After a short delay, Destiny 2: Shadowkeep was released on October 1. It took me several days to finish the official review of the expansion, but that’s primarily because I wanted to experience the Garden of Salvation and Vex Offensive activities first-hand. I wanted to get an idea of what the endgame progression loop would be like. Fast forward to a month later and here we are. Players found key issues with the pinnacle rewards, Armor 2.0, champion mods, and Eververse systems.
It’s a good time to have a retrospective since there are just a few weeks left until the Season of the Undying ends. We’re looking at a new season/DLC in December. Check out the calendar of content drops for Destiny 2: Shadowkeep below:
Destiny 2: Shadowkeep was not what I expected
First things first, I’ll have to reiterate that Destiny 2 and the Shadowkeep expansion are not bad, per se. I’ve even made note of that in our technical review. After some connection woes during launch day, I was quite happy with the stability, graphical improvements, and ease of transition given that I migrated from PS4 to PC.
Destiny 2 still provides a top-notch FPS experience, one that’s hardly matched by other games in the genre. Shadowkeep‘s PvE activities such as the Garden of Salvation raid will keep you preoccupied and challenged. Likewise, competitive play via Crucible, Iron Banner, and Gambit remains enjoyable. Level design, themes, and aesthetics are also breathtaking and amazing to behold. The downside is that there are several issues that continue to plague Destiny 2: Shadowkeep, ones that’ll make you scratch your head due to Bungie’s decisions.
One of those issues is the pinnacle rewards system that’s tied to the endgame grind. I’ve made no secret of disliking this current trend. I even called it “a frustrating mess” in a previous feature.
Even a month after the Shadowkeep expansion launched, I’m still at 951 base power level (PL) due to the lack of duplicate protection or a smart loot system for pinnacle drops. It didn’t matter if I cleared the raid, the 100K Nightfall, or Master Nightmare Hunts. It didn’t matter if I did six Iron Banner pinnacle bounties. I was, more often than not, ending up with duplicates or items for the wrong slots.
Grinding experience points via bounties and easy-mode activities became more rewarding, and the power climb becomes more suitable for casual players or the extreme “play 18 hours a day” hobbyist. Unfortunately, that hardly helps with the way I approach the game. In previous expansions, you’ll notice that I’d quickly have a leveling guide up and running. That’s mostly because I pour more hours into Destiny 2 within the first week or so. My playtime tapers off as weeks pass by since I focus on the endgame after that — aka. the more rewarding activities. I don’t spend extra hours to farm strikes, public events, or the Fallen dregs in Trostland just for exp.
The pinnacle rewards/power level climb
With Destiny 2: Shadowkeep‘s current pinnacle rewards system, I found myself at a lower level despite gunning for endgame activities each week. My buddy — who hasn’t done the raid, has skipped Iron Banner, and is someone who mostly focuses on strikes and bounties — is five power levels higher thanks to the artifact’s exp gains.
I’m 968 PL, and he’s 973 PL. That made absolutely no sense in terms of endgame progression. I understand that those who play the game more often should get rewarded. The misstep is that it doesn’t take the difficulty of the content into consideration. Someone who plays in shorter bursts while clearing more difficult endgame activities shouldn’t feel “weaker” compared to someone who spends more hours doing easier content.
It’s also worth noting that there hasn’t been any confirmation on whether next season/DLC will see an increase in the base power cap. If it does increase and, knowing that the bonus power from artifacts will be reset, then the pinnacle system has to be more rewarding. Otherwise, what’s the point in focusing on endgame activities if you’re barely ahead of the curve?
The Armor 2.0 debacle
Speaking of feeling unrewarding, we’ve also got Destiny 2: Shadowkeep‘s Armor 2.0 system. I actually addressed potential mishaps down the line back in August.
The overhaul was initially touted as a major change in the way players min-maxed their Guardians. The problem is that we already had something that was working fine just before Shadowkeep‘s release. With Armor 2.0, you’ll have to consider the following rolls:
- total stat values
- individual stat values
- threshold values for every 10 points of a stat (anything that’s not a multiple of 10 will be a waste)
- base energy in case you don’t want to waste materials
- elemental restriction
The last one is a major point of contention. Due to the elemental properties of armor, you’ll be restricted when it comes to the types of mods you can socket. You could end up with a masterworked, 10 energy armor drop. But, if you can’t even socket a mod for a weapon you like (ie. sniper rifles, pulse rifles) due to the elemental restriction, then that seems very limiting.
As for feeling even more limited, look no further than the champion mods introduced in Destiny 2: Shadowkeep. Endgame activities such as the Nightfall strike, Nightmare Hunts, and the Garden of Salvation raid have so-called champion mobs.
These enemies come in three flavors: barrier, overload, and unstoppable. The main method of stunning and damaging them comes from weapon mods: barrier rounds, overload rounds, and unstoppable rounds. However, only a select few weapon types can have these mods socketed. For instance, only hand cannons and bows can use the unstoppable mod. Meanwhile, only submachine guns and auto rifles can use the overload and barrier mods.
If you’re a fan of pulse rifles, fusion rifles, or shotguns, prepare to frequently change your loadout or check what your teammates have. Without the requisite weapon mods, you’re going to take a beating.
You might also want to avoid exotic weapons because you can’t put champion mods in them. The only exception to the rule is the Izanagi’s Burden exotic sniper rifle, but that’s solely because it already does tremendous damage. Even then, numerous bugs have been reported by several players who were trying to obtain the exotic. Just check out these posts from Redditors LeonZ50, NobleHavoc, and SirLanceLottStark.
Of course, no complaint or report about Destiny 2: Shadowkeep would be complete without Eververse. The cosmetic store has been a hotbed of conversation since Destiny 1, and the Shadowkeep expansion did not change that. The frequency and degree of criticisms that we’re seeing now can be compared to the Curse of Osiris days (when things were really bad).
I don’t care at all about cosmetics and microtransactions. They can exist or they can disappear entirely. I’m solely focused on the practical aspect of each game, not “playing dress-up” or trying to “look cool” in the virtual world. If an item doesn’t help me kill bosses faster or get 15+ kill-streaks in the Crucible, then I don’t need it. To date, I haven’t bought any silver from Destiny 2‘s Eververse store. Before Shadowkeep‘s launch, I dismantled everything and ended up with roughly 60,000 bright dust.
But, that’s me. Different players will have different opinions. Going by concerns in Destiny‘s Reddit community, there have been a lot of qualms. There are comparisons with the previous season, complaints about seeing thematic items in the shop, and there are also helpful suggestions that aim to help those who bought Destiny 2: Shadowkeep‘s season pass.
Although Bungie did add event items that are purchasable via bright dust, they also stumbled because of the exorbitant costs. The bounties that do award bright dust only provide a measly and insignificant amount.
Destiny 2: Shadowkeep – Moving forward
Destiny 2: Shadowkeep‘s first month is a roller coaster filled with many ups and downs. The raid wowed veteran players, myself included, and it’s probably affectionately called the “Vault of Grass” now. The Iron Banner pursuits grind was more manageable this time around. We recently saw the Pit of Heresy dungeon go live, and it’s a fun romp. We’ve also yet to see a couple of content additions such as the raid challenges and the final assault against the Undying Mind in the Vex Offensive.
Oh, and we had four new exotic quests to complete — too bad only the Divinity trace rifle was decent, and you’ll only require one player with it in most situations. As for legendary ritual weapon quests, let’s not see another rehash of Randy’s Throwing Knife. This type of time-consuming quest — for a weapon type that has no place in the current meta — should be avoided at all costs.
The aforementioned problems still exist in Destiny 2: Shadowkeep, true, and Bungie will need to address these moving forward. Forsaken set the stage for what a Destiny 2 “comet” expansion could be like, and Shadowkeep fell short. Time will tell if succeeding DLC/seasons and updates will make up for these missteps.