You Need to Play the Riskiest Sci-Fi Adventure on PS Plus ASAP
What is beyond the light?
How many heroes in science fiction and fantasy embrace the Darkness to fight for the side of good? Bungie’s Destiny franchise may use overly simple terms like “Light” and “Darkness” to describe abstract cosmic powers, but it’s hardly the binary parallel to good versus evil that it sounds like.
2020’s Destiny 2: Beyond Light expansion explores the grey areas between the two in drastic ways by having the player Guardian wield the icy magic of Stasis that’s powered by the Darkness. Though The Witch Queen is often lauded as the series' best story arc, Beyond Light takes bigger — and more interesting — risks that make you rethink the fundamental dynamics of the many cosmic forces at play.
Heroes in Stasis
Pretty much up until Beyond Light, the Destiny universe simply had good vibes and even better gameplay. The first-person shooter combat is snappy and fun, easy to pick up but as challenging to master as you want. But for years, virtually every mission felt the same: Run as fast as you can to the objective marker and wield the Light to destroy everything in sight. You didn’t even need to follow the story if all you cared about was the grind.
Beyond Light takes some daring narrative risks that force you to pay attention — and it lays the foundation for some of the franchise’s very best storylines.
As part of the ongoing war between Light and Darkness, a faction of Fallen aliens discover how to wield Stasis, an ancient frost magic rooted in Darkness. This magic is just as powerful as Solar, Arc, and Void powers rooted in the Light, so for an alien general to claim its power for her lieutenants is a major threat. So you venture to the frigid moon of Jupiter, Europa, to defeat them.
No Time to Explain
“I don’t even have time to explain why I don’t have time to explain,” is an oft-memed quote from the original Destiny that’s forever seared into my brain. In the very first story campaign, the time-traveling android called “The Exo Stranger” recruits you to destroy the Vex robots corrupting a weird place called The Black Garden. And when you try to learn more about her, she drops this line. But “no time to explain” became an ironic motif for the franchise: For so long, the ongoing Destiny story would present all sorts of new characters and ideas while leaving plot threads dangling.
The Exo Stranger is cool as heck, but it took six years for Bungie to do anything with her. She takes center stage in Beyond Light to bring a lot of closure to major parts of the game’s narrative. Like the Fallen Kell Eramis, the Exo Stranger also communes with the Darkness to wield Stasis, and she brings you along for the ride through an ongoing story campaign that sees you gradually unlock these awesome powers.
From a game mechanics standpoint, Stasis completely overhauled how Destiny 2’s magical classes work. Rather than preselect a batch of abilities all tied together, you could cherry-pick specific abilities and then enhance them with a handful of different “Aspects.” In the two years since Beyond Light, every class and subclass has followed the exact same rework, so build-crafting is more robust than ever before.
But even at the story level, all of this is a big deal, and the fallout is still happening in Destiny 2 as the Big Bad leader of the Darkness, the Witness, is set to assault Earth in the upcoming Lightfall. Several key characters like Commander Zavala remain deeply skeptical of anything having to do with the Darkness whereas others, like the Exo Stranger, see its value. Even the seasonal content from the Beyond Light era focused on compromising our preconceived notions about good and evil.
After months of tensions and conflict during Season of the Chosen, the alien Cabal Empress Caiatl entered into an alliance with humanity. Then, in Season of the Splicer, the Light-loving Fallen leader Mithrax sought refuge for his people in humanity’s Last City. These days, walking around Destiny 2’s social hubs feels surreal, because you see innocent aliens that look exactly like the ones you’ve killed thousands of times over.
Beyond Light really hones in on that moral grey area that makes us question why the Guardian does what they do. Destiny 2: Lightfall — due out February 28, 2023 — is about to shake things up in a big way once it introduces Strand, yet another Darkness-based subclass. But it also feels like the endgame for this ongoing struggle between Light and Darkness. If the title is any indication, then it may be bad news for the Light. Maybe it’ll end in the destruction of both?
So whether you’re a new or returning player, consider grabbing Destiny 2: Beyond Light while it’s free on PlayStation Plus until March 6.