Destiny 2: Shadowkeep is a lot to take in. In one fell swoop, the expansion resets player progression, institutes a new seasonal model for live events, and adds a wealth of new content. It’s going to take some time to get a grasp of the scope of things. Online, ever-changing games like this are less like cars and more like big old boats, or what I imagine boats to be like—too big to notice tiny changes in until you become deeply familiar with the bones of the thing. Massive shifts appear, to the naked eye, to not be happening at all.
Right now, Destiny 2 has some bigger problems: After clogged servers kept players from logging in today, Bungie shut it all down for emergency maintenance. Once you manage to log on to Shadowkeep, there’s plenty new that you’ll notice immediately. A lot of it, you probably have been expecting, given Bungie’s slow-burn divulging of details over the last few months. But contemplating these changes from afar and having them in your hands are two very different experiences. Consider these off-the-cuff impressions—I’ve hardly scratched the surface of things and I have a lot of questions, but I’m certain that I’ll be playing a lot of Shadowkeep.
For the most part, Destiny is a pretty easy game, even for a solo player. If you didn’t take on its top-tier challenges—raids, Nightfall strikes, the Reckoning—it was kind of laughably easy. You had your preferred loadout for rinsing through scrubs, and when the big boys came to say hello, you had an answer ready.
Now that power levels are reset? You’re a scrub. You are washed. At least, on Shadowkeep’s new remixed version of the Moon, you are. You will regularly stumble across areas patrolled by enemies that are roughly 100 power above you, which is the threshold where you flat-out can’t damage them. It’s a bucket of cold water to the face.
It’s also a way to gate progress, to keep you from delving too deep into the Moon or its mysteries too soon.
In its return to the Moon, a locale players haven’t visited since the first Destiny, Shadowkeep repaints it with the layer of opaque mystery that became a trademark of some of the best Destiny destinations, like the Dreadnaught in The Taken King or The Dreaming City in Forsaken. Keep a sharp eye out and you’ll see little figurines that you can’t yet interact with,, bits of bone that unlock lore, or areas that are walled off by a forcefield.
You’ll also stumble on things you just plain don’t expect, like this ship corridor that looks straight out of an Alien film.
Exploring is always the best part of a new Destiny expansion.
Shadowkeep is revamping the entire in-game economy, re-introducing formerly deprecated materials and making relatively useless currencies relevant again. It’s going to take some time for players to run up against any pain points in the new economic landscape as they loot and upgrade their way across the solar system, but I’m a little worried that things are looking a bit more grindy.
This will be hard to sort out for sure, as everyone will be leveling over the next few days, churning through whatever gear will raise their power level from 750 to the new soft cap of 900 . Part of the reason I feel this way is due to the new armor system. On paper, it is very cool, allowing you to swap out mods that help spec your armor for certain builds. But it also seems like it will get expensive in the long run.
Mods cost energy, and each piece of armor has an energy budget from 1 to 10. When you pick up a new piece of armor, it’s assigned a random energy value, which you can then upgrade using Glimmer and Legendary Shards. It’s not much—upgrading my boots from 2 energy to 3 costs 500 Glimmer and 1 Legendary Shard. But imagine doing that multiple times, for multiple pieces of armor. It’s a whole new, massive resource sink.
It might be offset by another new thing, though.
This is probably not a surprise, since Destiny 2’s seasonal reward structure echoes Fortnite’s Battle Pass, and the Battle Pass is an incredibly effective way to monetize free games. If you’re not familiar with either, here’s the gist:
For the current 70-day “season” of Destiny 2, there are two rewards tracks: one for people who have a season pass, and one for those who do not. Everyone who plays Destiny 2 earns experience, which goes towards your Season Rank. Achieve a new Season Rank, and you’ll get rewards—everyone on the “free” track gets the reward, and season pass owners also get a fancy bonus reward.
The nice thing about it is that the seasonal rewards seem to include a lot of upgrade materials, which might offset the need to constantly farm what you need to keep your gear in tip-top shape. Season pass owners get lots more of this stuff, which might prove that the free tier offerings are negligible. Again, I’m worried about the grind.
At the very least, Destiny 2 does an excellent job of explaining what’s included in a season for those who have a pass and those who do not. There are no surprises.
Shadowkeep’s changes and tweaks are pervasive, and this makes it hard to catalogue and evaluate them. Gun performance is different across the board, the difference between base and critical damage is different, the Crucible has been reworked, and there’s a new schedule of live events that might change how the rest of the game’s older destinations might play out.
I’m still too early in the story to really say much about it other than this: It is about as amusingly portentous as anything involving Eris Morn, the game’s most goth character. It also almost immediately sends you on one of Destiny’s favorite kinds of time-killing quests: “Go charge this artifact by doing busywork.”
Said busywork is more interesting than it previously was. Instead of boring patrol beacons that trigger repeatable vanilla missions, the Moon is full of these haunted blood-ghosts that ask you to kill their nightmare, which is pretty damn metal.
As you’ve probably put together by now: Moon’s haunted. I’m into it though, and can’t wait to dive into more. As soon as these servers come back online.