Xbox One, PS4, PC, PS5, Xbox Series X
February 28, 2023
An evolving universe like Destiny’s is complex and becomes even more challenging to manage with expansions like Destiny 2: Lightfall. While creative and visually stunning new additions to the game are welcome, there are clear shortfalls tying the complicated narrative together. This penultimate chapter in the series delivers one of Bungie’s most disappointing.
Lightfall short of expectations
Lightfall begins shortly after the events of the Season of the Seraph with a dazzling opening cinematic. The Witness and its imposing Black Fleet decimate most of the Vanguard forces to attack the Traveler, and as result receives a vision of the Veil in a city called Neomuna on Neptune. The Witness orders the brooding and reckless Emperor Calus and his loyal Cabal Shadow Legion to retrieve the Veil so it can call upon the Final Shape. Osiris and players valiantly arrive at Neomuna to help protect the city, its people, and its Cloud Strider soldiers from destruction.
As expected from the Destiny series, the quality and budget are impressive. Each level standalone is engaging and imaginative with a new world to explore. The cyber-punk, neon city of Neomuna shows off outstanding design and art and is unique to what has been done before in other DLC. The locale offers exciting activities and public combat spaces that make for exciting cooperative firefights.
On the other hand, the Lightfall campaign is a complete letdown in all other aspects. Every mission builds itself upon lofty revelations that never truly meet expectations. The journey itself is six hours of chasing after the Veil and defeating the honestly uninteresting minor villains of this expansion, Emperess Caiatl, Emperor Calus, and Nezarec, to end up right back where the campaign started. There doesn’t seem to be much progression leading to the end of the war between the Traveler and the Witness. Without that crucial “this is it – we’re at the start of the end” moment the Lightfall campaign is insignificant.
The Cloud Striders are an insipid ‘80s niche of the adventure. These warriors voluntarily undergo cybernetic enhancement at the cost of reducing their lifespan to protect their city – the antitheses of Guardians. With that fascinating dynamic, the narrative barely does anything noteworthy about these contrasting values and life. Nimbus is the boisterously annoying main vendor of Neomuna who is mentored by the stoic Rohan. These two accompany the story with nearly no character building and a predicted sacrifice, leaving the Cloud Striders purely uninteresting and at worst obnoxious.
With the arch of the series coming to an end, it isn’t difficult to realise Destiny 2: Lightfall is filler content. The bookending cutscenes can almost be played together like the rest of the campaign is irrelevant. It’s unfortunate to see such a meaningless narrative come from the otherwise impressive and momentous stories of the universe.
In Strand we trust
Despite the pointless story, Destiny 2 has always been celebrated for its fluid and intuitive gameplay. Lightfall includes the new Darkness subclass, Strand, which enables mobility and zoning in fights. The force is centred around entanglement and weaving through an extra-dimensional matrix called the Weave.
“…the new subclass is an exceptionally robust and fun move set.”
Each class receives a unique subclass based on Strand. The Titans embody the Berserker, wielding twin blades to cut through enemies with the Bladefury super. Warlocks can be Broodweavers, firing projectiles that explode into threadlings with the Needlestorm super. Finally, Hunters take on the role of Threadrunners and summon a rope dart with the Silkstrike attack. Quickly, players will realise that Strand is the ultimate subclass.
In missions, there is no reason to use other subclasses due to Strand’s flexibility. The abilities succeed in crowd control with Suspend, damage output with skills like Thread of Ascent, resistance against attacks with Woven Mail, and even an infinite grapple melee that inflicts Unravel to clear any debuffs. Having all these powers central to one subclass, especially having the best movement tools, is totally overpowering. Admittedly, Strand offers thrilling gameplay but leaves older playstyles in the dust and will cause a controversial shake-up to the multiplayer meta.
A grappling hook-like ability allows Guardians to grasp onto parts of the world and enemies. It’s incredibly enjoyable to use this Strand power to move around stages and add even more verticality to the average battle. A melee elimination from the grapple counts as a grenade, too, meaning that with the right armour mods Guardians can create two orbs for each enemy they defeat. Grapple is certainly a strong ability that complements Destiny 2’s movement and creates more thrilling ways to play.
Although the campaign doesn’t properly explain what Strand really is, the new subclass is an exceptionally robust and fun move set. If Bungie wants to maintain the usefulness of older subclasses and avoid backlash in multiplayer, tweaks are needed to make Void, Solar, Arc and Stasis worthwhile.
A flicker of hope
A series of seasonal changes improve the quality of life and player engagement in Destiny 2: Lightfall. Guardians are now able to modify weapons, amour and character stats on a single screen which makes the back and forth of menu navigation much smoother.
“The Destiny Content Vault continues to grow with the launch of Destiny 2: Lightfall.”
Seasonal artifacts introduced in Shadowkeep now have unique, unlockable perks instead of mods. This means a limit of 12 can be active per character, helping balance the output of buffs. Guardians are also able to reset and change perks for free, encouraging different playstyles and experimentation.
Armour and modifications no longer have elemental affinities and will instead offer buffs based on damage type. Charged with Light mods are replaced with an amour charge system instead and the energy cost has been reduced. These changes introduce further creativity in shaping a Guardian’s build.
Weapon crafting introduced in The Witch Queen is now simplified. Deepsight Resonance and Resonant Element crafting materials are now completely removed from the game and substituted by standard currencies like Glimmer and Enhancement Cores. While Resonant, Harmonic and Ascendant Alloys still exist for crafting, they will be eventually phased out during Year 6 of the game’s life.
The vendor for armour transmogrification, Ada-1, now sells shaders, legacy weapons and gear from the first three years of Destiny 2. With three shaders to purchase every week from the start of Season 20, it’s great to see Bungie offer an opportunity to get previously unobtainable equipment. It’s still egregious to permanently remove old content as a new expansion releases but this is a step (albeit a tiny one) in the right direction.
The Destiny Content Vault continues to grow with the launch of Destiny 2: Lightfall. Destinations like the H.E.L.M., Psisorium and Warmind Launch Facility are now locked away, as are activities from the Season of the Risen, Season of the Haunted, Season of Plunder and Season of the Seraph. A bunch of exotic quests and operation missions are being removed, as well. There are many important experiences lost to time thanks to Bungie’s terrible evolving universe model with Destiny. New Guardians will struggle to understand the history of the game and create a larger divide between the playerbase.
- Strand is a very fun subclass
- Excellent cinematics and Destiny quality
- Seasonal changes improve quality of life
- Lightfall feels like filler content
- Removal of more older content
- Other elemental subclasses now feel underpowered
- Storytelling of Neomuna and Cloud Striders is lacking
Destiny 2: Lightfall falls short of expectations, leaving players with unanswered questions and minimal impact on the Light and Dark saga. The introduction of Neomuna and Cloud Striders has little purpose to the overarching plot. However, the powerful Strand toolset is a delightful addition, though it raises concerns about balance with weaker elements. While quality of life improvements are positive, the removal of certain content makes the game challenging for new players. Overall, Lightfall feels rushed, as if it was a flustered effort to fill a gap before the final hurrah.