Mikkel: As the Destiny franchise enters its 7th year of content, I can safely say that the game has functionally remained the same. You have space magic and space guns, and you do a wide variety of space activities. Certain systems have been broken and rebuilt several times over, but the game itself hasn’t changed. We’ve essentially been playing the same game. For six years. And there is nothing but solid evidence that I will be playing it for several more years to come.
Post-“Shadowkeep”/”Season of the Undying”, we experienced the alright during “Season of the Dawn” with the Sundial and the return of Saint-14; the worst content drought since “Curse of Osiris” with “Season of the Worthy”; and the best season of the year with “Season of Arrivals.” This introduced my personal favorite dungeon of Prophecy, a whole new arsenal of exciting weapons, and a couple announcements of fundamentals changes to the game, namely gear sunsetting and the Destiny Content Vault which all factor into the experience.
It’s incredibly difficult to evaluate a game as a service because the game exists in this temporary temporal state. Talking about Beyond Light would have been different at the end of the first day, versus the end of the first week, versus the end of the second week when we’re actually sitting down to talk about it. But I think we now have enough data points to talk about the trajectory.
Will, where do you want to start?
William: Mikkel, I think we start at the beginning. And by beginning, I mean the end of the beginning in Destiny 1’s vanilla campaign. Yes, the “No Time to Explain” line in the cutscene remains the most cringeworthy spoken line in all of Destiny’s history, but I loved the Exo Stranger back then and was pretty sad when they first said she wouldn’t be making a return in the sequel. Mikkel, you ever experience when a music album comes out and there’s that one song you absolutely love that most people aren’t talking about? And then it gets released as a single or the artist does a video production that includes it and now everyone loves it. But you secretly hate that because it felt like it was “yours”? That’s what the Exo Stranger aka Elizabeth Bray aka BaExo was for me. Now everyone is an Elsie fan and I’m over here like, “I never left, E. I never left.” I’m going on this extended rant about Beth because she is a huge centerpiece of Beyond Light’s story and its world. Everything connects to her in some way and this feels like the best centralized character driven content that Destiny has put out in a while. Even more so than Eris was for Shadowkeep.
If we just stay with Beyond Light for a moment, it is deceiving how freaking huge Europa is. After the story and the post story, it did have the sense that we didn’t get much. And then we got the seasonal content (which we’ll get to later) and that didn’t feel like a ton either. But then we got the raid (which we’ll get to later in part II) and it feels like the content that came after *that* hits a benchmark that feel substantial to the expansion.
Mikkel, just Beyond Light on its own (saving the Raid of course), how did you feel about the changes and added content? Eramis? Stasis? Chatty-chatty Variks the No Longer Loyal?
Mikkel: Beyond Light definitely left a much better first impression than its immediate predecessor. The main campaign was a fun jaunt that gave us a taste of Stasis throughout different missions, which underpowered left like a decent challenge. I enjoyed having Variks back on the comms. I loved the cinematics and how much story was told actively through the game, especially during the lengthy post-campaign a la the Taken King era, except with a lot more inter-dependencies. I.e. before you can continue working with the Stranger, make sure to do the thing with Drifter, who needs you to do the thing with Variks, which was fine although a little roundabout at first glance.
Although, until you mentioned it in the Discord, I didn’t exactly see how the Eramis’ story line was functionally Skolas (including the goddamn leveraging of the Vex for nefarious purposes). But still, it felt cool exploring Europa for the story and in general.
Europa’s easily the biggest destination they’ve put in the game and it’s only gotten bigger which is a wild thing to say two weeks in. I love the weather effects and the lost sectors. I love the fact that Ghost sometimes talks to me as I’m walking about the world. I especially love the Exo specific dialog I get much like our Awoken friends got back in the Dreaming City.
And the topic that’s on everyone’s mind: Stasis.
From my Titan’s perspective, the Behemoth straddles the Striker’s active add clear and the Sentinel’s support role. Stasis’s inherent crowd control is really highlighted in the new encounters that Bungie has crafted. Slowing, freezing, and shattering makes mad control, especially in a team setting (I cast Glacial Quake to generate a bunch of stasis crystal from my Hunter friends to Shatterdive). It took awhile for me to get used to the kit, but it’s definitely going to be what I default to in general play. The nice thing is that I can still see uses for the other subclasses. Striker is still going to be more lethal. Sentinel still has more buffs. Sunbreaker still has more range, but Behemoth is just more utilitarian and fun. Note: this is true for both PvE and PvP, just in… very different ways haha.
That said, at time of writing, Stasis only has two aspects and 6 fragments available: a far cry from the customization I thought I would be getting. Cyroclasm and Tectonic Harvest are great abilities, but in order to leverage it to use, I’m sort of forced into using the Glacier Grenade. Right now, my choices are which of the three fragments I get to slot and for me it’s a no-brainer decision. I know inevitably more aspects are coming in the future, but I want more flexibility. While I think I’ll keep Cyroclasm forever, I would be interested in trading Harvest for a different ability that lets me use the Coldsnap Grenade, or a less potent one for more Fragment slots.
How’s Revenant working for you?
William: The Hunter Revenant is damn fun. The abilities not only complement each other, but also complement the typical play style for people that choose hunter. Quick hitter burst damage, great lateral mobility, crowd preoccupation as opposed to crowd control. Stasis is really fun and I think everyone is hoping the other subclasses get the Stasis build treatment. Though, that seems like a ginormous undertaking, so I wouldn’t hold my breath. It seems more realistic that we’ll get more Darkness subclasses before we get reconfiguration of our Light ones.
That being said, Stasis is broken in PvP. It was more broken before the Warlock nerf, but the freeze mechanic, Titans sliding 2.2 miles with a shotgun in tow…there’s elements that still curb the enjoyment of jumping to PvP a bit. I think we’ll get some independent tuning as the season goes on. It’s not “roaming supers last for 7 minutes” at the beginning of Forsaken bad, but it ain’t great right now.
I agree with most of the Beyond Light stuff in general. Once we got the full menu, there’s a lot of game there. As we write this, the loot is being adjusted with more world drops to compensate for the sunsetting. I’m still in favor of sunsetting. But it was obvious that the aggressiveness of the sunsetting and the lack of new weapons being introduced was a problem. We’re getting more loot from previous seasons making its way into the world loot pool…which is great…but doesn’t solve the “same weapons we’ve had for years” problem. Which leads me into the actual Season, “Season of the Hunt”.
Let me say quickly, I really like where the story has started. I say started because it was like getting a three page prologue chapter. The question is, will the season be novel length or a short story. If its the latter, then the story element of this season will feel lacking. Great premise, Uldren is dead. Long live Crow. He’s gonna keep saying oblivious shit and every time I’m just like, dude, you have no idea. Spider became a full-fledged character and I hope that continues. AND THEN THEY KILLED SAGIRA OFF SCREEN. There are about four different theories as to why this happened (outside of the game world) and I think they all make sense. But I’m still mad about this. Morena Baccarin is such a great voice actress and it hurts to lose a prominent femme voice in this game.
As for the gameplay loop, its…fine. The hunts are cool. They don’t take a ton of time to complete. The loot isn’t as plentiful though like it was for Sundial or Menagerie or the Prismatic Recaster. What it takes to charge a lure and complete an activity for one piece of loot is a little more grindy than previous versions. And then there’s the loot, the original target of my segway. Nothing really stands out there. The customization and how you can drill down perks feels cool. But Menagerie had Beloved (and others). Sundial had Perfect Paradox. Prismatic had Falling Guillotine and Cold Denial. “Season of the Hunt” has… deafening whisper? I guess. Friction Fire, the kinetic smg? Like…I guess? I dunno. What are your “Season of the Hunt” impressions so far?
Mikkel: I concur that the most exciting thing to come out of the Lure’s system loot pool is the Deafening Whisper. I also would really love to see Linear Fusion Rifles get a flat damage buff so they have a reason to exist. (I would not like to see another thing compete for special ammo, since their Fusion rifle cousins are also struggling with shotties and snipers as is).
I share your same sentiments. The hook for the season is great, the loot is aggressively average, but most pressingly to me is what the gameplay loop of charging your lures means functionally.
Both “Season of the Hunt” and Beyond Light have a heavy emphasis on core playlist activities: Crucible, Strikes, and Gambit. These are fundamental parts of the game for the vast majority of the player base and Bungie very much wants us to play them. We saw hints of this with how the Festival of the Lost was set up with the Ciphers, and it’s even more evident now with the three-ish matches to get a lure, the choose your own adventure for Adored and the Fragments, the various quests asking for three runs.
These are the parts of the game that haven’t changed much. And I enjoy playing the game, so I don’t mind hopping into matchmaking, but they’re also not terribly exciting compared to what the true face of the end-game is. But to do the pinnacle content, there is an expectation to dedicate time to the grind.
And Destiny is a game that demands dedication, but Destiny is a game that very much rewards that dedication. I think with that, it’s time to talk about the one thing we both really want to talk about: The Deep Stone Crypt.
SPOILERS START HERE
William: Yes, it comes with great satisfaction that I can say Spoiler Warning for a raid that came out less than a week ago for which I have arcane knowledge of! Bullshit aside, let’s go big and whittle it down. This is the best raid experience since The Last Wish. Which means it may be a top 3-5 raid experience for Destiny all time. The aesthetic, the story, the puzzling and mechanics. DID I MENTION THE AESTHETIC. We practice space magic all the time in this game, but we went to actual space. And then crashed back down. Some are sick of Taniks, but he’s an A+ villain in the lore and in the game play dating back to Destiny 1. The evolution of Taniks as a big bad that has killed or outlived several guardians (my dear Hunter dare heart), dying and being rebuilt in so many ways is great. I was surprised and excited to see him come back in this iteration.
In general, though it has now become a big talking point on twitter and whatnot, Bungie feels like they’ve finally struck a balance of making the Day One raid experience as accessible as possible and still making prep and strategy a tough hill to climb. This is by far my favorite raid launch experience, possibly helped along by the fact, that we beat the fucking raid within 35 hours of it launching.
Mikkel: if we can trust raid.report early reporting, 33 hours and World’s 13598 team overall haha.
Having only run Deep Stone Crypt the one time, I am itching to go back for the Descendent title and the loot and the experience. The Augment mechanic shows that Bungie is still out here giving us a fresh new coat of pain that gets every one to engage in parts of the encounter. No longer are the days where you can be delegated roles. No, this one you have to be ready to call audibles and be flexible in the approach.
But my god. The moments in the raid that are breathtaking. Searching for the Crypt in the frozen tundra. The reveal of the Statute of Darkness. Clarity Control. CLARITY CONTROL. That’s it. That’s the tweet.
It’s gonna be hard to beat Last Wish as a holistic experience, but this raid keeps you engaged, keeps you moving. The raid mods and armor matter. The raid weapons look fantastic with a deep loot pool. And the ability to collect Spoils of Conquest (through hidden chests, repeat encounters, or the legacy raids) to get targeted repeat drops is a gift and something the dedicated player base. It’s definitely going to rank very highly on my list once the dust settles.
We’ve never been as powerful for a launch of a raid before with two weeks to grind and Charged with Light and Warmind mods and, to echo Will, serious props to Bungie for making the best part of the Destiny experience open to all who put in the effort to try. Contest Mode Atraks-1 is one of those encounters that will forever stay buried within my heart. It was an experience and one I’m already itching to go back to. The fact that it triggered a cool exotic quest with the Lament, the Exo Challenges, and the Eclipsed Europa Zones just makes it such a fantastic experience.
Mikkel: So the question then becomes, is Beyond Light worth it? Is Destiny 2 worth getting into or back into? Well, it depends on what you’re looking for.
I ran through the New Light campaign, which is a nice reprisal of the first hours of Destiny (including a redux of one of my favorite missions). It’s a much cleaner experience that gets you up to date. If you like the feel of the game, you’ll probably like Beyond Light, but to fall in love, you’re gonna need to commit a little.
As someone who realistically only plays this game, I’m not sure I can ever leave, haha. I love my Guardian. I love the reward and I love sharing in the experience of the game because it’s such a cool world with so much to do. I’d urge folks to come back to the Light, or rather… embrace the Darkness. See if the magic flares back up. Because while the bones of the games haven’t changed, the bones are still solid and Beyond Light has certainly set a much better tone for Year 7 of the franchise.
The fact remains Destiny has outlasted several of its competitors. Honestly, the only thing that has gotten close to taking Destiny out has been Destiny itself. The staying power of the franchise is evidence because at its core, the game is fun. The game play feels good and all that’s needed is enough incentive to play to have a good time. And I am definitely going to have a good time this year.
William: “Games as Service” is a term thrown around a lot and it works as an attempted descriptor of a game, but I don’t think the genre exists outside of a couple of titles now. They never last. What does exist is the Destiny franchise and a lot of competitive multiplayer games.
I’ve made my feelings pretty clear about Beyond Light and the new season, but at launch, it was frustrating as someone who got the new consoles and was really looking forward to new games on those new consoles. As diehard a Destiny player as I am, if this season didn’t have a raid attached to it, I definitely would’ve been late to the content in favor of playing Miles Morales, Demon’s Souls, etc. And I still plan to play the hell out of Cyberpunk, as apparently it really exists, when it drops in a couple of weeks. But a good raid makes damn near everything else great. Europa was very cool like The Dreaming City was very cool and then the raid happened and similar to after Last Wish, it took those destinations to S-Tier. I begrudgingly grinded to begin this expansion, but the pay off has been immense.
I do think this season has a lot in store for us. I’ve been waiting for Xivu Arath’s arrival forever. I’m curious to see what new role Osiris plays in the events moving forward and is…Ikora gonna contribute at some point? At any rate, if you’ve been away from the game for a while and are curious, like Mikkel said, you gotta put in the work, but it’s as fine tuned a Destiny experience as it gets right now.