“To infinity and beyond!” is precisely what I think every time I see the name of Destiny 2’s latest add-on, Lightfall. Not only is it close enough in name, but that logo is taking some hard inspiration from Lightyear. In their defense, I’m positive it’s a style synonymous with the 80’s sci-fi future; I just can’t put a name to it. But in Bungie’s latest expansion to their popular looter-shooter, they took that 80’s inspired sci-fi aesthetic and ran with it. Along with the look, they introduced major gameplay tweaks, an exciting new subclass, and fresh Exotic gear. But that campaign, well, it’s lacking on the story front.
Lightfall takes place shortly after the devastating events of Season of the Seraph. I won’t spoil the end because it’s a heart tug if you’ve been deep in the story for a while now. But all-in-all, the Witness finally makes its long-awaited arrival to our part of the Sol system, face to face with our Traveler. In the opening mission, your Guardian attempts to disable a Cabal ship under the control of a reborn Calus, the new disciple to the Witness. This ship is heading for Neptune and the newly discovered city of Neomuna. You and Osiris are on board in an effort to prevent a catastrophic scenario from occurring.
As I mentioned earlier, Lightfall has a very 80’s sci-fi cyber movie vibe going on, heck the story even includes a very 80’s training montage! It’s just missing Bonnie Tyler’s I Need a Hero playing in the background. If you’re unfamiliar with its aesthetic, it’s similar to what Ubisoft’s Far Cry Blood Dragon attempted to riff on a few years back. It’s a look bathed in neon lights, rounded architecture, and lots of holographic elements. It can even be seen in the new armor you collect within the secret city of Neomuna itself. Everything has that cyber, future feel. Neomuna, a survivor of humanity’s first Golden Age, is beautiful but quite desolate and lonely. Outside of the destruction of the Cabal and Vex invasion, the location feels empty to explore. Unlike previous maps, which look more like battlefields or run-down complexes, Neomuna still looks full of life. This creates this stark contrast of emptiness thanks to the Neomuna citizens being placed into a sort of cryosleep while their minds live in Neomuna’s cloud servers. Where the city feels like it should have a population running for their lives, it’s just unmoving holograms, Cabal, and Vex.
Unfortunately, the story is quite vague in explaining many things to the player. You feel lost, as if everyone around you knows what this Veil thing is and its importance, while you just shrug your shoulders and say I’ve heard that name before. From what I gathered, the Veil is an object of immense power that can cause dire consequences if it falls into the Witness’ grasp. So throughout the campaign, you are trying to find and secure this Veil before the Witness can. Osiris and others say it is the most important artifact in the universe, but they never really hint at why that is the case.
The battles you fight throughout the campaign aren’t anything too spectacular either, all culminating in a final fight with Calus. He is large, rocking giant double blades, but ends up feeling more like a bullet sponge encounter. It can be a frustrating fight rather than an enjoyable one. Speaking of frustration, let’s talk about difficulty changes. With Lightfall, Bungie decided to remove the lowest difficulty setting of Adept to bump the game’s difficulty across the board. Honestly, this was an unwelcome change. For seasoned players looking specifically for a challenge, they already had harder modes they could toy with; why Bungie felt they needed to force everyone to quote-unquote Git-Gud, is beyond me, and Nowhere is it more apparent than on Neomuna itself.
Whether you’re a fresh face or bringing your character up to the starting level of 1600, Neomuna is near unbearable. You feel more vulnerable, and your weapons weaker than I felt in previous expansions. Some might argue that this is good as it gives you this sense of danger. But in actuality, it’s just frustrating. The first few days of Lightfall are no fun because of increased difficulty. I found myself playing outside of the new content for most of the time until I had strong enough gear. Once I began to feel like I was doing any real damage, I stepped back on Neomuna to attempt things like the Terminal Overload public event. So the gameplay loop ends up as the following: playing the campaign and then forgetting about Neomuna for a couple of days. But because they removed Adept, every encounter, and playlist in the game became more difficult. Thankfully, to me, things felt far more tuned and far fairer on the other planets.
What Lightfall did do well was introduce the new Strand ability to players. Your new Darkness subclass frequently appears in the campaign as this significant source of power. Unfortunately, that is not well explained at first, but unlike the Veil, the post-campaign stuff connects the dots a little better, and by the end of most of the lore content on Neomuna, you get a better understanding of Strand as a whole. I found that Strand is one of my favorite abilities to use. I constantly switch between Strand and Stasis unless a bounty or a playlist calls for something outside those two. I play Hunter, so I’m well versed in Strand Threadrunning, where you throw out the Silkstrike attack and hit many targets in a wide area of attack. It’s very ninja-like as it’s a kunai at the rope’s end. So you can swing it in a big loop, clearing out a wide array of enemies, or you can focus the attacks in one direction for more brutal hits. If you play as Titan, you’ll use Berseker and utilize frenzied claws, while Warlocks are Broodweavers and unleash Threadlings to seek and destroy.
Like Stasis before, Strand utilizes the Aspects and Fragments system, where you must purchase the upgrades with a dropped currency. You won’t have everything by the time you’re done with the campaign, so you can hop on to another grind if you want to complete Strand. Although, unlike Stasis, it’s far easier to achieve. Heck, I’m neck deep in Lightfall and still have two more Stasis unlocks to go! One of the exciting new features introduced with Strand is grappling, an ability to replace your grenade with the option to latch onto designated anchor points or points you create yourself. This allows you to whip your Guardian around the area like you’re metal suit Spider-Man. It’s a fun way to be mobile and opens up the game’s verticality as a whole. It is disappointing that you have to take up the grenade slot if you want to use it, though, and I found that depending on your build, it’s just too slow to recharge. Whereas something like Master Cheif’s grapple in Halo Infinite gives you much freedom with how quickly it can recharge, Destiny’s grapple left me waiting and waiting.
There were many times when I went to hit a grapple point, not realizing that I’d used up both shots already, falling to my eventual death or embarrassment. Once again, it left me feeling something that’s becoming synonymous with Lightfall at this point, frustrated. I eventually got rid of the grapple to utilize the much more effective Shackle Ability that functions like a bola and incapacitates enemies by holding them in place for a few moments. Strand plays well with my playstyle of wanting to keep distance between the enemies and me, and it’s just so fun to use, even if the grapple can get my blood boiling.
To help with the Guardian building, Bungie introduced a new loadout feature where you can assign armor and weapons to pick between specific builds quickly. I don’t personally use this as I like to stick with one build that works overall, but this was a welcomed feature for those in the community who have builds that target specific tasks. Another new feature introduced in Lightfall is Guardian Ranks. They replace the old Triumphs page, giving you an optional, more linear path forward to experiencing everything that Destiny 2 has to offer. This is an excellent addition, as one of the most confusing aspects of Destiny was “What do I do next?” With the ranks, they have incorporated a feature that will tell you the following three goals you should focus on that will help you increase your rank to the next level, clearing a more focused path forward than before. These goals range from campaign activities, Gambit, PvP, kill accumulations, completion of harder difficulties, etc. The further up the ranking you get, the harder the goals become. So far, I haven’t run into any that feel incompletable, but that’s outside of never getting to experience the new raid or completing Legendary difficulties for solo Lost Sector runs because they are too demanding. Speaking of, how are we at almost 10 Years of Destiny, and we still don’t have Raid Matchmaking?
All that said, even with the disappointment of the story and the frustration of the difficulty, Destiny 2’s core gameplay is just so good. There’s a reason the game has been alive and well for as long as it has been; it’s incredibly fun, it’s polished, and it feels amazing to run around blasting space aliens. In my honest opinion, there isn’t another game out there that can touch the feel of Destiny; there is a connection to your movements on screen that no other FPS game can match. Bungie’s original baby, Halo, even struggles to come close to the master class that is Destiny, and both modern Halo and Destiny are built upon those original Bungie Halo games!
Destiny 2’s Lightfall expansion doesn’t make a good first impression, but beneath that Lightfall story is still a satisfying game, a game that keeps me coming back infinitely and beyond the grasp of any other title.
A Steam code was provided by the publisher for review purposes