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Old 10-29-2019, 07:14 AM   #1
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Join Date: Feb 2005
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The Evil Avatar Destiny 2: Shadowkeep Review

Title: Destiny 2: Shadowkeep
Platform: PS4,Xbox One, PC
Platform Reviewed: PS4
Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Bungie
MSRP: $39.99
Writer: Aaron Birch

Destiny 2: Shadowkeep Review

Save the planet, by recycling

Some minor spoilers ahead.

The first major Destiny release from a Bungie now flying solo following its departure from Activision is without a doubt a pivotal one. It was all too easy for irked gamers to put the blame for Destiny's many past issues on the big bad Activision, and we never really knew which entity was responsible for the various problems. Was it Bungie dropping the ball, or the evil corporate greed of Activision? Let's face it, it was all too easy to blame Activision, and many refused to think the legendary Bungie could do any wrong. Well, now there's no hiding, and Bungie is in total control of Destiny's, err, destiny. Shadowkeep is the first major example of this, and it brings with it Taken King-levels of anticipation.

As a premium piece of DLC that promises to improve so much of the Destiny experience and bring with it a new year of content, beginning with a wealth of refinements and a new story, Shadowkeep has a lot to deliver on, and I wanted to thoroughly put it through its paces in order to deliver an accurate review, hence the delay.

Shadowkeep returns us to the Moon, a locale not seen since the original Destiny, and it's the first beat of a trend you'll see throughout the DLC, with that beat being tuned to the game's long time fans. Returning the a retrofitted Moon, which incorporates new areas with the entirety of Destiny's original Moon design, you can't help but be more than a little thrilled the first time you arrive back at Archer's Line, or the Anchor of Light. It's pure nostalgia, and Bungie knows that a wide portion of its playerbase misses the old days. Not only does the Moon return in full (albeit an aged and evolved version) but so do old enemies, strikes, and other elements, including some old exotics and weapons.

Being able to go back and take out Phogoth again is a blast, and there's more than a small amount of call backs to the first couple of years of Destiny here. Eris Morn is the major NPC quest giver, involved as she is with the new story, and the DLC thrusts both the Hive and Vex into the forefront, giving the Fallen, Cabal, and Taken a rest. That's not to say the game delivers any new enemies, this is Destiny after all, and what we do get are retreads of old enemies and re-skins at the most, but Shadowkeep does do a lot of good things, even if it's not the revelation that Taken King was, or the injection of content that The Forsaken turned out to be.

The main story, which is part passable missions and a major part grind, continues from the end of The Forsaken, and quickly pulls it first major surprise, and from this point, it's clear Bungie plans to try and deliver a more focused year of content. That said, as interesting as the story's subject matter is, the end, which is obviously supposed to be a big cliff hanger, failed to resonoate in my opinion, but I still want to see where it goes.

Lasting only a handful of hours, and with a good deal of the story being nothing more than a drawn out grind, this element of Shadowkeep is perhaps the weakest part of the DLC. It would seem that Activision wasn't the major player in Destiny delivering weak story content after all. Oh well.

Luckily, the Moon is a sprawling new area, and Bungie has added in a slew of new challenges, and open world content to go at. There new Lost Sectors, patrols, secrets, and plenty of lore to find, not to mention new high-level hunts, and a new strike. There's also a new public event featuring Vex portals opening up around the Moon, spewing out powerful foes. These can reward high level gear, and introduce us to the Vex Offensive, the new PvE Co-Op mode for this season.

This mode, which can drop themed gear, is a small, but initially fun diversion that sees a fireteam of six (which can be matchmade) take on waves of Vex against a timer, culminating in a boss battle against, yes, you guessed it, yet another re-skinned gatelord. Original, Bungie, very original.

This mode is fun for the first few rounds, but I quickly tired of it as there's no random elements, the area the mode takes place in is always the same, and the pool of rewards is far, far too shallow. If it wasn't for the bounties and their effect on you advancement in the new Season Pass, the mode would be over in an hour or so.

Yes, that's right, Destiny now has a season pass, because of course it does. Now, instead of getting Bright Engrams when you fill up your EXP meter, you earn a level in the season pass. Free players (yes, First Light is also here, and I'll touch on this later) get the top row, but season pass owners get both the top and bottom level rewards for each advancement. The rewards here range from location materials and glimmer to powerful and exotic engrams, as well as small character buffs, armour, weapons, and ornaments. It's a decent selection, and it does add that extra incentive to keep playing and get all the way to level 100. On top of this, Eververse is back, with a vengeance. Let's face it, it's not going away.

You can also earn a new artefact item that can be powered up as you gain experience, and fitted with various mods. These mods mostly relate to the Vex Offensive and allow you to add buffs to weapons to break enemy shields and the like.

In terms of gameplay tweaks, Shadowkeep introduces Armour 2.0, which gives players much more flexibility with armour. Multiple Destiny 1-style stats now return, adding even more to the random roll grinding people love to do, and you can now pick from a much more flexible levelling and mod system. There's also the option to make legendary armour look like a specific range of other armours, so if you like the look of one piece of armour, but pick up another, higher level one, you may still be able to retain the look. I say may, as this feature is very limited, and instead of being able to make any piece of armour look like another you've previously picked up, as in games like Assassin's Creed Odyssey, here you can only pick from a very small selection. It's a wasted opportunity, and being able to pick from any collected armour appearance would be excellent, and add even more the meta of Fashion Destiny.

Weapons are much the same, with few changes save for some new ones to play with, but upgrading both armour and weapons is now altered once again. You no longer just use Legendary Shards, but now use upgrade modules, which can be bought, or crafted using high level materials (including the previous currency of aforementioned Legendary Shards). It's an okay system, but doesn't do much to alleviate the much-hated grind that the previous upgrade method was oft attacked for.

Still, Destiny has always been about the grind, so it's par for the course. That's the major problem I have with Shadowkeep, though. Although it doesn't take long to get to power level 900, especially for additional characters you may have, once you hit that 905ish mark, brace yourself for one hell of a grind to reach 950 and up. Once you hit the low 900s, world drops fail to boost you any higher, and your only hope is high-level rewards. This means grinding game modes, including the new raid, which is another decent outing, if not the best. The game, from this point becomes one of attrition. For me, the fun factor started to wane drastically, as I was spending my free time repeating the same old tasks, often for little reward. Sure with friends this is always much more enjoyable, but even then, the repetition for so little in terms of actual reward can't fail to grate on even the most tight-knit group of guardians. We've had so much grind for so long, and Bungie seems to think the only way to extend playtime is to double down on this every couple of months.

PvP is, of course, an area where many Destiny faithful spend the majority of their end game time, and as always, the PvP is solid. It's still a love it or hate it affair, with longer times to kill that other games, and a constantly-shifting parade of nerfs and buffs as Bungie just cant seem to create a new weapon that's actually balanced and doesn’t break the meta, but if you're a fan of Bungie's brand of PvP, you'll still find more than enough in Shadowkeep to keep you busy.

There's a lot to find in Shadowkeep, and as a premium DLC it's not too bad. Before the grind really sets in it's fun, and the new locations and new gear to track down is a good incentive. The Moon is still as well designed as it always was, and as deep as it is wide, and with upcoming season content, there'll be plenty more to come.

Before I wrap up, though, I should mention the addition of First Light, the free to play Destiny model. As a player from the first Alpha, I'm obviously not the target audience here, but I did play some Destiny with my partner, who was new to Destiny. I persuaded her to give it a go, and when she did this, I realised how strangely Bungie handled this new free to play option.

The first mission on offer here is a definite highlight, as it's the very first, Cosmodrome mission from Destiny 1. New players are awoken by their ghost, and go through that landmark mission we all experienced so many years ago. From here, they get to the tower (the new one, not the old one, sadly), and are given a new quest structure to navigate. This quickly takes them around the tower meeting important NPCs, and then to Earth to meet Devrim and do some first missions. I was surprised to see no Red War or any actual story mode, and didn't know where this was, or if it was present until I found Amanda Holiday offering 'Legacy' quests (Red War, Osiris, and Warmind content).

For the most part, First Light kicks off in a unique way, but in a way that I found not all that great to be honest. The rather mundane introduction without a big, story-based drive behind it didn't, I feel, present Destiny as well as it could, to the point that my partner, who knew how much I liked Destiny, had to ask me what all the fuss was about. And I have to say, based on her experience, I found it hard to argue.

However, this is all about the Shadowkeep DLC, and whilst I appreciate the nostalgic focus, and still had a good time ploughing through it, as a key piece of DLC, I do think it's lacking that spark that both Taken King and Forsaken had. The story is too much grind and not enough substance, and the ending misfires badly. The additional content and refinements are decent, though, but Bungie needs to ensure more content keeps coming, and quick, especially with so many other looters now around, and big names arriving on the market.

Score: 3 out of 5

The Good
  • The Moon is still an excellent zone
  • A blast of Destiny nostalgia
  • Armour 2.0 works well
The Bad
  • Too much grind
  • Vex Offensive is unoriginal and gets dull very quickly
The Ugly
  • Lazy and half-assed story, again
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Old 10-29-2019, 04:53 PM   #2
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Thanks. I'll be saving my money. I've felt like the game's new content is always fun until you hit the light cap for world drop and quest drop gear. That grind is unbearable, and I just don't have it in me anymore....games have been forcing the grind since the year 2000 (Everquest), and although the first few years of mmo's could get away with it, I can't see how anyone who's been playing games since then can still have the patience to grind for dozens of hours just to have that gear rendered worthless the moment a new DLC is released (Burning Crusade anyone? I remember getting white mob drops that were better than my end-game gear).
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Old 10-29-2019, 09:48 PM   #3
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I don't know if that's true, and I'm not too sure how the review can be done when the content isn't all out yet? For instance the Shadowkeep dungeon just dropped today, how's that?

Aside from that, the "meta" shifts all the time. What was once a weapon you didn't use, is now a highly sought after prize. That's the point of getting them. For instance the current go-to for the raid is a sniper rifle that came out with the Black Armory (released a year ago in December).

Weapons fall in an out of meta and style, it's how the loot remains relevant. Otherwise yah, you're right, why bother going for any gear when it is rendered useless on the next expansion? Luckily, that isn't the case with Destiny. You can bring any weapons up to current power level all you like, they aren't replaced by newer, better ones. Hell the Recluse (a crazy strong weapon) is still the top of the list from what I know, and it came out 2 expansions ago.

And if you don't care about what's best in slot? Just use what you like. Unless you're trying for some top tier content, you can get away with using just about anything. And even then use what works for that content, and then switch back and go on living your life heh.
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Old 10-30-2019, 05:43 AM   #4
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I burned out on the grinding in the first Destiny. Now I just check in once a year to knock out the previous DLCs "new" stuff, then delete it for the next year.
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