Destiny 2's Forsaken expansion is widely seen as the best thing to happen to the series since the Taken King expansion of Destiny 1. Bungie got a lot of things right in Forsaken, and it made the game unrecognizable compared to the state it was in during year one - and that's a great thing. With Shadowkeep, the game's latest expansion, Bungie makes yet another leap forward in terms of quality and content, but how does it compare to the good that Forsaken brought to the game?
More Challenging Content
In Destiny 2, both Shadowkeep and Forsaken feature challenging content for players to take part in. With Forsaken, players gained access to the Dreaming City following the completion of the Forsaken campaign. The Dreaming City was designed to be an endgame patrol zone, and during the first few weeks it certainly felt like it while players were underleveled. With the returning Moon patrol zone, players will definitely feel like the world is harder when first exploring the area.
Despite all players being boosted up to 750 Power, the Moon features enemies up to 860-870 Power in certain areas, really challenging players who explore off the beaten path. The further down into the Moon players go, the harder the enemies become. There are even some enemies deep below that feature shields that can only be broken by certain mods that players will likely not have access to early on in the campaign. While on the Moon, players can also participate in the Vex Invasion seasonal activity.
Once players complete the campaign, they will unlock Nightmare Hunts, which allow players to face off against grim projections of past enemies - like Crota, Ghaul, and other familiar faces. The Nightmare Hunts have various difficulty levels, and even feature Triumphs for completing them quickly. Players will need to adapt to new strategies and upgrade gear with new materials to take down this challenging content. In terms of the Garden of Salvation raid, it will be one of the main sources of pinnacle gear and features its own set of challenges to face. While it did not take nearly as long to beat as the Last Wish raid, it still features some tough enemies and tricky mechanics.
Bringing Back the Grind
With Forsaken, Bungie reinvigorated the game by adding a varied source of powerful rewards for players to chase. With Destiny 2 going free-to-play with Shadowkeep, many new players are jumping into the game for the first time and are perhaps a bit overwhelmed by the amount of options out there. One thing Shadowkeep does great at is easing players into the power grind. All players new and old start at 750 Power, and don't unlock "powerful rewards" until they reach the Destiny 2 Shadowkeep soft level cap. Up until the soft cap, all gear players earn will give an increase of power, allowing players to familiarize themselves with different weapon types and gear.
Once at the soft cap, the power grind really picks up and players can start earning Tier 1 and Tier 2 powerful rewards. The breakup of these two tiers helps players know what to prioritize for the most efficient power gains. Shadowkeep does a great job at easing players in as to not overwhelm them with options. There are a variety of powerful gear sources, but players can grind at their own pace in Shadowkeep.
In-Depth Armor and Customization
Arguably one of the biggest changes in Shadowkeep is the Armor 2.0 update. While many players were worried about mods in Armor 2.0, it has proven to be a generally positive addition to the game. While some fans are still upset about the elemental affinity system, the mechanics of 2.0 allow players to swap mods on the fly without worry of losing them, so long as their gear is upgraded enough.
The gear leveling system adds a whole new depth to upgrades instead of the plain Masterwork system. The more upgrade materials a player sinks into their gear, the more mods (or more powerful mods) a player can equip. Players can even get upgrade materials easily just by leveling up the Destiny 2 Season Pass. Overall, this system is a great addition to the game, despite the elemental affinity mechanic, as it gives players more incentive to find great gear without having to worry about finding the exact right perk.
The Bigger Narrative and Darker Tone
If Forsaken was modeled after westerns, then Shadowkeep takes its inspiration from horror - especially cosmic horror. As a note, this next section will discuss story spoilers from the main Shadowkeep campaign, so turn back if you have yet to complete the main story! Forsaken revolved around pulling the players along through a revenge quest where players seek out Cayde's killers. With Shadowkeep, players are trying to stop the Hive incursion on the Moon but the situation quickly escalates into a threat much bigger than anyone could have anticipated - The Darkness itself. The previously ambiguous enemy of the Traveler is somehow deep within the Moon and players seek to uncover the strange Pyramid ship's purpose. While the Shadowkeep campaign left some players confused and frustrated, for major lore enthusiasts the campaign is a sign that Destiny 2 is moving in a much more dark, narrative-driven direction. The Shadowkeep ending clearly sets up a future conflict and hints at the coming of the real villain of Destiny history.
Outside of the narrative, the Moon patrol zone itself is scary. With grim spectres floating and disappearing, along with Hive clawing out of the Hellmouth, the Moon fully encapsulates absolute dread as players delve into the dark below. The further down players go, the darker it gets and the creepier the noises become. Players will start seeing shadows crawling across walls and into cracks, and Hive will seemingly come out of nowhere. If players are delving into the Moon to find all the lost ghost fragments underleveled, then these surprise ambushes will likely result in death. The Moon has never been scarier, and that's what makes it perfect.
Overall, Shadowkeep stays on pace with Forsaken in most regards, and despite being a bit smaller than Forsaken, it manages to pull its own weight and create a fun and terrifying experience for new and returning players alike. From a gripping and unsettling narrative to great improvements to the power grind, Shadowkeep manages to push Destiny 2 to new heights while bringing in plenty of new players thanks to New Light. With the push toward a more focused and darker narrative, hopefully the next Destiny 2 expansion will live up to the hype that Forsaken and Shadowkeep have created.
Destiny 2 is available now for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.