If you haven't touched Destiny 2 in the last year and decided to pick it back up for the new Shadowkeep expansion, then you're probably lost. In the past year alone, Destiny 2 revitalized its weapon system, how legendary and exotic weapons are tuned, how inventory is managed, among dozens of other things. The vocabulary of Destiny 2 has only grown with words like Masterworks, Rituals, and Gambit entering the fray. Shadowkeep tries to shorten the gap between veterans and returning users by bringing all players to a base power level of 750 to help them acclimate to all the changes.
But, boy, Shadowkeep sure does absolutely nothing to bring returning players up to speed otherwise.
Compared to my usual gaggle of Destiny 2 comrades, I'm the one who has kept up with it the most. And by "the most," I mean I've popped in at least twice since last year to check up on the new seasonal content to see what was in store. I even got really into Gambit Prime for a short few days.
Bungie, in an earnest effort to fix the most pervasive issues keeping players from returning, has as a consequence made Destiny 2 even more complicated over the past year since Forsaken. Where weapons were once so stagnant that they barely enticed you to keep playing beyond the campaign, they have since been reworked time and time again over Destiny 2's two-year lifespan. As a result, weapons now drop with random perks instead of static ones, which has been a pleasant change for months now. It remains just one of the biggest differences between Year 1 and 2 of Destiny 2.
Yet in my first six or so hours spent playing Shadowkeep, I'm baffled by a lot of the new systems. There are some tutorials that cover topics like the new Battle Pass, where every time you level up you can claim certain gifts. Otherwise, I'm clueless. Most of my favorite things as I once knew them are changed, or are now not even worthwhile anymore.
It's a natural evolution, but I wish Bungie was more candid in-game about how all the changes, such as the new mod system for armor, work. And for a lot of players who haven't touched Destiny 2 longer than me, there are even more questions about these new systems too.
For instance, before Forsaken, making your weapons stronger by increasing their power level was relatively easy. You simply infused lower tier weapons into the legendary and exotics you owned and voila, they became a higher power level. Now you can do the same thing, but you require an Upgrade Module which you can buy or get as a reward in the season pass. No longer can you upgrade your gun at your beck and call with minimal resources. As a result, now I feel like I'm hoarding my weaker weapons until I reach the soft level cap eventually, so then I can power up my favorites to their full potential.
Sure, it sounds like a more rewarding system for the longterm with a lot to work toward, but as someone returning to Destiny 2 for Shadowkeep, I find it cumbersome. With this system, I feel like rather than embracing guns I like, I'm instead just caving to weapons I find that are stronger and will boost my overall power level. In turn, I'm saving the other guns I actually prefer until I'm actually at the soft cap. (At the time of writing this, I'm around power level 820, still a long ways away from 900.)
Everything in Destiny 2: Shadowkeep has an extra layer of complexity above even Forsaken. Instead of a few perks with each armor you equip that bump mobility, recovery, and resilience,, you now have three additional perks too, like a faster cooldown on your grenade. Each piece of armor can be upgraded to a max of 10. The same goes for your weapons too, though the Pinnacle weapon system with unique strong perks has been scrapped entirely for the new Ritual Weapon system—which is largely the same from how Bungie describes it, but the bonuses are not as powerful.
"Rather than being the absolute height of Legendary power, they were supposed to be interesting novelties to chase," Bungie wrote in a recent blog. "These problems became more pronounced the more of them we produced. In the end, we decided to move away from Pinnacle weapons."
It's a lot to reckon with. A part of me wants to try out the refreshed Destiny 2: New Light free-to-play release to see how these systems are eased in for new players. Because for semi-veterans like myself, it's a lot to take in. I can't imagine how it's being dumped on players at the start who don't know even know how to dismantle items for Bright Dust or Glimmer yet.
Still, even with my annoyed paused-Googling as I get pelted by Vandals from across the lunar sphere, I'm having a good time with Shadowkeep. The refreshed music has a neat eerie vibe to it, adding to the moon's general creepy atmosphere. Some of the new guns I've encountered, like the exotic Eriana's Vow, feel as good as the guns in Destiny always have.
My biggest grievance so far is really just the obtuseness of it all, and how unfriendly it is to non-experts. I've never considered myself a "casual" player of Destiny, but I'm not the sort who logs in every day either. I'm an in-between regular Destiny 2 fan; and I wish Shadowkeep held my hand even just a little bit to get me back into the flow of possible weekly play again, like I did before. Right now, it just feels like I have to relearn Destiny 2 all over again; and I played as recently as a couple months ago, chasing down challenges from Emperor Calus' robots. It's probably much more overwhelming for, well, everyone else.