It’s been six years or so since Destiny first released but I’ve never stopped expecting some kind of nonsense from the franchise. Beyond Light, the new “expansion” for Destiny 2, isn’t quite peak nonsense but there’s more than enough annoying things going. As with last year’s Shadowkeep, the expansion has some interesting things going on and there’s definitely some fun to be had. But it’s also hamstrung by busy work, grinding, recycled content, a shallow loot pool and much more.
First off, this review will not take Season of the Hunt or the new Cosmodrome into account. The latter is part of the new player experience and is utterly lacking in loot or worthwhile activities. For veterans, this is a decent bit of nostalgia but isn’t even fully complete and imminently forgettable aside from the recycled Omnigul strike (which makes some admittedly good changes in the last section). The former adds a really cool mechanic for shaping encounters and the rewards received from them while resurrecting Uldren as Crow, now a Guardian under Spider’s thumb. It’s not bad so far though, again, charging the lure for said encounters without having any new activities to grind is a bummer.
"It sounds good enough as set-up and there’s some moral turmoil for the player, what with their being a servant of the Light but still indulging in Darkness for their own ends."
But enough about that – let’s talk about Beyond Light. It starts with the Darkness consuming many of the planets in the Sol system and beckoning the player to Europa. Once there, they rescue Variks from the new House of Darkness, led by Eramis. Eramis is harnessing Darkness in the form of Stasis and has forsaken the Traveler, driven by rage from the Eliksni being abandoned all those years ago. The Exo Stranger reappears and gets involved as well, helping the player harness Stasis and ultimately stop Eramis before she can lead the house in a war against the Traveler.
It sounds good enough as set-up and there’s some moral turmoil for the player, what with their being a servant of the Light but still indulging in Darkness for their own ends. Ghost’s worries on this are also nice, reflecting a shaky resolve while still being committed to their Guardian. Unfortunately, any significant plot development on the Darkness, what the Pyramids really are, what they want etc is slowly cast by the wayside. Instead, it’s about hunting Eramis’s various lieutenants before ultimately defeating her. This boils down to performing some task in the open world that has a lieutenant notice you and proceeding to their mission to eliminate them.
It’s not all that different from Forsaken’s Scorn Barons but those had far more interesting motifs and missions. As such, the various Beyond Light bosses range from decent – like Phylaks and the shifting platforms – to annoying, namely Praksis and his shield generators. Each encounter has the player utilizing the new Stasis subclasses with rapid cooldowns in the end stretch, spamming Supers for some epic moments. It’s nice at first but becomes over-used with time. Eramis herself is a decent villain but doesn’t have much room to really shine, serving as little more than your standard monster of the week. The one cutscene providing a glimpse into Eliksni society after the Traveler’s abandonment was neat but ultimately failed to build sympathy for Ms. Vengeance. All in all, the core campaign is wrapped in just a few hours.
"During and after the campaign though, you’ll quickly frequent the same spaces – I’ve seen enough Riis Reborn to last me until next season and the lack of other landing zones to quickly fast-travel around is incredibly annoying."
However, the really interesting story bits come in the post-campaign as we learn more about the Exo Stranger, Clovis Bray’s research on Europa and how both came to utilize Darkness. As more activities became available following the launch of the Deep Stone Crypt raid, it’s genuinely interesting to see the Stranger’s relationship with Ana Bray and Clovis evolve. Once again, the coolest stories can be found in the lore but watching these relationships evolve in-game is fairly compelling. Unfortunately, there’s quite a bit of busywork needed to get to this story content but such is the Destiny way.
A new “expansion” means a new destination. From an aesthetic standpoint, Europa looks very cool. The frozen landscapes, pristine BrayTech labs hidden beneath and imposing Pyramid in the distance are balanced well with the usual great sky-boxes and dynamic snowstorms. Those snowstorms distinguish this from being a mere Plaguelands reskin, throwing off the momentum of your Sparrow and obscuring your vision when things get real heavy (but not for very long). The map’s weaknesses are quickly exposed however, namely in its long stretches between areas that necessitate boring back and forth.
This isn’t to say there aren’t a few secrets, Lost Sectors, Public Events or High Value Targets. Each zone has a decent amount of stuff going on but only just. During and after the campaign though, you’ll quickly frequent the same spaces – I’ve seen enough Riis Reborn to last me until next season and the lack of other landing zones to quickly fast-travel around is incredibly annoying.
"All in all, Stasis is a pretty cool new addition to the game, introducing some strong crowd-control options."
Mission design is also fairly routine, though the Stealing Stasis and Exo Challenge missions were a nice change of pace. There are also Legendary Lost Sectors, which provide Exotic drops and some genuinely harrowing experiences against Champions while solo. There’s also an expansive area in BrayTech Labs with its gorgeous aesthetic and flying trams.
The constant back-tracking is one thing but it’s the incessant busywork that ultimately dragged the experience down. Even if you’re not trying to get raid-ready, many of the post-campaign quests simply boil down to “gather X amount of this”, “get Y amount of kills”, “play this many strikes with the Stasis subclass equipped,” “shoot this many shards with this weapon that requires a separate quest” and so on with multiple steps. My personal favorite was the “affect targets with Stasis” requirement being different from “killing enemies with shatter damage.” Basically, freezing enemies is one thing but following up with the kill while they’re frozen or killing them with the resulting exploding shards is another thing. Have fun killing Champions with Stasis as well.
All in all, Stasis is a pretty cool new addition to the game, introducing some strong crowd-control options. The Shadebinder Warlock was my go-to and being able to kill basic enemies with Stasis projectiles while freezing and then detonating them on larger foes was nice. I like the customization aspect as well, like the Frozen Bolts Aspect sending off freezing, seeking waves of Stasis to the next enemy after killing a Stasis-affected foe or the Fragment that increased weapon damage upon shattering a target. Unfortunately, unlocking Aspects and Fragments is tied to even more busywork. Even with so many Fragments to work towards, the number of requirements – like 90 final blows with your Super, 80 final blows with shatter damage etc – just feel so mundane and rote.
"Getting hit by projectiles and getting instantly frozen, especially in the fight with Eramis while trying to use your Super, is annoying."
The busywork would be less noticeable if there was more substantial content to sink your teeth into like new PvP maps, new Strikes, a new Blind Well or Escalation Protocol-style activity and so on. But there’s only one new Strike, a new public event with Crux Convergence (which is fine, all in all) and Legendary Lost Sectors. Variks’ Empire Hunts recycle missions from the campaign but at least you can replay them on higher difficulties (unlocked through more busywork, by the way) for a chance at upgrade materials and the new Cloudstrike Exotic sniper.
The Glassway Strike is also decent and offers some nice lore on Clovis Bray but offers many of the same Vex and Fallen foes that you’ve fought thousands of times already. The Vex Wyvern is a good new addition alongside the Fallen Brig, which is essentially a smaller Insurrection Prime from the Scourge of the Past raid. Not that I’m complaining – more variety is desperately needed at this point.
Also, I should mention that while freezing enemies in PvE is cool (no pun intended), being frozen by enemies just sucks. Certain attacks, like those that slow while building up to a frozen status are fine. But getting hit by projectiles and getting instantly frozen, especially in the fight with Eramis while trying to use your Super, is annoying. You have to mash the Class Ability button to escape and if your Resilience isn’t high enough, then you’re often left low enough to be finished off. At least Bungie has addressed complaints of freezing in the Crucible, though it’s still not going to win any fans with the ability to freeze/slow opponents for easy kills.
"Some perks like Wellspring and Killing Wind are nice and allow for even more build customization but there just isn’t a whole lot outside of the raid that’s worth chasing."
Loot is a rather interesting topic. Bungie’s Exotic design is very well done with very few hiccups. There’s the Exotic sword Lament which can be revved up to cut through Champions, Elites and even Ultras with insane damage. Salvation’s Grip is a nice little Stasis grenade launcher, though it doesn’t offer much more beyond that. No Time to Explain retains its ability to return ammo to the magazine with precision hits (but to Stasis-affected enemies) and can now also create a time rift for additional damage. Whether it’s the new raid rocket launcher Eyes of Tomorrow, the Dawn Chorus helm or Necrotic Grip gauntlets, there’s a decent amount to like here.
When it comes to Legendaries and other loot, the overall picture is much less positive. The expansion’s launch was permeated with a dearth of new Legendaries and an overabundance of loot recycled from previous years, except with a new Power cap. Some weapons and armor didn’t even receive new Power caps and were just plain useless (which currently still applies to items from Forsaken and Shadowkeep). Bungie addressed this by removing Legendaries that reached their Power cap this season while also bringing back Season of the Worthy and Season of Arrivals weapons. Some perks like Wellspring and Killing Wind are nice and allow for even more build customization but there just isn’t a whole lot outside of the raid that’s worth chasing.
On the bright side, at least the raid is a fun affair. The Scanner, Operator and Suppressor mechanics allow for well-paced encounters that reward coordination without being too rigid and can accommodate a number of different loadouts and builds. The aesthetic is also great, whether it’s navigating through the snowstorm on sparrows or traipsing around in space, taking in Europa’s beauty from orbit. And while some may criticize the return of a particular Fallen with no house, the boss fights were fairly well done.
"The process of hitting the soft cap, constantly farming weekly challenges and bounties for Powerful and Pinnacle Gear, and increasing one’s Power is still the same and still grindy."
It also doesn’t hurt that a decent chunk of the weapons, like the raid shotgun, are good with their own unique perks like Recombination, where elemental final blows increase the damage of the weapon’s next shot. This synchronizes quite well with my IKELOS SMG, allowing for a huge damage build-up after clearing waves of enemies. Being able to farm Spoils of Conquest and pick different rewards at the end is also a welcome change.
That being said, is it worth grinding through dozens of hours of monotonous tasks just to experience the raid? Sure, it was a fun experience but I didn’t feel it was worth all of that time spent. The process of hitting the soft cap, constantly farming weekly challenges and bounties for Powerful and Pinnacle Gear, and increasing one’s Power is still the same and still grindy. You’ll also grind for Enhancement Cores, Ascendant Shards and Enhancement Prisms, doing the same activities over and over again just for the sake of being strong enough to do the raid. Again, that would have been fine if a huge chunk of the game hadn’t been vaulted or Beyond Light added more than it did. But alas.
There’s a long series of “ifs” and “howevers” when it comes to recommending this expansion to all but the most loyal of Destiny players, and even they may balk at some of the underwhelming content on offer. As the case has always been though, if you’re playing Destiny 2 on the regular, then experiencing Beyond Light is a given.
"Much of the content just feels too safe, comfortably numb within the franchise’s style of story-telling and end-game grinding."
If you’re a lapsed player wondering if it’s a good idea to hop back in, eager to see if the story has progressed at more than a snail’s pace, then it might be worth holding off for now and grabbing it on sale. The same applies to new players who are better off experiencing the base free to play game before deciding to take the plunge.
The fundamentals of Destiny 2 haven’t changed in Beyond Light. Gunplay is still satisfying, and the music and art direction are pretty good. But much of the content just feels too safe, comfortably numb within the franchise’s style of story-telling and end-game grinding. There are some bright spots to be had but for now, it’s best to consider Beyond Light as yet another beginning in yet another year for Destiny, one that will hopefully culminate in a more satisfying expansion next year.
This expansion was reviewed on PC.
Art direction for the environments is well done. New Exotics are fun to use and offer interesting ways to kill foes. Stasis subclasses offer some unique build opportunities, especially with their Aspects and Fragments. Post-campaign story bits are genuinely involving and shines a light on the Bray family. The raid is great all-around and has some loot that's worth chasing. Legendary Lost Sectors are good end-game content while Exo Challenges put a nice platforming spin on things.
Long stretches between areas, lack of more landing points and areas reused ad nauseam make Europa a drag to explore. Campaign missions are typical and its core story is imminently forgettable. Absolute paucity of new content in core modes, whether it's new Strikes, PvP maps and activities or worthwhile loot to chase. Stasis in Crucible proves more frustrating than fun. Power level grind with Bounties and Weekly Challenges is still tedious. Post-campaign quests fall back in busywork and menial tasks to prolong playtime.