Every three years, Bungie shakes up Destiny’s formula. In 2017, they deployed a full reset and started from square one again with Destiny 2, a proper sequel that turned players’ worlds upside down. The Guardians were evicted from their Tower and cut off from the Traveler’s Light, left to claw back to power and retake their home.
In an alternate universe, Bungie would still be under Activision’s umbrella and this year would have likely seen the release of Destiny 3. Instead, Bungie has released its next expansion pack and effectively caused the same impact.
Destiny 2: Beyond Light kicks off Year 4 of the live-service shooter with a bang. In a bold move, the development team has simply struck four planets off the in-game map, tucking them into the “Destiny Content Vault” for an unknown amount of time. In exchange, they’ve brought back the Cosmodrome, the Earth battleground from the first game. Also, for the first time ever, the selection of elements available to Guardians has expanded — to include a power stolen from the game’s vague antagonists, the Darkness.
These bold moves from Bungie create an environment that evokes a similar vibe to 2017, when players had to jump ship to Destiny 2. Everyone’s equipment has been bumped up to a new minimum. There’s a new baddie to take down and a great tragedy to process. It feels like Bungie hit the reset button on the console instead of pressing power and changing the game cartridge.
The main campaign is tight—not too short but not too long, and with minimal shenanigans like backtracking, and a good intro to the new paradigm. After dealing with Eramis and her Fallen army, a second storyline involving a corrupted Hive sect and the revived Uldren Sov introduces a new activity, Wrathborn hunts. Multiplayer activities like Crucible, Strikes, and Gambit feel revitalized, and special rotating events like Iron Banner and Trials of Osiris will help keep things interesting until the next season.
The game also runs a lot smoother on PS4 post-update. Load times between activities or planets has been cut in half. I was accustomed to walking away from the console while my ship is blasting to the next destination, but this is no longer necessary. It feels like a taste of what the next-gen upgrade would offer.
If you’re an active or lapsed fan of the franchise, there’s more Destiny to love here. Stasis, the new element, shakes up the seven year familiarity of the same three elements. Ice has rounded out the existing trinity of void, fire, and lightning themes for each of the three classes, and it feels like a distinct entity—although being frozen in a block of ice during the story gets tedious.
If you’re new to Destiny 2 altogether, the revised “New Light” campaign gets new characters up to speed quickly and efficiently. If you’ve tried the franchise in the past and disliked it, however, this expansion probably won’t win you over. Destiny is still Destiny, despite these changes; it may have been expanded, but the core game remains.
Story is still a prickly issue here. While the world of Destiny has a deep and interesting lore, the game itself has always struggled with presenting it adequately. Though Beyond Light handles it better than other expansions, it still feels incomplete. Years of relegating story to side menus have built a skinny foundation to build new structures upon.
Sunsetting content was a bold move, especially since it took away half of the playing field and offered one new area and one reworked area in exchange. But if my response to the Cosmodrome is any indication, it just may pay off. I felt a wave of nostalgic euphoria as I explored the familiar landscape again. All my old patrol patterns still exist. The New Light campaign starts off by recreating the intro to the original game. Now I can’t wait to see what other OG content returns, or how the Destiny 2 content we just lost will look when it returns at some point.
At the end of the day, Destiny 2 remains a solid game to dust off once or twice a week, and Beyond Light has breathed a lot of life back into its sails. Not enough to make it universally appealing, and still with a degree of repetition that can burn some players out, but setting the stage well for the next era.