Bungie has done an excellent job of marketing Shadowkeep to Destiny 2’s most hardcore players though, and combined with the goodwill earned from how well Year 2 was handled, fans are understandably hyped for Shadowkeep even if it’s not designed to be as big as Forsaken.
While Destiny 2: Shadowkeep does deliver in some areas that fans were excited for, it falls noticeably short in others.
As most people know by now Shadowkeep takes place on the Moon. The Hive are still running around under the surface, and have built a Scarlet Keep atop something mysterious and old according to our old pal Eris Morn from Destiny 1 who is now back full-time.
At the same time, new “Nightmare” enemies, essentially a greatest hit lineup of Destiny’s most infamous bosses, are appearing on the Moon and that’s bad… I guess.
See the problem with the Shadowkeep’s story is that it sets up a very interesting premise but never explains anything in enough depth nor really delivers anything substantial to the overall plot of Destiny 2 aside from stuff we already pretty much knew.
Without spoiling the major reveal if you’re not aware already, something very important to the overarching plot of the Destiny series does finally show up in Shadowkeep in dramatic fashion. But this reveal is not particularly shocking as it has been heavily hinted at over the course of Destiny 2.
What I was actually looking forward to in Shadowkeep was learning more about the motivations of this enemy and how they logistically operate. I didn’t get that, at least not in the campaign.
Since the world’s first completion of the Garden of Salvation, more information post-Shadowkeep has trickled out through lore tabs, and something appears to be happening behind Ikora.
The problem is that while someone like me with hundreds of hours of playtime will stick around to see what happens and read the lore tabs, the average player who can’t be bothered with all that will be left with a flat campaign.
The climax of Shadowkeep arrives… and then just goes without even a whimper.
All that I learned so far is that this entity has the power to bring back to life spooky but lifeless and weaker versions of our past enemies that we need to take out via repeatable Nightmare Hunts. In theory, this should have been rad, but in practice, it’s just meh.
These Nightmare Hunts were extremely disappointing as they are just watered-down versions of fights veteran players have already experienced. They have one simple new mechanic that they all share (taking out lesser Nightmares periodically to damage them), and that’s it.
The Skolas Nightmare doesn’t have his poison mechanic and Omnigul just flies around a room and shoots wizard attacks at you exactly as she did in Destiny 1. I was expecting a bit more.
It’s nostalgic the first time through but after that, it just feels like filler content. Fine… serviceable… and non-problematic content, but still just filler.
Fortunately, there is an equal amount to praise as well, with Eris Morn topping that list.
Eris Morn does all the heavy lifting in the Shadowkeep campaign. Her voice actor (Morla Gorrondona) does an incredible job of evolving Eris Morn from the spooky rock lady in Destiny 1 to a more relatable, sympathetic, and important figure in Destiny 2; a true rarity in this series.
Eris is stationed on The Moon which is now loaded with stuff to do. It is among the most unique feeling locations Bungie has added to Destiny which is an impressive feat considering lots of players have seen most of it already via Destiny 1.
It was always one of the creepier places in the first game, but it’s taken to another level now in Destiny 2: Shadowkeep with the specters of dead guardians floating around everywhere, Control-style, and just the overall Hive death aesthetic getting turned up to 11.
Toland takes up patrol duty and if you interact with him in various locations around the Moon he will show you around and provide you some interesting lore for your troubles. Much better than the old, go to somewhere random and stand there for 20-second patrols.
There’s also a new easy to understand crafting system called the Lectern of Enchantment which will allow you to regularly roll for new Moon weapons and armor set pieces of your choosing instead of having to rely on RNG.
Missions, quests, and bounties doled out by Eris Morn and the Lectern of Enchantment will have you exploring all the nooks and crannies of the Moon, including Lost Sectors which exceed the high-standard set by Forsaken and are even more elaborate and interesting to explore.
A major sandbox change for this season, and a feature as hyped up just as much as the flashier stuff in Shadowkeep proper, is the addition of armor 2.0.
Armor 2.0 is an incredible idea as it allows players greater control of what perks they have on their armor in order to create builds around their weapons, playstyle, and exotics instead of the old way of just praying for good rolls via RNG and never quite getting everything you need.
The problem is that there’s still a heavy dose of RNG and needless over-complication which together undermine a lot of good armor 2.0 tries to achieve.
You can pick your own armor perks once you unlock them through the Gunsmith/RNG but you’ll still need to hope that your armor piece comes in the right element (specific perks are tied to the three primary elements) and has the right stats (mobility, intellect, etc.) or else you’re going just end up trashing or infusing it.
This problem is amplified manyfold for exotic armor as they are more critical to builds, and because of their rarity are far more difficult to re-roll for better/correct stats.
With Shadowkeep, Bungie has put a lot of effort into making builds more important by upping the difficulty on non-raid content. All the Nightmare Hunts can have their difficulty tuned up, and Nightfalls for the first time since Destiny 2’s launch are challenging and rewarding again.
High difficulty content with Shadowkeep features new Champion-class enemies that require players to equip specific weapons with special ammo mods to bring down. These ammo types are unlocked via the new Seasonal Artifact.
The artifact is designed to entice players to leave their comfort zone and try out new weapons and play styles by dangling powerful perks tied to specific weapons and subclasses.
For example, for the entirety of this season, the Season of the Undying only Auto Rifles, Bows, Hand Cannons and SMGs can equip these important special ammo types.
The Champions require coordination to bring down and I really enjoy this shift towards PvE content that makes you think about your loadout, instead of just being able to steamroll through just about everything other than the raid using whatever you want.
Unfortunately, Bungie undermines this too with the Shadowkeep sandbox changes.
Exotic weapons cannot equip these special ammo mods, meaning unless you want to run double primary ammo weapons, (which isn’t very fun), exotic weapons that use primary ammo are much less attractive to use in content like Nightfall: The Ordeal.
I will go in a lot more depth about solutions to these problems in a future article as to not veer this review off course. That said, the issues with armor 2.0 are pretty glaring, and it’s shocking that Bungie either didn’t foresee them or thought they were a good idea.
Speaking of shocking, allow me to slip in real quick how shocking it is that there are only three new exotic armor pieces in Shadowkeep, one for each class. Destiny 2: Forsaken had 12 and cost only $5 more.
Prefer to compare Shadowkeep to Destiny 1’s Rise of Iron? That’s fine, Rise of Iron had seven exotic armor pieces. I understand that Shadowkeep comes bundled with the first season of year 3 content, but it’s not like that added any additional exotic armor on top of the three that Shadowkeep proper adds.
On top of that, there’s no new armor or weapons for the Tower vendors, and faction rallies are still nonexistent. The Forsaken stuff was already getting stale by the time Shadowkeep rolled around, another year with all the same world drops is going to be brutal if that’s the case.
Bungie is probably swamped and they admitted that keeping up with the Annual Pass was hard on the team. I doubt they want us to have the same world drops for another expansion, but it doesn’t make it any less disappointing for players hoping for a refresh of the vendors.
On the PvP end of things, nearly all of the sandbox changes are fantastic. Roaming supers are able to be countered more easily, the returning maps are great, and the weapon tuning opens things up a bit more for the underused weapons like Scouts and Autos, without totally messing with what was already popular.
The big problem still though is power weapons. There’s still too much power weapons especially in Competitive Survival and in the Elimination Labs. Bungie is really close to getting Destiny 2’s PvP just right, they just need to tone down the quantity of power players can grab because certain power weapons, like Truth, are broken in PvP scenarios.
Still, even with all these questionable and frustrating developments, the overall quality of Destiny 2’s core content remains extremely high.
All of the new activities tied to the Vex and the Season of the Undying are polished, fun and incredibly rewarding. The raid is a feast for the eyes and continues to set the bar for the entire genre when it comes to complex cooperative content.
Also, I have to commend Bungie for their approach in opening up Destiny 2 to both free-to-play players, and those that just haven’t bought the new expansion or season yet.
We’re so far removed now from the dark days of Destiny 1 where players that didn’t buy the expansions were boxed out from content they paid for until they did. Bungie has gone the other direction now and is extremely generous with what players, regardless of their current expansion status, can access.
If Bungie landed with all the new things they tried with the launch of Destiny 2: Shadowkeep, this expansion would have been magical. Scrapping together a large content update with a mix of new and reused parts and coming up with something at or near the quality of their best work would have been quite the feat. That sadly didn’t happen with Shadowkeep.
I do however have the utmost faith in Bungie that they will eventually tweak all the problems I had with Shadowkeep at launch and deliver on the potential of this expansion both from a gameplay and narrative perspective throughout Year 3. How they handled Destiny 2 throughout Year 2 has earned my confidence on these fronts.
That said, players who bought into Shadowkeep deserve to have a complete expansion experience they paid for right at launch, and the rest that comes after should be icing on the cake. That’s not too much to ask for since Bungie has proven they can do that.
As of right now, Shadowkeep is a mix of hits and misses and feels a bit incomplete in certain areas. It does just enough though to keep the dedicated player invested while they wait for more content to trickle out throughout the year.
Score – 3.5/5 – Fair
- Moon is haunted, but also very fun to explore.
- Most of the new PvE content is great.
- PvP feels noticeably better.
- Very enticing looking roadmap for future content.
- Armor 2.0
- The campaign at launch falls flat and raises more questions while barely answering anything.
- Nightmare Hunts are meh.
- Lack of new exotic armor and no refreshment of vendor equipment is tough to stomach.
- Armor 2.0
If you’re a hardcore player yes, definitely. If you love the Vex yes, get in before this season ends. Otherwise, it depends how bad your Destiny itch is right now. If you’re not dying to play, the core Shadowkeep content isn’t going anywhere, and more will be added later.
Destiny 2: Shadowkeep is now available for all platforms: PS4, Xbox One and PCs.