Since Destiny 2’s latest expansion is large and covers a lot of in-game ground for the franchise, GamingTrend has brought in two certified Destiny aficionados for some different perspectives in this review: Nicholas Aguilera and Noah Rigsby have worked side-by-side to review Destiny 2: Lightfall.
In many aspects, Destiny 2: Lightfall takes gaming’s favorite looter-shooter to new heights. A revamped player leveling system, new subclass with infinite traversal possibilities, a unique destination, and overhauled armor modifications work in tandem to make this expansion feel almost like a standalone release. Conversely, Lightfall’s narrative falls so exceptionally flat that it weighs down the experience as a whole, and makes me genuinely nervous for the future of the franchise.
For months the Destiny community has been anticipating the release of the penultimate expansion in the Light and Dark Saga. Destiny 2’s developer, Bungie, ramped up their marketing campaign to levels we have not yet seen, utilizing the tagline “Our End Begins” to signal to new and returning players that the end is near. At the moment, all eyes from various corners of the gaming community and beyond are on Destiny. Lightfall needed to deliver a truly special experience to capture players’ attention, and convince them to stick around for the ending of a tale almost nine years in the making. After banking around 15 hours of playtime into Lightfall, I know that I will be sticking around to be a part of the happenings this coming year. However, this expansion is bound to be a divisive experience for many players, and for good reason.
Lightfall’s main campaign takes place immediately after the ending of the Season of the Seraph, which concluded with a bombshell cutscene setting the stage for the final battle: the Witness and the Dark Fleet had arrived on humanity’s doorstep, and the Traveler had, quite literally, risen to the challenge. Lightfall opens with a pseudo-fight between the Witness and the Traveler, ending with forces of Darkness cornering the Traveler and turning their gaze to Neptune, where a mysterious object called the Veil is hidden away. Calus, the newest Disciple of the Witness, is dispatched alongside his Shadow-Legion army of Cabal to Neptune to secure the Veil before the Vanguard. It is a race against time to find the Veil before the forces of Darkness do, and prevent them from using it against the forces of Light.
The campaign takes place almost entirely on Neptune in the previously undiscovered human city of Neomuna. Campaign missions are engaging from a gameplay perspective, and generally mechanically unique from one another. The new Darkness subclass, Strand, takes center stage here, acting as the your main vehicle for advancing the story as well as switching up the traditional combat loop, providing players with a new grappling ability and more. The missions play well, with each one building on the last and introducing new ways to use Strand and all of its destructive capabilities against hordes of Darkness-enhanced Cabal and Vex. I essentially marathoned the campaign just to have the opportunity to use Strand as much as possible before I unlocked the Subclass as a whole upon completion. It is undeniably a highlight of the experience, and feels different from other Light and Dark subclasses.
In terms of story, I do not believe anyone is truly prepared for what Lightfall has on offer. Without spoiling any major story moments, I found myself asking one main question throughout the entire experience: “what in the world is happening right now”. Every opportunity Lightfall has to thoughtfully expand the Destiny universe and answer some burning questions is masterfully squandered. If you are coming into this expansion looking to learn more about some of Destiny’s biggest secrets, you ought to keep waiting; you will not find answers here. Every character speaks as if you’re on the same page, referencing unexplained events, people, and objects. Conversations with NPCs felt like I was being talked at, not talked to.
This is a serious problem, as this story was supposed to be where we got answers – a reason to fight and grind for another year in anticipation of The Final Shape. Lightfall was supposed to be Destiny’s “Infinity War”. Instead, I feel unfulfilled and in the dark, as if the quest I went on was not only fruitless, but meaningless. I am worried for the future of Destiny’s story from here. Will we ever get answers to the questions the campaign left us with? Will there be enough time to wrap up storylines and character arcs? What is next for the Traveler, the Witness, and the Vanguard? Admittedly, I did somewhat enjoy the 80s action movie trope-exploration that structured the story. But overall, this did not feel like a worthy follow-up to the narrative masterstrokes of the previous expansion, The Witch Queen, and it seriously hindered the overall experience for me.
I should also mention that I firmly believe Destiny 2’s story is not welcoming towards new players, and has not been for a while. I do, however, believe it is reasonable for Bungie to cater more towards existing players this far into the lifespan of a franchise. For example, if you start watching a new show on Netflix on season four of that show, you will probably not be able to fully follow the story. The same argument can be made for Destiny – we’re almost at a decade of storytelling and gameplay evolution within the Destiny universe. When dealing with a franchise this large, with this much lore and history, it is inevitable that a “you just had to be there” point is reached. I think Lightfall is that point for Destiny, and it will undoubtedly turn many new players off to what is otherwise a great first-person shooter.
Nevertheless, what Lightfall’s story lacked in payoff is made up for in challenge. Bungie recognized the success of the Legendary difficulty setting for The Witch Queen’s campaign, giving it a fully-realized return in this expansion. The Legendary difficulty continues to be one of the most rewarding and all-around-fun ways to interact with the Destiny 2 sandbox. Enemy density is dialed to 11, requiring quick decision making and fine-tuned loadouts to overcome the challenge. This experience feels like a return to form for Bungie, and brings me back to the Legendary campaign runs I grew up with in each Halo game.
Another major change made in Lightfall is the overhaul of the armor mod system. The system is now more intuitive, structured more around subclass synergy and Orbs of Power than ever before. The changes work well alongside the new armors and weapons added in Lightfall. Being a Titan main, I’m partial to the new Abeyant Leap, a strand-based pair of exotic boots that provide the perfect offensive compliment to the Titan’s defensive class ability. Our arsenal has grown massive over the years and grows even more powerful in Lightfall.
The increase in overall game difficulty and new activities provide us with a blank canvas for all kinds of weapon, ability, and armor combos, and reinforces Destiny’s power fantasy as one of the best on the market. New activities, like Terminal Overload and the Hypernet Current strike, are fun on their own and provide plenty of enemies to topple and some great opportunities for matchmade teamwork. Finally, the new player leveling system replaces the seasonal leveling system of old, which functioned more as a mark of shame essentially showing how many hours players dumped into a season with a more objective-based system. It encourages different activities and Triumph completion, and offers a leveling path for new players to help them not feel overwhelmed. The decision to reset ranks every season is odd though, and feels counterintuitive to what the developer was going for with the change.
Lightfall launched alongside Destiny’s 20th season, Season of Defiance (I should note this is a separate purchase from Lightfall, but it felt worth mentioning). This season focuses on the war against the forces of the Witness on Earth, alongside Mara Sov, Crow, Amanda Holiday, and more. The seasonal activity is engaging, introducing Shadow-Legion Cabal into the EDZ through the new Battlegrounds activity, though the seasonal loot appears to be mostly reskins of previous weapons. I’m optimistic for this season, and can only hope it answers some of my lingering questions from Lightfall’s disappointing campaign.
I should mention that PvP players should not be looking for any new content in this expansion besides a rotating playlist of repeated modes. At this point, the same goes without saying for Gambit. It is a terrible shame that Bungie has allowed these gamemodes to decay, though they did state they will be bringing back some previous Destiny Crucible maps and one new Crucible map later this year.
I agree with a lot of Nicholas’ statements and impressions of Lightfall. Destiny 2: Lightfall had to follow up on one of the franchise’s highest points, The Witch Queen. This was the moment for Bungie to prepare us for the final chapter of the Light and Dark Saga. As Nicholas said, this was supposed to be our “Infinity War.” Lightfall as an expansion is unique to grade as you have so many positive improvements and additions to the experience, but they’re all hindered by a campaign that missed the mark in a massive way.
Let’s talk about the gameplay. Strand is a blast to wield, with Destiny’s newest subclass revolving around suspending, tangling, and unraveling your enemies. Strand’s gratification hits another level as you equip different fragments and aspects. Other aspects are purchasable using Strand Meditations after completing the campaign. These Meditations are acquired using Strand on combatants and earned through sources in Neomuna. The aspects are potent alongside varying buffs allowing synergy between your subclass and weapons. Options to build and craft your Guardian’s loadout allow player freedom no matter how you want to play.
Bungie made a substantial amount of positive overhauls to the quality of life in Destiny, including: the gradual removal of the power grind; Guardians can now create and save load-outs that allow complete weapon and armor changes with the press of a button; the Guardian rank replaces the Seasonal number displayed over our heads, and levels up as you do by completing objectives listed in the new Journey tab; and more. Bungie implemented this last change to give newer players a linear path to follow and achieve progression. However, repeatedly running the same playlist activities with every content drop continues to exhaust the player base.
With the recent additions of Arc, Solar, and Void 3.0, Guardians are paramount warriors. Thus, it is time Bungie adjusted the game’s difficulty to match. Destiny can’t continue as a franchise to allow players mindlessly run through content and expect the game to grow. Thankfully, Bungie is making a conscious effort to push players towards build crafting and playtesting. The armor mod system has been reworked with many previous builds and mods removed, and replaced with new variations. This system has moved to a synergetic, yet simplified design that will be easy to learn but allow high lethality for players who regularly engage with Destiny’s endgame.
Now to the elephant in the room. Simply put, the campaign of Lightfall baffles me with its direction. The tone disparities and pace inconsistencies sting. Bungie must sincerely take feedback and figure out how to correct the course. Lightfall is the penultimate expansion before The Final Shape, and at this point, our questions need answering. There are still so many unknown mysteries that I’m worried will never get answered. An exotic mission and raid aren’t going to be enough to fill in these gaps.
The storyline begins with Osiris frantically expositioning us to Neptune to prevent Calus from obtaining a “paracausal” entity called The Veil. The tone’s urgent start makes sense as our greatest foe is at the doorstep. However, moving to Neomuna, pacing and tonal consistency go out the window. In Neomuna, we encounter Rohan and Nimbus, introduced as The Cloudstriders. The two “Guardians” of the lost city of Neomuna perform the cliche grizzled veteran and cocky rookie combo that has been so overdone it’s exhausting. The Cloudstriders are unnecessary new characters brought into the franchise. In the Destiny universe there are numerous personalities who deserve to be brought back into the forefront instead of adding new characters we don’t need.
Cut to the end of Lightfall, and Guardians are still sidekicks in this story. I feel like the Guardians and the Witness should’ve had our inevitable face-to-face encounter here. This would be the perfect opportunity for the Witness to finally recognize the threat we ultimately are. We are heroes of this universe. We’ve slain the Taken King, the Witch Queen, and every other foe to step in our way. Yet, we are delegated to a filler arc to obtain a new ability and take on the disappointing sidekick to our true nemesis. How will Bungie complete years of intertwined storylines in an eight-mission campaign in The Final Shape? It certainly hasn’t started as well as we hoped it would.
Destiny 2: Lightfall
Destiny 2: Lightfall does a lot to advance the Destiny 2 experience, adding a stellar new subclass and destination alongside a much needed difficulty increase. Conversely, it features a story so bland, derivative, and dissatisfying that I am honestly worried Bungie may never be able to right the narrative course.
- Gunplay remains state-of-the-art
- New subclass evolves the power fantasy
- Great new location, soundtrack, and QoL changes
- Story falls more flat than ever
- Crucible/Gambit are still sidelined