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Destiny 2: Shadowkeep First Impressions: Familiar Haunts

Damien Gula Posted:
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Destiny 2: Shadowkeep went live this week in true MMO fashion - with an influx of new, existing, and returning players, all causing server stability issues! But a few hours into the launch, Bungie’s team of crack commandos had things stabilized and we got about the business of discover what, exactly, is haunting the moon! Within this article, we will be giving you our first impression of Bungie’s action MMO shooter.

The Story So Far…

The universe of Destiny has always had weird and grim dark undertones akin to the Warhammer 40,000 franchise, but these stories were typically hidden within the Grimoire - Destiny 1’s lore card system. Fortunately, this time around there is no tiptoeing around these uglier parts of the story. Right from the start, Destiny 2: Shadowkeep sets a whole new tone, darker tone for the franchise… and it’s everywhere!

From the soundtrack to atmospheric cues to the uses of light and shadows, the Moon, despite the memes, is quite literally haunted. It is your job to figure out why and if it is possible to exorcize the darkness. Fortunately for you, you have an ally who has a long-standing (and painfully intimate) relationship with how dark things can get in the Destiny universe: Eris Morn.

As the last living member of her failed Fireteam (all of which met excruciating ends at the hands of Hive God-Prince Crota), Eris survived in the depths of the Hellmouth by sacrificing her Ghost and embracing dark Hive magics. Once thought to have abandoned humanity (both her own and that of the Last Safe City), Eris returns with yet another grave warning: something dark is stirring on the moon.

Though the Vanguard suspended lunar operations for fear of losing more Guardians to Crota’s ilk, it is Ikora Ray, the Warlock Vanguard, who hears Eris’ warning and offers to send in the full force of the Vanguard. Eris insists that it must be her and her alone that plumbs the depths. With great hesitation, Ikora sends Eris to uncover just how dire the situation is in the deep places where even the Light dares not tread.

We’ll talk more about the lunar setting in a moment, but without sharing any spoilers, this story and its set up delivers on just about every beat. Revisiting the moon is exciting for long-time Destiny players, but it is the story which matches the setting which sells it. Continues to deliver on the narrative delivery improvements Bungie has been making with each iteration of the game, Shadowkeep represent a great leap forward for the franchise. And story is just one place where we are seeing improvements. Let’s dive into some of the new systems.

What’s New?

Here I want to highlight five of the top new features and quality of life improvements brought to Shadowkeep. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but these are the ones that will largely impact the whole player base in a really positive way.

1. Seasonal Journey - A Better Level Up:

Once you hit the level cap in Destiny 2, each subsequent level felt largely anti-climactic unless you were just really into new shaders, cosmetic item skins, and vehicles (ships and Sparrows). With Shadowkeep, Bungie is introducing the Seasonal Journey - a system akin to Rise of Iron’s “battle pass-like” rewards system. This time around, it’s about ten times bigger and with each new season, a new set of rewards.

Paired with the Season Pass, this system provides lucrative rewards (gear, exotics, planetary supplies, etc.) to players for doing the thing they love: playing the game! The great news is that even if you aren’t a Season Pass holder, there is a track for you. Every level up feels rewarding and you can see ahead of time what you are working toward.

With all of that in mind, you’ll have a better picture of “that bread” you’ll be getting far before you get your hands on it.

2. The Quests Tab - Pursuits 2.0:

I cannot express this enough: this update is a Godsend. In an attempt to make the menus easier to navigate, Bungie had created a Pursuits tab to house all of your bounties and quests in one spot. This was a bit challenging to navigate and was largely disliked by the community. They were, however, heading in the right direction!

The new Quests tab separates Quests from Bounties into their own subsections of the same menu, allowing you quicker access to them to complete. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s a step in the right direction. It would be great to see more sorting options within the Quests tab either than by rarity or by the newest acquired.

Perhaps, having an option to sort them by your activity or progress of the quest might be nice.

3. Seasonal Artifact:

Along the Seasonal Journey, you will unlock a Seasonal Artifact. This provides an extra item slot in your inventory, giving you more for the XP you earn along the way. Each new level with the Artifact unlocks points to spend within a row of enhancement. These enhancements can then be slotted into weapons and armor.

4. Armor 2.0 - Have it Your Way(ish)

Speaking of slotting armor, the Armor 2.0 system brings more options for you to gear the way you like to play. Each piece of armor has an energy rating along with an energy type (Arc/Solar/Void) which matches up with modifiers that you find and unlock along your journey. Gone are the days of picking up a new pair of kicks only to find that they only enhance Sidearms instead of that sweet, sweet Handcannon you have been working on.

The downside to this system is that some pieces drop with an incredibly low energy rating and require materials to improve the energy rating. Each piece also has a limit of ten points that you can spend - if the energy rating level is unlocked up to that point. All told, it is a great system for personal customization for your play style.

5. Nightfall Matchmaking

In previous iterations of Destiny, Nightfall Strikes (Strikes with higher difficulty and special modifiers) were a place for Fireteams to cut their pre-raid teeth. The problem with Nightfall Strikes is that there was not any support for playlist matchmaking, often leaving Clanless players out. This is where the Destiny Companion App helped fill the void and connect players. That has changed in Shadowkeep.

While Nightfall Strikes can still be formed and modified to fit the player’s needs or skill level, an entry-level matchmaking system has been put into place to assure a level of access to this more challenging content.

What’s New (Again)?:

We need to talk about the moon and what it means moving forward with Destiny.

Ever since Destiny 2 dropped, players have been begging Bungie to return to the locations of the past - to revisit the Cosmodrome and it’s fields of wrecked train yards or to dive deep invite the Vex infestation of Venus. The return to the moon and the new beginnings in the Cosmodrome for players experiencing Destiny for the first time via New Light in Shadowkeep - each represents an ambitious answer to those pleas.

Though much of the locations we visit on the moon are the same as Destiny 1, it is not the same surface we left some five years prior. The spawn of the Hive and scavenging of the Fallen have impacted the lunar surface… and that doesn’t even get into the mysterious new structure that the Hive have erected under the Vanguard’s occasionally watchful eye.

The big question (which we will ask and answer in the full, scored review) is this:

Is looking back the way forward for Destiny?

So far, this feels like a great step forward as new players are coming into the fold, but we will dive in deeper next week.

Final thoughts:

If you were on the fence about Shadowkeep, here is what I am going to leave you with: Shadowkeep represents a leap forward in the same vein as The Taken King and Forsaken have done for the franchise. It’s a really, really good direction.

At the time of writing this impression, I am rather pleased with this new direction that Bungie is taking the franchise in. It is a positive step forward for the company and for the future of the game itself. New players are joining the ranks of Guardians and learning the ropes and new bonds are being forged as new and ancient Guardians alike descend into the crevices of the moon to discover just how close the encroaching darkness is…

Heed the warnings, Guardian… it is closer than you think.

The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.


Damien Gula

Born in the heyday of mullets and the El Camino to a tech-foward family, Damien joined the MMORPG.com team back in 2017 to review hardware and games as well as provide coverage for press preview events. He has participated in a number of MMOs over the years, including World of Warcraft, RIFT, Guild Wars 2, and the Destiny series. When he isn't writing for MMORPG.com, Damien is a pastor by trade who loves talking with anyone interested about life, God, and video games (in no particular order). He also co-hosts a podcast dedicated to these conversation with fellow MMORPG writer Matt Keith called Roll The Level.