When you think about it, it’s strange to call Beyond Light an expansion. Its launch saw Bungie cleave a huge amount of content from the game and put it in their Vault, leaving the new areas of Europa and the Cosmodrome to fill the literal black space where Titan, Mars, Mercury and Io once were. That said, a huge amount of content has been added and secrets are being constantly discovered, but now the new Deep Stone Crypt Raid has been unlocked we have a good idea just how much Beyond Light gives us.
The removal of four locations, their Strikes, stories and more do affect the overall game, but personally I am not that fussed about the vaulting of content. If you are a regular Destiny player then you will have run the same strikes and missions hundreds, if not thousands of times and will be bored sick of them. The Raids are more of a loss as you can only ever play them with six friends and they were run a lot less regularly. Around 75% of the existing weapons have also been made redundant – you can still use them but their light level is now locked to pre-Beyond Light levels, so they are only really useable in The Crucible. I’ve lost the use of my beloved Breakneck which has been my main for many years, but it means I’m trying new weapons, new combinations, and that is what Bungie were trying to encourage.
Another major change is the story for new players, as much of the previous content has been vaulted any new Guardians get a brand new starting point with Shaw Han, the Guardian from the Cosmodrome, taking lead. This tale does seem to expect you to know the events of The Red War and other major moments from Destiny 2’s history, though.
Still, this reboot of Destiny 2 is, to all intents and purposes, Destiny 3. Bungie have completely reworked the game and load times have been slashed by a huge amount, taking 15 seconds to warp to a new planet compared the minute or so that it used to take. The areas that did not get wiped have also been touched up with new lighting, and the existing strikes have also been tweaked with new effects. It all runs much smoother – the game used to stutter and jerk when things got busy on a PS4 Pro and that is not longer the case.
Beyond Light gives the first impression that Europa, the new map, is big. The second impression is that it’s bloody big, with huge open areas fill with secrets to discover and snow storms that reduce visibility to almost nothing. The Fallen City and the Clovis Bray facility leading off from the main map with tunnels twisting leading to new locations and, unlike many previous non-Raid Destiny 2 locations, a surprising amount of verticality. There are also new enemies wandering the landscape which come as a shock when you first load in as they have a high power level, meaning that for the first time since launch you can’t just battle them from day one, you have to sneak past.
By contrast, the Cosmodrome is broadly similar that version that was on in Destiny 1, right down to seemingly identical enemy spawns. Design decisions made with the PS3 and Xbox 360 in mind, back in the day, leave something that seems rather empty compared to other open world areas in Destiny 2. It would have been nice to liven things up a bit more.
Beyond Light’s story take a surprising amount of time to complete, previous expansions could be whipped through in a couple of hours, but here the tale unravels more slowly. The story boils down to, “Hey you know that thing that all the NPC’s in Destiny have been saying is really bad since 2014? Turns out it not.” The longer, more complicated version won’t make sense to anyone who isn’t up to date on their Destiny lore, but here goes anyway.
The new big bad, the Fallen Kell Eramis, wants revenge on The Traveller who abandoned her and her people, so she has turned to the mysterious Pyramid ships that have just eaten two planets and two moons, and has been granted a new power, Stasis. This ice-like power has spread throughout her followers and you need to stop her and her minions. During the adventure you too will gain the power of Stasis, bringing a new Super to each class along with new Stasis grenades and weapons. While that is going on, a subplot about a dysfunctional family is also playing out. It verges on turning in to something you would see on Eastenders but just about manages to avoid being overly dramatic.
The new Stasis powers have been contentious, especially in PvP. Some (like myself) love them, some loathe them. The Stasis grenade, which causes ice to grow from all surfaces, is particularly fun and can be used to block doorways or create new platforms, bringing new life to the old PvP maps. For the supers, the Titans get the short end of the stick as the new Stasis power, Ground Control, is essentially the same as the Arc Smash – activate it and slam the ground to freeze or destroy enemies in front of you. Warlocks get Shadebinder, which gives the player a big icy wand which they can fire freezing blasts from while they glide around like love child of Elsa and the Emperor Palpatine, while Hunters get a fire-and-forget whirlwind that scours the map for enemies to freeze. That’s particularly annoying/great in the Crucible, depending on if you are a Hunter or not.
The new Raid, which launched over the weekend, looks to be one of the best so far. It looks stunning and, avoiding spoilers here, takes place across multiple locations. Completing it also unlocks new quests for more new weapons, including an chainsaw sword that I can’t wait to get my hands on. It would be impossible to cover all the new content from Beyond Light as there is so much – weapons perks, new exotics, new armour, secret areas, hidden quests, Varik’s story and bounties, and more – but so far the experience has been great and there is plenty more to discover. Special mention goes to the ever reliable Nolan North who clearly had way too much fun voicing your Ghost on a particular mission when a certain other character was unavailable.
If Europa and the Cosmodrome weren’t enough to keep you busy, the Beyond Light parcel also includes The Season of the Hunt, the first instalment of this year’s Season Pass. For sees Guardians heading back to the Tangled Shore, a location that hasn’t been used much since it first arrived in September 2018. Much like previous seasons this is a big grind-fest, but borrows an idea from the sadly removed Menagerie in that you get a new gizmo, the Cryptolith Lure, which you can fill with tokens that are earned by playing other activities in the game. These allow you to modify certain aspects of the armour and weapons you get from completing the new activity, Wrathborn hunts.
The hunts themselves aren’t that exciting; poke a stick in the ground, smack a big Servitor, following some green goo, take down a big shielded enemy, rinse and repeat ad nasuem. The lure – aha – is meant to be that you might just get a really good roll on a weapon or armour, but that just doesn’t interest me. There are so many good weapons from other activities running the same couple of hunts over and over again just to get a god roll seems a waste of time. Bungie have also made this season even more of a grind as you have to charge the Cryptolith Lure up by completing three Gambit, Cruicible, or Strike activities before you can go on a hunt. You can store three charges, and will fill the Lure by completing the weekly Destiny grind anyway, but it seems an unnecessary extra step just to pad things out. The Season of the Hunt also sees the return of an evil, and until recently, very much dead, bad guy… as a good guy. It appears their story will gradually play out over the coming months.
There are some problems sprinkled throughout. The huge Europa map has just two spawn points, both close together in the south of the map, so if your quest is in the northern reaches you’ll have to spend a couple minutes zipping across the snowy wastes. At least there are no loading pauses on PS4 in-game anymore. Then there’s just the expected grind that emerges after the main story. You’ll be repeating missions time and again without variation. When some of the old Strikes mix things up by changing the enemy types or giving you alternate paths, it’s a shame Bungie have not rolled that idea out across all the repeatable missions.
Additional content is coming to make up for the removed areas, including a reworked version of The Vault of Glass and a new strike, but both are months away. That’s disappointing but perhaps understandable given that, like the rest of us, Bungie have been dealing with the challenges of working from home in 2020.