To be a Destiny participant is to devour. To voraciously devour nice wads of Content material, like one among its big inter-dimensional area worm gods gorging on a planetoid, after which, by no means sated, transferring on to the subsequent.
The latest feast is Shadowkeep. It’s as fantastically crafted as ever. We get to eat the Moon! It seems gorgeous and it’s enjoyable and bizarre and I adore it. However whereas it makes various little modifications, I believe it’s displaying Future 2 has reached the very limits of what it may well do. Possibly that’s why Shadowkeep delivers such a heavy dose of nostalgia for the collection’ oldest gamers. In any case, what higher strategy to obfuscate a raft of recent content material that’s trying 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 unique Future, plus some additional ones, together with the Scarlet Hold, a surprising crimson 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 received trapped underground and needed to stay for years alongside undead horrorshow faction the Hive, dropping her marbles within the course of? And what’s this? She’s now gone and unintentionally unleashed an excellent worse load of Hive, whereas concurrently uncovering one thing even badlier down within the lunar depths.
The scene-setting for all it is a lot of enjoyable. Eris will get to say issues like, “Insanity, malaise and agony of the flesh,” and “Our cryptoglyph lies on the backside of the Hellmouth”. Below 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, the truth is, according to Bungie’s declare that Shadowkeep is all about psychological horror. Apart from traditional stuff just like the lights typically going out and Thralls bursting out from the blackness, the storyline is about humanity going through the horrors it has dedicated so as to survive over the course of its in-game historical past. Consequently, each spare inch of the moon is suffering from moaning figures of useless Guardians, serving as quite literal reminders of your previous 5 years of blissful capturing.
As ever, the story is an evocative backdrop to what you’re actually doing, which is making an attempt to know all the brand new techniques and objects and actions Shadowkeep throws you into. Nicely, I say ‘new’. Most are new names for outdated ideas. Broadly talking, Improve Modules are the outdated Enhancement Cores, which in flip had been the outdated Legendary Shards. These are the objects which assist you to improve your gear, and whereas their addition means I now have a totally full consumables stock, it’s in any other case very a lot enterprise as common: grubbing via a schedule of actions to get gear that’ll push my degree up from the beginning degree of 750 to 900, after which to 940, whenever you’re able to face the brand new raid and progress as much as 960.
So, the brand new actions. The primary 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 guns 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 wonderful! You need to chew up sturdy nightmare mobs whereas remembering easy methods to combat outdated Taniks, they usually’re over fairly shortly. You may, nonetheless, select your problem degree so as to max out the rewards. However the intelligent factor is the way in which the Dreambane set performs into them, displaying off Bungie’s deftness of hand in designing the sport’s techniques to work with the large new points of interest.
You see, Dreambane armour is preloaded with mods that cut back harm 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 via an merchandise known as the The Gate Lord’s Eye, which, over time, permits 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, Improve Modules and even your Enhancement Prisms. Every mod comes with an power value, too: your piece of drugs has to have sufficient energy from its Armour Tier degree to fit them, so that you’ll be making laborious selections between quick-loading submachine weapons and a 10-point mobility increase, or a mod that reinforces hand-cannon harm and provides staggers on aiming-down sights. There are additionally mods which let you shoot proper via shields (fuck you, Hobgoblins!) and boundaries. This is essential for enjoying Vex Offensives, which we’ll go into shortly, and better degree Nightmare Hunts.
The purpose of all this, for those who discovered your self glazing during the last paragraph? Mods neatly tie in with the stuff you’re taking part in, and it made me really feel intelligent and blissful.
Past mods, You are able to do extra with armour because of Bungie including three extra stats to it, for a complete of six. Mobility, resilience and restoration stay, governing velocity, toughness and how briskly your protect regeneratess. Now, nonetheless, the outdated self-discipline, mind and energy stats return, governing cooldowns on grenades, tremendous and melee skills. It is sensible that these variables (which was 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. For those who like fiddling and finessing, there’s heaps to be completed.
Vex Offensive is the final new function to unlock. It’s a three-phase area battle that takes place within the Vex’s Black Backyard, which is a bizarre, verdant, summary, pc simulation… factor. I discover it barely odd that an enlargement so targeted on the Hive ought to all of the sudden flip its consideration to the Vex. It apparently is sensible within the story (the Vex are coming to the Moon as a result of they’re within the Dangerous Pyramid what’s been discovered inside it, I believe?), however it undoubtedly feels disconnected.
Extra urgently, the Vex Offensive is one more coop area mode so as to add to The Menagerie, The Reckoning, Blind Nicely and Forges. The identical goes for the stay Vex Invasion occasions on the Moon, that are similar to the Escalation Protocol occasions on Mars. It’s all intense and enjoyable, similar to nearly something Bungie provides to Future 2, however the very best 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 obtainable as quickly as you unlock it within the marketing campaign quest chain. That’s good! However there’s a draw back: in opening up one thing so quickly, it’ll really feel outdated sooner, too.
It’s bizarre to say it, however Shadowkeep’s downside is that a variety of the issues and laborious questions that Future 2’s first 12 months threw up have been solved because the Forsaken enlargement a 12 months in the past. Shadowkeep hasn’t needed to repair something, solely attend the age-old problem of maintaining gamers on the Future treadmill. Consequently, the whole lot feels awfully acquainted, from the large occasions proper all the way down to the hunt sorts, that are nonetheless largely about incomes forex to purchase a quest that wins you a roll on a brand new merchandise of drugs.
By now, Bungie has gotten good at binding all this collectively; the numerous, 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 may’ve forgotten about, in methods you disregarded, or use gun sorts you thought you didn’t like, whereas sticking to every day and weekly routines lead to drops that increase your energy degree. It’s a intelligent and powerfully compulsive machine – however it’s not precisely thrilling.
Right here at first of Future 2’s third 12 months (and the fifth because the unique 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 occurring dungeon runs and weapon quests and doing the dance between shielded bosses and preventing again provides, ceaselessly.
I hold questioning if there’s an inherent acknowledgement of all this in setting Shadowkeep on the Moon, the place Future started, and having you battle outdated bosses. Nostalgia tends to be a great transfer when there’s nothing new on the horizon, in spite of everything. Alas. Even when Future’s horizon does appear as featureless because the moon itself, there’s nonetheless loads of enjoyable available in gobbling up the whole lot in sight on the way in which there.