Were it not for Bungie’s split with Activision last year, it feels like Destiny 2’s latest expansion, Beyond Light, might have just been called Destiny 3 instead. As the first installment in a trio of announced expansions, Beyond Light takes some bold steps in a new direction for the series – whether it’s the story’s darker, morally grey tone, the removal of legacy content from Destiny 2’s sandbox, or our formerly-exemplar Guardians giving in and using the corrosive power of The Darkness. In many ways, this is not the same Destiny 2 we’ve been playing for the past three years.
But where Beyond Light deviates from its legacy in some important ways, it also finds itself making some of the same mistakes all over again. With a campaign that’s too short, an endgame that has you grinding the same activities ad nauseum, and a sandbox that seems perpetually imbalanced, my Guardian’s adventures on the snow-covered moon of Europa sometimes had me feeling left out in the cold in a very familiar way.
Beyond Light’s campaign begins with a bang, as several planets in our solar system are blinked out of existence by Destiny’s longtime evil: The Darkness. You’re deployed to Europa in search of answers but, strangely enough, the adventure that follows is largely unrelated and frankly you never really find the answers you’re looking for. Instead, you end up going toe-to-toe with a particularly nasty Eliksni named Eramis, who has discovered a way to wield the awesome power of The Darkness in the form of a cosmic ice called Stasis.
This story is one of the strongest in the series, mainly because Eramis is the first Destiny villain I’ve ever empathized with (and even felt a little sorry for). Many of Destiny’s best characters also receive a ton of much-deserved screen time including The Drifter, Variks, Eris Morn, and The Exo Stranger, who we haven’t seen since 2014 and who now takes the spotlight in a major way – and this time she finally has time to explain. Like most Destiny expansions, though, the campaign ends too quickly at around 6 hours long, and it leaves you with plenty of loose threads that aren’t likely to be addressed anytime soon. As a result, the fight with Eramis and her Stasis-wielding army ultimately feels like a side quest in an epic odyssey that will take the next two expansions (and potentially beyond) to play out.
This story is one of the strongest in the series, but it still ends too quickly.
Europa itself is a well-crafted frosty wasteland filled with darkness-wielding Fallen and milk-filled Vex that gives you plenty to grind for, but it offers few surprises. The most unique thing about Europa are the weather effects, which will regularly whip up a snowstorm that whistles in your ears and obscures your vision. During the campaign these snowstorms are really cool, immersive events that make you feel like you’re fighting against the moon itself as much as you are Eramis’ armies. But once the campaign ends and you’re running around Jupiter’s moon doing public events and patrol missions that you’ve already done a thousand times, the frequent whiteouts can get old pretty fast – I’m just trying to collect flecks of dark, my dude.
Aside from the weather, there isn’t a whole lot about Europa that we haven’t seen elsewhere. You’ll do some public events, including plenty you’ve already done on other planets, find a few lost sectors to loot (ones that are among my favorites yet, even if they’re largely brief distractions), and run around completing patrols and looting chests until your thumbs bleed. There are a few new enemy types that mix up the Destiny sandbox ever so slightly, but nothing as major as a new faction being added like in The Taken King or Forsaken. There’s also a neat new strike called “The Glassway,” which pits you against some more nasty robots and their inappropriate time travel shenanigans. All told, Europa is a nice addition to Destiny’s ecosystem of explorable locales, but very much par for the course with others we’ve seen.
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