Destiny 2 Shadowkeep is Bungie’s first major release since fully taking over development and publishing duties from Activision. Some profound changes to Destiny 2 mirror this big business move. There’s a new expansion, a free-to-play release in the form of Destiny 2 New Light, and almost every system in the game has been tweaked. As it enters year 3, Destiny 2 seems more like a sequel than the same game when you compare it to how it was at launch.
Separating Shadowkeep from the separate changes that launched alongside it is kind of tough, but I’m going to try and limit this review’s scope somewhat. I’ll mostly be talking about what you get when you pay the $34.99 ($59.99 for the Deluxe Edition) for the Shadowkeep expansion. However, I will touch on a few boons and banes Destiny 2 has in general.
Destiny 2 Shadowkeep Review | Moonage Daydream
Shadowkeep takes you back to the Moon (or to the Moon for the first time if you never played the original Destiny), where you get to meet up with Eris Morn. Since the events of the first Destiny, Eris has been wandering around the Hive catacombs under the Moon’s surface and haunted by members of her dead fireteam. Surprisingly, this isn’t the first time she’s done this. This time she’s found something horrific, well more horrific than your standard Hive location. Eris uncovers a black pyramid under the Moon’s crust, which is one of the Darkness ships that helped bring about the Great Collapse of humanity.
Of course, instead of having Rasputin fire every weapon in the solar system at the pyramid ship, Eris has decided that we need to try and board it. Shadowkeep’s relatively short campaign has you investigating the pyramid and seeking a way to access it and find the secrets within.
Of course, Guardians storming its ship doesn’t make the Darkness pumped. So, it summons the Nightmares, manifestations of extreme trauma, to fight against humanity. These Nightmares take the form of previous enemies you’ve faced throughout the two Destiny games. They run the gamut from stronger versions of base enemies to manifestations of major enemies like Crota, Son of Oryx, and Dominum Ghaul.
Oh, also, along the way, you make the Vex mad, and they start invading the Moon.
Destiny 2 Shadowkeep Review | One small step for Destiny.
The Moon itself is a mixture of reused assets from the original Destiny, with a few new areas mixed in. I’d call Bungie out, but at this point, returning to the Moon is pretty nostalgic, and there are enough new locations to keep things interesting. There are two new strikes, The Scarlet Keep, which you have to do as part of the campaign, and The Festering Core on Io. I didn’t even realize The Festering Core existed for a while because nothing highlights this new strike. The Scarlet Keep, on the other hand, takes you through an exciting little dungeon with a pretty tough (at least solo) boss.
One thing I didn’t like about the Shadowkeep campaign, besides its short length, is that it continues a Destiny tradition. Many story quests are padded out by having you kill # enemy or other grindy tasks to complete them. In particular, the penultimate mission has you purifying essences to acquire the gear you need to enter the pyramid. Each of these has a separate set of objectives you must complete, and the story ground to a halt (literally) until at least three of them were completed.
I don’t mind a little filler given that this is Destiny, but with the story being so short, it draws attention to the padding. I think Forsaken spoiled me by nixing a lot of the annoying habits from previous Destiny campaigns. As such, it’s even more apparent that they’re back in Shadowkeep. However, I do have to give them props on keeping the whole story centered around the Moon. There weren’t any awkward, “Oh, you need to go to Maevic Square in the EDZ because there’s… Moon Hive Cultists or something there,” moments.
Unlike Curse of Osiris and Warmind, Shadowkeep does do an excellent job at making the task at hand feel vital. The lack of new enemy variety other than the reuse of past bosses was disappointing. However, the threat of the coming Darkness was palpable, and it was a decent way to get a boss rush in near the end without getting too far out with the plot.
Destiny 2 Shadowkeep Review | The cost of your destiny.
Unfortunately, the campaign of Shadowkeep ends on a cliffhanger. I feel a bit spoiled from Forsaken, which told a thrilling story from beginning to end. However, this is just a harbinger of how Destiny 2 will work from now on. Instead of a few big content drops per year, Bungie will be dropping bits and pieces continuously. For some, this will be a good thing, with Destiny 2 finally owning its identity as a game-as-a-service. Those who play regularly will get more frequent content and won’t just have to rely on seasonal events to tide them over between expansions.
For people like me, who come back to Destiny 2 every half-year or so, the whole game just got more confusing. Instead of hitting the game when major expansions release and catching up over the course of a few weeks, you now have to play much more often. That’s not objectively a bad thing, but it makes me that much more likely to consider logging in after a break. The new season pass system exemplifies this change.
Seasons now have a paid tier and a free tier. Over the course of the season, XP you gain goes towards Seasonal Experience, and every 100K you gain unlocks a new level. Everyone gets one reward for leveling up, but if you have the season pass, then you get a second reward. While you can get four season passes with the deluxe edition of Shadowkeep, which adds $25 on top of the base price. However, if you buy them individually, season passes are $10 each. With seasons lasting three months, you’re looking at an additional $40 per year to get the full experience of Destiny 2.
In addition to the season level rewards, season pass holders get access to the seasonal activity, Vex Offensive. This new six-player PvE activity has you taking on hordes of Vex in the Black Garden. It’s great to have another mode that uses matchmaking, and it’s a lot more fun to grind for gear here than just doing the same strikes over and over. The fact that Bungie is going to remove the game mode in three months seems a bit backward to me.
For some reason, Bungie seems to think that removing content is a way to make the game feel like it’s moving forward. For me, it’s just making it more intimidating to get involved. I do not particularly appreciate it when games try to drive home a feeling of missing out if I don’t pay constant attention to them. It’s also a real turn off that a game mode you’re paying for (as part of the season 8 pass) won’t be a permanent addition.
Destiny 2 Shadowkeep Review | Matchmaking, smatchmaking.
Let’s talk about matchmaking. I’ve touched on this in previous Destiny 2 expansion reviews, but Destiny 2‘s matchmaking is horrible. Some modes have it, and some inexplicably don’t. You can get matchmaking on Vanguard Strikes, most Crucible modes, and Gambit. Cool, those are some alright activities. Well, what about Nightfall? I’m surprised that with the release of Shadowkeep and New Light, there is matchmaking for SOME Nightfall missions at lower difficulties.
Lack of matchmaking means for solo players (like me), you might as well stop playing when you get to the current end game. Nightfalls, raids, all that fun end game stuff, has no matchmaking. Instead, to partake in these modes, you need to either have 3-5 friends that play Destiny 2 often enough to be online or use a third-party Looking For Group site and try and find a group who doesn’t want a max light level, specific build, Destiny 2 savant. I get that raids are a big commitment, so why not just have LFG tools included in-game. That and the option to create a fireteam without adding people to your friends list would do a lot towards pulling solo players into end game content.
However, I don’t personally even know five people who play Destiny 2 at all, much less anyone who is caught up on current content. Therefore, I haven’t been able to try the latest raid, Garden of Salvation. It looks cool, it’s got some beautiful exclusive armor, but I’ll somehow have to block out six hours of my life and find five strangers who can do the same before I get a chance to experience it.
Destiny 2 Shadowkeep Review | More Destiny.
Shadowkeep had a solid campaign, though it ended prematurely for my taste. The expansion itself isn’t on the level of Forsaken, but it keeps the Destiny 2 machine rolling forward. I’m not personally happy with some of the changes that come alongside Shadowkeep, but I can see the imperative to reward players who keep regularly returning by spreading content out instead of releasing it in lumps.
The lore of the series is confused at best, but Shadowkeep does an excellent job at presenting a simple problem, the Darkness is coming, and getting you interested in seeing what the outcome will be. $34.99 is steep for what you get with Shadowkeep, but it does include the $10 value of one season pass. If you like Destiny 2 and have played it for the last two years, you’ll want to get the expansion. If you’re on the fence, Destiny 2 New Light gives you a massive chunk of previous content for free. From there, you can decide whether to move forward and buy Shadowkeep or not.