Should you head back to the moon?

Destiny 2 is a live game, and Shadowkeep adds dozens of new elements and tweaks so much of what’s there that it could be some time before we feel comfortable giving this expansion a score. With that in mind, we’re producing the following review-in-progress to encapsulate our evolving impressions of Bungie’s first expansion since splitting from Activision.

Destiny 2 has had a troubled lifespan. Bungie’s numbered sequel launched all the way back in 2017, with the promise of an improved story, deeper characters, and a jumping-off point that would drag the fledgeling franchise kicking and screaming into the mainstream. Of course, things didn’t quite pan out that way.

Destiny 2 was, for the most part, a fun campaign, but felt dumbed down to cater for newcomers at the cost of depth and choice for Destiny veterans. Two expansions followed, the dismal Curse of Osiris and the lacklustre Warmind, before Forsaken essentially rebooted the game last year.

Since then, Bungie has gone indie. Destiny 2 is no longer published by Activision, and with it comes the chance for the developer to step out of the shadow of that publisher’s reputation. Does Shadowkeep deliver?

3/10/19 – Campaign, Mods, Seasonal Content

Jumping into the new Shadowkeep content, our Guardians are flung to Earth’s moon. Here, fan-favourite Eris Morn returns (having been absent from Destiny 2 entirely thus far), warning our Guardian of the perils on the moon. The Darkness there has awoken, and it’s up to you to send it back.

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  • Wait, Finishers? New to Shadowkeep, players can unlock new finishing moves that can be used to, well, finish an enemy. Believe it or not, this is one of the most fun changes in Shadowkeep. As an example, our Titan now has a "Superman punch" that sends enemies flying – particularly when it comes to Servitors and Shanks. These third-person animations are always satisfying, and we’re finding ourselves using them as much as possible just for the satisfying “thud” when they land.

    We’ll be back in the coming days to add more content to this review, but, at least in the early game, Shadowkeep feels like a big step in the right direction – like a developer proving a point and doubling down on their creation.

    6/10/19 – An abrupt end, more to come?

    Just as Shadowkeep's campaign was getting VERY interesting (longtime fans will find a lot to appreciate), it was over – pretty abruptly. It's a shame, but I think it's by design. Bungie has discussed wanting more content within the game to open up over the course of the season of content.

    Those seasons offer plenty of rewards, taking on a Battle Pass style of doling out cosmetics and new quests. Shadowkeep contains the pass for the current season (Season of the Undying), but the Deluxe Edition comes with the passes for more seasons afterwards. How Bungie will keep this fresh is an intriguing prospect, given the developer's struggles to balance quantity and quality of additive content in the past.

    Since the last update, we've been playing with Shadowkeep's Armor 2.0 system to really tweak our build. Being able to drop heavy ammo for you and your fireteam when using a finisher is one of the most useful abilities – especially since Nightmare Hunts (essentially mini-strikes) involve battling bullet-sponge monstrosities.

    New activity Vex Offensive is a fun wave-based affair, but what differentiates it (outside of some more mechanics-heavy encounters) is that it's actually incredibly rewarding in terms of loot. It's arguably less exciting than The Menagerie's varied encounters, but if it keeps churning out two powerful loot drops per week on top of some really great weapons and armour then we can see it being popular.

    There's much more to cover, including the Raid (which we're yet to attempt, and likely won't be in a position to do for some time), so we'll check in again later this week with some more updated impressions. For now, though, while we won't feel comfortable scoring Destiny 2: Shadowkeep, we would say that the campaign is short but sweet, while the quality of life changes made around the new content make this feel like the best version of Destiny 2 yet.

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