I think I say it every year, with every new expansion: Destiny 2 is a hard game to review. Not the least of which is because of its nature as an ever evolving, ever changing living game. Beyond Light today is not the same game as it was back when the expansion launched on November 10th. And over the course of the next few months, and especially over the next year, Destiny 2 will continue to update and grow and change.
I already gave a cursory review of the New Light new player experience, which revamps new player onboarding in a big way and brings back a huge chunk of an original Destiny location. This review will largely be talking about Beyond Light and its current seasonal content.
Destiny 2 Beyond Light Review – The Expansion
Beyond Light effectively comes in two parts. There’s the Beyond Light expansion proper—the foundational addition of narrative, locations, and game content—and there are the Seasons—four over the course of the year beginning with Season of the Hunt.
While the Beyond Light expansion and Season of the Hunt are inextricably linked in many ways, I also want to approach them separately as much as possible. At the end of the day, everything comes together to make Destiny 2 what it is today, right now, but it’s these fundamental building blocks that demand examination before putting it all together to look at the experience as a whole.
Beyond Light kicks off the first of three new story chapters, a new arc in Destiny that has us as Guardians going, quite literally, beyond light. The Exo Stranger returns after vanishing at the end of Destiny 1’s main campaign, now intent on getting us to embrace and use the Darkness in our fight against that very thing. We’re headed to Europa, where long buried secrets about the creation of Exos await and the Darkness crosses into that narrative plotline in unexpectedly devious ways.
Europa is both coldly beautiful and treacherous. Weather changes can make the landscape go from a serene white icescape to a barely navigable blizzard in a matter of moments. It feels like a civilization lost to time, buried beneath the ice, a dangerous but inescapable mystery. I was a bit worried that a purely icy map would get boring over time, but it’s really one of the best patrol areas we’ve had in a while. My one criticism about the patrol area is a lack of good fast travel/landing points, so trudging up to the farthest north corners of the map is a bit of a slog.
On the surface, Beyond Light’s story of Eramis rallying the Fallen of House Salvation acts as a bit of a “freak of the week” (or rather, year) type of episode. It sets the stage for a number of other narrative elements that are sure to play out in the future (Variks’ return after causing the death of Cayde-6, the unearthing of the Deep Stone Crypt and Exo tech, our own adoption of the Darkness powers to combat her and her lieutenants), and there are countless bits of lore seeded throughout, but Eramis herself is a quickly defeated threat, with the Darkness seemingly abandoning her just as quickly as the Traveler did. Us humans, always ruining it or other species…
I’ve been consistently impressed with just how much better Bungie is getting at telling interesting stories in-game, however. Delving into Europa, Clovis Bray, the Deep Stone Crypt, Exos, the Darkness, the Exo Stranger, and a whole lot more feels like Bungie is circling back on some of the series’ most long-standing mysteries. Beyond Light absolutely feels like a game for the Destiny player who has been there since day one, rewarding our long patience by tying back into those threads and exploring lore more deeply than ever before.
But more than just lore, there’s a depth and emotion and a context that is presented with the lore. There’s the relationship between Ana and the Exo Stranger. There are the tensions with Clovis. There’s an enormous reveal about Banshee-44. There’s Eris and Drifter and the Exo Stranger leading a sort of “Darkness Vanguard” in using forbidden powers, something that feels directly at odds with the currently shattered Vanguard of the Light. And there’s an emotional connection with your Ghost based on the decisions you make to embrace using Stasis. It all threads together to make one of the most engaging stories Destiny has ever had, where I feel more emotionally involved as a guardian than ever before.
On Ice – The Darkness Powers of Stasis
The biggest new gameplay addition is arguably Guardians now wielding the Darkness in the form of a brand new Stasis subclass. Stasis is loads of fun to play around with, adding new freeze and shatter effects that aren’t so much about strict single-target DPS output, but more about controlling the crowds. Bungie also changed the way these subclasses can be customized on all characters, which requires a lot of grinding to unlock elements known as Aspects and Fragments to modify your abilities.
At first blush, the grind seemed heavy to get these additional options unlocked. The quests are lengthy, and they are locked out on a weekly basis. But I really have to appreciate Bungie adding something that feels like a culmination of effort and time, rather than just handing us the Stasis subclass sight unseen. The core elements of Stasis are largely available to use after finishing the campaign, but if you want to optimize your new icy cold Darkness powers, you’re going to need to work for it.
This iteration of Stasis feels like just the beginning too—of Stasis itself, additional Darkness subclasses to come, and even a fundamental shift to how we engage with our Light-based powers one day. This is all part of Destiny’s evolution over time. Remember in the beginning of the original Destiny, Guardians didn’t even have all three Light subclasses. An additional one was earned per character with the Taken King expansion, subclasses that have now become foundational to how we play. This is just the beginning of three years venturing beyond light, and I expect Darkness will become just as foundational to Guardians as the Light is.
I should also note that Bungie is quickly working to balance Stasis abilities. At launch, they were far too imbalanced, particularly in Crucible against other players, but a quick fix brought them down to more manageable levels. I do wish Stasis had a rotation in the sets of bounties you could get and weekly ritual activities, as well as weapons with the new element, but again, that’s all something I expect to get seeded into the experience over time. For now, it’s still the new hotness.
Enter the Deep Stone Crypt – The Raid
The new Raid is always a pillar of any Destiny release, and after more than a year since the release of the last Raid (Garden of Salvation alongside Shadowkeep back in October 2019), it’s amazing to have a new set of encounters and mechanics to master. Deep Stone Crypt is arguably an “easier” Raid, perhaps one of the easiest in Destiny memory. But it’s mechanically fun, full of fascinating lore, and has some of the most exciting set pieces of any Raid yet.
Deep Stone Crypt sends you into the legendary facility of the same name, where Clovis Bray was toying with the darkness, experimenting on Vex, and creating Exos. It ties into the wider lore of Europa and the post-campaign missions that opened up once the Raid was cleared for the first time. There are thrilling moments like taking the space elevator for the first time, or the muted sound and serene music as you go on a space walk outside the space station.
The whole thing culminates in literally crashing a space station into Europa, ripping open the Deep Stone Crypt so its secrets are open to all, but hey, at least we disabled the nuclear cores so the whole icy moon didn’t just explode on impact. I was a bit confused by the final boss, which was robo-Taniks who somehow got perfectly fused into a giant shank during the space station crash? Definitely not as memorable of a boss encounter as something like taking down Oryx, but the overall theming and moments in the rest of the DSC Raid do lot of the heavy lifting here.
On the loot side of things, this is perhaps the most excited I’ve been for Raid loot in a while. Exclusive perks mean there are great reasons to grind out different rolls, and these are some of the best feeling Raid weapons in a while. The Raid itself not being a frustrating experience makes a big difference to this grind, a healthy balance of interesting mechanics and the ability to pick up an encounter after a mistake and still finish it. I’ve already replayed it multiple times and specifically ground out my other two characters to make sure I can play it as many times as possible per week.
The Crypt is Open – Post-Campaign
Destiny 2 continues to evolve over time, and after the Raid, Europa changed. Additional story and missions give players more things to do, similar to how the curse cycle was unleashed on The Dreaming City after Forsaken’s Raid. Debris rains down in places called “Eclipse Zones,” and we finally met Clovis Bray, or at least the AI that allows the Golden Age madman to live on. We got additional story with the Exo Stranger, Ana Bray, and even a surprising reveal regarding forgetful Exo Gunsmith Banshee-44. Beyond Light has been some of the absolute best in-game Destiny lore and world building, and it feels clear Bungie is trying to recapture some of the magic that brought about the creation of Destiny in the first place.
Destiny 2 Beyond Light Review – Season of the Hunt
Season of the Hunt is the Seasonal content which began alongside Beyond Light. As of right now, it seems largely unrelated to Beyond Light, Europa, the Deep Stone Crypt Raid, and the overall expansion’s campaign and story, though these plot points may weave together over time.
For now, it focuses on the return of Uldren Sov, now known simply as Crow as a Guardian who doesn’t remember his past life (or past transgressions). Crow is now in the employ of Spider, who allegedly loaded his Ghost, Glint, with a bomb to keep him in line. Crow is working with the now Ghostless Osiris (Sagira sacrificed herself to save his life) to track down Hive obelisks that are driving enemies mad, courtesy of Xivu Arath. Honestly, it’s a lot to take in.
These add another fun activity to participate in called Wrathborn Hunts, which allow players to target loot and the gear grind in unique ways with a customizable lure, drawing out these Wrathborn combatants. It’s intriguing, but arguably the strongest draw to the seasonal content is finally getting this update on where Uldren, or rather Crow, is now, as well as his interactions with Glint, which are some of the best writing Destiny has ever had. Right now, Season of the Hunt hasn’t really evolved much, so it’s hard to gauge where it’s headed and how it might eventually tie into everything goin on with Europa.
Overall, this review feels like it’s just touching on the surface. I could wax poetic for tens of thousands more words about everything Beyond Light has to offer. I could review the Raid encounter by encounter, each piece of loot, the new subclasses, and every bit of new lore we’re being presented with. And by the time I was done with all that, the game would have evolved enough to write a few thousand more words about those changes (after all, the next-gen update does drop tomorrow, bringing a native PS5 client).
Suffice to say that Bungie is recapturing the magic that Destiny has always had at its core. It’s exploring concepts and story ideas that fans have been speculating about for years. And it’s focusing on developing a game for the players who love Destiny, not trying desperately to change things to get new players on board. As a living world, iterative in design with an evolving narrative and constantly updated content, Destiny 2 changes persistently, but Beyond Light feels like a whole new foundation rooted in the kind of space magic and vision that has made Destiny special all along. I can’t wait to see what comes next.
Destiny 2 Beyond Light review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS5. For more information, please read our Review Policy.