The Darkness is finally here. Guardians are able to wield a power other than their beloved Light for the first time in Destiny’s franchise history. Chances are that if you’re reading this, you’re a lapsed player looking to get back into Destiny. Otherwise, you’re a new player looking to take the leap for the first time, or just curious about my opinion. Well, strap in folks, let me tell you why Beyond Light is worth dipping your toe into if you’re an online looter, shooter, or even MMO (lite) fan.
Destiny 2 has been out for just over three years at this point. We’re already well into year 4, and the game has been given a future, at least until 2022/2023. Beyond Light is the third major expansion for the sequel, and the fifth for the franchise. This is the very first time since the first game that we get a new playable element and a subclass based on that element.
Stasis is the ice-based power, and what better place to get this new power than the ice ball known as Europa. One of Jupiter’s moons, Europa is the home of a Golden Age facility that holds mystery, intrigue, and answers to questions players forgot they even had about Destiny’s lore and characters.
However, the legacy of Beyond Light won’t only be that it added a new element and location to the game, but also that this is the first time that locations and content have been taken away without putting a new number on the game’s title. Earlier in 2020, Bungie introduced players to their Destiny Content Vault (DCV). This “vault” contains all previous and retired content from the franchise’s history. The DCV is essentially Bungie’s answer to Destiny 2’s unchecked growth. The game had become too big in terms of file size - and also in terms of content that was lying around untouched or largely neglected. This cleanup was necessary, especially when you see the performance improvement this new streamlined version offers, even more so on the base consoles from this previous generation.
Menu lag is virtually gone, loading into destinations and activities is speedier, and time spent logging into the game has been cut in half. That’s all on a base model PS4 without an SSD. And the only things we sacrificed were: Mercury, Titan, Io, Mars, The Leviathan and everything on it including the Menagerie and Tribute hall and four raids, Scourge of the Past, Reckoning, and one or two other activities like the Forges. Not too high a cost, right?
If you’re counting, that’s just about half the game, gone. What replaced it was Europa, a new location entirely, and the Cosmodrome, a Destiny favorite from the first game.
Europa is a wonderful destination. It has dynamic weather, something Bungie has harped on about for ages in their marketing. The dynamic weather is technically interesting, but ultimately a gimmick that is easy to forget about from a gameplay perspective. The real draw of Europa for me is that it is deceptively large. In fact, players are speculating that Europa has the biggest playable space in the game’s history; I’m inclined to agree.
A large chunk of the Cosmodrome has returned and been remastered. It’s got new lost sectors baked in, and it lacks the Plague Lands that were introduced in Rise of Iron. Overall, it’s just the same Cosmodrome back again, with some new features and a spit and polish visual overhaul.
The newly added destinations are great to play in, and add a little bit of freshness. One of the better features of the new locations is the lost sectors. There is now a daily rotation of Legend and Master difficulty versions of these lost sectors that give targeted exotic loot. This is a brilliant little addition that came as a surprise. Targeted loot farming is what the players want, and it’s good to see that Bungie are providing more avenues for this throughout the game in new varieties.
You set foot on Europa for the first time at the start of the new campaign. It’s around this time that you’re introduced to the big bad whose name is Eramis (no, she’s not a musketeer). Eramis is the Kell (leader) of House Salvation, a faction within the Fallen race that has found a way to use the Darkness power Stasis.
The conceit of the campaign is that we have to stop this new power from spreading to more of our enemies for fear of being wiped out by an aspiring Empire. Eramis is slightly forgettable as a villain, but that’s nothing new for Destiny.
The campaign is good, enjoyable, and deceives you into thinking it’s short. The expected loop of “land on new destination, meet boss, go about thwarting boss, beat boss, speak to vendors about said boss and events” lasts about 3-4 hours depending on play style. However, this is not where the story ends.
The campaign and narrative extend into the endgame content that was added, known as Empire hunts. These are great strike-esque activities that give players yet another opportunity to farm targeted loot. There’s an exotic sniper rifle to be earned from playing the Empire hunts too. They have a difficulty scale for better loot, and they’re a relatively fun and underrated addition to the game.
The raid also contains great story and lore beats. The day one race completion unlocked an exotic quest with a flooring revelation about a familiar character. Beside this, there is plenty in terms of endgame content, such as quests associated with our new Stasis subclasses that unlock abilities and mods for players to fully enjoy the new Darkness-based power.
Until now, Destiny has had three elements for subclasses and weapons: Solar (fire), Arc (electricity), and Void (purple death). Now there’s a fourth; Stasis is the Darkness solidified into ice. The two main effects this has on your enemies, in both PvE and PvP, is to slow or freeze them. Once frozen, players can then shatter their enemies in a variety of ways.
The ability to freeze and then shatter enemies is undeniably powerful and extremely fun. However, this addition has highlighted Bungie’s fundamental problem of balancing both PvE and PvP. Personally, I don’t think Stasis is broken in Crucible, but it is dominant. It takes effort and build crafting to counter Stasis, however; something the average player won’t necessarily want to do.
While Stasis highlights the issues with balancing, the problems with Crucible run deeper than the new element and its dominance alone. PvP has long been neglected, and even the return of Trials of Osiris earlier this year didn’t mitigate the problems. In fact, Trials highlighted the problems with general PvP and was shut down mere hours after the season started due to Stasis exploits.
While Crucible has a few issues around balancing and incentive to play, PvE is currently in a highly enjoyable state. Strikes, Nightfalls, Empire hunts, raiding; these have all benefited from a great new subclass, a new weapon perk pool, and a slight revamp of the armor mod system.
However, an aspect of the game that is easily forgotten is Gambit. With the DCV came a paring down of Gambit into a single mode. This is a hybrid of vanilla Gambit and Prime. There’s a single round, killing envoys gives the Primeval slayer buff, and thankfully the boss shield phases have been removed. The only issue is that Gambit is still a poor mode with that gives players little reason to engage with it. There are no updated Gambit weapons, the armor set to be earned is a reskin of the hideous armor set that is also earnable from Crucible and Strikes, and there is nothing unique tied to this mode.
Bungie has referred to Gambit as one of its three core pillars of endgame gameplay, alongside Strikes and Crucible. Gambit is by far the weakest pillar, even to the point of not being necessary to the game. This is a shame, because Gambit started with so much potential.
Bungie also implemented various quality of life improvements to the game here and there over and above the general performance boost. However, the biggest news after launch was the next gen console update that brought Destiny 2 on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S more in line with the PC version. Native 4K support was added on the two top tier consoles, along with FOV sliders, 60FPS, and one or two other next gen goodies.
Now, the real question on your lips, O reader mine, might be: is beyond Light worth the entry fee? My verdict is that this expansion is the best annual DLC since Forsaken. It’s worlds better than Shadowkeep, and sets a better tone for year 4 than year 3 had at its start. Yet, it's difficult for me to recommend this to new players or someone who is neither convinced nor an established fan.
Bungie have only enhanced the great gunplay and general gameplay. If you know what the Destiny gunplay feels like, you’ll be happy to come back and feel an even better version of it. If you’ve never sampled it before, then what are you waiting for? The game has a free base version where you can test the mechanics for free on all platforms, and if you’re on Xbox or PC Game Pass, you get all previous expansions along with Beyond Light included.
Along with Beyond Light came Season of the Hunt. Thanks to an embarrassment of riches in terms of content in Beyond Light, the seasonal Wrathborn Hunts are easily forgotten and quickly played through. The only real value is in the story and lore and return of an old frenemy.
Hopefully the state of Season of the Hunt is more indicative of the sheer amount of content that Beyond Light launched with, rather than a choking canary in the potentially toxic mine of Destiny 2’s year 4. Bungie cannot afford to have a lackluster offering this year, like Season of Dawn and Season of the Worthy from year 3, both of which saw a steep drop in player numbers.
Based on Beyond Light alone, I’m cautiously optimistic for year 4. So, is this expansion worth getting? Absolutely. Is it worth getting the Deluxe bundle with all the future season of year 4 included? Only if you’re the hardest of hardcore players. Otherwise, learn the lesson that some of us Destiny addicts can’t, and wait to give Bungie your money until after they’ve earned it.
Destiny 2: Beyond Light is worth the investment for existing fans of the genre and franchise. Otherwise, the best way to experience this expansion is through Game Pass on Xbox or PC.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.