Title: Destiny 2: Beyond Light
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Available on: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Stadia
Official Site: www.bungie.net
Release Date: November 10, 2020
In the Destiny 2: Beyond Light expansion, Bungie, the game’s developer, has produced an extensive overhaul of the existing game while both adding and removing content from the game. The changes to the game are so sweeping and the new content is so significant that a re-examination of the game is called for. Overall Destiny 2 is in a better place now that Beyond Light is out than it was before but some players will probably miss what was removed no matter what.
What’s New in Destiny 2: Beyond Light
Beyond Light’s story campaign is a delicious recipe prepared by an eminently competent chef. The campaign follows the established structure for a Destiny 2 expansion faithfully. You meet an antagonist with a group of powerful lieutenants. You then embark on missions to eliminate this new rising threat and ultimately triumph. There’s also a matchmade Strike mission at some point. The main deviation to the formula is the acquisition of the new stasis abilities that are powered by the Darkness instead of the Light. The conflict between these two cosmic forces, the Light and the Darkness, has been the motivation that’s propelled all of Destiny’s story to this point.
The possibility that players can choose one side or the other or even both at the same time is a monumental change to the universe of Destiny. Peppered throughout the campaign are instances where the player character becomes empowered with new stasis abilities as part of the Darkness’s effort to seduce players into abandoning the light. This newfound scrutiny of the game’s moral worldview is the most interesting aspect of Destiny 2’s story at this point and the new content gives it the time and weight it deserves. The Campaign’s antagonist is also much better fleshed out than some past campaign’s villains.
Beyond Light also brings a new story campaign meant to onboard new players in addition to the main campaign for returning players. This new experience is by far the best tutorial for Destiny 2 since the game’s launch. Where previous new campaigns basically threw you into the deep end after simply teaching basic combat mechanics the new experience is far more comprehensive. Another helpful thing about the new player experience is that it is substantially longer than previous attempts which means that new players will have had more opportunities to level past the opening difficulty spike that a lot of Destiny 2 content has.
In both these story campaigns, the aesthetic and polish on all the cutscenes and in-mission dialogue is best in class AAA expensive production value. Art direction, visual design, audio design, and music are all just fantastic to see and hear. The writing both in terms of plot and dialogue is solid except for a slightly rough line here and there.
The expensive production values of Beyond Light are most noticeable in the new and returning Europa and Cosmodrome patrol zones. In Europa, the new weather system does a lot of heavy lifting in giving the place character compared to the game’s other desolate wastelands. The abandoned research facilities with Exo bodies scattered all over really tap into creepiness in an all-new way for Destiny. The Cosmodrome, on the other hand, presents a more and more common occurrence in games, the remaster of old content. Here Bungie has proved convincingly that content from Destiny can be fit into Destiny 2 effectively, mostly by updating textures, skyboxes, and enemy mix than any big changes to geometry. There are new areas in the Cosmodrome but it’s mostly a faithful recreation of the previous content.
The new stasis powers are well implemented overall and are undeniably fun to mess around with. The ability to lock down heavy-hitting enemies is also very useful. The new aspects and fragments system for tweaking the stasis abilities makes the new element more interesting long term as it allows more variation than the older light ability trees.
The new loot added to Destiny 2 in Beyond Light is pretty solid for the most part. There will, of course, be arguments over which gun should have which perk and which new gun is the best or worst. In terms of moment to moment experience, though, all of the various new weapons are fun to use and the new armor looks cool. The bottom line, for the vast majority of players collecting the new loot, will be a satisfying grind.
Beyond Light is the rare video game expansion where stuff is getting removed from the game. In fact, this expansion leaves Destiny 2 as content light as the game has ever been. Mercury, Mars, Io, and Titan are all no longer available to players as is any content or loot that were tied to those locations. Several raid activities were also taken out of the game. Of course, new players will never know what they missed out on but existing players will feel the loss in a few ways. Firstly, the removed content contained a few useful leveling activities that gave players extra options when grinding towards max power level. The removal of the raids is also a bit rough on long time players for whom playing Destiny has come to mean raiding with friends once a week.
On the other hand, before Beyond Light, it was easy to become overwhelmed by choice in Destiny 2. If a group of friends didn’t happen to be grouping up when a player was free, it could be difficult to find an enjoyable activity. The Destiny 2 player base was just too spread across the wide variety of locales and activities in the game. The more elegant content offering of Beyond Light has seemingly made the Destiny 2 game world more populated by shrinking it.
Destiny 2: Beyond Light has brought with it a subtle overhaul of the game’s user interface. The new UI is more organized and easier to navigate as well as more aesthetically fitting for the game’s less Light focused worldview. In the new player experience, the menus are even more streamlined at the start and new bits unlock as the game tutorials are completed.
Some substantial work went into improving the performance of Destiny 2 in Beyond Light. While running the game on the same PC hardware as the previous version the game looks better, loads faster, and has smoother frame rates than before. Console versions were not tested but similar results have been reported on those platforms.
Beyond Light is the first time that the recently imposed maximum power levels for gear will have an impact on the game. Each piece of gear in Destiny 2 has a maximum power level assigned to it based on the season in which it was released. This expansion is the first time where that maximum level will be below the recommended level for some end game content. For most players, this means that one or two of their favorite guns will only be good for more common gameplay and not good in the context of a raid or dungeon.
What Does It All Mean for Destiny 2: Beyond Light Players
It really depends on various personal factors because the player base for Destiny 2 is a mile wide and an inch deep. Competitive focused players will enjoy what the new abilities add to the meta but otherwise barely notice the changes outside of a missing map or mode from the weekly activity rotations. It will be tougher for raid focused players to grind their way to raid-readiness. Brand new players will have the best time of anyone since the leveling of their starter campaign sets them up perfectly for the rest of the game. Long time casual players are faced with a much tighter, more focused experience, than the sprawl that was Destiny 2 before Beyond Light. Casual players, who have fallen off the Destiny grind treadmill, will have trouble dropping into the campaign unless they find time to run through the new player experience first.
Verdict: Destiny 2, for most players, has been vastly improved by the changes made in Beyond Light. The new location and abilities offer something fresh while touching on moral viewpoints more than any other piece of content to date. The new weapons also have their place in the sandbox, allowing for various options for the average player. It’s a shame to see a lot of the content go, but the streamlined experience is definitely better for the game. Now is the best time in years to begin playing or to return to the game if you’ve taken a break.
- Best in class visual and sound design
- Solid storytelling
- Great new player experience
- Less content than the previous version