Review: Destiny 2: Shadowkeep (DLC)

by Kirby Yablonski

Destiny is a franchise that has seen its ups and downs since its inception over 5 years ago. Bungie's MMO-like game has gone through changes over time via downloadable content drops. The DLC has ranged in size too, from minor content additions to full blown gameplay changes and new story arcs. In October of this year, and the first time since it was announced that Bungie now owns the Destiny IP outright, meaning they are now publishers themselves, a new chapter was released for Destiny 2, and that chapter is called Shadowkeep.

If you are wondering why the hell this review is coming almost two months after the release, you'd have a good point; however, there is some madness to this timing. When Shadowkeep released, it was the beginning of Season 8, and there was quite a bit to do and lots to look forward to, as there was a ‘roadmap' of sorts. Over the past 8 weeks or so, there have been events added, a new raid, new weapons to earn, a new dungeon and the lead up to the final event, simply called the Final Assault. So, with that in mind, here's our thoughts of this current and major expansion.

Guardians will head back to the moon, a destination that has been forgotten about for a while. Eris Morn is back too, and she has discovered something underneath the surface. The Vex and the Hive are your main story foes, with some Fallen scattered about. You will find yourself in battle in various locations to progress the story. For those wondering, this chapter of Destiny 2's narrative leaves a few questions unanswered, including what the structure under the moon is really all about. That being said, the events that play out during Shadowkeep, and how players play the game, will have some impact on the overall narrative, so the story that plays out during the narrative campaign is just the start.

You'll race through the DLC story in one sitting should you wish, but that sitting can be as long or as short as you want. I finished the campaign in about 6 hours or so, while making sure I leveled my main character up. As usual, you can play the story by yourself or with two friends in a fireteam of three. Regardless of how you do it, it's an enjoyable story, but one that you need to attention to as it can seem a little convoluted.

Shadowkeep introduces Armor 2.0. During the DLCs development Bungie spent a lot of time hyping up the change. For those who are new to Destiny, this won't be much of a transformation as it will be all you know. For us veterans out there, the change is quite a big step. Each piece of armor now has individual attributes (stats) that affect your guardian. They are resilience (how much damage you can take), recovery (how quick you regain health), mobility (how quick you move and how high you jump), discipline (how quick your grenade(s) recharge), intellect (how quick your super recharges) and strength (how quick your melee recharges). These attributes can range from low to high, and there is a total base number to the specific armor piece you are looking at. Overall these attributes really help you fine tune what kind of guardian you want to be.

You can insert mods into your armor to increase the above noted stats, but you can only use one, and they vary the amount of cost (armor ‘mod' points). This sounds seems like a simple thing, and it is, but the rest of the mod system takes some thinking. First off, all your armor will have ‘mod' points, and except for masterworked armor, you'll have to level up the number of points by spending glimmer, legendary shards, enhancement cores and finally enhancement prisms and ascendant shards. The latter two are the more expensive items to get and are needed to fully masterwork your armor.

The next layer of complication is that most of your mods come in certain elements (e.g. solar, arc or void) and are not available outside that element, so you can only attach the mods that match the element of your armor. There has been a lot of discussion on this issue, as fans believe that this is overly restrictive for mod use. For example, mods that affect hand cannons or scout rifles are found in the void element, while mods that affect auto rifles and fusion rifles are found in the solar element. You have to be VERY mindful of what element(s) your armor is, what weapons you want to use, and what mods you want to have affecting said weapons. It can get quite convoluted, and I think that this area could use some fine tuning in the future to make is more streamlined and not as restrictive.

Mods can be acquired in different ways. You can buy them from the Gunsmith Banshee-44, earn them from Gunsmith packages, engram rewards (planet based), rewards from levelling up your artifact and you can also get ‘enhanced' mods from certain activities, such as Raids, Iron Banner or Iron Banner packages that you buy from Lord Saladin.

Regardless of some initial growing pains with the armor 2.0 system, it is a great addition to the world of Destiny and it continues to show that Bungie is trying to make the franchise deeper. I find myself looking at armor stats way more often and think of what kind of Warlock I may create using mods for certain activities (Warlock is my main character). I delete more armor than I keep, but what I keep I have plans for. This is just a new layer to making the game more involved, and one that makes you feel like you are in control of what your guardian can or can't do. Oh, and one more thing, once you acquire a mod you have it for the life of your guardian. There is no need to purchase multiple copies of mods as you only need one.

Another major addition to Destiny 2 is that Bungie has incorporated a Season Pass. There is a free branch and a paid branch. The major difference is that you get more rewards if you pay for the pass, as well as you get access to certain things much sooner than the free branch. Although I am not a fan of paying to get items and gear, the Season Pass is optional, and the free tree is rewarding, just not as often or as soon. It really will be up to you what you want to do, but there is choice, and as of writing this review, the cost is $10 for a season, which we assume will be for each Season Pass (x 3 more) during Year 3 of Destiny 2.

The final notable addition with Shadowkeep is the addition of the Seasonal Artifact, which is currently called The Gate Lords Eye. This artifact is quite useful. As you level up, it will open new mods for you to use that are very, very specific. The mods found within the artifact are geared towards specific scenarios that you may find yourself in, perks for some weapons and grenades, or you can equip mods that allow you to drop ammo for your teammates when using your finisher. There are 5 tiers of mods and you can change which ones are active at any time; however, the cost for doing so (glimmer) goes up each time you reset and activate new ones.

As should be expected, there are new activities for you to do, and Shadowkeep adds quite a few things to do every week. Some of these were added right off the hop while other were added during the course of Season 8, hence why I feel comfortable talking about the DLC as a whole now, and not at the beginning when things were still to be released.

New enemies have been introduced into the world of Destiny; however, they are not ‘brand' new, as they are once again reskinned enemies called Nightmares. They range from some common enemies all the way to bosses. Personally I think that it is kind of sad that we have not had a new race of enemy introduced, but when you follow the story during the campaign, you'll kind of understand why they are who they are. I am not giving Bungie a pass here, and that goes for reusing a planet we've been to before too, but in terms of the story being told, it kind of makes sense . I am hoping that some truly fresh content, in terms of environment and enemies, is introduced soon, as you can only reskin the Fallen, Vex, and Hive so many times.

You'll find quite a few new things to do in Shadowkeep, and all assist you in leveling up your character,and your artifact, which in turn allows you to become more powerful. And you cannot forget the hope and search for new gear. Your artifact can take you 40 points over the final cap level. The soft cap level is rated at 900, and the next cap is 950. It is here that the grind to level up becomes tougher. You'll need to rely on pinnacle rewards to hit the hard cap of 960. Bungie changed things up mid-season allowing pinnacle rewards to fall at 2 points over your base power level (not enhanced) as opposed to 1 point as it was recognized the grind was almost too much to hit 960.

Shadowkeep's events allow you to tackle the climb to 960. First off there is the Vex Offensive, which is now called the Final Assault in the last few weeks of the Season. Here you, along with 5 other guardians, take on waves of Vex and then destroy a certain number of oracles in order to proceed. There are two levels of this nature, and each are timed. The third, and final, level has you trying to break the shield of a boss, then taking the boss's health down to destroy it. Most recently the Vex Offensive changed becoming the aforementioned Final Assault. It incorporates a new boss as the Season of Undying is coming to the end. Some people were disappointed with the lead up and unveiling of what is basically the same event just with a new boss. I am one that doesn't mind this event as a whole, as it is a good way to complete bounties and level up your season pass/artifact; however, it is kind of anticlimactic in nature given that Bungie noted that players actions would affect how this part of the narrative went down.

During the season, Nightmare Hunts were unveiled. These are challenging events which have different levels of difficulty to choose from. As a fireteam of three, you will traverse various levels as you hunt down the Nightmare boss associated with the hunt you chose. You will also come across non-boss Nightmare enemies that can provide a challenge too. You earn powerful rewards, as well as a pinnacle reward should you complete a hunt on master difficulty. The hunts change weekly, and are a good source of rewards, and of course the addition of a chance to get a pinnacle is always a plus.

Another event that was introduced during the Season is Altar of Sorrow. The best way to describe it is that it is like the Escalation Protocol event on Mars. Here you will be attempting to stop powerful enemies from making their way from one warp to another warp. You have a specific time limit to do it in too. There are five waves, but each wave has different sub-waves (challenges) in it that you must complete to beat it. The final wave has a major boss, while other powerful enemies are again trying to get from one warp to another. It can be quite challenging if you don't know what you are doing. It is here that you'll be awarded one of three weapons (rocket launcher, shotgun, sniper rifle), with each weapon changing daily throughout the week. These are quite fun to do and can get pretty crazy and I enjoy them, and I also think many others are, or will, enjoy the event too.

All of Destiny's planets have incorporated various things to do on each, and on the moon it is the same. There are patrols, public events and lost sectors to explore. In terms of the latter, there are four to be exact, and every time I venture into one I am always amazed how Bungie has incorporated them into a planet that didn't have them when we first explored it so long ago. These lost sectors are connected to a bounty or two as well, so there is reason for you to explore them. Here you will earn XP, as well as a chance to get weapon drops.

Bungie has also released two major events during Shadowkeep. The first is the Garden of Salvation raid. It is a very mechanical raid with lots of teamwork required. There is a new tethering mechanic that is incorporated into it that you must master in order to progress and finish it. You'll find that you'll be focusing on a lot of ads (short for adversaries... minions should you wish), and it is a major part of the gameplay as you must stop the ads from sacrificing themselves into confluxes found in parts of the encounters (steps) you face. Of course, with any raid in Destiny, there are bosses and sub-bosses as well, and each phase of the raid that you play will require some finesse and team-planning to eventually bring them down. It's not the longest raid out there, but given what you will have to learn to complete it, it's something you'll spend time on before you start to master it. As a reward, you will earn raid specific items, and the events of the raid are part of Bungie's overall plan, letting player actions control some, if not most, of the narrative.

Towards the end of season, Bungie released a new Dungeon for guardians to explore and conquer. It's called the Pit of Heresy and it is a nice addition to the Shadowkeep's activities. It is the second dungeon to be released in Destiny 2, the other being The Shattered Throne. Like the one that preceded it, Pit of Heresy is designed for 3 guardians to tackle. You must navigate deep under the surface of the moon and face some challenging, but beatable, enemies. There are combat elements, puzzle elements, jumping elements and a bit of chaos now and then, all leading to the final boss. It is an enjoyable dungeon that can be completed in an hour or two, depending on how new you are to it, and how skilled your fireteam is. Your reward for completing it is a pinnacle reward (once a week).

There are a few more things that I would like to touch upon before wrapping this review up. First off, the Eververse store has been changed once again, and I am still not sure how I feel about this. Bright dust has become a rare commodity now, and items that you can purchase with said dust are not cheap. Bungie still allows guardians to purchase silver, but if you look at the cost for some of the items available for, they are very expensive, hitting $10.00 in silver in some cases for armor ornaments. Personally, I am trying to earn as many items in-game as I can, as I find the cost-value ratio of the Eververse items to be a bit on the ‘rich' side. You don't have bright dust bounties anymore, and this is sad, as it was a good way to earn said currency. Also, when you break down items like ghosts, vehicles or ornaments, they don't give you bright dust like they used to, which is another sad fact.

The bounty system as a whole has been revamped in Shadowkeep. You will now find that well known NPCs have powerful rewards for those that want them. Zavala, Shaxx, Banshee, Ikora and The Drifter will award you a powerful item for completing various bounty challenges. Most require you to complete 8 bounties within a week, while Ikora requires you to meet certain requirements related to the Vex. It's a great way to earn items when needed, plus bounties help level up your artifact/season pass. For me personally, I found myself doing more bounties than in the past, as I wanted to increase my power (as of writing I am 968) as well as get all the rewards in my ‘paid' branch of the season pass. It was somewhat addicting and gave me reason to grind.

Shadowkeep also introduces some new exotic weapons via quests. There are a few to complete, and I like the fact that these weapons are accessible via the quests that are offered. There are also new ritual weapons (a name change from pinnacle) that guardians can work towards. It seems that the new crucible ritual weapon is the most sought after at this time. Along with the exotic quests, there are also a few new exotic rewards to be found across Destiny's three classes. There are not a lot, but it seems that those they have included are quite useful, and I find myself really enjoying the new chest piece for my Warlock.

Finally, Bungie has made some changes to the world of PvP in crucible. This includes a new menu system, a new area that allows fans to check out some new modes that Bungie is developing, and of course there is a weekly rotation for specific modes throughout the season, including Iron Banner. One of the new modes introduced is Momentum Control, which is a variant of modes where you control specific points. Here you will try to take points, and if you capture all three, you have to hold them for a specific amount of time to win. Should your enemy ‘defend' during the final phase while you are trying to hold all three, it can turn the tide of victory and you'll have to go to the next round. It's a pretty intense mode and has found its place within the world of Destiny's PvP.

There is no doubt that I may have missed some stuff, but I didn't want this review to last forever and my head can only hold so much information. Bungie has used Shadowkeep to introduce new elements to the Destiny universe, and although there have been some definite hiccups, the fact that they are now taking control of their own game without a third party publisher, they making changes to try and make it what they want it to be. Shadowkeep has flashes of brilliance at times, while other times some of it stumbles trying to find its place, but that does not diminish what Bungie has done, and what the future may hold for this franchise.

Overall Score: 8 out of 10

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