I’ve been playing Destiny since the first game’s beta in July 2014, and without fail have played every expansion, although for varying amounts of time. The original Destiny I played daily for upwards of four or five hours a day over the game’s nearly four-year-long lifespan thanks to being in high school in 2014. The release of Destiny 2 had me excited more than you could probably imagine. I was in college, meaning I could commit far more of my time to the game. I was so wrong.
The first year of Destiny 2 was an unmitigated failure if you ask me. The game was stripped of pretty much everything that made the original interesting: weapons were less powerful, less interesting, and less varied thanks to static weapon rolls. Armor was bland and too similar, and I finished everything the game had to offer within the first month.
Long-time veterans of the franchise know that that’s by no means special, but the issue was how few players actually stuck around through the game’s first year. The subreddit was filled with posts claiming the game was dead, that Bungie had spoiled their goodwill with their fanbase by repeating the mistake they made with the original. But somehow, the franchise survived and we got Forsaken.
Forsaken reinvigorated the player base and brought thousands of players back with the promise of randomly generated weapon rolls, faster movement and deadlier everything, and new classes for players to use. This also saw the start of the seasonal content, which not only brought in more players, but kept the vast majority of them playing.
Shadowkeep was the next big DLC drop and disappointed some players due to how short it was, and the fact that it was compared to Forsaken, which is wildly heralded as having saved Destiny 2 from the same fate as games like Anthem and Fallout: 76. Shadowkeep in and of itself wasn’t a bad DLC, but compared to Forsaken, which drastically altered the game and brought fan-favorite features back, it just wasn’t going to be able to stand up, especially after Bungie split from Activision and went independent.
Beyond Light is Bungie’s second step as an independent developer, and the first that feels the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the development of the game. And I have to say, it’s pretty solid. The expansion has plenty going for it, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some issues with the state of the game right now, less than a week out from launch.
We’ll start with the good, because this does have a lot of good going for it. The new subclasses using Stasis, tied to the Darkness, are a ton of fun to play. The abilities are a lot of fun in the game’s PvE aspects, and offer tons of an insane amount of options in PvP. We’re only three days out from launch and the vast majority of the player base doesn’t have the subclass unlocked, so take that with a grain of salt for now. It could get a lot worse (and it looks like its going to sooner than later, but more on that later.)
The story is also pretty good, but if you’re expecting something on the level of games like Fallout: New Vegas or The Witcher 3, I’m afraid you’re looking in the wrong place. The story is predictably linear and doesn’t offer anything shocking or twisting, but it’s entirely possible the coming season, the Season of the Hunt, could change that up, but as of the game’s release, there’s not much here. Your Guardian is tasked with stopping Eramis, Kell of Darkness from building an army of Darkness-wielding Fallen and attacking the Traveler and the Last City.
Europa is going to serve as my segue between good and bad because the new destination is…good and bad. For the good, the map is fascinating. It doesn’t feel quite as secret-filled as Destiny’s Dreadnaught, but it isn’t as empty as Destiny 2’s Mars. The enemies have distinct areas they call home, with the landscape and buildings you see changing as well.
As for the bad…well, there’s quite a bit. Europa is the first time Bungie has implemented a sort of dynamic weather system, with sweeping snowstorms covering entire areas of the map and cutting visibility. It’s gorgeous and interesting the first few times, and downright annoying by the time you finish the expansion’s main campaign.
Speaking of the campaign, it’s short, difficult, and pretty bland. The entire thing took me about six hours with a three Crucible matches and a short stop at the Cosmodrome to help me level. The leveling of this expansion is among the oddest I’ve experienced. Maybe I’ve been away for too long, but the initial hump of going from 1050 (where you start this expansion) and 1100 (the level recommended for the first boss fight) chewed up the majority of my playtime. I’m pretty sure this expansion could be completed in five hours if you’re really optimize your leveling experience.
My other issue with the campaign, and the expansion as a whole, is with how the Stasis subclass is handled. I know Bungie was planning on really leaning on the RPG elements, but the fact that the new subclass, used to market the entire expansion, is unusable outside of carefully selected set piece moments is a slap in the face. Players essentially have to sit through six hours of “meh” story to even get to play with the new toy of the expansion.
When it comes to “toys” this expansion falls short in another area: the loot. The Destiny franchise is a looter shooter franchise. They practically invented the genre, which is now populated by games like The Division and Anthem, and Beyond Light has introduced a whopping 20 new guns. There were a few new armor sets, but one is a repainted version split across three factions and one is tied to Europa; that doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
Most damning in my opinion though, is how completely unbalanced the new Stasis subclasses are in PvP. The Warlock Super is the primary issue, able to freeze and then kill players through multiple walls and freeze any player (even in a Super) solid, leaving them at the mercy of whoever is doing the freezing. The Titan Super has been widely found to be inconsistent and buggy, while the Hunter Super doesn’t even seem to have much of a purpose, filling the same exact role as Blade Barrage but having a slightly more interesting neutral game.
This hurts because I’m almost exclusively a PvP player, with hundreds of hours in the Crucible in both games. During each content draught the franchise has been through, I’ve been safely tucked away in the Crucible, enjoying the moment-to-moment interest of playing against other people. Now? I don’t have that because everyone and their dog is just freezing anything that moves and killing it.
At the end of the day, Beyond Light can be a lot of fun if you’re the right type of person. I played for six hours last night and all I want to do right now is go back to playing to grind some more light levels and try the harder content, especially with the Season of the Hunt hopefully starting to ramp up and add some desperately needed content. But this expansion, and this franchise, isn’t for everyone, something that the Destiny community is quickly starting to realize Bungie discovered as well. Destiny’s strength has never been its wide appeal to a huge number of gamers. It was always going to be a niche title. The problem I worry about now is that Bungie is leaning so hard into the small subset of active players that actively grind one activity for dozens of hours a week for the “god roll” weapon that they’re going to leave the rest of us in the dust.
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