With each new expansion Destiny 2 seems determined to reinvent itself, and Shadowkeep is no exception. This time the big push is centered around making everything more complex, customizable, RPG-like, and downright nerdy. The host of tweaks and adjustments the newly independent Bungie's made to this end are numerous: armor, quest tab, and additional progression systems provide more rewards and customization options for truly committed guardians. Of course, the side effect of all these tweaks is catering to longtime players that Destiny 2 has become even more confusing in the process, which might annoy those hoping to simply log on and shoot some moon goblins in the face.
The biggest barrier to entry to Destiny 2 these days is learning the almost absurd number of currencies, upgrade paths, leveling systems, and power grinds. But for veterans who enjoy the neverending grind and the ability to improve and customize in their own way, life has never been better. As a longtime player who has a passionate love-hate relationship with Destiny, I find myself somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. It might take me a while to figure out where I stand in the long run.
Using the new armor system I was able to create a sweaty PvP loadout focused on maximizing hand cannon efficiency, and a raid-specific load designed to take down enemy shields and deal with special enemy types. While the results I got from some loadouts weren't immediately noticeable in the field, tweaking my abilities to create the perfect cocktail killer is a rewarding experience in its own right and is bound to get better over time once I've maxed out my armor's power.
Finishers give you the option to execute weakened enemies with some extra pizzazz.
Of course, not all additions to Shadowkeep make Destiny 2 more complicated – some are just good old-fashioned fun, like finishers. Finishers give you the option to execute weakened enemies with some extra pizzazz, such as sending them flying with a punch or roundhouse kicking them in the face. In addition to being pretty badass, they also provide tactical benefits such as damage resistance during animation and the ability to instantly kill enemies at a distance, since finishers can have a pretty generous range. There aren't a ton of different finishers to choose from at this point and they have to be changed manually, which can make them quite repetitive, but there is a lot of potential for this to evolve over time and I'm honestly totally here for it.
Shadowkeep's campaign has you working with veteran and walking cursed image artist Eris Morn on a vague quest to stop some bad things from going down on Earth's moon. But what starts out as a generic, lunar-based hero's journey quickly reveals itself to be a chilling and tense reflection on your character's story so far, with heavy foreshadowing of an even more challenging path set before you. Unfortunately, the excitement ends just as quickly as it begins when, just four or five hours later, the story grinds to a halt so abruptly it might give you whiplash. Precisely when the stakes seem to be the highest, they drop you back into a patrol zone and leave you discovering that the campaign is over with absolutely no fanfare. In fact, I wasn't even sure the campaign was over until Bungie emailed me to offer a printable Eris Morn mask as a reward for beating the campaign. At least now I have something to wear that will hide my tears caused by the sheer lack of a payoff.
Shadowkeep ends up feeling like the first act of a larger story.
Although Shadowkeep's story has some great chapters, it ends up feeling like the first act of a larger story that seems to be completed in the near future. I'm hoping that after the release of the new raid (October 5th), the Vex Offensive event (Oct. 5th), and the second dungeon activity (Oct. 29th) we'll feel like we've got a more complete story, but I think it's more likely that Bungie will draw this out over multiple seasons, or even years. One of my major complaints with Destiny's story as a whole is that it kills off its villains too quickly and feels disjointed because of it, so great to see writers setting up for a story with a longer tail. At the same time, hard to shake off the bad taste of the sudden ending leaves in my mouth.
The moon is Shadowkeep's main setting and will feel familiar to Destiny fans, but things have gotten a whole lot spookier than the last time our boots touched its dusty surface. Gray craters have been split open, revealing sickly, luminous innards and rocky hills have been replaced by nefarious-looking spiers and hive agents performing their wicked magic. To make matters worse, phantoms can be found in every corner, looming creepily or sometimes even calling out to offer missions. Such an interesting refresh of an existing area that it almost never bothered me that the patrol area is essentially a reskinning of the same space we all remember from the original Destiny.
Where I am right now, with my Titan character at power level 917 and a decent endgame loadout slowly coming together. My review in progress will continue through the weekend, at which point I hope to beat the raid (which is currently running) and tackle Vex Invasions before scoring Shadowkeep, so keep an eye on this space.