It's been a pretty crazy year for Destiny and Bungie. After the split with Activision, the exact structure of the future was slightly unclear. Would Destiny 2 be updated with new material? Was Bungie going to look for a new publisher? Or was this the end for one of the most ambitious gaming projects ever?
Bungie declared independence and showed off Shadowkeep during this year's E3, and although Activision was out of the picture, the customary autumn expansion would still be released, and now (after a slight delay) we're finally here. We went over to Bungie to get a little taste of Shadowkeep and what Destiny will be going forward, and it's safe to say that we were very intrigued.
Destiny 2 has had a really good year since Forsaken released in September 2018, especially in terms of gameplay. The annual pass kept the game more vivid than ever and although not everything was golden (Season of the Drifter, we're looking at you), Bungie managed the games-as-a-service aspect really well, meaning new content never seemed too far away. Of course, this is something that will continue in Shadowkeep, and before we go into the actual campaign and other news, we thought we would take a look at the structure of the next year.
Shadowkeep comes with a season pass, which in short means that it will periodically release new content over the year. The first season is Season of the Undying, and comes with Shadowkeep free of charge. Going forward, you'll be able to fully purchase the seasons you want and just skip those you don't want to play, instead of being forced to buy all or nothing, a change that many people will appreciate. Each season comes with new content spread over a few months, and it's a clever way to avoid long periods of time without anything new to play. New for this year, however, is the season pass itself, which is now something we're quite accustomed to seeing, especially in this genre of games. The season pass is there as a carrot, a bar to fill, and we think it's something that actually fits excellently in Destiny.
The season pass is divided into two parts. A free variant (Destiny 2 becomes "Free to play" now, but more on that later) is available, but there are parts that you get access to if you buy the current season. In the season pass, there are rewards per level, which ranges from materials to in-game currency and weapons. If you buy the Season of the Undying you get instant access to a new exotic hand cannon called Eriana's Wow, for example, and if you choose not to pay, you unlock it at level 35. With Shadowkeep it will be the first time that this season pass is in Destiny, and we'll see how the different rewards are received by players. We think we will see the concept evolve over the next year, hopefully with continuous improvements. Each season also comes with what is called a Seasonal Artifact, which contains the gameplay changes that are active during that particular season.
In Shadowkeep itself, we're going back to the moon, a destination that was in the first Destiny and one that we haven't seen since. Eris Morn (a scary and ominous character, also from the first game) has uncovered something she shouldn't have, bringing something evil to life that we'll have to investigate. We got to play the first mission of the campaign and thus have no idea of the actual scope right now, but that mission placed us on the moon to storm a new Hive fortress. Hordes of Hive came out through the moon's cracks and it was an intense battle. The gameplay of Destiny 2 is always brilliant, and with the new finishing maneuvers, it's extra satisfying to run near enemies to neatly finish their existence through a blow in the plume.
The moon, however, is not exactly the same as we remember it. In many respects it's really the same place that we were on before, but many parts are heavily altered. New cavities are available to explore, things have emerged, and enemies lurk in new places, with plenty of secrets also in hiding. The moon was a fan-favourite destination in the first game and we're really looking forward to exploring it again in Shadowkeep. We don't want to spoil anything, but the campaign feels darker than what we're used to, making Destiny feel a little more mature.
Something that seems to change a lot in Shadowkeep is how difficulty levels work. Players have long complained that Destiny 2 is way too easy and that the challenge is almost completely out of the question as soon as you reach the highest level, equipped with the best gadgets. Now it is ramped up. We got to play a new Nightfall called The Ordeal (shorter missions for three people with different modifications), and we had to fight hard. Cooperation was needed in a way we haven't seen in these missions before, as some enemies come with a type of shield that can only be knocked out if you have a particular perk on a particular weapon. This became a matter of keeping track of who would shoot at what, and with enemies being a lot more lethal, this was a new beast to tackle.
From today Destiny 2 will be completly free via the New Light version, and what's included here is the base game and expansions up to Forsaken (the one before Shadowkeep). It's a great opportunity for you to play if you haven't done it already, or invite a couple of friends. There's loads of content to go through and Bungie has invested in making it easier than ever to quickly get to up to your friends' levels. All of you start from the same power level as the expansion is released, and you can simply skip parts you don't want to play in order to keep up with others who might have played longer. What is called Destiny 2: New Light is a really well-stocked package where there is an incredible number of hours of play, all of which is completely free. Bungie has also included the first mission from the original Destiny to give new players a little context in the game world, and a lovely nostalgic trip for those who have played before.
With Shadowkeep of course comes lots of other changes, but we'll take a look at these after more time with the game. Returning to the moon and getting what seems to be a darker experience is the thing we're really looking forward to. We are also curious as to how the structure will feel now that Bungie is doing this on its own, but with New Light getting players in again, it's looking good so far.