Destiny 2: Lightfall Review
I’ve been playing Destiny for a long time. On and off, no doubt, as Bungie’s track record for producing consistently engaging content has been … spotty. Last year’s The Witch Queen was a glorious return to outstanding form, with me declaring it “an ideal place to give Destiny 2 another shot.” It was true! The Witch Queen added a lot to the Destiny 2 puzzle, including a well written story. Surely its follow up – Lightfall – would continue in that vein, right? In a word, no. Lightfall, for all its quality of life upgrades and new gameplay options, sports one of Destiny’s weakest campaigns yet. If the The Witch Queen sought to follow in the footsteps of Forsaken, Lightfall is more akin to the ho hum Shadowkeep, if not as ghastly as Curse of Osiris.
Witnessing an Unnecessary Detour
*Some story spoilers contained within*
Lightfall starts off with an explosive cutscene that had me genuinely amped to see what would happen. The Witness – Destiny 2’s ultimate baddie – is finally within striking distance of Earth, and an epic space battle rages. The Traveler, having departed Earth in the Season of the Seraph, looms ominously. The Witness lays waste to Sol’s fleets, and even a powerful light beam produced by the Traveler is easily snuffed out by The Witness’ Pyramids.
And that’s the only part of the story at all related to, well, to anything of note. The Witness pulls a vision of a MacGuffin called The Veil out of the Traveler, and sends Calus – his disciple – to the Neptune city of Neomuna to secure it. Obviously that can’t happen, and the Guardian gives chase. For the entire campaign. At no point during the campaign is there a solitary shred of lore about the Veil. I don’t know what it is, why it’s important, or how it relates to Strand, the new darkness subclass. For a campaign expansion that’s almost the full price of a game, that doesn’t sit well with me. Not only is the main story left completely in limbo, but the MacGuffin created to distract us isn’t made to feel at all important.
It’s this distinct lack of meaning that makes the peripheral story elements, namely Neomuna’s Cloud Striders, feel hollow and out of place. Bungie has long bought into the Marvel-esque trope of needing a snarky comic relief character. It worked with Cayde 6 and even The Witch Queen’s Fynch given they had character foils. It fails for Nimbus, your principle point of contact. At one point – SPOILERS! – another Cloud Strider is killed, and after a hot second of sadness Nimbus launches us into a mission saying (paraphrased) “we’ll give the Shadow Legion the ol’ pew pew whoosh kapow treatment!” It’s tonally jarring, and I can’t help but wonder what story beats have been cut or changed to accommodate Lightfall’s biggest feature – the Strand subclass.
A Strand of Hope
You see, Strand was planned to be part of The Witch Queen. It makes sense. Strand is dark and mysterious, and even matches Savathun’s signature green color. Instead it arrives here, and brings an interesting gameplay wrinkle with it. Strand swaps the traditional grenade slot for a movement oriented, grappling hook mechanic. Zipping around a combat arena or escaping danger works well, but traditionalists will likely find themselves missing the ability to launch a well placed ‘nade. I will however give tons of credit to whoever decided to sneak a training montage into one of the – otherwise slightly out of place – Strand focused missions.
More build options are always welcome, but for my money Strand doesn’t add an interesting enough twist to the mix. There’s not enough done story side to make Strand make sense, or give it the undeniable cool factor of Beyond Light’s Stasis storyline. Outside of chasing bounties or taking advantage of playlist modifiers, Strand won’t be consistently pulling me away from my Emperor Palpatine Stormcaller fantasy.
To my mind there’s also too little in the way of new threats in Neomuna. Mostly, you’ll be fighting the same Cabal and Vex enemies you have forever. The sole addition is The Witness’ Tormentors, who more or less replace Hive Guardians from the last expansion. Sadly, their AI is overly simple and easy to manipulate.
Quality of Life
Thankfully, Lightfall absolutely excels is in quality of life upgrades. Sometimes it’s little things like giving direct access to the Terminal Overload event from the Neomuna map, but other times it’s bigger things that meaningfully change accessibility for both new and old players.
Loadouts, as simple a concept as they are, fundamentally change how I play Destiny 2. No longer are players stuck shuffling armor sets and weapon sets to deal with unstoppable champions, or to play Void instead of Stasis. That used to be one of the more impenetrable aspects of Destiny, but with loadouts it’s less arduous to mess around with the meta, even in the midst of an activity.
The other noteworthy add is (thank the Destiny gods) a single page view of all equipped armor mods. Combined with the aforementioned loadouts, hot swapping between build types is more approachable and less painful nightmare.
Tougher… Sort Of?
The most baffling change, though, is one of difficulty. Destiny 2 has always had to walk the line between supporting the dad clans with a couple of hours per week to play, and catering to the sweatiest season rank 500 sweat lords. The Witch Queen hit that balance nicely, with the option to cruise on patrol, but also some challenging legend and master content to attack, and a tough raid. Lightfall somehow messes up both ends of that spectrum. In release week, it wasn’t uncommon to run into enemies at the power cap out on patrol. Legendary Lost Sectors and weekly missions are, frankly, too hard. For those with a Navy Seal squad of buddies to run them with, great, but it feels like too much of what makes Destiny 2 entertaining is unnecessarily gated behind hours of grinding.
But then, somehow, they made one of the easiest raids in history. I’ve never been a raid guy, but it’s bizarre to make the bread and butter content less approachable, and a raid that’s arguably less challenging than a random Lost Sector.
Lightfall as a whole package falls short of the standard set by The Witch Queen last year. The story is shaky and tangential, and the gameplay changes are few and far between outside of the underwhelming Strand powers. Neomuna isn’t nearly as memorable, and difficulty changes make it more challenging to engage with Destiny’s bread and butter content. Thankfully, overall quality of life improvements and the rock solid bones of the gameplay save the package as a whole. If you’re after more Destiny 2, Lightfall is certainly that, but as the most expensive expansion yet ($100 USD with the annual pass), I expected to have my hair blown back a bit more.
**A PS5 code was provided by the publisher**
- New quality of life upgrades
- Rock solid shooting mechanics
- More Destiny!
- Underwhelming gameplay changes and patrol zone
- Shaky and tangential story
- Strange difficulty choices