Destiny 2 Lightfall promised to be the groundbreaking penultimate storyline in a narrative developed over nearly a decade. But the issue is sometimes game developers make promises they can’t keep. Not every expansion and campaign storyline can change the game like Forsaken or introduce us to compelling narrative twists like those in The Witch Queen. However, Lightfall feels like a significant step backwards from the complex, interwoven threads that once led an entire community to grieve for the death of Cayde-6 or, even more recently, shed a tear at Rasputin’s sacrifice.
Perhaps there’s some confusion among the developers as to what Destiny 2 means to players compared to what it means to those in charge. The development team sought to deliver a futuristic neon city and a Darkness subclass that’s ironically bright in the FPS game, while what could have truly satiated players is a clearer grasp of the stakes surrounding the Traveler, the Veil, and the future of humanity.
Note that this review is relatively early in the gameplay experience, reflecting several hours of campaign content. There’s a lot to explore in Destiny 2 Lightfall, and we’re still working our way through it. Still, with several hours of the Legendary campaign completed, suffice it to say it’s notably underwhelming.
Maybe it’s intentional that a DLC dubbed Lightfall could leave players in the dark. But, in what should be some of the game’s most pivotal moments, we’re instead left scratching our heads about what’s going on.
It’s possible Bungie has a bigger plan in mind and will unravel the Veil’s importance over the next few seasons. But with Lightfall offering so much promise in what should ostensibly be the biggest showdown to date, the combat narrative presently feels like it may be leading to the worst version of “it was a dream all along.”
Of course, perhaps the forthcoming Destiny 2 Lightfall raid, named Root of Nightmares, will answer some questions for us. But why hide some of the game’s best content behind an activity at least half the playerbase is unlikely ever to see? The campaign is the selling point for a reason: it should make players of all backgrounds and skill sets feel invested.
The campaign feels manageable on Legendary difficulty — except when it isn’t. After sailing through the first two missions in the Destiny 2 Lightfall mission list, Downfall felt like a chore. Even my most powerful builds couldn’t withstand the arena that seems to be lacking cover, and even with a Destiny 2 Downfall mission guide, it still felt tedious.
Bungie really wanted to amp up the difficulty with Lightfall, but that suddenly begs the question, who is this game for? At its core, it’s a free game supported by microtransactions and DLC content and designed to appeal to as broad of an audience as possible. But if the Legendary campaign rewards exotics that people of all skill sets have paid to be able to access, then doesn’t it feel like a slight to less-skilled players? Or, for example, the recently-released Destiny 2 Vexcalibur exotic glaive is hidden behind a mission that even seasoned players find difficult on its normal difficulty. Players can only obtain the catalysts by completing it on Legendary difficulty, which has a power cap that means less-skilled Guardians can’t simply grind for pinnacles to make it manageable for them. Perhaps the idea is to force people to invite friends and play as fireteams. And that might be okay, if the game’s promised Looking For Group features were introduced with Lightfall. But there are thousands of Destiny 2 players who simply prefer the solo experience, and not all of them are die-hard players. Shouldn’t it be possible for them to obtain catalysts without putting themselves through torture? And further, isn’t there an argument that weaker players are the ones who need these catalysts the most?
Ultimately, this is simply a question of balance as the normal campaign difficulty felt easier than most low-level, pre-Lightfall Vanguard strikes. Maybe instead of focusing on an unnecessary ranking system, the game could instead offer better signifiers as to things such as overall damage increase when combining certain mods and Fragments. Or, it could find some other indicator to let players know why they’re getting one-shot by Tormenters or why weapons players have relied on for years seem suddenly nerfed out of existence. Of course, it’s always been my perspective that a player shouldn’t have to go outside of a game to learn how to play it. But Bungie seems hell-bent on adding layer upon layer of complexity when it could behove the developers to simply address the basics.
It’s easy to see why Lightfall has players divided. Take Nimbus, for example. The game draws on the stakes of the Darkness versus the Light to bring us to the City of Neomuna, where we meet a friendly-but-goofy ally reminiscent of a character in a classic episode of The Simpsons, in which the popular Itchy and Scratchy TV show introduces a dog named Poochie to bolster ratings. While Nimbus adds a playful voice to the game, they feel doomed to join the cast of characters who play nothing more than a cameo role in a game committed to relying on new characters as lazy plot devices.
Perhaps part of the issue with this is in the expectations. The marketing materials surrounding Lightfall built it up to tell the story that would lead us to the space game’s final chapter. But Bungie should know one thing: if it wants to keep its players happy, it should never make a promise it can’t keep.
There are some highlights. The Destiny 2 Strand subclass is fun to use. For what Bungie may be lacking in storytelling, it appears to have balanced in its own way with a unique subclass that introduces an entirely new playstyle into the game.
There are many new exotics, quests, missions, and a forthcoming all-new raid. There are weekly story missions and activities, and, while PvP could still use new maps and Gambit remains entirely untouched, Destiny 2 Iron Banner promises to return three times a season. All of this is to suggest that, for not exactly nailing the storyline content, the team is still giving players a ton of content for the game’s price tag, though even that appears to be inflating in every iteration.
Further, the game’s quality-of-life improvements are helpful. Features such as Loadouts are extremely useful, and while I don’t find Guardian Ranks particularly interesting, the UI that supports them and makes it easy to complete Guardian Ranks-related challenges is clean and seamless. Commendations seem like an appealing way to recognize teammates but are little more than useless in practice. Perhaps the best one I got was when I loaded into an activity near its end and, after having done absolutely nothing before the mission ended, my teammates jokingly deemed me fun to play with.
And, when it comes to exotic weapons, Lightfall doesn’t disappoint. The Strand-based Destiny 2 Final Warning exotic sidearm and the Void-based Deterministic Chaos exotic machine gun are both fantastic weapons that are fun to use. While the questline to earn the Destiny 2 Winterbite exotic glaive has some time-gating in terms of when you can complete a specific activity, which is always absolute B.S. designed to force players to log in on different days to complete objectives that shouldn’t be tied to daily resets, it still feels worth the chase.
We’ll continue to update this review as we go through the popular multiplayer game and explore everything Lightfall offers. Until then, check out our Destiny 2 season 20 overview and Destiny 2 Lightfall exotics list to see what’s new.