It is laborious to overstate how significantly better Destiny 2 has develop into within the final yr. The Forsaken enlargement and the smaller, extra frequent updates that adopted added selection in actions that meant you might earn rewards whereas enjoying your favourite content material, in addition to an enormous quantity of recent, bizarre lore to sift by means of, and secrets and techniques to uncover. It is not a stretch to say Future as a franchise was one of the best it is ever been within the second yr of Destiny 2.
The brand new Shadowkeep enlargement builds on these foundations in nearly each method. Whereas returning to the moon is a fairly good time in and of itself–the enlargement leans laborious on the spooky locale, which was a part of Future 1 however refreshed and enlarged for Destiny 2–it’s the smaller enhancements to the way in which the sport works which can be actually the standout. Shadowkeep’s content material choices aren’t fairly as sprawling, diversified, or participating as what we noticed in Forsaken, however the enlargement builds on the current tweaks in Destiny 2 to make the moment-to-moment gameplay even stronger.
Forsaken made some effort to determine Destiny 2 as a sport that is always evolving. As an alternative of dropping a sequence of massive content material updates with little taking place between them, Destiny 2’s second yr grew to become a drip-feed of recent stuff that helped preserve the sport compelling, for essentially the most half, month after month. Bungie has stated this strategy is the way it desires to deal with the sport going ahead, and Shadowkeep represents a giant step in that path. Meaning elements of the enlargement feels a bit truncated–it teases extra to return, however leaves a few of Shadowkeep a bit unsatisfying.
Destiny 2 story campaigns have at all times been a contact lackluster–they normally pack cool particular person missions, however they nearly at all times finish shortly and infrequently quantity to greater than chasing down some huge enemy and placing them within the floor. Shadowkeep’s predominant story can be on the brief facet, wrapping up in a 4 or 5 devoted hours (and fewer when you begin leveling alternate characters who profit from the high-level gear you have already procured). It is also clearly the primary a part of a a lot bigger story, one which Bungie says will play out over the whole yr. As such, it presents one thing of an unsatisfying journey; it is the primary few steps, somewhat than a whole arc, and also you is perhaps a bit shocked when it is abruptly over.
Shadowkeep sees the return of a Future 1 character, Eris Morn, who was central to 2 earlier expansions: The Darkish Beneath and The Taken King. Right here, Eris has discovered that the death-worshipping faction, the Hive, has found one thing on the moon that is conjuring up phantoms of previous foes and allies, returning lethal facsimiles of them to life. In a method, it is a huge reunion tour of the Future of previous. Eris is again, you come back to the D1 location of the moon, which we have not seen in two years, and also you combat barely watered-down variations of massive unhealthy guys you have beforehand defeated, similar to Darkish Beneath raid boss Crota and Destiny 2 vanilla boss Ghaul. It is one thing of an amped-up nostalgia journey that is a superb time, particularly should you’ve bought an extended historical past with the Destiny franchise–but we’re ready to achieve the long-term endgame content material that can wrap up a few of these story threads.
It’s cool, nevertheless, to hang around on the moon, particularly as a result of its spooky issue has gone up. Lunar tunnels are stuffed with scary screams of hidden terrors, there are many robust enemies to dispatch, and the entire place carries an air of haunted thriller. It appears we have solely scratched the floor of what is hidden on the moon up to now. Future is at its finest when it is stuffed with secrets and techniques for the group to uncover, and the sport has already supplied just a few huge, baffling mysteries which have required everybody to band collectively to work out.
Although it ends somewhat too shortly, the story marketing campaign has some thrilling moments as Guardians band collectively to assault and infiltrate the brand new Scarlet Preserve location and uncover what the Hive is as much as. The remainder of the enlargement’s new content material is participating as nicely. Nightmare Hunts are just about mini-Strikes, making them fast and palatable boss fights that aid you seize new gear. A brand new tackle Dusk Strikes, the harder variations of Destiny 2’s three-player Strike actions, are attractive because of a ramping issue system that offers you challenges at quite a lot of Energy ranges. Exploring the moon has rather a lot to supply as well–though numerous the situation is made up of previous areas, they’re deep and maze-like, and each journey into their depths feels deliciously harmful.
There’s additionally the Backyard of Salvation raid, which grew to become accessible just a few days after launch, to present Destiny 2’s highest-level gamers one thing to aspire to ending. Destiny raids are sometimes one of the best, most ingenious content material the sport has to supply, and Backyard of Salvation continues the custom of together with unusual and enjoyable mechanics that push your limits of talent and workforce coordination. It is one of many shorter raids with solely 4 encounters, however consists of huge, thrilling items, like a chase by means of a discipline exploding with enemy hearth and a Gambit-like boss battle that requires groups to separate into a number of teams to assemble objects and defend towards team-wiping assaults. Backyard of Salvation is not fairly the equal of the huge Forsaken raid, Final Want, but it surely’s a spotlight of Shadowkeep for sure.
Vex Offensive, a brand new six-player wave-based exercise that dropped alongside the raid, helps to spherical out the quantity of stuff Shadowkeep provides you to do for its first season. Like final season’s Menagerie, it has the sensation of being a lighter, simpler raid-like exercise that is extra accessible for many who aren’t fairly hardcore sufficient to tackle Backyard of Salvation. The exercise itself requires somewhat extra teamwork than the same old Destiny 2 occasion, with out being unimaginable to do should you’re matchmaking alone. It is a enjoyable change of tempo from Strikes or Crucible, and its large dump of rewards imply chasing one of the best rolls for its many weapons would not really feel like a chore.
The place Shadowkeep actually excels, nevertheless, is much less within the content material to work by means of and extra within the myriad smaller adjustments Bungie has made to completely revamp Destiny 2. The most important adjustments deal with making character builds a extra vital a part of the expertise, providing you with an opportunity to experiment with weapons and armor not simply to make your character extra highly effective basically, however extra highly effective in ways in which particularly meet your specific play model and desires.
Driving that focus is the brand new strategy to weapon and armor mods, which lets you combine and match components that have been beforehand unmovable perks on specific items of substances. Prior to now, you needed to spend a lot time switching gear with a purpose to make your total stats go up that extra nuanced numbers, like how briskly your grenades recharged or how shortly you moved, might typically be ignored. Ensuring you had one of the best rolls on specific gear solely actually mattered within the sport’s hardest actions and to essentially the most hardcore members of the group.
With Armor 2.zero and the brand new weapon mod system, you’ll be able to transfer these perks (now as particular person mods) between armor units to construct just a few items of substances with precisely the capabilities you need. You are additionally not penalized for experimenting since mods aren’t consumed on use. It signifies that when you begin to get some items of armor and weapons that work rather well for you, it is attainable to repeatedly tweak them to suit the way you wish to play the sport and your specific function on a workforce.
Shadowkeep’s tweaks to higher-level enemy encounters, like including enemies that require particular mods to defeat, present glorious alternatives to experiment with character builds and loadouts. Particularly in Backyard of Salvation, I discovered myself stopping to attempt totally different tools combos to assist me cope with robust enemies or particular conditions. The system gives numerous alternatives to consider and develop character builds; greater than I have been doing by means of many of the 5 years I’ve performed Future. It is an enchancment that makes the sport’s core loop of continually chasing new gear really feel prefer it issues to the way you play the game–and it is one Future desperately wanted.
The early leveling system has been improved considerably as nicely, making the climb to the endgame much more cheap. Leveling up your character is (principally) gone in favor of continually chasing gear with higher Energy numbers. As much as the smooth Energy stage cap, each drop is a helpful one–giving you an opportunity to check out a number of various weapons and armor in numerous circumstances earlier than you get to Shadowkeep’s hardest content material. Shadowkeep’s change to maneuver expertise factors from a pointless character-leveling system to a battle cross and new Seasonal Artifact merchandise additionally helps a serious ongoing Future drawback of operating out of issues to do as you strategy most stage. Every part earns you expertise to advance your battle cross and artifact, and the latter of which contributes to your characters’ total Energy stage, so there’s rather a lot much less wasted time chasing ineffective rewards.
A lot of the expertise of dwell service video games like Future 2 is within the continued chase after higher gear and extra energy within the endgame. Whereas issues decelerate considerably through the post-soft cap climb, progress feels regular by means of the sport’s respectable number of actions, particularly with the addition of Vex Offensive. Bungie’s adjustments to the system strike a pleasant stability between the problems of 12 months Two, when so many actions began to really feel like chores, and the issues of the previous, when progressing was a a lot slower grind. Pushing laborious by means of every week’s value of Highly effective gear drops can get you raid-ready in a rush, however with various new weapons to chase and new actions to grasp, there’s nonetheless rather a lot for top-tier gamers to deal with past making an attempt to lift their Energy stage by means of the roof. The brand new Seasonal Artifact additionally helps stability the grind by regularly awarding further Energy factors whatever the numbers in your gear. Because of this, you by no means really feel stalled, it doesn’t matter what a part of the sport you are enjoying.
Shadowkeep represents a shift within the fundamentals of Destiny 2, and that has solely improved the sport. Returning to the moon is filled with spooky enjoyable, and whereas Shadowkeep may not be as large as Forsaken, it nonetheless gives some spectacular additions to the world that can take time to totally discover. Extra significant decisions in Shadowkeep are pushing me to suppose past simply packing my strongest weapons and taking pictures every part in my path. These are enhancements that signify a large leap ahead for Destiny 2.