For a long time, I wasn't hopeful for the future of Destiny 2. The drops were redundant. The armor was stale. After a certain point, Destiny 2 felt like doing chores, only with no clean bathroom or other satisfying end point on the horizon. So I stopped playing it, long after friends of mine had already stopped. With Shadowkeep though, I'm roped back in. And I have a really dumb reason as to why.
The following contains spoilers for Shadowkeep's campaign.
At the end of Destiny 2: Shadowkeep's short and grindy campaign, you're treated to a cutscene where your guardian meets... themselves. Or rather, a doppelganger of themselves assumed to be the version fueled by darkness. "We are not your friend. We are not your enemy. We are your salvation," the doppelganger says. Immediately, my mind drifted to one thing: We're going in a World of Warcraft-like Alliance versus Horde direction with Destiny 2, aren't we?
From the start of the first Destiny, the struggle between Lightness and Darkness has been at the center. The Darkness' big pyramid is basically the antagonist to the Traveler, the giant floating source of light that powers guardians and now hangs at the front of the Tower. During Destiny 2's base campaign, we restored its power. Centuries ago, the Darkness wiped out most of humanity, though it wasn't wholly successful thanks to the Traveler. With Shadowkeep, the Darkness has basically announced that it's back, bitches.
Bungie's been transparent about the future of Destiny 2. A roadmap details things coming to the game post-launch, like higher difficulty levels for Nightmare Hunts, an exotic quest for a new bow, a dungeon launch on October 29, and the returning Halloween event, Festival of the Lost. It's all under the umbrella of the Season of the Undying, which even features a battle pass that nets you rewards every time you level up. (Much better than the old "here's some Bright Dust" you'd get with each useless level up.)
The seasonal structure is something Destiny 2 pivoted to last year after the launch of Destiny 2: Forsaken, its strongest expansion to date. Forsaken itself brought a lot to Destiny 2: two new worlds, a satisfying campaign, and new weapon types like the bow. It was everything fans could want out of an expansion at launch, even if it lacked the legs to keep with it. When compared to Forsaken, the lack of content in Shadowkeep is even more of a disappointment.
But the future is tantalizing. The story in Shadowkeep is mostly gibberish—at least to someone like me who doesn't really play Destiny for the lore; I play so that I can shoot space guns and make things go "boom." The final moment is the first time any Destiny story beat has made my ears perk up though. Just as how this year's Final Fantasy 14 expansion Shadowbringers intrigued me more than any other (though not enough to grind my way through the MMORPG to reach it), Shadowkeep's bookend has the same promise. Maybe, just maybe, we'll get to taste the dark side for once.
It would be a cool twist in the realm of Destiny 2, which has been oh-so-concerned with the "light" that powers our guardians. In Destiny 1, it even extended to how you leveled up: your overall level was called a Light Level, and in Destiny 2, the name changed to a Power Level. A part of me now wonders if that was a conscious decision rather than a convenient and more sensible one. Could Destiny 2 eventually offer two sides to align with?
This would no doubt complicate things further, but it'd give players more to work toward in the form of unique quests. Better yet, it would make our alternate characters actually worthwhile. (I haven't touched my alt-Titan in ages, for instance.) Maybe with each side even, our Supers and other abilities would be different. Or maybe like how Splatoon 2 introduced Octolings its Octo Expansion, the battle between Light and Dark could just be a cosmetic change, because god knows that the character creator needs an update.
Of course, there is an existing faction system, wherein players can align with one of three factions during Faction Rally events for exclusive gear. It's fine, but usually unexciting. Every Faction Rally, the team I end up picking is the one with the best weapon waiting for me at the end of it, rather than sheer principle. (However, Future War Cult has the best color scheme.)
I finished Shadowkeep's campaign relatively quickly, and from that point, have slowly inched along in progress. I prioritize weekly challenges, knowing they'll net me Prime Engrams for items that will boost up my power level, since everything else post-900 drops around the number you're currently at.
It's a bewildering expansion, one that's in turn become hard not just to write about, but ponder in general. How do we think about Destiny 2: Shadowkeep? An expansion of beginnings, of sparse loot, of big implications for the future of the world of Destiny, but not a lot to say right now? This is a question I've struggled with all morning as I've tried to come up with story angles. It's a strange expansion.
But for the first time, I'm optimistic to where Destiny 2's headed. I've probably said that exact sentence before, so it's a cautious sort of optimism. But if Destiny 2 goes in the direction it seems to be heavily alluding to—even Ikora's building some mysterious Vex portal straight to the Tower, which seems like a bad idea, but who am I to judge?—it would inject some much needed spice into our guardians that we love sculpting so dearly. Armor 2.0 was a good start toward a more personalized character, and introducing some sort of Jedi and Sith-esque Light and Dark element would be extra-neat. Who knows? Maybe that's what the next season of Destiny 2: Shadowkeep will offer us. We'll keep playing, and hopefully getting raid ready, in the meantime.