To be a Destiny player is to eat. To voraciously devour nice wads of Content, like certainly one of its large inter-dimensional house worm gods gorging on a planetoid, after which, by no means sated, shifting on to the subsequent.
The latest feast is Shadowkeep. It’s as superbly crafted as ever. We get to eat the Moon! It appears beautiful and it’s enjoyable and peculiar and I adore it. But whereas it makes numerous little adjustments, I believe it’s displaying Destiny 2 has reached the very limits of what it may well do. Maybe that’s why Shadowkeep delivers such a heavy dose of nostalgia for the collection’ oldest gamers. After all, what higher approach to obfuscate a raft of recent content material that’s wanting decidedly acquainted?
Shadowkeep takes us to the Moon, child. Lootin’ and shootin’ within the Archer’s Line, smackin’ up Acolytes within the Circle of Bones, and runnin’ all the way down to Phogoth the Untamed’s jail within the very bowels of the Hellmouth. By gosh, it’s good to be again. The Moon is Shadowkeep’s new free-roam vacation spot, and it options the total sprawl of lunar bases and eldritch underground tunnels that had been established within the authentic Destiny, plus some further ones, together with the Scarlet Keep, a shocking pink Hive edifice which has erupted from beneath the gray floor, and grounds outdoors the place extra-powerful Hive variants known as Nightmares manifest.
The story is that everybody’s favorite gnomic emo, Eris Morn, has gone lacking, and what’s this? She’s returned to the Moon? Why’d she go there? Isn’t that the place she bought trapped underground and needed to dwell for years alongside undead horrorshow faction the Hive, dropping her marbles within the course of? And what’s this? She’s now gone and by chance unleashed a fair worse load of Hive, whereas concurrently uncovering one thing even badlier down within the lunar depths.
The scene-setting for all this can be a lot of enjoyable. Eris will get to say issues like, “Madness, malaise and agony of the flesh,” and “Our cryptoglyph lies at the bottom of the Hellmouth”. Under the roars and growls of Knights, Ogres and Wizards, there’s a soundtrack that brings in a 2001-style discordant choir to underline the weird otherness of the lunar panorama.
It’s all fairly spooky, in truth, in keeping with Bungie’s declare that Shadowkeep is all about psychological horror. Aside from traditional stuff just like the lights typically going out and Thralls bursting out from the blackness, the storyline is about humanity dealing with the horrors it has dedicated with a purpose to survive over the course of its in-game historical past. As a outcome, each spare inch of the moon is plagued by moaning figures of lifeless Guardians, serving as somewhat literal reminders of your previous 5 years of pleased taking pictures.
As ever, the story is an evocative backdrop to what you’re actually doing, which is attempting to grasp all the brand new methods and objects and actions Shadowkeep throws you into. Well, I say ‘new’. Most are new names for outdated ideas. Broadly talking, Upgrade Modules are the outdated Enhancement Cores, which in flip had been the outdated Legendary Shards. These are the objects which assist you improve your gear, and whereas their addition means I now have a very full consumables stock, it’s in any other case very a lot enterprise as typical: grubbing by way of a schedule of actions to get gear that’ll push my stage up from the beginning stage of 750 to 900, after which to 940, if you’re able to face the brand new raid and progress as much as 960.
So, the brand new actions. The first issues that Shadowkeep’s story marketing campaign pushes you in the direction of are Essence quests, that are a bit like Black Armory’s weapon frames. Tantalising merchandise names like Essence of Brutality compel you to kill stuff with particular weapons, earlier than cashing in on the Lectern of Enchantment for a named weapon or piece of armour from a brand new Moon-themed set. I like the brand new gear, from the charms-and-safety-cord-bound weapons to the great Neil-Armstrong’s-eldritch-lunar-expedition Dreambane armour set).
Then there are Nightmare Hunts, that are blistering three-player runs on the Moon in opposition to Nightmare incarnations of a few of Desto’s traditional boss fights. They’re fantastic! You should chew up robust nightmare mobs whereas remembering find out how to battle outdated Taniks, and so they’re over fairly shortly. You can, nonetheless, select your issue stage with a purpose to max out the rewards. But the intelligent factor is the best way the Dreambane set performs into them, displaying off Bungie’s deftness of hand in designing the sport’s methods to work with the large new sights.
You see, Dreambane armour is preloaded with mods that scale back injury from nightmares, and mods are one of many two methods Shadowkeep has overhauled how gear works. Many standing mods nonetheless exist, however there are numerous new ones, many earned by way of an merchandise known as the The Gate Lord’s Eye, which, over time, helps you to unlock mods from a desk.
Weapons nonetheless slot one mod, however armour helps a number of, and now has you investing your Legendary Shards, Upgrade Modules and even your Enhancement Prisms. Each mod comes with an vitality value, too: your piece of substances has to have sufficient energy from its Armour Tier stage to fit them, so that you’ll be making arduous selections between quick-loading submachine weapons and a 10-point mobility increase, or a mod that enhances hand-cannon injury and provides staggers on aiming-down sights. There are additionally mods which let you shoot proper by way of shields (fuck you, Hobgoblins!) and boundaries. This is essential for enjoying Vex Offensives, which we’ll go into shortly, and better stage Nightmare Hunts.
The level of all this, should you discovered your self glazing during the last paragraph? Mods neatly tie in with the stuff you’re enjoying, and it made me really feel intelligent and pleased.
Beyond mods, You can do extra with armour because of Bungie including three extra stats to it, for a complete of six. Mobility, resilience and restoration stay, governing pace, toughness and how briskly your protect regeneratess. Now, nonetheless, the outdated self-discipline, mind and power stats return, governing cooldowns on grenades, tremendous and melee skills. It is smart that these variables (which was once affected by mods and particular skills on gear) have been lumped in collectively: the system is extra readable now, and higher at explaining cooldown occasions, plus there are new methods to tinker along with your loadout. If you want fiddling and finessing, there’s heaps to be achieved.
Vex Offensive is the final new characteristic to unlock. It’s a three-phase area battle that takes place within the Vex’s Black Garden, which is a bizarre, verdant, summary, pc simulation… factor. I discover it barely odd that an growth so centered on the Hive ought to out of the blue flip its consideration to the Vex. It apparently is smart within the story (the Vex are coming to the Moon as a result of they’re within the Bad Pyramid what’s been discovered inside it, I believe?), nevertheless it undoubtedly feels disconnected.
More urgently, the Vex Offensive is one more coop area mode so as to add to The Menagerie, The Reckoning, Blind Well and Forges. The identical goes for the dwell Vex Invasion occasions on the Moon, that are similar to the Escalation Protocol occasions on Mars. It’s all intense and enjoyable, identical to virtually something Bungie provides to Destiny 2, however the perfect factor concerning the Vex Offensive is that it doesn’t impose a excessive barrier to entry. Bungie has realized from the Black Armory and Forge occasions, which remained out of attain of many gamers for weeks as they slowly levelled up, because the Vex content material is accessible as quickly as you unlock it within the marketing campaign quest chain. That’s good! But there’s a draw back: in opening up one thing so quickly, it’s going to really feel outdated sooner, too.
It’s bizarre to say it, however Shadowkeep’s downside is that loads of the issues and arduous questions that Destiny 2’s first 12 months threw up have been solved because the Forsaken growth a 12 months in the past. Shadowkeep hasn’t needed to repair something, solely attend the age-old problem of conserving gamers on the Destiny treadmill. As a outcome, every little thing feels awfully acquainted, from the large occasions proper all the way down to the hunt sorts, that are nonetheless largely about incomes foreign money to purchase a quest that wins you a roll on a brand new merchandise of substances.
By now, Bungie has gotten good at binding all this collectively; the various, many quests are mutually supportive, in order that progress in a single kicks off progress in one other, and one other and one other. It quietly pushes you to play in locations you would possibly’ve forgotten about, in methods you disregarded, or use gun sorts you thought you didn’t like, whereas sticking to day by day and weekly routines end in drops that elevate your energy stage. It’s a intelligent and powerfully compulsive machine – nevertheless it’s not precisely thrilling.
Here firstly of Destiny 2’s third 12 months (and the fifth because the authentic got here out), there’s an actual sense that it’s already plumbed the depths of what its loot-shooting motion can do; that we’re going to be happening dungeon runs and weapon quests and doing the dance between shielded bosses and preventing again provides, ceaselessly.
I maintain questioning if there’s an inherent acknowledgement of all this in setting Shadowkeep on the Moon, the place Destiny started, and having you battle outdated bosses. Nostalgia tends to be a very good transfer when there’s nothing new on the horizon, in any case. Alas. Even if Destiny’s horizon does appear as featureless because the moon itself, there’s nonetheless loads of enjoyable available in gobbling up every little thing in sight on the best way there.