Dark side of the moon
The ride from Destiny‘s original alpha period through the lifetime of the sequel has been both bumpy and scenic.
Bungie went from creating an amazing playground and refining it throughout the course of the first game to regressing with the second, to evolving once again. Now in this entirely new era without the help of Activision, the publisher is writing their own story, starting with Shadowkeep.
Destiny 2: Shadowkeep (PC, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox One]
Released: October 1, 2019
If you haven’t been following along with Destiny 2, let’s dive in for a quick recap. Bungie is now self-publishing the game, which led them to experiment with a new free-to-play delivery system called “New Light.” Everyone gets an instant 750 Power Level (gear score in MMOs) boost on their way to reach the new cap of 960, and free players can access everything except for Forsaken and Shadowkeep story content. And about that story!
This time around we’re back on the Moon, the infamous locale that got Peter Dinklage in hot water so many years ago. Eris Morn, the ultra-serious mom of Destiny, is back at the forefront. It’s nice to see Eris again after her extended absence, especially given that her super edgy shtick is handled so much better than most of the other ultra-serious characters in the Destiny universe. Far too often those cast members are either too dull or go off the deep end, resulting in a Borderlands-esque comedic feel that Bungie can’t quite pull off.
This is the part where you wait for me to tell you if the new hub (the bulk of the expansion) is impressive or not: it is! Mostly. After a roughly 10-minute launch queue I was into Shadowkeep, and you reach the hub rather quickly: it was literally just a Director (menu) option away. I’m actually stoked to see the Moon again (just enough is re-used from the original), and diving in, it feels like all-out war against The Hive with other random players in tow. This is how Destiny should feel all the time (but far too often doesn’t). Note that the rather quick login was met with karmic retribution when the servers collapsed nearly four hours later (New Light must be the culprit, as this is not normal).
The other big thing — and typical failing for past expansions that just copy and paste old archetypes — is a new enemy type. Shadowkeep heralds in “Nightmares,” a sort of existential version of your greatest fears. Naturally, these are copied and pasted from past games, as the entire reason they exist is baked into the story (fight your literal inner demons!). They work well enough, but it feels a little too soon to do a “greatest hits” soundtrack? We’ve been through this before. The repetition is offset by how fun Destiny is to play. And it’s still very fun to play.
Shadowkeep also inherently benefits from years of quality of life pestering from the community. It took two full years, but Bungie finally fixed mods and cleared up storage space issues. I need to dig my heels in further when it comes to granular UI updates, but the fact that so many things are now built into the core of the game instead of menu after menu is a huge step up from any customization options in the past. One thing I don’t like: the store having a front-and-center spot on the main menu instead of being relegated to an NPC in one area. That feels like an Activision move.
Stay tuned as I make my way through the campaign, complete both Strikes, and explore more of the Moon. So far, it’s looking good.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]