Lightfall had potential.
Destiny 2 was at a peak thanks to its previous expansion, The Witch Queen. Players received the best campaign in the franchise since Destiny: The Taken King was released in 2015. Questions were raised about the very nature of the narrative of Bungie’s beloved universe, questions that promised to lead players into the final act of a ten-year saga. Players were promised a brand new subclass that would give players more freedom and options in the game.
Instead, Lightfall released feeling like the first act of the grand conclusion. A frustrating campaign and strange balancing changes accompanied by one of the best new locations and an incredible subclass make this expansion feel like a stumbling, small step forward for the Destiny series instead of being a big leap to the end.
The Weak Points
It would be best to start with the negatives of Lightfall, and there are a good number of them. Without delving into spoilers in this section, the opening moments of this expansion puts the “big bad” of the Destiny universe up against the Traveler, a shining beacon of light that has hung over the Last City on Earth as a protector of humanity. The character known as the Witness wants to eliminate the Traveler, but it needs a plot device, known as the Veil, and it is hidden inside another bastion of humanity located on Neptune.
The player and a former Guardian named Osiris chase after the Witness’s forces as they head to Neptune. Together, they fight to stop the Witness from taking the Veil and uncover a new form of power known as Strand along the way. Strand is a brand new subclass that Guardians will unlock as they progress through the campaign.
The premise sounds interesting enough, but the execution falls flat on its face. Strand is the focus of Lightfall’s campaign rather than the Witness and the Veil. The missions feel more like glorified tutorials for this new subclass rather than meaningful additions to the story.
Lightfall is the first part of the end of the “Light and Dark Saga” of Destiny. It will culminate with The Final Shape, which is supposed to launch sometime in 2024. This expansion feels like it should have been the introduction to The Final Shape rather than an expansion of its own. The player receives more questions than answers by the end of the campaign, which feels like a slap in the face after the fantastic campaign of The Witch Queen a year prior.
The Strong Points
However, there is a lot of good to be found in Lightfall. The new subclass, Strand, is an incredible addition to the four subclasses and damage types we already have in the game.
The grapple ability Strand gives the player is a natural addition to the Guardian’s arsenal and feels like a natural inclusion. The player has many build crafting options with Strand as well, making it one of the most versatile subclasses in the game.
Speaking of builds, Bungie has overhauled the armor modification system. Every mod has been renamed or changed in some way to give players more options to create more specific builds for their Guardians. There is a new sub-screen for modding armor that didn’t exist before, as well as an option to save different armor and weapon loadouts that one can switch between at the press of a button. Unfortunately, returning players will have to recreate their old builds from scratch.
Image from bungie.net
There are a host of new weapons that come with Lightfall, both legendary and exotic. The legendaries are fine additions, but primary weapons feel incredibly weak against enemies thanks to an overall difficulty increase to the entire game. Bungie seems to be working to address this issue as of the writing of this review, but it is still a big problem. The exotic weapons that have been added feel unique. A handful of notable examples include a freezing glaive that is in the heavy weapon slot and a new heavy machine gun that weakens enemies with every fourth bullet.
The new weapons are strong and there is a large variety to earn, but the amount of new armor is more than lacking in comparison. Bungie has added three new armor sets per class counting the seasonal gear and the raid set. The few new armor sets are all unique and interesting, but the game could use more sets for players to experiment with, even if they are old sets that were in Destiny but not Destiny 2.
Lightfall’s story content may be frustrating and weak, but the gameplay is incredible. The legendary version of the campaign is challenging and fun, especially with friends. The new destination, the neon-washed metropolis of Neomuna, contains tons of new activities and content to do. The city isn’t as focused on vertical movement as Bungie showed off in promotional material outside of a few missions, but it is still unique and fun to travel through.
Lightfall is a good expansion that has been marred by a lackluster story and some strange quality-of-life issues that are being addressed over time. Overall, this is a solid experience that is a ton of fun to play, but not as much fun to think about. I wish I could recommend this as a good starting point for players curious to get into the game, but it will leave them just as confused as the veterans.
Image from steampowered.com
The next section of this review will contain spoilers for the campaign of Lightfall as well as its raid.
Lightfall gave players the most disappointing story since the first two expansions of Destiny 2: Curse of Osiris and Warmind. Both the Witness and the Guardian aided by Osiris want to get to the Veil, a mysterious thing that rests somewhere within Neomuna. The Witness needs the Veil to enact a terrible plan, which is a fine premise, but the player learns nothing about the Witness’s goals or the nature of the Veil.
Instead, the player is treated to a lengthy tutorial about Strand. Every other character in the campaign acts like they know what the Veil is, especially the Cloudstriders.
The Cloudstriders are the protectors of Neomuna. They are genetically enhanced to be very powerful, but this makes them only able to live for ten years before they die. This is an interesting contrast to the immortal Guardians, but the game doesn’t expand upon these ideas. The Cloudstriders help the Guardians from the moment they step on Neomuna. There should be a conflict between this city and the outsiders that have stepped into it because this city has been hidden from the forces of the Witness for hundreds of years. They should be angry with the Guardians for intruding on a secret hideaway, but there is no conflict.
On top of the Cloudstriders feeling out of place, Osiris doesn’t feel in character. He has lost his Ghost a few years ago in the story, so he can only die one more time with no resurrection. Despite this, he travels with the Guardian and acts entirely out of rage and frustration instead of being the level-headed mentor the player expects. This would be fine if we knew why the Witness getting the Veil is such a bad thing.
The biggest failure of the story, however, is the ending. We stop the Witness’s right-hand man from capturing the Veil, but it is revealed that the Witness infected our Ghost with a bit of Darkness energy and was able to temporarily control it. The Ghost forms a link with the Veil that travels to the Witness, who cuts into the Traveler to make a portal. It then enters the portal and leaves the player…
There is no explanation of what the Witness did currently. It is said by some NPCs in the epilogue that the Traveler “died” as a result of the attack, but there is no consequence. The player is expected to move on like nothing happened. This was a slap in the face to everyone who expected the beginning of the end.
Lightfall’s story is a mess. The player will have more questions than answers by the end of the story, and even though Bungie has promised the community will learn more about the Witness and the Veil in future seasonal story content, things just feel empty. What should’ve been a slam dunk is a listless step forward in the ever-expanding universe of Destiny. The community wanted answers and was told to wait.
Thankfully, there is a small light at the end of this tunnel. The raid, which is the six-man endgame activity that came with the expansion, treats the player and their fireteam to a host of new weapons and armor, as well as interesting lore and an incredibly fun experience. The mechanics are tight and the final boss is a figure that has been in the lore of this franchise for years. This activity soothes the frustration of the campaign.
The seasonal story is also very strong. The current season tasks players with rescuing prisoners of war from the Witness’s forces in the aftermath of the attack on the Traveler, and the dialogue and unique NPC interactions that come along with it are very well written. Unfortunately, neither this story nor the raid is directly connected to the mess on Neomuna.
This expansion deserved better.
A strong gameplay foundation has been marred by questionable story changes that I hope Bungie will address and answer in the seasonal content and expansion to come.
Even though Lightfall has had some missteps regarding the story, there is still a large amount of content that a new player, or New Light, can enjoy. Destiny 2 is a very hard game to get into at the start, but this guide can help guide you through the confusing process of starting the game.
Destiny 2 Start Guide
A good portion of the game is free to play now, but most of the content is locked behind paid expansions. Destiny 2 is available to download on the Xbox Marketplace, the PlayStation Store and Steam. The “free” portion of the game is more like an extended demo. You will have access to four of the destinations, as well as a handful of unique weapons and armor to try. There is an introductory campaign that guides you through the basics of the game’s mechanics and story, and also gives you the chance to try the first mission of each expansion for free.
If you enjoy Destiny 2 after this introduction, I recommend purchasing the first two expansions: Shadowkeep and Beyond Light. Shadowkeep costs 20 dollars and Beyond Light costs $25. These will take you through the beginning of the “Darkness Saga” that is leading to The Final Shape. You will unlock more areas, weapons, and even a new subclass to complement your large arsenal.
There is also a 30th Anniversary Pack which adds a new activity and some new gear, but this isn’t required. These expansions can be found on sale pretty often, and I recommend looking out for them when they are because you can get all of them at a cheap price, usually half off of the listed prices online..
The next expansion is The Witch Queen. The base price of this one is more than the other two expansions at $30, but it is more than worth it. This expansion introduced the Legendary Campaign and contains one of the best stories in the entire franchise. I highly recommend playing through this one. You will get new gear and a new destination as well, just like the previous expansions.
Lightfall is the last on this list. If you think you want to continue to be invested in Destiny 2, I recommend getting this one as well. The new subclass and destination are good enough to warrant a purchase for those interested, but it isn’t something a new player can just jump into. I recommend that new players play through the older content to get a feel for the gameplay loop and story before jumping into this experience.
There is a lot this game does not tell you beyond the basics. Thankfully, there are dozens of helpful videos online to teach you how to craft a build and participate in endgame content like raids. I think everyone should give Destiny 2 a shot, even if it’s just the free portion of the game.