungie to experiment. If the experiment doesn’t work, then it’s not too late to wait until it’s reset.

Next up we have the Armour 2.0 changes. Bungie is introducing a transmog system whereby you can put universal ornaments on your armour and therefore change the appearance of the armour, without changing the base stats of the gear you have equipped. This should give you more freedom to look how you want to look. Once again Bungie is leaning into the MMO aspect of the game here and reintroducing stats from the original Destiny including intellect, discipline and strength allowing you to further customise your gear and create builds that affect the way you play. Both of these changes together will allow you to customise the way you look with the way you play. It’s a dramatic shift from the vanilla Destiny 2 releaseā€¦ and a welcome one.

PVP is getting a revamp also with changes to the director. Gone are quickplay and competitive and have been replaced with classic (control, clash and supremacy), 3v3 and 6v6 control/survival. Bungie has brought back a trials-like 3v3 elimination mode but want to get feedback from the audience before promoting it to a true playlist in the director. One of the upcoming seasons in the next year (season 9) is likely to be focused on PVP (and hopefully Lord Shaxx), so we’ll wait and see what happens then.

All in all, there are a lot of significant changes and rolled in together make for a vast array of improvements to Destiny 2.

Destiny 2: Shadowkeep’s story campaign is relatively short but full of lore. We go back to the moon and meet up with Eris Morn, who’s made a discovery below the surface. Throughout the campaign we face off against foes we haven’t seen since original Destiny days, and although there may be some “recycled content” complaints, I really enjoyed myself going through the campaign and facing off against Omnigul, Phogoth and Crota. I missed Oryx, but his daughter did make an appearance. Eris Morn is one of the most interesting characters in Destiny and it was a welcome return to the game.

The end game in Destiny 2: Shadowkeep is likely where you are going to spend much of your time. We have a new Vex themed raid, The Nightmare Hunts (which pit us against old enemies from the past) and Vex Offensives. The raid certainly is a challenge and was the subject of a very enjoyable World’s First Race on Saturday 5th October. Clan Ascend took it in roughly 6.5 hours, which is much shorter than The Last Wish raid from Destiny 2 forsaken (which came in at about 17 hours). That’s roughly where expectations were for the raid though.

The Vex Offensive is a new six-person matchmade activity where fireteams take on waves of Vex in a new Horde mode. The raid signalled the start of the Vex attacking the solar system and at the same time as the raid kicking off Guardians were directed towards the moon with an in-game prompt. Once you complete a quest to access the Vex Offensive then it’s a nice repeatable activity to play again and again.

In summary Destiny 2: Shadowkeep is a great expansion offering improvements in nearly all areas. The expansion isn’t the same size as last years Forsaken, however, they set expectations as to such and have set Destiny in a new direction leaning into it’s MMO features. It’s unknown at the moment if a Destiny 3 will be coming, with many from the community wanting Bungie to drop the ‘2’ and simply call it Destiny – however with the new consoles coming out and the current game locked to 30 FPS on current-gen machines, Destiny 3 is tempting. What is clear is Bungie is now free from Activision and free to make their own future. This is the first release in a post-Activision world and the MMO-like changes so far have delighted the hardcore community. It will be interesting to hear the feedback from new players and how they take to the game, but from this Destiny veteran, you have one happy customer.

Developer: Bungie
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Google Stadia
Release Date: October 1st 2019

Final Score86

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