Developed by: Bungie
Published by: Bungie
Platforms: PS4 / Xbox One / PC
Reviewed On: PS4PRO
Shadowkeep is the first standalone DLC that is published by Bungie after their buy out from Activision. It was highly anticipated from fans as the buyout signalled the intent that Bungie wanted to be free to do things their own way without being held accountable by decisions made by publishers. So here we are at the start of Year 3 and the high promise that it entails.
Call to Arms
Shadowkeep starts off with an assault on the Moon (its haunted btw) by the guardians as Eris Morn has resurfaced with news of a long-dormant evil that as Commander Zavala puts it “the greatest test the guardians have ever faced” (where have we heard that one before). An ominous tower called Barad-Dur -sorry I meant the Scarlett Keep- has been erected over the Hellmouth and usually when you see an ominous-looking structure on the Moon it usually means the Hive are up to something. With the help of the Vanguard, the Guardians discover a hidden pyramid buried in the Moon that is the source of the Nightmares of fallen guardians and enemies long vanquished. What Is the Pyramid? Why was it buried in the Moon? Why has Eris Morn suddenly resurfaced? These are all questions posed to the player which hopefully will be answered at the end of the campaign.
It’s weird how life comes full circle or always loops back to remind you of the memories and experiences one has gone through in life. Not many of you know but we at BunnyGaming first found each other through the first Destiny. There our friendship was forged; our small circle of friends grew into a clan and now here we are. Personally –for me– this is quite a bittersweet moment to return to Destiny. I played the hell out of Destiny and Destiny 2 and dropped off right after Curse of Osiris due to how disappointed I was. Hearing good things about the campaign of Forsaken I decided to jump in and enjoyed it greatly only to drop it again soon after. I cannot lie, I was quite hesitant walking into Shadowkeep because I worry that the magic has gone. This walk down memory lane reminded me why Destiny will always have a special place in my gaming library and no matter how long I am away, going back will always feel like home. The thing about going home is no matter how much you love it, you hate the drama that comes with it.
As much as I always enjoy the gunplay in Shadowkeep, the campaign itself is forgettable. Now I know the arguments will always be this is how Destiny has always been, where there is more lore to read up on and the actual game merely skims the surface. I found Shadowkeep’s campaign to be particularly guilty of having much to say with no substance behind it. After the initial assault on the Moon suddenly the Guardians are on their own once again as though everyone else just went home. It’s also kind of hilarious how the Scarlett Keep is explained. They noticed it being built but didn’t really mention it to anyone because they were busy with other things. You are really knocking it out of the park there Vanguard. Anyways, the campaign can be easily run through in 4-5 hours and just ends awkwardly. I had to ask a friend if that was the end of it because there was no indication whatsoever and the story was barely hinted at with no revealed answers thus far. The campaign in Forsaken was an enjoyable experience which managed to tease where the story was going especially with The Dreaming City opening up and the raid completion providing a much-needed variation to keep each week feeling fresh. Now to be fair Bungie has said that the story is set to be unfolded all throughout Year 3 so here is hoping that is really the case or will we just be taken along for a ride until we reach Year 4 or Destiny 3.
Whispers In The Dark
Graphically there isn’t much of a difference between the launch of Destiny 2 and now. Although it is nice that there is HDR when I first started the game, I had a weird issue where it was either too bright or too dark without any way to calibrate it. Once I was finally able to the game looked much improved. Even running at 30FPS the game is still a joy to play and Destiny 2 at this point in time looks as good as ever.
Coming back to the Moon was truly a nostalgic trip as everything is as it was from the first Destiny with additional details including Lost Sectors and the like. For veteran Destiny players, it will bring up a lot of memories (good and bad) but for new players, they will appreciate exploring the new planet. The Moon is an ominous and atmospheric locale that is further enhanced by the new Nightmares that plague them.
Destiny has also provided memorable music that amplifies the sense of adventure for us Guardians and Shadowkeep is no exception. There are really some standout tracks that instil dread and encourage you to push on when the going gets tough.
Storm the Keep
I must confess, after returning to Destiny 2 with Shadowkeep, my friends and I were initially confused about all the changes that were made. We had trouble understanding what to do, what order to do it in, and where to go to do it as a lot of the quality of life changes that were made to Destiny 2 with New Light was daunting. It’s strange really, I never had trouble with the progression in Destiny 2 as everything was clear cut but at this point Destiny 2 really does feel like a huge mess that Bungie really needs to take a look at or they might risk losing new players who don’t have the patience to find out more on their own about what they should be doing and the like.
Players are boosted to Light Level 750 at the beginning of Shadowkeep and should reach 900 by the end of the campaign if players do all the available activities like strikes and quests that are given to them. It is at 900 where your progression is decelerated and will require players to complete quests that reward Powerful, Prime or Pinnacle Engrams to raise your light level. Players will also have access to the Seasonal Artifact that will help boost their Light Levels with XP gain.
The biggest change to gameplay that launched with Shadowkeep is the new Armor 2.0 system where Weapon and Armor Perks are customizable as they are now treated as mods. Players can choose to wear whatever they want and move whatever perks they want to their favourite Armor without worrying about losing them. The best part about this is how the perks themselves are mods that are not a consumable so once you acquire them, players will not have to worry about losing them once applying to new Armor sets. For weapons, players are also able to apply mods which are important in tackling some of the more challenging activities in the game which basically requires it. It really feels like a huge step forward into making Destiny feel more like an RPG and players are completely free to build the Guardian however they want to. I for one really welcomed this change as I used to really despise having to chase certain Armor sets with the perks I wanted. This is one of the most positive changes I personally love. Another big change is the Battle Pass that has two tracks for players who did and did not purchase the Season Pass. Players who did purchase the Season pass will get access to the benefits provided by both tracks but players who did not will have access to only one track which although does provide some benefit pales in comparison. It is worth noting that Shadowkeep does come with the Season of the Undying.
The Vex Offensive new activity that is included with the Season of the Undying is a raid-lite experience that would be a perfect precursor for newer players to dip into before jumping into the actual raid. It was clearly inspired by the Vault of Glass with more than a few mechanics playing out in similar fashion but with much less difficulty and intricacy. For seasoned players, after running the Vex Offensive it does start to feel repetitive quicker as the easier difficulty and shorter time to complete it left me feeling like it had worn out its welcome. The Garden of Salvation raid that just came out is a shorter experience than previous raids with only four encounters but still proves interesting enough as by this point it shows how Bungie are masters at creating an enjoyable Raid.
There are other improvements for activities that players know and love such as Nightfall where now there are difficulty options that players can choose to do which in turn offer better rewards the higher the difficulty but be warned without the required weapon mods it might prove to be a challenging task.
If there is one thing that I do miss from Forsaken is how the boss fights were varied and always interesting. There was a sense that each encounter was unique and presented a different playing experience from one another besides attacking them with your guns and abilities. Here in Shadowkeep most boss fights are relegated to Nightmare variation of familiar boss fights like Phogoth that have shields around them which players can only take down after killing smaller Nightmares. Even the orbs that are dropped which supposedly give you a damage boost don’t really end up feeling that way so in the end it just feels repetitive and uninspired.
What I Liked
- Gunplay – Still the best in class.
- Armor 2.0 – I really think that this is the biggest and best change that Destiny sorely needed and giving players the freedom to experiment how they want sits well by me.
- Music – There are some memorable tracks that enhance the feeling of dread the expansion is going for.
- Going back to the Moon – It was quite a nice walk down memory lane experiencing the Moon and familiar enemies in all its glory once again and I did appreciate that the location was upgraded with more activities, Lost Sectors and etc.
What I Wished Was Better
- Story – It was interesting going back to the Moon but felt like the ball was dropped story-wise. I expected a whole lot more especially after the impressive Forsaken and was sorely disappointed.
- Better Sense of Direction – For someone who was familiar with Destiny, my fireteam and I were really confused a lot of the times due to how the acquisition and progression of some activities worked. I can only imagine how confusing it must be for new players experiencing Destiny for the first time.
- Activities – The actual content that is bundled with Shadowkeep itself is kind of barebones but it is also a matter of perspective. Some fans are okay with it but I found it to be kind of a disappointment especially coming after Forsaken.
Destiny will always feel like home due to the sentimental attachment that my colleagues and I feel for it. It was where we first forged friendships and formed our very own fireteam that transformed BunnyGaming into what it is today. But I am about to get a little bit controversial depending on how much you love Destiny. At first, nostalgia did hit us hard with how familiar the Moon was and the story beats that we were going through but towards the end, it did start to feel tired. The initial promise of the old meets new just felt like recycled content that players might be okay with based of the level of nostalgia they feel towards the game except for the much-needed change that came with Armor 2.0 and herein lies the problem.
The Moon patrol zone, Armor 2.0, the general changes, activities and items you get from the Season of the Undying are not because of Shadowkeep. You are actually able to purchase Season of the Undying separately on the store for 1000 silver without buying Shadowkeep and you will still get to play the Vex Offensive. Everything else is readily available to F2P players except for a part of Forsaken content. I took the time to find this out due to how I was bothered by one of my friends being unable to play the story and some activities from Forsaken. This bothers me due to how unnecessarily complicated the game has managed to make itself into. For F2P players only the entirety of Year 1 is completely free but Forsaken content still needs to be purchased. Based on the value of content alone is Shadowkeep worth it? While I can wholeheartedly recommend Forsaken, I can’t really say the same for Shadowkeep. If you really love Destiny and want the new story missions, Nightmare Hunts and the Raid and don’t mind parting with your money then yeah why not? But if you are one of those Destiny players who over the years have grown a little jaded with the grind it might be something you want to pass on.
It is a strange, funny and beautiful thing though that my reaction to Shadowkeep is in many ways a microcosm of issues that have always been plaguing Destiny. Still, it is just the beginning of Year 3 and things can only get better from here and I for one am curious about what the rest of Year 3 will entail. There will always be a love/hate relationship with the balancing in the game but as my good friend said while we were running around the dark tunnels of the Moon trying to explore a Lost Sector, as much as we complain about Destiny we know we will be there whenever Destiny calls.