We all know what Destiny 2 is: it’s our favorite FPS adventure game that features a live story, lots of loot, and space fashion. Lightfall is the latest chapter that spotlights a new campaign, new destination, and new subclass, and has been hyped up for about half a year. Along with the standard expansion elements, Destiny 2 Lightfall marks the launch of changes to Buildcrafting, mods, Weapon Crafting, the difficulty of combatants and activities, and the world economy, while also introducing Loadouts, Guardian Ranks, and Commendations. Bungie’s been busy.
Though the numerous improvements Bungie has brought forward with Destiny 2 Lightfall are either solid first drafts or nearly perfect, the story of Lightfall, which is the second to last expansion in the Light and Dark Saga, leaves a bit to be desired. Instead of that uncontrollable excitement of climbing higher and higher on a rollercoaster just before the big drop (aka, the next expansion), The Final Shape, the story of Lightfall feels more like setting the table. There’s nothing too grand about it — it’s actually quite repetitive and most likely not the chore you would’ve picked — but the meal that awaits requires preparation and anticipation. Sure, you can snack on some hors d’oeuvres while the table is prepared, but ultimately, you’re left feeling hungry.
The Beginning of the End – The Lightfall Campaign and Neomuna
Coming from The Witch Queen, which featured one of the best stories told in Destiny 2 so far, Lightfall has a lot to live up to. Along with that pressure, The Traveler is acting strangely at the end of Season of the Seraph, Raputin’s last message points toward The Veil (I would tell you what The Veil is, but honestly, we still don’t know) which is hidden on Neptune, and The Witness, the final “big bad” of the Light and Dark Saga, knocks at our front door. With so much at stake, all the responsibility falls on Lightfall’s campaign to give us a satisfying story that sets up the end.
And instead, Destiny 2 Lightfall’s campaign focuses on Calus and his Shadow Legion, Neomuna and its inhabitants, and Strand, the new subclass. Nothing much about The Traveler. Nothing much about The Witness. Nothing much about The Veil. Granted, Lightfall tells its story well, but the penultimate story that we as Destiny 2 players needed in order to understand what’s happening — to build our excitement for the finale — isn’t told in Lightfall. Lightfall tells a really good story, it’s just that it’s the wrong story.
Related: Some May Think Destiny 2 Lightfall’s Campaign May Suck — But Neomuna Certainly Doesn’t
Lights, Camera, 80’s Montage – The Missions and Pacing
In Lightfall, we get a neon-soaked setting and story that go hand-in-hand. As we race Calus, who is an old enemy turned disciple to The Witness, to The Veil hidden in Neomuna, we discover a curious fabric that we inevitably gain control over called Strand. We also assist and are assisted by the Cloud Striders, Rohan and Nimbus, who feel a little rushed and forced, but are well-voiced characters that don’t add or take away too much from the Lightfall story.
As much as I would rather have a more important and revealing narrative, the race to The Veil is epic — the missions in Lightfall are some of Bungie’s best-paced and best-executed yet. The objective always feels fresh and important, the environments constantly offer something new, and the weapons and armor look and feel great. The writing found specifically in the payoffs throughout the story is pretty pandering and lifeless, but what’s presented in the missions feels tight and fun. Bungie said we would get an 80s-inspired action movie and Lightfall definitely has a few memorable missions that capture that magic.
Secrets help create a sense of community as fans are left to speculate what’s next, but in Destiny 2 Lightfall, the major events feel unsatisfying since they are too shrouded in mystery. Mystery is a useful tool in storytelling, but there are a handful of major events that happen in Lightfall’s campaign that are left unexplained and uninvestigated. Building hype and tension for future final reveals is fine, but keeping every player in the dark in the current expansion they paid for crosses the line.
The end of the Lightfall campaign leaves many more questions than answers. In fact, I’m now nervous to play the next expansion. Instead of unfolding the plot, Bungie might decide to focus on something else entirely. The live nature of Destiny 2’s storytelling can be used effectively to give us breadcrumbs leading to the bigger moments, but Lightfall is that bigger moment, and what we got feels like leftovers.
Lightfall errors in focusing too heavily on Calus, Strand, and the Cloud Striders instead of giving us the exposition needed to understand the big threats and big reveals. That said, the story Lightfall does choose to tell is confident, featuring well-executed missions that are enjoyable, fun, and individually diverse. Compared to The Witch Queen, Lightfall takes the cake for mission design and pacing, which is saying a lot, and hopefully, the mysteries of Lightfall become unraveled in the four Year 6 seasons.
Related: Destiny 2 Lightfall’s Campaign May Be Disappointing, But Answers Are Coming in the New Seasons, Bungie Confirms
Neomuna Is the Main Course – The Setting and Tormentors
Neomuna is an absolutely breathtaking destination. The second you land in the war-torn space city, waving lines of green tug at your curiosity. Sparkling purple sands slice the scenery. The Cloud Striders and CloudArc peak your interest in Neomuna’s culture, the architecture, designs, and colors continuously draw you in, and the invasion of Calus’s Shadow Legion brings a palpable suspense.
While Calus’s Shadow Legion is scary and provides a challenge, the real threat comes from the Tormentors, the new enemy type introduced in Lightfall. Tormentors are servants of The Witness that feature terrifying strength. Even on normal difficulty, a Tormentor can mess you up if you aren’t careful, which adds a layer of caution and fun similar to the effect of Hunters in Halo. Plus, Tormentors’ dark character design and alien sound effects are bone-chilling. The atmosphere on the battlefield completely shifts when a Tormentor arrives because you know you need to use your abilities, weapons, and mobility carefully.
Down, But Not Out – The Difficulty and Mod Changes
With Lightfall, Bungie decided to increase the difficulty of Destiny 2 in numerous ways. While some of their choices are excellent decisions, like changing how to defeat Champion enemies from using specific weapons to using specific subclasses and implementing Surges and Overcharged Weapons in harder activities, where difficulty didn’t need to be added is the subclass abilities.
In the recent Lightfall patch notes, you’ll see that almost every Grenade, Melee, and Super for every subclass and class received an increased cooldown time. While this was done to create more balance and difficulty in Destiny 2, it ultimately makes everything feel less fun. Using your abilities in coordination with your firepower and selecting the best Exotics and Mods to go with your build was one of the best parts of Destiny 2, and all of that got nerfed with Lightfall with increased ability cooldowns. Luckily, Destiny 2 is a live game, meaning nothing is permanent.
Speaking of Mods, the Buildcrafting Mod system is much more streamlined and organized, but the Mod selections aren’t exciting. Hopefully, we get more Mods to play with in the future, but currently, there are far fewer unique Mods than ever before which is great for new players but terribly dull for long-time theorycrafters.
Related: Destiny 2 Strand: The Best Builds for Hunters, Titans, and Warlocks
Weave Through Reality – Strand and Quality of Life Improvements
As for all of the other changes, Destiny 2 is much better thanks to the quality of life changes in Lightfall. We finally have in-game Loadout slots which allow you to save your entire build, we have a Mod overview page that allows for easy viewing and selection, and there are now Guardian Ranks which serve as a new player guide as well as an end game symbol of status. Lightfall also introduces easier weapon crafting (goodbye grinding for red border patterns) and a more consistent way to get Shaders. Overall, the seemingly small quality of life improvements makes a big difference. Also, I can’t wait for the Fireteam Finder.
Last, but certainly not least, is Strand. Strand is easily the most fun subclass so far in Destiny 2 thanks to the Grapple, gorgeous animations, and wicked sound designs. Each class harnesses Strand in a unique way: Warlocks summon Threadling minions, Hunters weave rope darts, and Titans slice through the fabric of spacetime. All of the abilities feel great, but what doesn’t feel great is the cooldowns.
I know, I know, I already complained about the ability cooldowns, but Strand is different. Since Strand is unlocked at the end of the Lightfall campaign, you’ll receive windows of time where you get to test drive the subclass during the missions. During these Strand trials, you feel like the most powerful being to ever exist thanks to the cooldowns of your Strand Super, Grenade, Melee, and Class Ability being reduced to mere seconds. This gets you excited to fully unlock Strand, but when you finally do, you’re hit with the reality that even with 100 Discipline, the soonest the Strand Grapple will be available takes one whole minute. Hopefully, Bungie can tweak Strand to make it more enjoyable while also maintaining balance, and maybe, after the grind, the Strand Fragments will help out, but currently, Strand feels a little underwhelming.
Destiny 2 is one of the best live service games available and with the positive improvements in Lightfall, Destiny 2 is the best it’s ever been and is on track to continue getting even better. That said, the Lightfall expansion’s story brings nuanced disappointment that’s blood-pumping at best and frustratingly puzzling at worst. On the flip side, Strand is genuinely fun even if it needs a few tweaks and Guardian Ranks, Loadouts, Buildcrafting changes, and Weapon Crafting changes all hover around fantastic.
Perhaps the hype and expectations for Destiny 2 Lightfall were too high, perhaps we should expect more from Bungie’s storytelling. Regardless, Lightfall is enjoyable and Destiny 2 is better for it. Neomuna rocks, the campaign doesn’t suck like people say it does, and Bungie will continue to tweak our favorite space shooter until equilibrium is found. The table is set. Now, all we have to do is wait a year for The Final Shape which is when we can, fingers crossed, finally devour the meal.
This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the game’s publisher, public relations company, developer or other for the express purpose of a review.
– This article was updated on March 3rd, 2023