“I don’t have time to explain why I don’t have time to explain”.
As those of you who witnessed some of the amusing dialogue in the original Destiny may have gathered from my opening quote, the Exo Stranger is back in Destiny. And this time she does have time to explain, so it’s all gravy. What this rambling preamble is leading up to is the latest expansion to Destiny 2 – Beyond Light. That said, expansion may be a bit of a misnomer, as while it certainly adds new content to the game, what Bungie giveth with one hand, they taketh away with the other, and a lot of content seems to have been “Vaulted”.
Let’s concentrate first on the good stuff; on the new things that Beyond Light brings to the party. There’s a whole new planet, Europa, to explore, which seems to be extremely cold judging by the ice and snow everywhere. There is a whole new section of the campaign to go at, with the usual Bungie tropes of “You’re the only Guardian in the whole Tower who seems to know one end of a gun from the other, so we’ll rest the fate of the universe on your shoulders, again”.
This time, the Pyramids that have been threatening to bring an end to the Light and the Traveller have appeared throughout the solar system, and the Fallen have made a deal to take advantage of the Darkness contained within. What this means in practice is that Eramis, the new Kell of Kells, and her new House Salvation have managed to acquire splinters of the Darkness, and this grants them immense power. While we have been used to only having three flavours of power all through the Destiny journey to this point – Solar, Void and Arc – now the Darkness has bestowed the power of Stasis, which basically means Ice. Getting hit with a Stasis attack freezes you solid, and as you can imagine the bosses of the new campaign arc, who all use it, are a real pain to take down. Of course, we decide that the best way to deal with this Darkness power is to fight fire with fire, and we take the Darkness into ourselves, causing Ghost to have something of a nervous breakdown. How can Light and Darkness exist in one host? Well, therein lies a tale, but for fear of spoilers I’ll halt the exposition there.
Now, another thing that Bungie usually adds in these expansions is a whole host of new Exotic weapons and armour, alongside new ordinary loot that ensures your old gear looks a bit sad. I stopped playing Destiny 2 at the end of Forsaken pretty much, and the whole Shadowkeep thing passed me by, so it was a nice surprise to fire the game up and see that my three guys had been upgraded to 1050 light. Of course, I’m at the end of the campaign with my Titan now, and she’s levelled up to 1206 light, but my goodness the going is slow once you get past 1200. I mean, I ground my way through Destiny when the cap was only in levels, not light, and the only way to get stronger was to find better gear, and I don’t remember it ever being this hard. I’ve been battering the Strike playlist, and apart from an Exotic sub machine gun that dropped at 1204 light, the game has been trolling me by giving me armour at 1199 light, for instance. And even worse than that, Bungie have now introduced light level caps on the older kit, which is a bit of a kick in the teeth.
In addition to the new gear, Bungie have also added in new Strikes and even a whole new Raid – the Deep Stone Crypt. The new strikes are the usual mix of mayhem and destruction, and the Glassway, one set on Europa, has a memorable Vex climax that takes some getting used to. New public events make a debut as well, including one involving three robots that look like the Fallen have been playing Titanfall; massive bipedal machines that hit like a train and have overshields, just to make things that little trickier.
In addition to Europa, Bungie have brought back the Cosmodrome to have a run around in, and this is a pleasantly nostalgic trip down memory lane. Do you remember way back in the misty days of the first Destiny beta, when we got access to the Cosmodrome? And the first thing everyone did was to decide to go off piste and go exploring underground? Remember the Hive Knights that wrecked you? Well, they are back! When you hit the Cosmodrome again, the knights are too powerful for you, but I’m pleased to report that with a little light grinding they are eminently killable. All in all, there’s a lot of fan service in this expansion, showing some love to the older locations, and with rumours swirling around that the Vault of Glass is due to be relaunched, I am pretty damn excited to see what Bungie bring to the table next.
Now, as mentioned at the top of this review, Bungie have also decided to get rid of a lot of content in addition to adding new stuff. While adding Europa and the Cosmodrome, they have removed Mars, Io, Titan, Mercury and The Leviathan, as they have been “Consumed by Darkness”, and added to the Destiny Content Vault. Basically this is a way of Bungie shrinking the game – making updates easier as they don’t need to support all these extra areas. In addition to removing the locations, a lot of the story is now counted as “legacy”; even the Shadowkeep missions that I hadn’t played are now counted as Legacy content. Also disappearing into the vault are a load of weapons, which will no longer play any part in the game. Some of these are Exotics, but not all hope is lost. You see, in the Tower there is now a vendor where legacy Exotics and armour can be purchased, but the price is amazingly high, needing ridiculous quantities of planetary consumables as well as other items. It’s nice to have the chance to complete a collection, but their light cap is mostly low, and so they are now largely irrelevant.
Luckily, Destiny 2: Beyond Light plays just as well as I remember Destiny playing, and it doesn’t take long before you will be back into the swing of things – running, gunning, and picking up sweet loot like you’ve never been away. The core gunplay at the heart of Destiny has always been good, there’s no denying it, and with this expansion it feels equally so. The graphics look pretty great as well, even on an Xbox One S, as Europa is the first bit of Destiny I’ve seen with weather effects; snowstorms close in and make everything almost impossible to see. Having a massive ruck with a gang of Fallen or Vex when you can barely see five yards in front of you is an interesting experience the first time it happens.
Also launching alongside the new content is Destiny’s latest Season, The Season of the Hunt, which has us working with the Spider and the Crow, (a memory impaired Uldren Sov, believe it or not) who have missions for us to hunt the “Wrathborn”. These Wrathborn are corrupted Cabal and Fallen that have been exposed to the magic of the Hive God of War, Xivu Arath, and they need taking out. In all, there is plenty to keep you occupied.
In conclusion then, while Destiny: Beyond Light on Xbox does axe more content than it adds, it is still worth playing through. The new world is an interesting place, and with a lot of post story content coming from Variks, the scope to have fun is large. A new Raid makes me happy indeed, and with new exotic quests and Hunts to take part in the future does appear to be bright. While achievements would have been nice as well, Bungie, there’s enough here to make up for the losses.