Shadowkeep is out now, and while Destiny 2's latest expansion may not be quite as good as Forsaken, it certainly did a few things right that make it a great and impactful expansion. Many players of Destiny 1 compare it to the Rise of Iron expansion in terms of size, but Shadowkeep makes a more significant jump in terms of quality when looking at the game overall. While there were definitely some changes that did have a negative impact on the game, overall Shadowkeep sets itself up to be one of the better expansions in Destiny history. As a note, this piece will contain spoilers for the Shadowkeep campaign.
Fine-Tuning Armor and Customization
One of the most advertised changes for Shadowkeep was the overhaul to the Destiny 2 armor system, dubbed Armor 2.0. Bungie threw out the concept of armor perks, and instead turned all the perks into mods that players can slot into any (elementally attuned) armor piece. This system allows players to swap perks at will and allows for a more in-depth customization of specific pieces of gear that players want to use. The only limitation to Armor 2.0 is the elemental affinity system, where certain mods will only work on certain elementally attuned armor pieces.
While Armor 2.0 requires some planning with the new armor stats and mods, it is a great change to the Destiny 2 formula. It allows players to essentially wear whatever armor they want and then fine-tune it to be perfect for a specific build. The system adds a great deal of flexibility to a previously rigid and punishing system.
The Moon's Patrol Zones and Lost Sectors
When Shadowkeep was first revealed, players of Destiny 1 were ecstatic to return to the Moon and revisit old stomping grounds. Thankfully, the Moon is just as great to patrol as it was in Destiny 1, and features new areas as well that are truly breathtaking in their design and depth. From the Scarlet Keep to the new depths of the Hellmouth, the Moon features enough new areas that old players and new players alike will be captivated by it while running around hunting the Wandering Bone Collector or other mysterious new targets.
Where the level design truly shines is in the new Lost Sectors introduced on the Moon. Each Lost Sector feels unique and more like a mini-strike than a random hole in the wall. Each sector has some mechanic that players have to take down before tackling the boss. Not only does this prevent players from trivializing the Lost Sector bosses by burning them down, it makes the whole Sector feel more alive. Bungie did some of this in Forsaken, but every new Lost Sector has this new design that makes it great for players to test out their most powerful gear on new powerful enemies.
Challenging and Engaging Content
What really sets the start of the Shadowkeep apart from most other Destiny expansions is that the difficulty is raised to a degree that players will have a challenging time if starting the campaign right out of the gate. Every player in Destiny 2 was boosted to power level 750 with Shadowkeep, but enemies on the Moon can be up to power level 860-870 if players venture into the wrong area, and some of the story missions require players to delve into those dangerous zones. It was refreshing for a Destiny campaign to add difficulty to the story, as it made the Moon feel even more hostile and dangerous which fits well with the new growing narrative of Destiny 2.
Shadowkeep also brought a new raid, the Garden of Salvation, which lets players venture back into the Black Garden to defeat the Vex once more. Despite some players finding ways to cheese Garden of Salvation raid encounters, Garden of Salvation serves as a great new raid that sets itself apart from previous raids in a couple ways. While it is shorter than Last Wish, it does feature some fun and unique mechanics that make it a fun experience. The set design for the Black Garden is phenomenal, and the Vex enemies also feature a neat redesign. Overall, while it is not the most difficult raid, it will certain challenge groups who are not in sync to handle the new complex mechanics.
Atmosphere and Tone on The Moon
Bungie has had its moments in the past where it really directed the writing and acting in the game in such a way that it created an atmosphere that is truly unmatched. From Cayde's heartbreaking and tragic death in Forsaken to the utter terror of the "Lost to Light" mission of The Taken King, Bungie can build a tone and stick to it well when it wants to throw some of the best missions in Destiny history at players. With Shadowkeep, Bungie fully leans into the horror side of the narrative on the Moon. As players delve deeper into the Moon, the darker and more atmospheric the game gets. Shadows will start crawling across the ground and more specters of lost guardians will begin to manifest. The wails and cries of the lost echo through the caverns of the Moon and it makes venturing deeper a more terrifying experience. It doubles down on how the Light cannot shine through the darkness in a very literal sense, but also metaphorically.
Narrative and "The Bigger Picture"
The best part of Shadowkeep hands down is the narrative that Bungie is beginning to tell with this expansion. For the first time in Destiny history, players have come face-to-face with the Darkness, which prior to this has only been mentioned as a big threat but never seen. Destiny has traditionally introduced new story threads instead of continuing the existing ones, but now it seems Bungie is on track to set up the biggest story in series history. Narrative threads are coming together for the first time, and Shadowkeep was only the prologue. Destiny 3 won't be coming any time soon, so that means Bungie will be building this narrative for some time to come. Hopefully this means players will get to encounter the Darkness again soon - and perhaps even learn to harness it.
Overall, Shadowkeep does a great job at adding several big changes that push Destiny 2 to new heights. While it may not have been as big in terms of content as Forsaken, it made some changes that shape the framework for a bright future for Destiny 2. There are definitely some improvements that need to be made still, like fixing the 'forever 950' problem, but Shadowkeep has put Destiny 2 in a good place moving forward.
Destiny 2 is available now for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.