The Witness has come. Destiny 2: Lightfall sets to propel the narrative of the Light versus Dark saga to its climax. However, many challenges awaited Bungie including the high expectations set by The Witch Queen. This expansion revamped new systems and introduced great quality-of-life changes. On the other hand, it fell short where it counted the most. Here is my Destiny 2: Lightfall review.
Beginning of the End
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Lightfall brings the narrative to an Infinity War-style setting. The denizens of Sol and the traveler are besieged by the Witness and pyramid fleet. Meanwhile, guardians travel to Neomuna. There, we ally ourselves with Neptune’s protectors and stop Calus from reaching his goal. Additionally, players discover Strand along the way.
This expansion serves as the climax to the Light and Darkness saga. The Witness is the main antagonist that even Savathûn feared. Furthermore, it orchestrated humanity’s first great Collapse. This is Destiny 2’s Thanos for all intents and purposes.
The opening scene shows the allies of Sol backed into the corner. The Witness is imposing, powerful, and destructive. All forces fall before their might. Even more so, the Traveler is unable to stop The Witness’ advance. Seeing the Witness fully for the first time was impactful. However, I wish it led to a proper payoff.
Main Quest or Side Quest
The first campaign mission started off strong. It set the tone of what I expected going into Destiny 2: Lightfall. My guardian bravely stormed the Cabal fleet to aid Osiris in a desperate attempt. Furthermore, I was blown away by Neomuna when they landed.
Here, I saw what the Last City on earth could have been. Neomuna is a neo-pop metropolis partially ravaged by Calus’ forces. It brings verticality to the patrol zones in unique ways. Unlike previous destinations, Neomuna is a captivating location anywhere you look.
Occasionally, you will be graced by a radio broadcast updating the citizens on current affairs. This reflects your progress in thwarting the shadow legion. These broadcasts should provide a sense of urgency to the player. However, I quickly fell out of touch with the overarching narrative. Destiny 2: Lightfall was marketed as the grand climax for the Light and Darkness saga. Yet, I find this adventure on Neomuna to be far and removed from the original selling point. Furthermore, the main saga antagonist (The Witness) never actually appears in the expansion outside of cutscenes.
Strand the Expansion
Bungie gives players their first taste of Strand after the first mission. It helps you meet up with Osiris and fight the new Shadow Legion. Similar to Beyond Light, it is a hallmark of Lightfall. Yet, unlocking Strand is not truly feasible until after the campaign. You are only given a fraction of the subclass during your bouts using it.
Subsequently, your guardian is given Strand at random times just to quickly be denied repeatedly. It creates awkward gameplay loops. I found it frustrating that my carefully crafted void Warflock build was interrupted by a subclass that often failed me during the legendary campaign. Eventually, I chose not to use Strand when I could including during the final boss of the campaign.
Osiris is meant to be your mentor with Strand. However, he never actually uses it. Elsie Bray, the Drifter, and Eris Morn use Stasis in Beyond Light. Yet, that moment never came to Osiris with Strand. At most, he recounts theories about it and other powers.
Additionally, Osiris’s role in this campaign almost proved inconsequential. The previous build-up painted him as the perfect character to helm this adventure. Similar to Eris Morn, Lightfall offered a chance for Osirs to overcome his trauma and regain some semblance of power. However, that was not the case.
I did enjoy Osiris dealing with the loss of Sagira. Previously, that trauma was only mentioned in lore books. It went a long way visibly seeing him shaken with grief and melancholy. Aside from that, Osiris comes across as desperate, grumpy, and simply not helpful throughout the campaign. A character whose potential fell short in this arc.
Unveiling the Plot
Calus is after the Veil. It is something tied to the Traveler and wanted by the Witness. The Cloudstriders and your guardian aim to find the Veil first. Although, no one truly knows what the Veil is. It is often referenced and talked about by characters in Lightfall. Neomuna also depends on the Veil to power its Cloud Ark which holds its citizens’ minds. Yet, the campaign never fully explains what the Veil is or why it is important. I had just as many questions (maybe even more) when the credits rolled for the campaign compared to when I started.
This proved to be one of the most frustrating things about Lightfall. I was not the only one to share this. One of the main Destiny 2 lore content creators even made a video stating they themselves had no idea what the Veil is.
Lightfall built a narrative hinging on the Veil throughout the campaign. In contrast to The Witch Queen, this expansion fails to deliver on that plot point. Furthermore, I was left feeling my efforts were for naught as the story wrapped up. Neomuna feels like a seasonal adventure and one that fails to even nudge the Light and Darkness saga forward. Subsequently, the Witness is an afterthought after the opening cutscene.
Calus is the main antagonist here. He transformed into a Disciple of the Witness along with his Cabal followers. Now, they are known as the Shadow Legion. The Shadow Legion behave as typical Cabal with a Darkness-inspired paint job. Additionally, they gain a new mechanic through a Darkness device that grants enemies an over-shield within the bubble. Players must destroy the crux device to mitigate this. The device is carried on the backs of a few troops and will fall separately once the enemy is defeated.
The true spotlight shines on Tormentors. These enemies are the heralds of a new Darkness faction. They are large, scythe-wielding monsters that can suppress guardians repeatedly. Similar to Rhulk, you must shoot at their crit spots to make them vulnerable.
My first encounter with them was terrifying. They stalk you relentlessly in battle, especially when vulnerable. It is a detriment to stand still for too long even when in a Well of Radiance. I found staying mobile to be the best strategy when facing them. I found their addition to be a strong bolster to the campaign’s gameplay loop. They added creativity to the otherwise mundane nature of the Shadow Legion.
Ride the Wave
On the other hand, the allies you find in Neomuna are a mixed bag. Rohan and Nimbus serve as your anchors in Neomuna and are known as Cloudstriders. They have similar capabilities to Guardians through technological augmentation. However, their lifespans are shortened as a byproduct.
Rohan displays the grizzled veteran who does not have long to live. He brings a grounded, cautionary approach to warfare learned from his experience. In contrast, Nimbus is hotheaded and brash. They are relatively new to life as Cloudstrider and still have a lot to learn from Rohan.
Nimbus tries to bring levity throughout the campaign. I found their sense of humor to be a hit-or-miss most of the time. I only began to respect their character through quests found post-campaign. Unfortunately, Rohan suffered a similar fate to Osiris when it comes to failed potential. One mission, in particular, was a pivotal moment for the character. Yet, it fell on deaf ears when I finished it. I failed to care about the events that transpired despite Bungie pushing for the opposite.
I found it to be a strange shortcoming of the narrative team here. In fact, the entirety of Lightfall appears to exist in a weird, separate echo chamber when compared to the narrative greatness of The Witch Queen. Originally, Bungie planned for this DLC to end the Light and Darkness saga. However, they extended the time frame when announcing Final Shape. It appears the narrative in Lightfall may have suffered as a result.
Quality of life
Poor story aside, this expansion ushered in new systems and quality-of-life changes. The mod system affecting armor was consolidated and tuned. Additionally, guardians have the ability to create and save custom loadouts. This allows for quick build swapping on the fly. I found it very helpful during raids and end-game PVE content.
Guardian Ranks is a new path of progression. Bungie created it hoping to give New Lights a path forward in the world of Destiny 2. Subsequently, commendations are tied to this system and can be awarded at the end of activities. Guardian Ranks still feels like it is in a beta state. I would rather Bungie change some of the more difficult rank objectives (like solo flawless lost sectors) to higher tiers. Additionally, tune down the number of commendations you need to progress. The requirement is extremely high for the amount on average you receive. This is especially needed when it relies on other players actually awarding them to you.
Additionally, I found it to be poorly reflective of a player’s actual experience and capability. I would like to see a future change so that a player who has twenty hours of playtime does not have the same starting rank as a player with over five hundred. It just seems to be another number-chase grind (one that resets each season). Furthermore, commendations do not feel genuine as Bungie probably intended. I find most seek only to reach their quota for the pinnacle of the week versus actually showing appreciation.
Guardians will find Lightfall after the campaign to have nice highs and familiar lows. There are unique quests that flesh out the lore of Neomuna and its protectors. I completely flipped my opinion on Nimbus because of a post-campaign quest.
Additionally, Neomuna itself is a fun destination to explore from lost sectors housing death trap arcades to crazy public events awarding exotics. Here, I would rate Neomuna higher than Savathûn’s Throne World. However, the ritual gameplay loop of Destiny 2 failed to receive much love.
Furthermore, Strand is available to be fully unlocked and customized. My opinion completely flipped on its head at this point. The subclass is spectacular across all classes. It offers a unique and versatile way of play unmatched by the other subclasses. Additionally, the new strand weapons and perks like Hatchling further opens the synergy into an amazingly fun gameplay loop.
Bungie re-tuned the difficulty across all activities. This offers an engaging challenge, and I enjoyed activities testing my skill versus rolling through cannon fodder.
However, activities like lost sectors (both legend and master difficulty) I find to be too difficult. Now, lost sectors take on average ten minutes to complete for a chance at an exotic you do not have. I find the juice not worth the squeeze. It never feels great working your way carefully through a now harder lost sector just to be rewarded nothing for your time.
Additionally, Destiny 2: Lightfall introduced one new strike to the Vanguard Ops. playlist… and that is it. Crucible, Vanguard Ops, and especially Gambit are hurting for content. The ritual gameplay loop to grind power and pinnacle rewards still relies heavily on these modes.
Bungie announced a season focused on content for these playlists coming prior to The Final Shape. However, I find it a shame to receive such little content for modes I am expected to play the most post-campaign.
I find myself conflicted at the end of this Destiny 2: Lightfall review. Season of the Seraph brought such goodwill going into this campaign. However, Bungie delivered a story that falls short of the great heights they proved they can reach.
The narrative is inexcusable and is not reconciled with the Root of Nightmares raid either. The raid centered on Nezarec. Once again, this is a plot point promising a great payoff from months of build-up only to fall short when executed.
On the other hand, Lightfall has numerous quality-of-life changes, an engaging new subclass, and challenging content. This is a win despite the shortcomings of the ritual playlists. Overall, Destiny 2: Lightfall is a setback from the previous year of amazing storytelling and is only bolstered by the above-average sum of its parts. This is not akin to The Empire Strikes Back but rather The Last Jedi is a more apt comparison.