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Destiny expansions have usually had two distinct flavours over the years. On the one side of the annual content schedule, you’ve had the likes of The Taken King and Forsaken, massive chunks of content that rocked the solar system with cataclysmic events and deaths, introduced wild new modes, and cast players into gigantic sandboxes full of mystery and danger.

On the other side, you’ve had updates such as Rise of Iron and Shadowkeep. Smaller in scope, geared towards veterans, and feeling like a celebration of everything that Destiny has to offer while also veering closer towards territory where you feel like you’re simply going through the motions. Destiny 2: Beyond Light is the third option then: A mix of the two that is paradoxically massive and yet small in scope, feeling less like a sequel expansion and more like a soft reboot for the series since developer Bungie parted ways with Activision a while back.

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Beyond Light’s greatest achievement is that it finally gets the story rolling once again in Destiny 2. After years and seasons of build-up, the Darkness has finally arrived in our neck of the solar woods, taking several planets with it and sealing them in the shadows. More of a corrupting influence than an all-powerful big bad that’s sitting in the corner and twirling its mustache while maniacally laughing, the Darkness is a mantra of survival of the fittest wrapped up in layers of temptation.

It’s not long before you get your first taste of that power, with the brand-new subclass of Stasis. Compared to the Arc, Solar, and Void subclasses introduced in previous expansions, Stasis is a wildly different take on the idea of power and unleashing it all at once in a heroic display of skill. Whereas the Light gave Guardians overwhelming force in a single moment of glory, Stasis is more subtle.

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It’s about control and domination, freezing enemies in cosmic ice and then shattering them apart as you control the battlefield. While the Warlock Shadebinder class has already been nerfed into orbit, the Hunter Revenant and Titan Behemoth make fantastic use of these powers. When used in unison though? They’re weapons of massively icy destruction, unleashing causality-defying abilities that hinder, immobilise, and smash enemies into the very atoms that they were made from.

There’s even more to Stasis though, as slotting in Aspects can unlock fantastic new combinations that lean harder than ever into RPG territory. With Iceflare Bolts equipped in my Stasis menu and some more tinkering on my character, my Warlock basically has infinite grenade energy when I get stuck in a certain cadence of combat. And that’s just the tip of the cosmic iceberg.

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Stasis is a Swiss-army knife of possibility, an intricate collection of tools that are going to pave the way for how Guardians use and harness the Darkness in the future. If this is the first step into a realm of shadows and entropy, I can’t wait to see what Bungie has in store for the opposite side of the power coin going forward.

And then there’s Europa itself. Much like the Tangled Shore and the Dreaming City, Europa is a massive sandbox in which to use these new toys. It is both a collection of icy wastelands and technological marvels, home to all manner of Vex and Fallen antagonists who roam the land and hide in every corner of it. There’s a level of polish and quality to this destination that videos cannot fully capture, and its sheer size is breathtaking to behold.

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If Shadowkeep used a new version of the Moon from the original Destiny with several new chunks added to it, then it’s clear where Bungie’s A-team effort went to when you explore Europa. I love how the Clovis Bray labs look like they were designed by Stanley Kubrick after he inherited a trillion bucks. I love that random storms kick in and obscure your vision, and I adore those spaces that are empty tracts of open land while I look upwards and gaze at Jupiter.

Europa is also where you’ll spend the majority of your time in Beyond Light, thanks to a storyline that does a deft job at actually making you care about not only the future of the Guardians but even the fate of some of your most tenacious enemies. Between Eramis, the return of Varicks, Uldren Sov’s rebirth, and the appearance of Hive god of War Xivu Zarath, Beyond Light has a lot of story to dig into and threads that will provide a meaningful push to keep pumping lead into interstellar space gods well into 2021 when the next big expansion, The Witch Queen, arrives.

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But where Destiny 2: Beyond Light adds to its toybox and mythos, it also takes away. There’s no getting around the fact that with the vaulting of a large chunk of content, Destiny 2 feels smaller than ever before. Yes, the Cosmodrome from the original Destiny is back but it currently feels like a carbon-copy copy and paste job in comparison to Shadowkeep’s rebirth of the Moon patrol area.

It feels dated, a distraction that’s simply there for a few quick bounty grinds. Before it was downsized, Destiny 2 had a lot of content to offer (and still does!), but the missing strikes, raids, activities, weapons, and DLC content such as the delightfully underrated Forge Ignition activities are going to be missed.

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Also controversial has been the decision to essentially sunset a lot of gear and weapons, rendering them functionally useless for high-level pursuits due to their meager power cap. While that move has resulted in Guardians being forced to not rely on a specific arsenal all the time, it still makes me sad that the Black Armory gear that I worked my butt off for, was made pointless.

And yet I’ve got hope for the future of Destiny. Beyond Light paints a fascinating picture for the direction of the series, essentially hitting the F5 button and refreshing Destiny with new ideas, themes, and a razor-sharp focus. The canvas that Destiny 2’s story is being painted on is fresh out of the packaging and the first brush-strokes are already forming a beautiful new picture.

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It’s up to Bungie to finish that potential masterpiece over the next year with seasonal activities, pursuits, and new content that truly does go Beyond Light.

Last Updated: November 24, 2020

Destiny 2: Beyond Light
Less is more, and Destiny 2: Beyond Light feels like a positive first step towards a new era for the franchise. New Stasis subclasses, a compelling storyline, and a gorgeous new planet to explore make for an intriguing new direction for Bungie’s cosmic sandbox.
8.0
Destiny 2: Beyond Light was reviewed on Xbox Series X
70 / 100

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