Getting back into Destiny 2 can feel like popping halfway into The Brothers Karamazov and trying to figure out who betrayed who and why. Not only do you need to figure out where to go (the moon, mostly) but how to get there and how they swapped up the gear infusions and the armor. Both things Dostoyevsky would have explained, had he only known.
In constructing a Destiny 2 Shadowkeep review, it’s important to go over a bit of what got us here, where the game is heading and what changes have been made for good or ill. Spoiler: most of the changes are for the better but there’s always a few patches and swaps that cause havoc.
Here at the three-year mark of Destiny 2, Bungie’s goal is to make the game function as a service with longevity for the players. The cross-save feature, in particular, has raised the concurrent player count over 226,000 daily.
Keep reading for all the need-to-know info on the changes and the direction the game is heading.
Destiny 2 Shadowkeep Review
Covering the changes made to Destiny with Shadowkeep is something of a mixed bag. The game swapped to a free to play model with premiums offered through Silver (the in-game currency purchasable for real-world money) and DLC content in the Seasons being purchasable on top of the base game.
This change to the model coincided with Bungie’s split from Activision and represents a new tone for the studio. No longer requiring the okay from corporate overhead, Bungie could focus on the game and gameplay loop and less about units and an intangible bottom line.
Additionally, new players jumping into the New Light (the rebranding to keep the core game separate from DLC) hit the ground with plenty of areas unlocked and expansions already accessible.
Destiny 2 was released on September 6, 2017, on all platforms. Though at its first release it was coupled with Activision and that meant PC users were struggling with the Battle.net system for log-ins and account information.
The first major update and season of DLCs, Forsaken, started on September 4, 2018.
Finally, Shadowkeep released October 1, 2019, starting with the Season of the Undying.
Currently, if starting with New Light, players can pick up Shadowkeep for $35.00 retail.
A Note on the Bungie/Activision Split
The biggest change seen from the studio no longer being under the Activision boot is a transition to model aimed at more value for the players. Gouging each player over and over to reset and rebuild with each expansion, and the power creep that comes with it has been replaced.
Bungie’s stated goal for the franchise is to continue as a game-as-service model in which content offerings trump gimmicks to push profit.
Making good on this promise is the rollout of the new content and reworked mechanics. While Destiny stumbled out of the gate, Destiny 2 has largely tried to fix problems started in the original and upgrade the player experience consistently.
Many agree that the jump from 2 to Foreskane was as big as a leap from 1 to 2. Shadowkeep is good, but it’s not that revolutionary in the same scope.
Getting up to that coveted 1000 power takes less brute-force and repetition and swaps that out for daily tasks and milestone goals. That new players start (after the intro quest) at 750 helps to get you involved fast.
The milestone goals are the best attempt to give casual players a leg-0up. Rather than hoping for a significant drop from repetition, you get rewards from completing x number of an activity within a week or month. In addition, the seasonal artifact gives you the opportunity to forge what you need, allowing you to build a playstyle on effort, not luck.
For those getting into the swing of daily and weekly bounties/activities, it’s still nice to get a jump with some help online.
The infusion system has been overhauled to allow gear upgrading to be done both more swiftly and more easily. a lot of the streamlining is in incorporating Enhancement Cores into the rewards of your weekly Gunsmith Bounties.
Dismantling masterwork armor/weapons also can provide needed Enhancement Cores. As always, you can still infuse weapons of the same type for Glimmer. Planetary vendor bounties continue to be a good way to get fast upgrades and planetary materials.
The armor system tweak brings in new stats to give more to do and make more playstyles viable. Instead of the old stats of Recovery, Resilience, and Mobility, you can also bring up Intellect, Strength, and Discipline.
This gives more chances for even a plain drop to be integrated into a build and to provide a stat worth upping.
Armor also includes expansion ability, allowing for more mods to be installed when built up.
On the downside, it adds more grind as it costs to change and upgrade armor that would have otherwise been ignored in the past.
With Shadowkeep, Bungie finally got around to making the Crucible something you might do instead of ignoring. Many of the changes are around how to group and what play modes you can enter and how. The number of maps has been trimmed down to help them be viable and interesting.
Glory, in particular, has been reworked to provide more benefit inline with skill ratings. Floors have been established to prevent some demoting. The rewards for participating have also been increased to make causal attempts more engaging and less of a time waste.
Check out more tips on the Crucible with our set of guides.
In addition to changes, there are features and new activities being introduced.
These are arenas that need to be cleared frequently (daily at most). Upgrading the bunkers is helpful for clearing bounties and getting bonuses and currency.
This includes an armory area and the bunker itself. WEapons upgrades offer paths to weapons and customizations. The bunker upgrades level your passive bonuses.
Bunker upgrades will be a season-long task and can be done in ranks. The ranks aren’t necessarily progressive. YOu can upgrade the higher ranks without clearing all of the lower ranks, making customization faster.
After completing the campaign, players can experience going after specific Nightmare enemies in special areas. These hunts are difficult and reward Nightmare Essence in addition to the other drops. These materials are needed to deal with the Lectern of Enchantment.
Everyone loves a good ending animation for dispatching a foe. The new finishers feature lets you take out a weakened enemy with an animation. Even better, you choose that animation from a selection of collected ones.
The biggest behind the scenes change is the cross-save feature. No longer will you be stuck on a console wondering where the players have gone. And if you’re squad is gone to work for the week and you want to grind out a few solos on the couch, you can always swap back to your trusty console.
Bungie has a full run-through on the what and hows of cross-play, this will summarize the main points.
First, cross-save is not cross-play. You are still playing with/against people on the same platform you are using. You combine your characters into a single account that updates and records your progress but you are still loading into one system at a time.
How DLC Works
One drawback of this system is in the expansions. If you want to play everything, you will be buying the expansions again on each platform you want to play on.
With season passes, this restriction is lifted, allowing the DLC covered by the pass to be loaded on multiple platforms at one cost.
Weapons and gear that come from a DLC can be used in the vanilla game os you don’t have to worry about losing something in your more robust platform when swapping. The exception is PlayStation Network exclusives, those stay usable on PlayStation only.
Silver you purchase on a platform stays locked to that platform. What you buy can be usable in other places but needs to be spent and then saved specifically from the platform of purchase. This makes sense when you consider the percentage that Steam or PSN gets on each Silver sale.
Progress within a clan becomes homogenous. Any progress made on one platform transfers to others. You will only have access to the clan members on the platform you are currently playing on, regardless.
For the Lore Hounds
As for the story that Shadowkeep is adding, that continues to build on the new footing established by Destiny 2 and shaped through Forsaken in which The Darkness has been largely left out.
The debacle with the studio’s lack of a plan with this narrative thread didn’t come as a big shock but was interestingly candid.
Shadowkeep brings new faces and voices to the series and new locations to wander around in and be amazed by.
Not only is the moon an intriguing mystery of a location, but it also features a lot of stunning visuals. On top of that, it is huge, easily twice the size of its appearance in Destiny. This gives a lot of new areas to sift through and master.
Some of the areas of the Moon are repeats from that game, but they are treated as Easter Eggs and homages which gives them a special flavor for returning players. New players will enjoy seeing the vast landscapes and long site-lines for the first time.
Eris acts as your major quest provider and the throughline for the story elements of Shadowkeep’s campaign.
Eris is a returning character that might be described as a fan-favorite or someone that needs to shut up so that the cut scene will end and you can get to it.
Given that most of the action is focused through what Eris did (and did wrong) it can either be exciting to explore the mysteries of the area or annoying to clean up the mess of someone that won’t let you get to that cleaning.
It’s a bit confusing talking about season passes (which were about getting discount pre-buys on DLC groupings) and the new idea of seasons as reward and loot time groups.
Since Season of the Undying, Destiny 2 has had these seasons in which you get rewards for participation not unlike a daily login. The big difference is that three are two tiers: paid and unpaid. This gives the now free-to-play people more to do and rewards those that pay for the seasons with better and faster reward timelines.
In addition to the rewards, each season comes with weekly roll-outs of new quests and story elements that force the game to have a more service feel than any previous DLC managed.
Season of Dawn has just wrapped up and that so now’s the time to get your hands on some of the best gear from the most recent offerings. There’s still plenty of time to get involved with Season of the Worthy and no clear picture what will be coming after as they gear up for Year 4 in the fall.
Season of the Worthy
This season kicks off with players converging on the Last City and trying to keep it from facing destruction. Upgrading Rasputin’s bunker is one goal among many. Getting in on the Seraph weapon farm through the daily bounties and Seatph Tower events is key.
Things are a bit tougher without the Sundial this time around. The Seraph Tower even takes some getting used to, so get in some early research and practice to help out your 3v3 teams.
You can check here for all of the new goodness in Season of the Worthy.
Get Up To Speed
If you’ve made it this far in our Destiny 2 Shadowkeep review, you have everything you need to get into the mix. While you’ll probably want to familiarize yourself with the new features and feel solo, getting into a group is always the goal.
To meet players, find raid assists, and trade up for some better gear, join our mailing list for tips, updates, and more.