It’s another year and here comes another Destiny 2 expansion, Beyond Light. After a short delay, Guardians are finally be able to set foot on Europa, learn more about its secrets, and harness a form of the Darkness via an element known as Stasis.
The question, however, is if this whole thing is worthwhile. Truth be told, it’s too early to tell given that we’re only in the first week of Beyond Light‘s release. There might be new additions in the coming weeks or once the raid, Deep Stone Crypt, goes live. Unfortunately, there are already so many problems that it’s going to be an uphill climb for Bungie.
Welcome to Europa
Destiny 2: Beyond Light‘s campaign starts off with a recounting of events that brought you to this moment: the arrival of the Darkness’ Pyramid ships, the loss of contact in various planets, the machinations of Savathun, and a distress call from none other than Variks. The wayward Eliksni is on Jupiter’s frozen moon of Europa, and he ends up in the clutches of Eramis.
This misguided Fallen leader of House Salvation seeks to use Darkness to empower her remaining people. In a way, her motives do make sense if you’ve been following Destiny 2‘s lore. The Fallen have been lost since the Traveler left them. Perhaps using the Darkness is the only means of uniting the fractured houses.
As you hunt down Eramis, you’ll be treated to Europa’s frigid and unforgiving landscape. Snow-capped hills, freezing temperatures, ruined facilities, and blizzards that give zero visibility make this destination quite immersive and picture-perfect. Again, Destiny 2‘s visuals, art, and level design remain top-notch and Europa is bound to wow you for the first couple of hours as you explore it. Oddly enough, it seems Bungie wants players to fully immerse themselves in Europa’s harshness and beauty. That’s because Europa has but two fast travel points, both of which are at the southern tip of the map. Frustratingly, though, most of Destiny 2: Beyond Light‘s campaign missions take place in the northern region. That leads to a lot of unnecessary back and forth.
Progression in Destiny 2: Beyond Light
So, how exactly did I go about Destiny 2: Beyond Light‘s grind? Well, given that the power level requirements in Europa’s missions kept getting higher and higher, I decided to farm in the Hellmouth instead. That’s currently the fastest means of reaching the 1,200 power level soft cap.
Next, I completed Destiny 2: Beyond Light‘s campaign. It definitely felt like a slog. It’s not that the tasks were difficult. Rather, they were so repetitive and dull that the post-campaign missions were more interesting. Imagine going to the southern areas to talk to Variks or the Exo Stranger, then heading north to use your Stasis element powers on hapless mobs. That’s followed by a battle (or Empire Hunt) against one of Eramis’ lieutenants, and you’d turn in that quest in the south and sparrow your way back to the north for another mission. Lather, rinse, and repeat, and that’s Destiny 2: Beyond Light‘s campaign.
I was even surprised when two characters who were featured prominently in trailers barely made an impact during the campaign. That was a major disappointment considering that these two characters have the most experience and familiarity with the Darkness. On a positive note, we do see returning characters who play important roles such as Variks the Loyal and the Exo Stranger. Anyway, after finishing the campaign, I grabbed No Time to Explain, did Variks’ bounties, and obtained the Salvation’s Grip. I then started unlocking the requirements for the Stasis subclass’ aspects and grenades while doing various playlist activities for powerful drops.
Stasis is a cool element
Speaking of Stasis, the new element/subclass introduced in Destiny 2: Beyond Light is, for lack of a better term, very “cool.” While noted as a gift from the Darkness, it’s simply your Guardian using ice and frost attacks. For instance, my Warlock’s super turned her into an ice mage to freeze and then annihilate packs of mobs. Meanwhile, her melee attack is a ranged cryo bomb.
Stasis has offensive and defensive utility; it’s definitely a breath of fresh (and cold) air to see a new element incorporated in the game. You freeze and shatter enemies with your abilities, and grenades can be used to wall off entire sections.
Sadly, I do have a couple of gripes here. First, it’s that Stasis is a nifty element to have in PvE. But, I still feel that it pales in comparison with other subclasses even after you’ve obtained new grenades and aspects. I doubt I’d even use it in high-end content. Second, it’s the fact that it’s an absolute pain to be on the receiving end of these skills in PvP. Don’t get me wrong: I do love using Stasis in Crucible matches. However, it’s almost a given that a melee freeze is enough to take out an enemy since they can’t move or fire their weapon, and breaking out of the effect (if they manage to) still damages them. It’s very unbalanced at the moment. I’ve no idea why Bungie decided to have Stasis function in this manner for competitive play. In previous efforts, the studio emphasized a desire to balance the PvP and PvE aspects. Stasis will clearly need some reconsideration.
Yet another stunningly terrible decision in Destiny 2: Beyond Light is the concept of sunsetting. When it was originally announced months ago, I already had concerns. While it’s true that Destiny 2 needed some fine-tuning and balancing (because many of its weapons were too overpowered and a majority of items were barely getting used), Beyond Light finally showed us that sunsetting was a mistake.
On paper, the idea was commendable; it’s the execution that was so poorly done. At present, every legendary weapon and armor before Season of Dawn (December 2019) has been capped at 1,060 power level. Of course, you can still use them in various activities. But, that’d be next to pointless since activities (including those that take place on Europa) have a higher power level requirement. Take note that the current cap is 1,260 power level, so it’d be silly to bring anything that’d cause a huge drop.
Now, what do we have that can replace all of the sunsetted equipment? Well, Beyond Light‘s current PvE content only added a smattering of tools. I doubt they’d even prove to be as useful as the reliable Bygones, Mountaintop, Recluse, or Hammerhead. At the very least, exotics weren’t affected. Plus, Gnawing Hunger and Falling Guillotine (added during the Season of Arrivals in June 2020) remain viable since they can still be infused. In any case, I’ll see what the weekend holds, level up my two other characters, and discern if Destiny 2: Beyond Light is worthwhile.
Update: Following up with the Fallen
I noticed how bland and tedious the entire process felt as I leveled my two other characters. Normally, all you had to do was complete an expansion’s or season’s campaign. Afterward, you’re set for the gameplay loop until you reached the endgame. In Destiny 2: Beyond Light, you had to replay even the post-campaign quests like Born in the Darkness to obtain additional perks for the Stasis subclass. While some parts are removed to speed up the process (i.e., you no longer had to collect Entropic Shards for the Stasis aspect), you still had to do bounty-like tallies such as shatter kills, playlists with Stasis equipped, and so on.
Regarding tallies, Bungie has been heavily criticized for this concept in the past due to Destiny 2‘s overdependence on bounties. Now, it’s as though Beyond Light doubled down on it. Remember the Obelisks in Season of Dawn and the Rasputin Bunkers in Season of the Worthy? In Destiny 2: Beyond Light, Variks has a similar function. The main difference is that you’ll need to complete each checklist of tasks before you can acquire a specific perk. That’s an absolutely perplexing idea.
Again, this coincides with a gameplay loop/design that makes absolutely no sense. During a majority of these objectives (whether from the Exo Stranger or from Variks), you’re just redoing the same tasks or revisiting the same locations that you’ve been to during the campaign. How many times do I have to commune with the Darkness and have a “super-fiesta” just to understand how Stasis works? Why do I have a checklist to kill a number of mobs using Stasis after the campaign when that’s what I’ve been doing throughout the game already? It would’ve been better if these tasks were part of a shorter and tighter campaign instead of what we have now. As it stands, Destiny 2: Beyond Light‘s progression feels artificially padded to a fault. It’s meant to make players put in more time doing meandering activities, perhaps to create an illusion that people are engaged even if they aren’t.
Destiny 2: Beyond Light is a step down in many aspects. From a boring campaign that has you going back and forth for no reason to a weak mission structure where objectives are a rehash of what you’ve done prior, it feels like a chore to try and redo everything on your other characters. Then you’ve got the Stasis element which is decent in PvE, but horribly unbalanced in PvP. Next, there’s weapon/armor sunsetting where the new seasonal items don’t seem as functional as the gear that got replaced. Oh, and we haven’t even discussed the Destiny Content Vault and the removal of multiple locations and activities, as well as the Cosmodrome seeming like almost an afterthought.
For now, Destiny 2: Beyond Light has some stuff you can look forward to as seen in the seasonal calendar below. The so-called Season Mission and Wrathborn Hunts go live on November 17 and the Deep Stone Crypt raid releases on November 21. There may be a couple more exotic quests and several secrets to find. Likewise, given what we’ve seen before, Bungie might continue the story in subsequent weeks.
Sadly, it’s going to be tough to get back on track. Destiny expansions are supposed to give new life to the game. They’re fresh starts after whatever disappointments existed in previous seasons or DLCs. However, Destiny 2: Beyond Light has several problems from the get-go, and questionable decisions that lead to a tiresome experience. This is nowhere close to what Forsaken provided, and it doesn’t scratch the itch the same way that Shadowkeep did. From the first week alone, Destiny 2: Beyond Light might be the most exasperating full expansion that Bungie has released for its online looter-shooter franchise.