Bungie’s made the old feel new again, even if September ’14 doesn’t feel so long ago. In Destiny 2: Beyond Light, players are returning to parts of the game world they’ve come to know for more than six years — as well as some that were intended for the original Destiny but scrapped prior to release.
Tuesday evening, as I hopped on my sparrow and cruised across the frozen wastes of Europa, its Golden Age ruins took me right back to the underrated, and underutilized, Martian city of Freehold. Old allies, and answers to even older mysteries, didn’t signal some bold new step for Destiny 2. But it’s the sort of cozy familiarity I cherish right now, in 2020, as the United States makes it increasingly hard to enjoy something like an MMO.
Visiting the Cosmodrome to harvest “spinmetal” and hammer out some bounties for XP felt like such a chore six years ago; now, it’s the sort of luxury you can spend days looking forward to. The Steppes, the Forgotten Shore — these are places that feel lived in after the 1,974 hours I logged in the original Destiny.
Setting aside nostalgia and comfort, there’s plenty more the developer gets right in this expansion. Eramis, a Fallen kell who wants to turn her forces into servants of the capital-d Darkness, is out to get revenge on the Great Machine that abandoned her people — the Traveler that later granted the Guardians their cool video-game powers.
She’s a fantastic villain compared to previous baddies from the series — arguably the best from a narrative standpoint — and always fun to watch in ways that Dominus Ghaul, in retrospect, was not. You sympathize with her plight; her anger feels righteous in a time when so many feel like their leaders have forsaken them IRL.
And, naturally, it feels great to gradually become a badass ice mage, tempted by the dark side. It feels good to shoot monstrous aliens and giant machine dragons and watch your stats climb higher. New armor and weapons are part of the reason we keep coming back. But the social experience of gathering a fireteam of your friends and taking on new challenges together — that’s the real joy of these annual expansions.
I might’ve preferred a little more interaction with the entities of the Darkness; I might’ve preferred to spend a little more time with the Exo Stranger than I have so far. I wish it wasn’t so structurally similar to last year’s Shadowkeep. The Beyond Light quest line left me wishing there’d been just a little something extra — a trip back to those Venus environments from the first game, for instance, would’ve been a nice surprise.
But I suppose that gives us something to look forward to in 2021.
By the end of Tuesday night, I was exhausted, but also eager to return to Europa and uncover more of its secrets. I can hardly wait to see more of the Cosmodrome and check out the new opening-tutorial quest.
This isn’t the glorious, weird, dazzling triumph that Forsaken was. Instead, it’s the kind of confidently sentimental adventure the game needed in a year like this.