I always look forward to my yearly Destiny 2 review. Not only is an opportunity to experience the next chapter in the franchise, it’s as much a rereview of the game itself. With Destiny 2: Lightfall Bungie added a new mod system, changed difficulty, plus countless other tweaks. A lot of these have been met with a variety of opinions, making Destiny 2: Lightfall something of a divisive topic. While such things are not a factor in most of our reviews, it’s hard to avoid them in an experience as community focused on Destiny 2. As a result, this review will be a little different, so let’s get into Destiny 2: Lightfall.
Going into this expansion players had rather high expectations. Destiny 2: The Witch Queen was a magnificent end to one of the franchises most interesting character, Savathûn. With Destiny 2: Lightfall, Bungie essentially set themselves up for a slam dunk. The penultimate chapter contains the culmination of the ongoing Calus story arc, which began with Destiny 2 itself, and our first real look at the big bad of the light and darkness saga, The Witness.
Despite reasonable expectation, these elements are largely ignored in Lightfall’s campaign. Instead, Lightfall centers on protecting the “Veil,” working with Cloud Striders, and mastering this mysterious new power called Strand. These concepts are certainly interesting, they’re just presented in the least interesting way possible.
A lot of players have speculated on what the Veil is, with some lore heavy explanations, it’s unfortunate the actual implications of these events are not entirely understood. It was fine when this was the Black Heart in the original campaign, something that relates to the Veil in some way, but at this point it makes the campaign rather frustrating. It’s like everyone is in on this joke and you just go along with it to not feel like even more of an outsider. There are promises of answers coming in the future, so I guess we will revisit the topic with Season of the Deep, but those answers likely won’t change how players experience the campaign.
With this battle we’re aided by Neomuna’s Cloud Striders. The concept behind them is quite interesting. Neomuni volunteers are enhanced by Nanomachines to protect Neomuna. Only two can exist at a time, with these amazing gifts coming with a reduced lifespan of approximately 10 years. While these characters have a lot of potential, it’s squandered by a myriad of confusing choices. These choices also bleed into the overarching Darkness narrative.
At this point players are familiar with Calus and his opulent desires. We saw them in Duality, multiple different seasons, and even in this adventure we need to prove ourself worthy yet again. Having a familiar threat, who in turn knows our weaknesses, channels the same elements that made the Red War story stand out for many. Except, here Calus and The Witness have a dynamic that is similar to Megatron and Starscream from Transformers. This would honestly be fine if it was used as a way to explore The Witness further, except that unfortunately doesn’t happen.
Instead, the narrative is dominated by tutorials centered around Strand. The logic behind this choice makes sense. Calus counted our known power, so an unknown power would give us an unexpected advantage, though it’s all very superficial. Often times the Guardian is told why this course of action makes sense, with the hostile forces waiting for us to eventually take them on directly. It all feels like we regressed from Destiny 2: The Witch Queen to Destiny 2: Shadowkeep, which is unfortunate due to the conclusion likely being extremely important for understanding the final expansion in this saga, The Final Shape.
Bungie included a number of gameplay changes with this expansion that have a substantial impact on the experience. One of the biggest changes is difficulty, which is something of a mixed bag. While I appreciate Bungie trying to make content more engaging, some of the external choices have made the actual impact hard to gauge.
Heist Battlegrounds: Mars was a rough choice for one of the initial Nightfalls. It’s a long mission, involves some powerful foes, and a lot of enemies. It also didn’t help that players were pushed to used Strand against a melee boss. This weeks, Hypernet Current, is better, but it’s unfortunate to see Nightfalls move from a fairly accessible matchmade event to largely depending on whomever you get match with. Several other modes suffered from this a lot, most notably Dares of Eternity on Legend, and Neomuna Patrol.
Giving Patrol some bite isn’t the worst thing ever, it’s just unfortunate to see these issue compound. A lot of recent tasks ask players to visit Neomuna, with most of them being tied to Terminal Overload. This is a fairly long and unrewarding event that is reminiscent of Nightmare Containment. Except here players are pushed to use meta options. For example, I tried the seasonal bow (Raconteur) to do a Seasonal Challenge and it took two hits to kill most red bar enemies. By contrast, any other patrol or the campaign on classic difficulty was a one hit.
These elements are being looked at with a balance tweak set to go live soon, so hopefully we find better balance. Especially since these elements are woefully inconsistent.
Take the latest raid, Root of Nightmares. It’s probably the easiest raid in recent memory, something newcomers will appreciate, it just feels weird when the normal raid is harder than some of the previous Nightfalls. This is supposed to be the pinnacle task for PVE, yet right now that seems to be the Vexcalibur mission on the highest difficulty.
Such a Cool Location
Even if Root of Nightmares didn’t live up to difficulty expectations, I do want to take a moment to say it’s an extremely nice raid. Giving a wide range of players the opportunity to defeat such a notable foe is wonderful, and it’s visually one of the most interesting designs. I honestly have no issue with the raid being accessible, as everything can’t be directed at the most hardcore players, it just seems weird to push every other element to be more difficult, and scale the historically most challenging element back.
Similar things apply to the newly added Guardian Ranks. I think simplifying the system by giving Guardians a rank associated with their accomplishments is a fantastic idea. I can’t say I agree with it resetting each season, though common theory is only a handful of mostly seasonal tasks (blue colored) reset, but it has a lot of weird limitations.
For example, rank six is essentially rank one, with time investment largely dictating progression. Even if I have completed every raid and dungeon currently available, a feat that would bring you just under the highest level, I’ll be limited to my commendation score. Requirements were decreased, though it will likely be the final task you finish at each level.
Speaking of commendations, this is also a good idea that is implemented poorly. Commendations reminds me of the soon to be removed Accolade system on PlayStation 5. A lot of people view these as entirely optional, with various systems rewarding/punishing players for not bothering. If forced participation wasn’t bad enough, players are given a finite amount of options.
I Guess my Performance was Not Commendation Worthy
Take game modes like Gambit. Players are given two options to dispense among three players. This, coupled with rewards for getting/receiving them, modes having predetermined options, and it becomes a score based off how much you play. It’s a shame I can’t give a good sherpa props with a leadership commendation, or share my joy with a raid team, because even if I take the moment to do that most won’t. Most will award someone at complete random, because it’s all the same in the grand scheme of things.
Even if I harped on a number of things about Destiny 2: Lightfall, I want to be clear that it’s not a terrible expansion. Loadouts are a wonderful addition that I hope to see expanded upon in the future. The revised mod system is a step back in terms of depth, but it’s great to see players have access to a wide range of options with clear benefits.
Strand is another highlight in this update. I wouldn’t say Strand is going to replace any of the classes go-to option. However, it’s really fun swinging around, tying up enemies, and using all the tools to help your team. It also has some really useful applications for specific situations that can also make it a situational meta option. Simply being able to suspend Champions is massive, even if some other options might be theoretically better.
I also really like some of the new exotics. A lot of these are currently more on the fun side, with each having practical applications in most everyday Destiny 2 task. They’re also fairly easy to unlock, so you won’t spend hours trying to get a bow that is worse than even a legendary option you’ve had for months.
Destiny 2: Lightfall Review Verdict
It goes without saying Bungie would get some things wrong with so many sweeping changes. I expect a lot of them will be addressed in the near future, or later seasons. It’s also unfortunate the campaign is not the jewel The Witch Queen was, but the things that matter are largely good. For these reasons it’s important to go into Destiny 2: Lightfall with the right perspective. It’s a pretty average Destiny 2 expansion that tries to do some massive things, and falls short with a lot of them. But, even in its current form it’s an enjoyable experience that fans will likely enjoy, even if it’s a bumpy ride.
[Editor’s Note: Destiny 2: Lightfall was reviewed on PlayStation 5, and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.]