After waiting for literal years, The Darkness has arrived. Nearly a decade of storytelling and world-building has led to this much-anticipated moment between the forces of the Light and the Darkness. Lightfall is meant to be a Destiny 2 expansion where Guardians are supposed to be put on the back foot. Here's our greatest threat, beating down the door. Are you ready to respond in kind?
Before we get too far into this review of Destiny 2's latest expansion, I will preface it by saying that it will be exclusively covering Lightfall content. Season of the Defiant, despite being released at the same time is technically a separate Seasonal release and its content will be going into the Destiny Content Vault in roughly a year. Lightfall will need to stand on its own.
I had such impossibly high hopes for Lightfall. The Witch Queen was one of a few experiences in gaming that left my jaw agape. It was then followed up by four seasons that were progressively better. So, when the marketing team got to work on prepping us for Lightfall, I was all too eager to gobble up what they were selling.
Lightfall was supposed to be the beginning of the end. Up until this point, the pieces on the board have been moving slowly into position. Now that they were aligned and the Darkness had arrived, the final battle could begin in earnest. Finally, we would get answers to questions like who or what is The Traveler? What is The Witness' plan? What is the history between the Light and the Dark?
Except we didn't. There were no answers to be found. Instead, the community very quickly realized that Lightfall was a stop-gap to buy Bungie more time. You can combine the opening and ending cinematics, cut out the entire campaign, and not have missed a beat. Instead, this campaign had Guardians going to Neomuna on Neptune for the Veil and a Radial Mast. Don't know what those are? Don't worry, nobody else does either.
Lightfall's eight-mission "campaign" has Guardians going through a several-hour training montage on Strand with an overly impatient Osiris in a battle against Calus. It's supremely unsatisfying and ultimately a waste of players' time. It simply left me feeling sad and defeated while breaking me of any faith I had in Bungie to pull off the ending to this story.
Score: 0/5 Stars
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Destiny 2 continues to have some of the best gameplay around. It simply feels sublime to play and Lightfall hasn't changed that. The new Strand subclass, which despite the controversies about originally being designed for The Witch Queen and lacking originality for Titans, is still really fun to play. Sure, we didn't need an entire "expansion" of a training montage to unlock it, but that doesn't take away from the enjoyability.
Gunplay feels as smooth and fluid as ever. I have yet to encounter a weapon that I don't like. In fact, with the addition of loadouts, I find myself experimenting even more with different weapons. It makes me wonder how I've played this game for this long without them.
The gameplay continues to be Destiny 2's saving grace. If it didn't have such an engaging core gameplay loop, I'm sure players wouldn't be nearly as forgiving when Bungie drops the ball on narrative decisions, Seasons, or the litany of bugs that take ages to get fixed. That being said, Lightfall hasn't been without issues and things like invisibility bugs, reduced damage on select weapons, and Bungie rushing to nerf viable farms only leave a sour taste in the mouth.
To top it all off, Bungie has increased the difficulty of PvE content across the board. It has also adjusted Vanguard Ops activities like Arms Dealer and Lake of Shadows to take longer without increasing the rewards. In fact, aside from the Powerful and Pinnacle grind, there still isn't much of a reason to run Vanguard ops. In addition to the already awful new player experience, this steep difficulty spike without equal reward feels like a slap in the face. It's frustrating that after all this time Bungie still can't find a balance.
Score: 3/5 Stars
Hoo boy. Where do we even start with this one? Neomuna was supposed to be this advanced futuristic city on Neptune that had been untouched since the Collapse. It was to be bright, vibrant, and full of life. We were to be like Spider-Man, swinging from building to building in an incredibly vertical play space. In reality, we only got bits and pieces of that.
In reality, Neomuna is desolate. The populace isn't the Cloud Striders as we were led to believe. Instead, they're normal humans that stand around as digital clouds. There's more life on the destroyed Farm in the EDZ. The Cloud Striders we were excited to meet? There are only two of them and one doesn't fit the tone of Lightfall's story, at all.
Neomuna is broken up into the equivalent of three large city squares and while Strand does allow players to grapple around, there's such a long cooldown window that swinging around isn't a carefree or lengthy endeavor. Couple that with the logistics of Bungie having to make the city traversable by the other four subclasses and there isn't a "need" for Strand's much-flaunted grapple.
The Lost Sectors and the new Strike are fantastic. They're a joy to run and this is good because if Bungie's track record of adding new content is anything to go by, we're probably not getting anything new in terms of maps until the final expansion launches next year.
That leads me to Crucible and Gambit. I'm not quite sure why Bungie has a PvP team at this point. I'm also equally befuddled as to why Gambit is still in the game. Both are neglected to the point of me not finding a proper adjective to describe the situation. It's been four years since we received a new Gambit map. Crucible is a painful experience for anyone that deigns to play it and both are completely unrewarding. I've gone from being annoyed at the lack of new content to being impressed at Bungie's determination to starve the modes.
Score: 2/5 Stars
The new raid, Root of Nightmares, was supposed to be the crown jewel of the Lightfall expansion. I mean, we've spent plenty of time exploring Pyramids at this point, with this being our fourth. Not only is this a Pyramid that bore The Witness, but it took a direct shot from The Traveler. There should be all kinds of cool stories and lore to sift through here. Instead, we're fighting the taunting remnants of a bag of tea. Perhaps even more baffling is that this Pyramid shouldn't even be there for us to board it as they all entered The Traveler. Go look if you don't believe me. Looking out at The Traveler from the H.E.L.M. doesn't show a Pyramid floating nearby.
When it comes to the actual raid itself, it's not balanced at all in comparison to the overall significant difficulty hike the rest of Lightfall introduced. The mechanics are simple enough that a fireteam of six only needs two people to run mechanics while the remaining four are on add-clear duty. This reduced difficulty resulted in the Raid Race only taking two to three hours instead of the monstrous undertaking that was the last original raid, Vow of the Disciple.
Understand that I don't equate ease or accessibility with a raid being bad. In fact, it's refreshing as Destiny 2 has a notoriously low engagement rate of players even attempting raids. This should hopefully help that. My gripe is that the difficulty isn't in line with the rest of Lightfall. Now we have Nightfalls and Lost Sectors posing more of a challenge than the top-tier PvE activity.
Score: 3/5 Stars
Verdict - Where do we go from here?
Please don't get me wrong. I love Destiny 2. The Destiny series has been my favorite game(s) since I got into the first one back on my Xbox 360. From there, I've had a deep fondness for the title. However, with the release of Lightfall, we have roughly two years left before Destiny 2 is over. It has become readily apparent that Bungie is still laying down the tracks just before the train comes rumbling by. I simply don't have faith that Bungie is going to nail the landing on this decade-long story arc and that is heartbreaking.
This was the first expansion where I actively told others that were tempted to come back not to bother. As much as I want to have people to play Destiny 2 with, I don't want them to feel like their time and money have been wasted. This was to be Bungie's penultimate moment and the developer dropped the ball, hard.
We received this code from Bungie for reviewing purposes.
For more Destiny 2 goodies, check out How to earn trophies on Neomuna in Destiny 2 – Lightfall Triumph (Neomuni Souvenirs) on Pro Game Guides.
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Destiny 2 Lightfall Review: The Light has Abandoned Us