Things are pretty different in Destiny 2 now. About half of the worlds disappeared into the Darkness, weapons now have sunset times, and playlist activities are streamlined versions of their former selves. Even while the solar system feels smaller, it is still growing. A new location is bringing in Guardians, and it harbors massive powers, like Stasis, and dark secrets. Even without the next-gen update, this is the best the game has ever run. Most important for expanding its audience, Beyond Light is also on Xbox Game Pass. Say goodbye to Io, Titan, Mercury, and Mars as they enter the Destiny Content Vault. Welcome back to the first Destiny location, the Cosmodrome, and get ready to also welcome back the Vault of Glass Raid next year. Most importantly, for now, please welcome a new location, new powers, and a new foe in Destiny 2: Beyond Light.
Developer & Publisher // Bungie
Platforms // Switch, PlayStation 4|5, PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
MSRP & Release Date //$29.99, Oct 29, 2020
Reviewed On // Xbox Series X
Beyond Light is Destiny’s Biggest Change Since Destiny 2
Year 2 of Destiny 2 ended with a bang: nearly half of the planets were swallowed in Darkness. Even though Bungie had practical reasons for this, finding a plot reason is impressive in itself (no matter how small it may be). When another Pyramid, the Darkness’ herald, appears on Europa, the Guardians are not far behind to investigate. Upon arrival, the Guardians find Variks, an estranged Fallen from Destiny‘s past, fighting another Fallen, Eramis. Just like the Guardians, Eramis also came for the Pyramid, but she specifically wants to use the Darkness from the Pyramids to create a Fallen utopia. Troubled by her actions, Variks implores the Guardians for help as they themselves begin to wield the Darkness.
Guardians use the Darkness through the newest subclass, Stasis. A reflection of the frozen tundra of Europa, Stasis is an ice-driven power. Many of its abilities freeze enemies solid, making them fragile to the touch. Guardians learn to wield Stasis with the help of the Exo Stranger, who was last seen in the original Destiny campaign. Unlike most subclasses, Guardians customize each part of their Stasis build. Where past subclasses force you to pick one of three pools of set abilities, Stasis gives you more malleability to your playstyle. Despite the lack of a wide variety of abilities, mixing and matching make for better-personalized gameplay than in the past.
Stasis’ is Beyond Light’s Overpowered Flaw
Stasis changed Destiny both positively and negatively. First and foremost, it completely breaks PvP areas. A Stasis grenade builds an ice wall that towers over Titans’ shields. Further, since frozen targets take massive extra damage, frozen Guardians have no chance in the Crucible. Even throwing down a Healing Rift or Well of Radiance does not prevent the seconds-long delay from freeing yourself before your average opponent puts extra bullets in. Warlocks are especially overpowered because their ultimate uses freezing Stasis projectiles and shockwaves to pulverize the frozen targets. Bungie already nerfed Warlocks once, and likely will again.
Looking at Stasis’ lore implications, things do not get better. First, Beyond Light’s story does not flesh out the moral quandary of using Darkness powers as a Guardian. Darkness has been the series’ biggest bad since launch. The Heart of the Black Garden, the original game’s final boss, came from the Darkness. Destiny 2’s original campaign, the Red War, teased the Darkness’ return at its end. Now, the Darkness stole four planets, and despite all of that, we still used its power to fight Eramis. So why are there no actual conversations about our usage? Sure, we get lines from our Ghost, Commander Zavala, and the Exo Stranger, but the story’s actual events don’t underscore their points. All we get are warnings.
Yes, Beyond Light is the first part of a trilogy that covers this topic. All of that said, this plot point could have started better.
Finally, fully unlocking Stasis takes way too long. Guardians use Stasis for brief story beats instead of fully unlocking its base version early on. These moments are generally the final act of a boss fight. Beyond Light splits into two story sections: fighting Eramis with Stasis powers, and building your Stasis powers with help from the Exo Stranger. Only when you hone your powers do you unlock the aforementioned customizations for Stasis. Intertwining the two stories could have led to intriguing plot moments and a more natural growth into Stasis. Unfortunately, what we get instead are two halves of a better whole.
Europa Brings an Imperfect Villain to an Amazing World
Eramis might not be an all-time great Destiny villain, but she serves Beyond Light well. Throughout the campaign, she repeatedly shows her might and obsession with the Darkness, claiming she can lead her people to a better future. As the Guardians get further and further into the campaign, they increasingly understand Eramis’ worldview and why she reacted to the Traveler’s abandonment as she did. That alone makes her a pertinent issue, but when her leadership causes even worse outcomes, the Guardians know that she must be stopped. Even though extra appearances leading into Beyond Light a la Savathun in Season of Arrivals could have built her up, Eramis still works as a tragic villain.
She picked one hell of a spot to settle, though. Europa is the most punishing area Destiny has ever had. Europa is the first location with a weather system. A blizzard can roll through every outdoor location on Europa, lowering visibility, and spurring winds fast enough to move the Guardians in the air or off a cliff face. Since the Destiny community cleared the new Raid, the Deep Stone Crypt, Guardians also have to worry about Eclipsed Zones. Due to actions from the Deep Stone Crypt, space debris rains down on Europa, forcing Guardians to prevent the Fallen from holding onto the area. When you do take shelter from the storm, Guardians could find themselves in a Fallen city, the Braytech Labs famous for building the Exos, or a Vex-ravaged cavern. In a series with a litany of memorable locations, Europa is the best one Bungie has ever made.
The Deep Stone Crypt is an Instant Classic
Beyond Light also would not be a Destiny content release without a new Raid. Every Raid has its lore reveals, its puzzles, and its Raid Day moments. As the birthplace of Exos, the Deep Stone Crypt has been a long time coming. The Raid is broken into three major segments before bringing you back to the front door for a final encounter; traveling to the Crypt, exploring the Crypt, and protecting the Crypt’s secrets from space. Each section also focuses on different gameplay styles, starting with a sparrow based challenged, then multiple divide and conquer challenges, before moving onto a platforming puzzle and two final Raid fights.
Europa’s abandoned lab combines everything great about Raids into one package. You want a marathon of a challenge? Check; the Deep Stone Crypt isn’t as long as Last Wish, but it’s still standard Raid length. You want massive amounts of teamwork? Also check, most Raid encounters force teams to split up into different rooms for each fight. Now what about a setting that retains specific Europan features and simultaneously adding gorgeous new sections with peaceful music to match? It’s here; the last third of the Raid is mostly in space and transition sections have absolutely gorgeous music. Raids are meant as full team challenges, and the Deep Stone Crypt challenges players to work as a team to succeed.
Bungie Started Year Four of Destiny 2 Well
This is a major turning point in Destiny. A new subclass blueprint and a phenomenal new location make Beyond Light required playing for all Destiny fans. Centering the expansion around literal and emotional coldness paid off in spades. The Exo Stranger, easily the series’ most mysterious character, needed to happen at some point, and Beyond Light was that perfect moment. Even though Europa’s frozen moons don’t cover the glaring flaws, weather effects are great additions to Destiny. When we look back at Beyond Light in a year or two, we’ll see the groundwork for bigger features and story beats in this add-on.
Will we also see the swarm of issues Stasis brings? Mostly, at the very least. Dependent on how Stasis is patched, future players won’t remember Stasis’ godhood in the Crucible. They will see its poor lore implementations, and maybe also unlock route. Regardless, Stasis’ issues don’t completely bring down an otherwise excellent addition.