It's getting more and more difficult to review expansions for games that have committed to the season pass structure, like Bungie has with Destiny 2, for example. Half of the content that one pays for is the Shadowkeep expansion, and the other half is the actual season and its updates. This means that you could technically start Destiny 2 up without paying an extra penny and still get plenty to enjoy, but to continue the storyline once the main game has ended, you have to pay.
If a review is to help the reader decide whether to buy the expansion, we have to talk about all aspects, which is why we will be focusing on Shadowkeep and what you actually get with it, also touching on the new season, called Season of the Undying. This is because they go together in a way that makes it almost impossible to talk about them separately. We'll also mention that, even if the upcoming seasons will be available for purchase separately, Season of the Undying is included in Shadowkeep.
We're right at the starting point of Destiny 2's third year. There are many similarities regarding how the game feels at this point in time and also how the expansion we're getting mirrors the original Destiny counterpart, Rise of Iron. Shadowkeep takes place on the moon, and Eris Morn has put his curious fingers where they don't belong, subsequently awakening something that is sure to create problems. As the hero of this saga, the player has to fly out to the moon to point his or her guns in the face of evil.
The only new destination you'll get to explore freely in Shadowkeep is the moon itself, a place that you'll recognise from the first game. It's easy to interpret this as re-used material, because that's exactly what it is, but there are a lot of new aspects to the moon this time around, and we weren't complaining over the fact that we got to explore the grey craters again to find new secrets.
The campaign is rather short - Shadowkeep is not a new Forsaken after all - but the new structure reminded us of how online RPGs work, holding activities and missions that have the player kill a specific number of enemies with specific weapons between story missions. This means that the in-game world itself feels more like a key location rather than a fresh environment made solely to change the scenery during missions. We enjoyed this and we're guessing we'll be seeing more of this in the future. The pacing is balanced and it builds towards a reveal that Bungie has enticed us with since before the launch of the original game, although the narrative comes to a rather abrupt end, continuing in the new Raid (more on that later).
When it comes to gameplay, Destiny 2 is just as brilliant as we've come to expect. There are very few studios that can measure up to Bungie in regards to how weapons and various abilities feel to use. Shadowkeep doesn't really change much here, with the exception of a finisher that one can use on enemies (not in PvP). It reminded us of how the finisher worked in the Doom reboot from 2016, where the player could run towards an enemy with low health and annihilate it with the press of a button. Through various modifications, you'll also be able to decide if you want to sacrifice a part of your super meter to save ammunition by using your finisher, and it'll be interesting to see how this system will change the game long-term.
Apart from these additions, the game feels like it always has done. There are no new enemy types (although Hive and Vex look somewhat different on the moon) and no new weapon types, however, and we would have loved to see Bungie do more on this front. The amount of new weapons, both legendary and exotics, is very low, as is the amount of gear. We would have preferred to see Vanguard, Gambit, and Crucible updated with new stuff, but we didn't even get any ornaments. This made Shadowkeep lack the "new year, new game" feel that Forsaken managed to accomplish so well.
With Shadowkeep (and Season of the Undying) comes the revamped Armor 2.0 system that changes how the players use and relate to the gear and modification aspect of the game. This is a system that doesn't belong to Shadowkeep specifically - as you'll be able to check it out in the free version of Destiny 2 as well - but it's such a big change to the game that we have to mention it.
Armor 2.0 gives the player the option to really dive deep into the numbers and truly customise their character. Bungie has on more than one occation stated that it wants to delve deeper into the MMO aspects of the game, and now you're able to tweak minor character details in a way that hasn't been possible before. In combination with this, Bungie has also introduced a Seasonal Artifact that will help you raise your power level, also holding season-bound modifications that are only active during Season of the Undying. Hopefully, this will mean that the modification system will evolve, since it certainly gives Bungie room for experimentation.
As we said earlier, Season of the Undying - which is the first of four seasons that will entertain the players until Autumn of 2020 - comes included with Shadowkeep. Season of the Undying features a brand-new activity called Vex Offensive, where the robot race Vex begins its invasion of the moon. As of right now, the invasion has only just begun and it will continuously evolve throughout the season before disappearing. This type of content will, of course, result in the world of Destiny feeling more alive, but it also means that you could be missing content and rewards that you have technically paid for if you don't have the time to play. However, some of us play 20 hours of Destiny a week, and for us, this kind of content is exciting to see. With the season you'll also get weapons balancing, new Crucible maps (nothing new for Gambit) and other general updates.
The centerpiece of Shadowkeep (much like the previous Destiny expansions) is the new Raid, called Garden of Salvation. It ties together with the story and it's truly a spectacle. We won't spoil anything for you, but we'll say that the Raid keeps with the same standard that we've grown used to with Destiny. If you have five trigger-happy friends to play with, trying the new Raid out is a must.
Shadowkeep left us very much satisfied. The campaign is somewhat short, but is at the same time exciting and relatively rewarding once the Raid has been entered, and the moon as a destination feels new enough, although we could have done with more new weapons of gear. The new MMO structure turns Destiny 2 into a better game overall, and Shadowkeep is the start of a year full of new content, making this the right time to play Destiny 2.