Review: Destiny 2’s Beyond Light is very light on content

On paper, there seems to be a lot here - a new story, a new class ability, a new location, and the long-awaited return of a certain mysterious Exo. But getting into the nitty-gritty of Destiny 2’s latest expansion it falls well short of Bungie’s past efforts.

Consider Destiny 1 for a moment. Around the same time, Bungie released The Taken King. The expansion managed to achieve the rare feat of incorporating player feedback, telling an incredible story, and adding a sizeable chunk of content. There was a new location, new enemies, weapons, activities, and one of the best D1 raids, King’s Fall.

Compare that to where we are with Destiny 2 however and there’s really no comparison. What’s on offer here is, ironically, beyond light (as in “beyond light on content”). There’s a new location, Europa, and a handful of story missions to play but at this point in the game’s life cycle I came into this expecting much more from Bungie – I’m sad to say there just isn’t enough here to justify a $40 price tag.

Destiny 2’s biggest expansion, Forsaken, had tons more content by comparison and for the same price. There were new strikes, a long story campaign, new raids, new weapons, armor, you name it. This was a return to form after Curse of Osiris and Warmind, the first two pieces of D2 DLC which fans widely regarded as lackluster and rushed to market.

I’m sorry to say Beyond Light shares more in common with those two miniature expansions than some of Bungie’s beefier (and similarly priced) experiences. But I guess we saw this coming. After last year’s Shadowkeep, a mediocre and unmemorable trip back to the moon, I had a bad feeling that standards had once again slipped.

Less is Less

It isn’t even a case of “less is more” with Beyond Light, it’s really a case of “less is less.” Besides a story campaign you can beat in an afternoon, a location where the main things to see are snowdrifts and white fog, players will find substantial parts of the game missing. 

With Beyond Light comes the concept of “sunsetting” where Bungie would remove locations, activities, items, etc. from the world in order to deal with the game’s ballooning file size. This however has, at least in my opinion, cut far too deep. Not only did players sign in to find that all their gear was power capped at 1060, but they also found that something like 70 percent of the guns had been removed from the loot pool.

This hits hard on two fronts. One: the armor you’ve been grinding up to masterwork status must now be thrown in the trash and you have to start over. This means all the resources you’ve poured into your armor over the last year was a waste of time.

This has a knock-on effect when trying to play the game’s story campaign as you literally can’t progress until you level up. I found myself dropping out of the story to go grind old activities just to be able to finish story missions.

A disruption like this hasn’t happened since Black Armory’s Season of the Forge where you worked your way up to unlocking the forges only to find you weren’t powerful enough to play them.

The second knock comes with your arsenal being, for all intents and purposes, rolled back to the launch of the game. Almost all of your guns, except exotics, are now likewise capped at 1060, which means you have to completely abandon all of the builds and combinations you’ve fine-tuned over the years.

I can understand removing some content that people just don’t play and is taking up space (who has been grinding escalation protocol lately?) but to take all of a player’s gear away and not even have that tied into some kind of story beat is a bridge too far.

It feels like rather than innovate, Bungie decided to hit the reset button on every guardian so they’ll need to regrind their armor and find replacement weapons – to essentially go back and replay the game they’ve already played. They also apparently intend on doing this every year from now on so the work you’re putting in now just to get back to where you were will likewise be stripped away from you.

This just feels really unfair because I was pretty happy with my setup. I had earned it. It took time to grind out my god-roll Trust hand cannon and to masterwork my Parcel of Stardust. It smacks a bit too much of disrespect of players’ time to arbitrarily take away the progress they fought for.

Hitting the Reset Button

It made sense going into Destiny 2 to have Destiny 1 players’ vaults destroyed when the tower was attacked in the Red War. Clean slate, everyone starts over. The changes to gear and weapons now is just coming out of nowhere. The only reason I can think of that Bungie would do this is to artificially inflate the playtime by rolling everyone back.

This is a problem because when Luke Smith and Mark Noseworthy revealed Beyond Light to players back in June they didn’t say anything about removing armor or weapons from the game, only that content and destinations were being vaulted to control the size of the game. The news about armor and weapons was slipped into a blog post in May that most people likely missed.

So far I’m pretty disappointed with what they’ve done here. Bungie has removed more content than they’ve added. I could feel my face involuntarily frowning as it sunk in that all of my favorite guns were now useless and the time I’d spent getting them would have been better spent doing something else. Learning to play the tuba, perhaps.

But it’s really the price that’s getting me. I’m pretty stunned that Bungie can ask $40 from their fans – nearly the price of a brand new game – and offer up what in the final analysis is a hollowed-out Destiny experience.

The one saving grace is Stasis. Stasis, the new ability, is definitely fun to use even though it does feel like it needs (and will likely eventually get) additional subclasses. As a hunter it feels great to be able to summon a barrier with the glacier grenade, giving the class a much-needed protective ability.

It’s been fun trying out the new stuff in Gambit and Crucible but it feels like there are empty spaces where content should be. I should be enjoying stasis with my old build. Instead, I’m struggling to get by with whatever I can get my hands on, which isn’t much.

Out in the Cold

I’m a hand cannon main for the most part and I haven’t seen a new one drop yet. Any new gear I’ve come across has been rewards from completing story missions and at the earliest opportunity, I’ve infused it into what little remains of my viable gear to get it back up to a useable power level. This meant I also had to limp through the story using whatever viable gear happened to drop; I played a good chunk of the story with a sniper rifle and it felt awful. Bottom line: being forced to play a certain way that isn’t fun, sucks.

It doesn’t feel great either to get dunked on by NPCs that only a few weeks ago I was squashing. With my recovery, resilience, and mobility all taking a nosedive thanks to my old armor getting power-capped it feels like being forced to relive high school and still being bad at math.

To be charitable, Beyond Light is likely a clearing of the deck to make way for all the things they plan to add to the game. The Witch Queen is the next DLC, likely due next fall, and Lightfall after that possibly in the summer. Destiny 2 will likely end there.

A New Road or the End of the Line?

I’m beginning to think Activision wasn’t the problem with Destiny. It made sense that a business-first approach was killing the free spirit of the developers and making Destiny 2 a less-fun game to play. But now that they’ve long since left their former publisher in the rear-view mirror the blame for the game’s shortcomings now rest only with Bungie.

It’s been a year since Shadowkeep and if Beyond Light is the best Bungie can do with that much time then we should all be worried. After finishing the campaign and looking around for something else to do I was at a loss. I’ve never seen the Destiny world look and feel so empty. What are we supposed to do for the next year while we wait for The Witch Queen?

Supposedly things like Vault of Glass will be coming out of the content vault and potentially old weapons too but it feels like this expansion should have launched with some of that content to pad things out. Sure, they brought the Cosmodrome back, but there doesn’t seem to be much to do there.

There are a couple of new exotics to chase and a new exotic grind with legendary lost sectors, but I still can’t shake the feeling I didn’t get my money’s worth. Is Beyond Light’s story good? No. Is Europa interesting to explore? No. Is there enough new gear to make up for the loss of my favorite weapons and armor? No. Do I have confidence Bungie can right the ship? With every questionable move, I’m losing faith that they can.

Bungie needs to stop making big mistakes and then wallpapering over them with apologies. Fans want content, not to hear that Luke Smith is sorry we’re disappointed. Fans will be less willing to accept recycled content at price points between $25-40 now after being let down back to back with Shadowkeep and Beyond Light.

If I were them I’d reinstate the gear in everyone’s vault and backtrack on sunsetting. I’d release a clear roadmap of where the game is heading and work on immediately introducing D1 content to make up for Beyond Light’s thin offerings. I’d also give anyone who’d bought Beyond Light the season pass for free or $20 in silver to make up for what’s been a pretty disappointing launch. This was supposed to be the major fall expansion to heat up the franchise. Instead, guardians have been left out in the cold.