Destiny 2: Beyond Light (PS5) Review – Negative Net Sum
Destiny 2: Beyond LightNovember 10th, 2020
If you're hoping for a big, meaty campaign expansion to sink your teeth into, Destiny 2: Beyond Light fails to provide a satisfactory offering. Instead, Bungie is leaning heavily on the games-as-a-service side of Destiny 2, offering live events, daily bounties, the first of many season passes, and plenty more to keep players engaged with the minimal amount of content. If you've been long awaiting the Hawkmoon to make its debut from Destiny 1, that exotic hand cannon is available as part of the season pass and will require a bit of questing to unlock.
What you do get with the Beyond Light campaign in Destiny 2 is a chance to side with Variks, one of the Fallen who has seen the light, so to speak. His role in the House of Judgment first began in the original Destiny title and was a key player in Forsaken and other bits throughout the Destiny 2 lore. After being forsaken (no pun intended) by Eramis, he instead learns to side with the Garduains in hopes of enacting revenge on the one whole ripped off his arm in punishment.
Working alongside Variks will slowly introduce the player to utilizing the darkness in a peculiar fashion, leading to the ability for player guardians to wield its forbidden power with new Stasis abilities. The Stasis power creeps up at key moments in the brief campaign, usually culminating in a firefight where the player has unlimited power for a few short moments as they attempt to control its dark influence. It isn't until after the campaign that players are given quests to unlock its true potential (first to unlock the Stasis subclass for each guardian and then incremental missions to unlock and evolve the different abilities. This power doesn't come cheaply or all at once).
Destiny 2: Beyond Light's biggest fault is in how poorly it respects the player's time. Once Variks starts offering up bounties, I found myself breaking off from the brief campaign to gain a little bit of power. Unfortunately, that wound up being a significant waste of time to start the bounty grinding early on. As I learned upon wrapping up the campaign, Variks opened up a new line of Sabotage quests that function similarly to the bounty system he was previously touting. By completing tasks in public events and lost sectors, Variks rewards the players with Herealways pieces that can be cashed in for passive boosts. All of that time spent grinding bounties before this new set of challenges was opened up was wasted instead of providing retroactive boons to the player. Because of this, it feels like it's best to rush through Beyond Light's meager campaign to unlock the rest of these upgrades as quickly as possible.
After wrapping up the campaign and investing some time into unlocking the Stasis subclass for your guardian, that's where the real meat of Beyond Light comes into play. The game constantly guides the player with a carrot on a stick approach, dangling the promise of a new passive ability or new unlock for the Stasis subclass or worse yet, that light level soft cap that the player will hit quite early on into their grind. Only by constantly returning for daily and weekly rewards that go hand in hand with leveling their season pass can players get the requisite light level in order to tackle the new introductory raid for Beyond Light.
I wouldn't have felt so harsh about the daily grind in Destiny 2: Beyond Light if there weren't so many menial tasks relegated to the barebones amount of content set upon Europa. Players will continuously have to backtrack from one of two fast travel points beside the Exo Stranger or Variks and drive their sparrow halfway across the map to the same lost sectors and patrols that they've already played two dozen times or more. Even within the bite-sized campaign, Bungie has managed to repeat the same content over and over. If I don't have to spend another day driving across Europa and gunning my way through Riis-Reborn Approach for the tenth time, I'll be a happy Warlock.
With the arrival of Beyond Light, Destiny 2 has managed to introduce an expansion that has the impact of giving the player a negative amount of content. In attempts to reduce the bloat, file sizes, and sheer amount of destinations to visit, Bungie has put a great deal of content into what they're calling the Destiny Content Vault. The Leviathan Ship raid (which I've yet to best Emperor Calus despite my best efforts) and a number of other planets and locales from the past three years of Destiny 2 have been stripped away from players. In the Director, players will now only have eight locations to choose from in addition to the competitive PvP modes (Gambit has been reworked to be a single-round Gambit Prime affair that I found fits the mode better than its predecessor).
The one thing that keeps Destiny 2: Beyond Light so addictive is the level of polish to the gunplay that always feels good. From submachine guns to rocket launchers and everything in between, each weapon class feels fantastic to shoot. It's hard to really say much about the tuning and firefights that Bungie has created because, honestly, I've loved the shooting since day one. Sweet Business has been part of my loadout since the first time I unlocked it and it still remains one of my favorite all-purpose auto rifle that I almost never have to reload in regular play. Obviously, it's outclassed in competitive play (stasis plus shotgun meta just wrecks my face) but I'm hard-pressed to find a better alternative even two years later.
On next-gen platforms, Beyond Light makes Destiny 2 feel like a brand new game. Across both PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, Destiny 2 runs at 4K60 for the PvE action and if you've got a display that handles it, competitive Crucible matches run at 120 frames per second. With Destiny 2 supporting crossplay between the different console generations, consider this an unfair advantage if you've got the reflexes to match. I tried going back to Destiny 2 on the PlayStation 4 Pro and the game felt so sluggish by comparison that I couldn't see myself ever going below 60FPS ever again. The load times are also a fantastic boon, especially when you're jumping between planets for farming your daily bounties.
For a Destiny 2 player, picking up Beyond Light is an obvious necessity if you want to continue the adventure of exploring the galaxy under the Traveler's light. With sweeping changes that go so far as to remove half of the destinations and vaulting them for later use, Bungie has done much to streamline the experience for guardians that might otherwise be overwhelmed by the choices and trying to figure out what to grind towards or where to boost their light levels. Unfortunately, what is there for players to loot and shoot is repeated ad nauseam that players may ultimately find themselves bored of the same handfuls of carrots on sticks to guide them along. The competitive PVP is still solid (even with the Stasis 'n Shotguns meta) and PvE strikes and raids still are as engaging as they've always been. I just hope Bungie can illuminate a path towards more engaging content in the seasons to come in Destiny 2: Beyond Light.
Reviewed on PlayStation 5 (code provided by the publisher).
Destiny 2: Beyond Light is a negative net sum, with so much content vaulted in favor of a meager campaign set in Europa. So much is teased and promised to bring the original Destiny vision together with Destiny 2 that we can't hope but be excited to see what Bungie is promising in seasons to come. However, what's available right now is less than the exotic content that players might've hyped themselves up for.
- The return of the Exo Stranger, Europa, and soon the Vault of Glass raid
- Stasis subclasses feel completely new to existing Guardian roles
- Next-gen versions of Destiny 2 feel like brand new games
- Hawkmoon is back
- Armor 2.0 and Ghost reworking starting to feel right
- PVP meta currently shredded by new overpowered Stasis subclasses
- More content vaulted and removed from Destiny 2 than added in
- Strikes and Lost Sectors repeated, even through the meager six-hour Beyond Light campaign
- Time spent grinding bounties before finishing the campaign feels wasted