Destiny 2: Beyond Light on PlayStation 4
Destiny 2: Beyond Light kicks off, what I’m hoping, a new era for the series. One that is more organized and focused when it comes to story and gameplay.
Previous expansions have been all over the place in consistency with Bungie going back and forth with different ideas and approaches. For example, only five dollars separated the incredible Forsaken expansion and the… not so great Curse of Osiris and Warmind expansion combo.
If Beyond Light is going to be the blueprint to go off of for Destiny 2 expansions going forward, fans should be happy assuming Bungie continues to keep the seasonal content fresh.
Beyond Light finally pushes forward the Darkness subplot in a meaningful direction and in a way that Shadowkeep failed to do.
The Darkness has arrived in the Solar System and a group of Fallen known as House Salvation, led by a Kell named Eramis, have accepted the gifts of power that the Darkness offers. In this case, the power is a new ice-aspected power known as Stasis, and threatens to put the entire system in danger.
The Guardians head to Europa, where this is all going down, and are joined by an A-Team of open-minded and Darkness-curious allies which include Eris Morn, The Drifter, and the Exo Stranger.
The Darkness-infused Fallen are too powerful and dangerous, and the idea is that Guardians are going to have to try and embrace and control the Darkness to stand a chance at stopping Eramis and her followers.
The return of the Exo Stranger was something I’ve been looking forward to in Destiny for ages. She was introduced as an accidentally mysterious character in Destiny 1, and I was hoping that Bungie would tie her back into the story some way eventually in Destiny 2. It’s great to see that finally happen.
The Exo Stranger joins Variks, who is representing the Fallen that are not down with this approach from Eramis, as the NPC leads of Beyond Light.
Beyond Light has a much better flow to its campaign as compared to the previous expansion, Shadowkeep.
In Shadowkeep there was a lot of starting and stopping to do busywork that felt tacked on and unimportant to the main story; a main story that didn’t even really go anywhere after introducing the pyramid ship for the first time. Being forced to grind to obtain a full armor set just to “protect you from the darkness,” a concept that is basically never used again, was pretty lame.
In Beyond Light the story stays on task, there is minimal busywork, and every objective felt meaningful and respecting of the player’s time.
The best comparison I can make is that Shadowkeep tried to fill me up with a big glass of water and potato chips, while Beyond Light gave me a burger and fries. It may not be the filet mignon that was Forsaken, but it was a solid campaign experience from beginning to end.
I got everything I wanted out of the story campaign which was even further enhanced with post-game story content. The Fallen did something for the first time in a long while and became a far more interesting faction.
Variks and Eramis have dueling perspectives on the direction that the Eliksni race should be heading. Eramis wants revenge against the Guardians and the Traveler, while Variks is pragmatic and seeks peace. Either way, though, the Fallen are painted in a much more complex, and even sympathetic light.
We also got to learn a lot about the Exo Stranger, our guide into the world of Stasis. So much so that she’s really not all that mysterious anymore. We might as well be on a first-name basis at this point.
Her entire backstory and motivations are completely explained in Beyond Light. It’s bittersweet because I kind of enjoyed her being this super mysterious person, but Bungie did a really nice job turning her into a real character instead of a meme.
The best part of all this is that it’s all on display in the story and the post-game content. I didn’t have to dig around a lore book to figure out what was going on. But also, if you like lore and want to learn even more than you need, there’s plenty of that too.
You’ll spend pretty much your entire time during the campaign on Europa, the expansion’s new location.
The Cosmodrome was also added, but aside from a very quick detour there during the campaign, it’s more of a space that will likely house future seasonal content and new player experiences. The Cosmodrome, like the Moon, is a familiar version of its Destiny 1-self, with a few new Destiny 2 tricks such as Lost Sectors.
Europa is high-key beautiful to look at, but on the low-key is very deceptively large. The actual surface level version of Europa is an icy tundra that lives up to its gorgeous concept art. Blizzards will roll in and obscure your vision during fights, and when the snow settles, you’re left with an icy wonderland that’s a feast for the eyes.
The surface isn’t actually a massive area, though, probably roughly the size of the Moon if I had to make a crude estimate. However, scattered throughout Europa are the preserved innards of the former Braytech Exo facilities.
The inside areas range from frozen ruins to nearly fully functioning futuristic-looking labs that house a lot of shady things that Golden Age humans, led by the infamous Clovis Bray, were working on.
Coupled with the outside area of Europa, their contrasting settings work together to create a very unique Destiny 2 area. The Cosmodrome being thrown in is just a cherry on top.
The campaign not only introduces us to Europa, but also Stasis. Stasis… is a mixed bag. On one hand, it is a very fun to use subclass. It’s satisfying to freeze enemies both in PvE and PvP and then shatter them into a million pieces.
It also serves a unique function as being more of a “defense is the best offense” kind of subclass. As a Titan, I started working it into scenarios where I want offensive-minded skills but also have the ability to create massive walls of ice to cover me or to instantly freeze enemies to get them off my back.
It’s not always the most destructive subclass, necessarily, but it is still pretty destructive with lots of utility.
Plus, unlike every other subclass in the game, you can fine-tune customize it using Aspects and Fragments. Aspects offer big augments to your subclass that can then be further refined with up to one to three fragments that offer even more build customization.
For example, as a Titan, I can augment my slide with an aspect that allows me to crash through frozen objects, and then throw in a fragment that gives me a ten-second damage boost every time I shatter something.
All that is great, and I hope it is expanded on and eventually spills over into older subclasses. The issue is Stasis is a little off right now in terms of balance, especially in PvP.
Crucible feels so different now with tons of people using Stasis. You’re constantly getting slowed and frozen. Getting just barely caught with a Stasis grenade and just waiting around to be killed while frozen is not a satisfying way to die.
To Bungie’s credit, they have acted very quickly to balance Stasis, implementing sweeping changes across PvE and PvP. If I had written this review in the first week I’d have a much more negative outlook on Stasis, but Bungie’s quick reaction gives me confidence that they are closely following feedback and will eventually get it into a spot that players enjoy.
As it stands now, Stasis is in a much better spot after the update. It’s not as annoying in PvP and Warlock’s Shadebinder isn’t breaking raid bosses anymore.
Next, we arrive at the end game content. This is where Beyond Light feels a little… samey. There’s a decent amount to do, but it’s still tied to pretty similar feeling things that we’ve been doing for years.
It’s fine, and I don’t really expect Bungie to just radically change the game. In fact, I’m not sure how they even could, but I’d be pleasantly surprised if they found a way to.
There’s plenty of exotic quests, post-campaign missions, and new weekly activities to farm.
When it’s all said and done and you’ve knocked out all the quests that pop up after the campaign, you’ll have access to: weekly Empire Hunts (basically hard-mode story missions), Exo Challenges (kind of like Ascendant Challenges from Forsaken), seasonal stuff such as this season’s Hunt content, legendary lost sectors and, of course, the new raid Deep Stone Crypt in addition to all the static events such as Nightfalls, Gambit, etc.
A note on legendary lost sectors. They have been altered this year to be designed for solo players looking for a challenge. Now when you complete legendary or master level lost sectors, you have a chance to receive exotic gear including the new Beyond Light exotics. Master Empire Hunts also can drop a new exotic sniper known as Cloudstrike.
I’d love to see more of this. More challenging activities with rewards to match other than just the Nightfall and the Raid. Beyond Light has nudged Destiny 2 in that direction and hopefully, Bungie continues this trend.
Speaking of the exotics, there’s far more this time around than in Shadowkeep.
Every subclass gets two new exotic armors and right out of the gate, as far as weapons go, there’s two exotic quests (Lament and Salvation’s Grip), a raid exotic (spoiler-free!), the farmable exotic from lost sectors we mentioned, a seasonal pass exotic and a preorder exotic that will get added for everyone else later.
That’s not all, there’s more on the way with Hawkmoon at the very least joining the party sometime soon. Compared to Shadowkeep, Bungie showered players with exotics this time in Beyond Light, and most of them are very good to great, and game-changing.
The main problem is with the lack of legendary weapons. While I agree with sunsetting in theory, the way it was rolled out leaves a lot to be desired.
Bungie, with the release of Beyond Light, has trivialized a lot of weapons in meaningful content and replaced it with not even close to as much new stuff. There’s only a handful of new legendary weapons when compared to what they removed and what is on the way out as the year rolls out.
This has been very unpopular with fans and Bungie definitely deserves some flak here. A quick fix would to make expansion weapon sets from anything I can still buy such as Shadowkeep and Forsaken relevant at least until they are completely free. But we’ll have to wait and see how Bungie approaches this as more weapons and armor sets are removed from the game.
Finally, we arrive at the raid. I’m not going to spend too much time talking about Deep Stone Crypt because I don’t want to spoil the experience for those that haven’t gone in yet.
I will say that it is a very solid raid, and among the best seen in Destiny 2 so far. While it may not be the most challenging, mechanically creative, or “epic” raids that Bungie has ever made, it is, however, perhaps the most cinematically impressive and filled with surprising and awe-inspiring moments.
Bungie rarely strikes out when it comes to raids and Beyond Light continues Destiny 2’s winning streak in that regard. I just hope that Bungie considers a hard mode at some point later on down the road to preserve Deep Stone Crypt’s difficulty for the hardcore players that are thirsty for a brutal challenge.
While Beyond Light comes up just a bit shy of Destiny 2’s best expansion, Forsaken, in terms of out of the box polish and depth, it’s a head and shoulders improvement over Shadowkeep.
There’s lots to do (even if most of it is a bit too familiar), the story is finally moving places, and Bungie has (mostly) successfully implemented some new features such as Stasis to freshen things up.
There will be work to do to ensure that Beyond Light’s content remains interesting for an entire year and that Stasis is kept in check, but overall Destiny 2: Beyond Light is a solid effort from Bungie and is a worthwhile expansion to pick up for anyone that enjoys the series.
Core gameplay loop a bit too familiar.
Sunsetting + lack of new legendary gear = not good.