Bungie’s chief franchise has established itself as one the most continually engaging games of recent years. An achievement owed in no small part to it’s ground-breaking approach of weekly resets, routine updates, ever-evolving end-game material and, most importantly, it’s periodic DLCs, giving players a constant feed of fresh and exciting content. And the formula works. Even Call of Duty, the long-standing flagship shoot-em-up (especially after Halo seriously dropped the ball with it’s 5th instalment) has adopted many of Destiny’s ideas, gently pushing the FPS genre towards a more open, level-focussed, customisable game, boasting systems usually only found in RPGs. In November 2020, Bungie handed over it’s latest DLC package – Beyond Light – showcasing new class abilities, campaign missions, multiplayer content and a box-fresh open-world map (an alluring sight for those of us tired of the old maps and desperate to explore some un-chartered territory). But did this swath of shiny new content prove a worthy addition to the Destiny franchise?
Like the majority of Destiny’s DLCs, Beyond Light begins with a cinematic and voice-over by Commander Zavala voiced by a magisterial Lance Reddick. He declares that several worlds have disappeared from the system and can no longer be found. Frustratingly, the worlds to which he is referring are all formerly playable maps that have simply been cut from the game. So right out of the gates Bungie has removed a significant portion of Destiny’s appeal by withdrawing four open-worlds and and replacing them with just one, Europa. For a gamer like me who was looking forward to re-playing some of the previous campaigns (for which I had already paid by the way) I was not happy. Furthermore, Bungie won’t allow you to just omit the download and continue playing the game as it was because it prevents you from opening the game until the update is in place, even if you haven’t bought it! This comes back to one of the fundamental reasons for my love/hate relationship with destiny and it’s the fact that as a player who is invested in the game, the world, the story, etc, your loyalty is rewarded by making you pay for every drop of new content, and for me, no DLC to date has never been worth the not-very-modest prices. So Beyond Light is off to a bad start in my books and I’m already feeling that bitter twinge of regret as I think about the money I’ve just parted with.
However, as the opening cinematic continues I feel slightly more settled at the sight of some familiar faces that we haven’t seen in some time, as well as an intriguing new mystery. Now I’m just praying that Bungie stick the landing story-wise as it’s the core plot elements that usually fall short. With the plethora of lore surrounding Destiny and the world that Bungie have created, it’s not a lot to ask to have the campaigns serve as the outlet for that mythology, providing the players with back-story and insight as well as having a good time shooting some aliens. Admittedly, they do this to an extent, however, the lens through which the narratives are told is painfully narrow and usually focussed on one or two characters within a single, fairly unremarkable adventure. Everything else to do with the mythology is buried in a sub-menu, which is brutal to have to dig through to read it all yourself. By the time the campaign is over (which can usually be plowed through in a matter of a few hours) I rarely feel more enlightened or like I have a deeper, more detailed understanding of the world and characters.
The story of Beyond Light does break some new ground though in terms of the over-arching narrative of The Darkness, an entity or entities that have arrived in the Solar System and promise salvation for the human race. The Darkness has served as the backdrop to the Destiny story-line from the very beginning and is finally coming to the forefront (it’s only taken 7 years). It also feeds into the gameplay as it offers up a Dark ability known as Stasis for you to harness and utilise throughout the game which is mischievously fun to use in PvP but throw-your-controller-at-the-wall enraging to be on the business end of. The villain of the campaign, Eramis, is a rather one-dimensional baddy on a rather one-dimensional revenge mission. She has acquired Stasis and wishes to use it to destroy things, pretty standard. The game makes a small effort to make her somewhat sympathetic but again, all the nuance and detail of her character is hidden in her backstory which can only be accessed through the sleep-inducing Lore sub-screen. And annoyingly, the campaign is again far too short and I hope someday Bungie will recognise that though end-game content is all well and good, some of us just want a nice meaty story to keep us occupied for more than a short weekend. It’s fun to see the return of some old characters though, such as The Drifter, Eris Morn and The Exo Stranger (not her actual name) now played by Moira Quirk as they make a spectacular entrance in an exceptional set piece cinematic which is arguably the high point of the DLC. We also find out where Variks has been hiding and with him comes a new activity and and few interesting little quests for armour. Another additional activity comes in the form of an unexpected mission to The Moon where we meet Osiris, the central character from a previous DLC and a newcomer who goes only by the name The Crow. There’s some intriguing material to dig into there by performing Wrathborn Hunts, another brand-new activity introduced with Beyond Light.
Just because I want more story-line though, doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty more to dig your teeth into. The seasonal rewards are reset so players can collect all manor of loot and gear from levelling up again, there are all the open-world activities to do on Europa, there are some ridiculously fun new abilities to master and of course there’s a brand new Raid (Raids being the signature multiplayer activity of Destiny) where teams of up to 6 can venture into the mysterious and treacherous corners of the worlds and take on the most powerful enemies in the game. All great stuff. Unfortunately for me though, as the only one of my friends who plays Destiny on Xbox One, I can’t access the Raids because its literally impossible to complete a Raid on solo. This has been a peeve of mine since day one but I’ve made my peace with it.
Though this may read like a luke-warm review, there’s still lots to love about Destiny and there’s a reason I keep coming back. The PvP modes are diverse and interesting, changing each week, keeping it engaging and challenging as one of the most popular gaming modes for any FPS (who can say they don’t love the satisfaction of sniping another player’s face off from across the map?). Gambit remains an infuriating yet exhilarating mode that is unique from anything found on any other shooter and as usual there’s a host of new gear to acquire as well as the return of some classics. So for the gamer who’s preferences lean more towards these elements, I’m sure it more that makes up for any weaknesses found elsewhere.
Ruling – Well, if you want PvP and exploration then Destiny is still the king of the FPS but if like me you’re after some decent, lengthy campaigns, you’ll be left wanting…again. After playing some of the greatest games I’ve ever played this year in the form of Spiderman, The Last of Us Part 2 and Ghost of Tsushima, I can’t see myself coming back to Destiny again, at least not any time soon. By this point, I’ve been stung too many times.