My First Three Hours With Destiny 2: Beyond Light

Illustration for article titled My First Three Hours With iDestiny 2: Beyond Light /i
Screenshot: Bungie / Kotaku

Today is Destiny 2’s big day. Beyond Light, the game’s third major expansion, is finally live after a seven-week delay, and with it a major new patch and the latest season. I have a lot of feelings right now that will take days, if not weeks, to fully shake out. But at the moment I’m mostly just glad to have some brand-spankin’ new Destiny to play.

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The day one of Destiny’s annual expansion drops is always a weird mix of emotions: excitement about new places to explore and loot to collect, fear that this feeling will quickly run out as new content is burned through, and nagging frustration over whatever problems still haven’t gotten fixed. And so it’s gone for my time with Beyond Light so far. I’ve fallen back under the game’s spell but, like someone only half dreaming as they anticipate the alarm clock waking them up at any moment, I’m ready for that magic to fade away as it always does. The only question, per usual, is how long that will take.

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The Traveler has finally healed itself, although it’s still unclear if it plans to wake up and start fighting off the Darkness anytime soon.
Screenshot: Bungie / Kotaku
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The conflicting emotions around a new expansion were also compounded this time around by some worse than usual server issues, especially on Xbox, which just happened to launch two next-gen consoles today. Background server maintenance was originally supposed to wrap up early in the afternoon but has since been extended into the evening. At the same time, while I had trouble logging on right after the game came back online, things went pretty smoothly after that. (I’m playing on a launch Xbox One, at least until my Series S shows up.)

Beyond Light introduces Europa, a gorgeous, icy wasteland orbiting Jupiter that’s full of dark secrets and a powerful army of Fallen wielding a power from the Darkness called Stasis and who have been kicking my ass so far. It’s easily become one of my favorite locations in the game, perhaps second only to the Dreaming City added in Forsaken, largely regarded as Destiny 2’s high water mark.

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Europa has a campsite where you can hang around with all your favorite friends who really don’t get along.
Screenshot: Bungie / Kotaku

The wintery satellite makes a big first impression with an initial mission to rescue Variks, a beloved Fallen ally returning from Destiny 1. A bunch of cinematic cutscenes do a lot of heavy lifting in terms of establishing the stakes of what’s going on and infusing enemies and friends alike with more personality than your average Destiny story mission. The start of Beyond Light is probably the most narrative I’ve ever seen the series deliver without relying on direct narration or comms chatter to explain what’s going on.

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Here are some other quick thoughts about the expansion so far:

  • Europa has dynamic snowstorms, and they’re wonderful. I love when visibility plummets as the wind kicks up and all you can see is the red glow of Vex coming over a hill. I also love when the storm dies back down to reveal sunlight bouncing off Europa’s blue ice in all of its crystal clear beauty.
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Screenshot: Bungie / Kotaku
  • A few story missions in and Beyond Light’s Fallen are already tearing me apart. The new powercap is 1260, and at 1065ish I already find myself scrambling for blue engrams to boost up my power so I can keep progressing. It’s a nice change of pace after new story content has been easily burned through in the past.
  • I forgot how much I miss Variks.
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  • The Cosmodrome is back and feels just like home. Its loot cave is still no more, but dusting off Fallen in the Steppes is really taking me back, like walking the halls of your old high school but much less depressing.
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Screenshot: Bungie / Kotaku
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  • I’m going through bounty withdrawal. Variks, Europa’s vendor, won’t give you any until you finish Beyond Light’s main story campaign, and so far I haven’t made contact with the seasonal vendor. As a result I’m relying on Gunsmith bounties and whatever I can scrape together during planetary patrols. It might come as a relief if I weren’t desperate to start grinding up the new seasonal artifact and season pass as efficiently as possible.
  • Europa is fresh, but the loot pools are not. So far I’ve gotten a few Legendary drops, but it’s been all old stuff. It’s been pretty deflating. My first new engram was literally another Steel Sybil Z-14. Vendor gear has been updated but the world drops still feel more disappointing than not.
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Screenshot: Bungie / Kotaku

That last point is probably the biggest head scratcher so far. Not only am I getting mostly old gear so far, it’s also all still dropping below the game’s current infusion cap, meaning that even though I’m getting it this season, it will be sunsetting within the next couple seasons rather than a full year from now. A lot of these are weapons I wouldn’t normally bother with, but the fact that they’re also going to be obsolete within the next six months makes them feel that much more like clutter.

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Alongside Beyond Light Bungie dropped update 3.0.0, which changes a ton of stuff. Most of it Bungie discussed earlier this fall, but a few things, like weapon rebalances and tweaks to vendor armor drops, have been laid out in more detail in today’s patch notes. A lot of the changes, like the infamous hand cannon nerfs, I’ll need more time to mess around with to form an opinion on. On the brightside, Hawkmoon, the quickfire hand cannon from Destiny 1, is back, and I’m looking forward to seeing if it’s still as fun to use as it was last time around. Another returning exotic is the shotgun Chaperone, which you can get from a quest held by the Cosmodrome’s new Vanguard scout, Shaw Han. He seems nice.

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Screenshot: Bungie / Kotaku
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The other big space elephant in the room is the vaulting of about half of the game. Titan, Mercury, Io, and Mars have all been taken by the Darkness, along with their quest givers, public activities, and strike missions. The new map looks pretty, but it’s also a lot more empty.

The Beyond Light era of Destiny 2 could end up being a more focused affair, or it could just suffer from the same content shortages that have dogged the game since release. Game director Luke Smith also seemed to confirm in an interview with PC Gamer today that Witch Queen, Destiny 2’s 2021 expansion, won’t be unvaulting any of the older destinations either, though it will get a brand new one.

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Like I said, I’m both tentatively excited for what I’ve seen so far in Beyond Light and also, as trained by expansions past (Rise of Iron, Shadowkeep), cautious about how long that will last. For now though, there’s still plenty more to chew on.

Screenshot: Bungie / Kotaku
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I haven’t even finished getting my own Stasis powers yet, let alone experimented with them on each of the three classes (early reports: they are extremely rad). I think I’ll go do that right now.

Here We Go Again:

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Kotaku staff writer. You can reach him at ethan.gach@kotaku.com

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DISCUSSION

I still just don’t think they’ve done anything to reduce Destiny 2's reliance on FOMO. As an example look at all of the retired exotics from the retired planets. Yes, Bungie has said they’ll be obtainable in other ways, including I assume the catalysts... but Bungie doesn’t have a good track record of this kind of revising action. They instead layer more and more on top of the game as a policy.

I’ve come to terms after a few months of a break that the first thing I log on to do will probably be to wipe my vault out of all of the purple weapons that I pushed so hard to earn the rolls I preferred of, and that I’ll probably be missing a few vital mods for future builds because of course mods are based on RNG vendors and seasons. But I think it’s absurd that Bungie cut out all of the exotics and catalysts from content with a vague “you can get it other ways!” promise. At this point if you don’t have Izanagi’s catalyst? Count on never having it. It just all feeds into the constant FOMO and when I look at the commitment Destiny 2 tried to demand in the past, it turns me off.