Shadowkeep isn't Destiny 2's biggest expansion, but it had the best launch

(Image credit: Bungie)

We're coming up on Destiny 2: Shadowkeep's one-month anniversary, and like many players, I'm settling into post-game endeavors. I've done the raid a few times, I have all the new Exotics, and I'm fairly happy with all three of my characters. Now I've started grinding armor stats and energy, as well as Seals and other aspirational content. I'd also like slightly better rolls on a few weapons from the Hive Lectern. There's still a lot I want to do, but more than anything, I'm excited to see what's next, and that's a rare feeling among Destiny expansions. I don't think I've ever had so many goals in mind this deep into a release, nor has a future roadmap looked so bright. 

For years, I've had conversations with the folks at Bungie as well as other Destiny players about what the game needs to stay healthy. This always comes back to the same question: does Destiny need big annual content drops or smaller but more regular updates? After several years of expansions and DLCs and Annual Passes, I've decided that Destiny needs both, which I know is easy for me to say. All I have to do is kick back and shovel handfuls of content into my face. Meanwhile, Bungie - now an independent studio - is fighting an arms race it can't possibly win. Players will always tear through content faster than Bungie can make it. That said, Bungie's gotten better at making replayable content which can keep players coming back, and compared to every release before it, I think Shadowkeep has done the best job of releasing content at a sustainable pace without slowing to a drip-feed like, say, Black Armory. 

The changing of the seasons 

(Image credit: Bungie)

I know the game's servers buckled on day one and on a few other occasions, but content-wise, I think Shadowkeep has had the best launch in Destiny history. There was a lot to do on day one, including adapting to an all-new armor system, and every subsequent reset delivered more stuff which upped the ante in a meaningful way. The Garden of Salvation raid and Vex Offensive horde mode were added on the first weekend, and the first proper reset added new Nightmares which expanded the list of Essence weapons. The second reset did the same thing while also kicking off the first Iron Banner of Year 3, which was surprisingly fun and rewarding. Most recently, we got Leviathan's Breath, Destiny 2's first heavy bow, along with the final tier of Nightmares. 

Granted, Nightmare Hunts themselves are among the least rewarding and replayable content in Shadowkeep, but the point is, each week has brought new stuff to grind or unlock. As a result, I'm now actively looking forward to reset days, not just to get another round of Powerful gear, but to see what's new. Bungie made it clear that it's not afraid to call Destiny 2 an MMO anymore, and with Shadowkeep, the game's really starting to feel like one, and I'm not just talking about build variety. The weekly additions we've been getting feel like a good middle-ground between big content drops and regular updates, and they've kept me coming back every week. As someone who stopped playing Final Fantasy 14 just to make time for Shadowkeep, it really does feel familiar. 

(Image credit: Bungie)

On top of that, the Season of the Undying - the big-picture calendar of content rolling out alongside Shadowkeep - has also done a great job of setting a pace for rewards and progression. Players were understandably skeptical when Bungie announced its flagrantly Battle Pass-inspired Season Pass, but I honestly think it's a positive addition. The Battle Pass model is one of the reasons Fortnite is such a success, and it turns out that the same formula - or at least a formula based on it - works pretty well in Destiny 2. Levels come regularly, and a lot of them have solid rewards which makes gearing your character a little bit easier. The new "Loot Scroungers" which add new items to the pools of some activities are especially handy, and I'd like to see more of them in the future. 

The Season Pass is a pretty good deal, too - relative to previous Destiny content, if nothing else. Each Year 3 Season Pass winds up costing less than each part of the Year 2 Annual Pass, and because the seasonal activities aren't sold separately from the premium pass rewards, it feels like getting free stuff on top of the new content. I'd pay $10 to play the new seasonal stuff anyway; now I just get extra materials, armor, and Exotics. And because seasons are a la carte, I can easily choose to skip one if it doesn't interest me. Frankly, I could've used that option back in the Season of the Drifter, but I digress. 

Year 2 vs. Year 3 

Cayde-6 in Destiny 2: Forsaken

(Image credit: Bungie)

Compare all that to Forsaken, last year's big expansion. Forsaken was undeniably bigger than Shadowkeep in that it had more story content, multiple all-new areas with a new enemy type, and a lengthier raid. That being said, it was never as consistent as Shadowkeep. Forsaken did the same thing as every previous Destiny release: drop a mountain of content all at once and then just kind of plateau after two weeks. It wasn't that black-and-white, to be fair. I mean, we had Ascendant Challenges and raid challenges and new Exotic quests in Forsaken, but nothing on the level of Shadowkeep's weekly updates.

I think the reason Forsaken is remembered so fondly is because it fixed a lot of stuff that everyone - including Bungie - knew was bad, whereas Shadowkeep merely added stuff. But you can't fault it for that, and I think the stuff Shadowkeep added is generally better than what came before it, and it's been introduced at a pace that's kept the game fresh long after Forsaken started to peter out. Vex Offensive is miles better than Blind Well, Vex Invasions can go toe to toe with Ascendant Challenges, and while Last Wish has better bosses, Garden of Salvation is the prettiest raid Bungie's ever made. Then there's Armor 2.0, which adds value to everything else in the game including the new stuff. And again, we're not done. We haven't seen the new dungeon, the raid challenges, the "Final Assault" stage of the Vex Offensive, or the Xenophage Exotic quest. All that and more is still to come, which brings me right back to my still-burning excitement. 

Three weeks into Forsaken, things were starting to wind down. Three weeks into Shadowkeep, I'm regularly discovering new things to do. It's bigger than Rise of Iron but smaller than Forsaken, yet it's punching well above its weight by using that weight more efficiently. It started off a little slow, but Shadowkeep has proven itself to be incredibly well-rounded, and after nearly a month, it has plenty of gas in the tank. 

Austin Wood

Austin freelanced for the likes of PC Gamer, Eurogamer, IGN, Sports Illustrated, and more while finishing his journalism degree, and he's been with GamesRadar+ since 2019. They've yet to realize that his position as a staff writer is just a cover up for his career-spanning Destiny column, and he's kept the ruse going with a focus on news and the occasional feature.