It’s onerous to overstate how a lot better Destiny 2 has turn out to be within the final yr. The Forsaken growth and the smaller, extra frequent updates that adopted added selection in actions that meant you would earn rewards whereas taking part in your favourite content material, in addition to an enormous quantity of latest, bizarre lore to sift by, and secrets and techniques to uncover. It’s not a stretch to say Destiny as a franchise was the perfect it is ever been within the second yr of Destiny 2.The new Shadowkeep growth builds on these foundations in nearly each approach. While returning to the moon is a reasonably good time in and of itself–the growth leans onerous on the spooky locale, which was a part of Destiny 1 however refreshed and enlarged for Destiny 2–it’s the smaller enhancements to the way in which the sport works which can be actually the standout. Shadowkeep’s content material choices aren’t fairly as sprawling, diversified, or participating as what we noticed in Forsaken, however the growth builds on the latest tweaks in Destiny 2 to make the moment-to-moment gameplay even stronger.Forsaken made some effort to ascertain Destiny 2 as a recreation that is continually evolving. Instead of dropping a sequence of massive content material updates with little taking place between them, Destiny 2’s second yr turned a drip-feed of latest stuff that helped maintain the sport compelling, for essentially the most half, month after month. Bungie has stated this strategy is the way it needs to deal with the sport going ahead, and Shadowkeep represents an enormous step in that path. That means components of the growth feels a bit truncated–it teases extra to return, however leaves a few of Shadowkeep a bit unsatisfying.Destiny 2 story campaigns have at all times been a contact lackluster–they often pack cool particular person missions, however they virtually at all times finish shortly and barely quantity to greater than chasing down some large enemy and placing them within the floor. Shadowkeep’s predominant story can also be on the quick facet, wrapping up in a 4 or 5 devoted hours (and fewer when you begin leveling alternate characters who profit from the high-level gear you have already procured). It’s additionally clearly the primary a part of a a lot bigger story, one which Bungie says will play out over the complete yr. As such, it presents one thing of an unsatisfying journey; it is the primary few steps, quite than an entire arc, and also you is likely to be a bit shocked when it is all of a sudden over.Shadowkeep sees the return of a Destiny 1 character, Eris Morn, who was central to 2 earlier expansions: The Dark Below and The Taken King. Here, Eris has discovered that the death-worshipping faction, the Hive, has found one thing on the moon that is conjuring up phantoms of previous foes and allies, returning lethal facsimiles of them to life. In a approach, it is a large reunion tour of the Destiny of previous. Eris is again, you come to the D1 location of the moon, which we have not seen in two years, and also you combat barely watered-down variations of massive unhealthy guys you have beforehand defeated, resembling Dark Below raid boss Crota and Destiny 2 vanilla boss Ghaul. It’s one thing of an amped-up nostalgia journey that is a superb time, particularly for those who’ve acquired a protracted historical past with the Destiny franchise–but we’re ready to achieve the long-term endgame content material that may wrap up a few of these story threads.It is cool, nevertheless, to hang around on the moon, particularly as a result of its spooky issue has gone up. Lunar tunnels are crammed with horrifying screams of hidden terrors, there are many robust enemies to dispatch, and the entire place carries an air of haunted thriller. It appears we have solely scratched the floor of what is hidden on the moon to this point. Destiny is at its finest when it is filled with secrets and techniques for the neighborhood to uncover, and the sport has already offered just a few large, baffling mysteries which have required everybody to band collectively to work out.Though it ends just a little too shortly, the story marketing campaign has some thrilling moments as Guardians band collectively to assault and infiltrate the brand new Scarlet Keep location and uncover what the Hive is as much as. The remainder of the growth’s new content material is participating as nicely. Nightmare Hunts are just about mini-Strikes, making them fast and palatable boss fights that aid you seize new gear. A brand new tackle Nightfall Strikes, the harder variations of Destiny 2’s three-player Strike actions, are attractive due to a ramping problem system that provides you challenges at a wide range of Power ranges. Exploring the moon has rather a lot to supply as well–though plenty of the placement is made up of previous areas, they’re deep and maze-like, and each journey into their depths feels deliciously harmful.There’s additionally the Garden of Salvation raid, which turned accessible just a few days after launch, to present Destiny 2’s highest-level gamers one thing to aspire to ending. Destiny raids are sometimes the perfect, most ingenious content material the sport has to supply, and Garden of Salvation continues the custom of together with unusual and enjoyable mechanics that push your limits of ability and staff coordination. It’s one of many shorter raids with solely 4 encounters, however consists of large, thrilling items, like a chase by a area exploding with enemy hearth and a Gambit-like boss battle that requires groups to separate into a number of teams to collect gadgets and defend in opposition to team-wiping assaults. Garden of Salvation is not fairly the equal of the huge Forsaken raid, Last Wish, nevertheless it’s a spotlight of Shadowkeep for sure.Vex Offensive, a brand new six-player wave-based exercise that dropped alongside the raid, helps to spherical out the quantity of stuff Shadowkeep offers you to do for its first season. Like final season’s Menagerie, it has the sensation of being a lighter, simpler raid-like exercise that is extra accessible for individuals who aren’t fairly hardcore sufficient to tackle Garden of Salvation. The exercise itself requires just a little extra teamwork than the standard Destiny 2 occasion, with out being unattainable to do for those who’re matchmaking alone. It’s a enjoyable change of tempo from Strikes or Crucible, and its big dump of rewards imply chasing the perfect rolls for its many weapons would not really feel like a chore.Where Shadowkeep actually excels, nevertheless, is much less within the content material to work by and extra within the myriad smaller modifications Bungie has made to completely revamp Destiny 2. The greatest modifications deal with making character builds a extra necessary a part of the expertise, providing you with an opportunity to experiment with weapons and armor not simply to make your character extra highly effective normally, however extra highly effective in ways in which particularly meet your specific play model and wishes.Driving that focus is the brand new strategy to weapon and armor mods, which lets you combine and match parts that had been beforehand unmovable perks on specific items of substances. In the previous, you needed to spend a lot time switching gear so as to make your general stats go up that extra nuanced numbers, like how briskly your grenades recharged or how shortly you moved, might typically be ignored. Making positive you had the perfect rolls on specific gear solely actually mattered within the recreation’s hardest actions and to essentially the most hardcore members of the neighborhood.With Armor 2.0 and the brand new weapon mod system, you possibly can transfer these perks (now as particular person mods) between armor units to construct just a few items of substances with precisely the capabilities you need. You’re additionally now not penalized for experimenting since mods aren’t consumed on use. It implies that when you begin to get some items of armor and weapons that work rather well for you, it is potential to repeatedly tweak them to suit the way you need to play the sport and your specific position on a staff.Shadowkeep’s tweaks to higher-level enemy encounters, like including enemies that require particular mods to defeat, present glorious alternatives to experiment with character builds and loadouts. Especially in Garden of Salvation, I discovered myself stopping to attempt completely different tools combos to assist me cope with robust enemies or particular conditions. The system supplies plenty of alternatives to consider and develop character builds; greater than I’ve been doing by a lot of the 5 years I’ve performed Destiny. It’s an enchancment that makes the sport’s core loop of continually chasing new gear really feel prefer it issues to the way you play the game–and it is one Destiny desperately wanted.The early leveling system has been improved considerably as nicely, making the climb to the endgame much more affordable. Leveling up your character is (largely) gone in favor of continually chasing gear with higher Power numbers. Up to the smooth Power degree cap, each drop is a helpful one–giving you an opportunity to check out a bunch of various weapons and armor in numerous circumstances earlier than you get to Shadowkeep’s hardest content material. Shadowkeep’s change to maneuver expertise factors from a unnecessary character-leveling system to a battle move and new Seasonal Artifact merchandise additionally helps a significant ongoing Destiny downside of operating out of issues to do as you strategy most degree. Everything earns you expertise to advance your battle move and artifact, and the latter of which contributes to your characters’ general Power degree, so there’s rather a lot much less wasted time chasing ineffective rewards.Much of the expertise of dwell service video games like Destiny 2 is within the continued chase after higher gear and extra energy within the endgame. While issues decelerate considerably through the post-soft cap climb, progress feels regular by the sport’s respectable number of actions, particularly with the addition of Vex Offensive. Bungie’s modifications to the system strike a pleasant stability between the problems of Year Two, when so many actions began to really feel like chores, and the issues of the previous, when progressing was a a lot slower grind. Pushing onerous by per week’s price of Powerful gear drops can get you raid-ready in a rush, however with quite a few new weapons to chase and new actions to grasp, there’s nonetheless rather a lot for top-tier gamers to deal with past making an attempt to lift their Power degree by the roof. The new Seasonal Artifact additionally helps stability the grind by regularly awarding further Power factors whatever the numbers in your gear. As a end result, you by no means really feel stalled, it doesn’t matter what a part of the sport you are taking part in.Shadowkeep represents a shift within the fundamentals of Destiny 2, and that has solely improved the sport. Returning to the moon is filled with spooky enjoyable, and whereas Shadowkeep may not be as big as Forsaken, it nonetheless supplies some spectacular additions to the world that may take time to completely discover. More significant selections in Shadowkeep are pushing me to suppose past simply packing my strongest weapons and taking pictures all the pieces in my path. These are enhancements that signify an enormous leap ahead for Destiny 2.