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Since the original launch of Destiny back in 2014, there has been an ambitious yet overly vague storyline building in the depth of its ever-expanding lore. The gist of it? Good versus Evil, or in the case of this universe, the Light versus the Darkness. For so long, it’s felt like a meandering excuse for you to shoot aliens across the solar system. However, with the launch of The Witch Queen last year and now Lightfall, narrative seeds planted almost a decade ago are beginning to sprout. The end result to this latest expansion is a contradicting amalgamation of both disappointment and pure FPS joy.
Lightfall is being tagged as “the beginning of our end”, acting as the second chapter of a proposed trilogy of expansions which will wrap up the decade-spanning storyline with next year’s The Final Shape. The game’s opening cinematic certainly feels high stakes with the calamitous arrival of The Witness — who for those out of the know acts as the physical embodiment of the Darkness, and the proprietor of this universe’s first collapse. As fans of Destiny since its original launch, we were swept up in the epicness of this opener, as it did feel like the beginning of everything we had been waiting for. This should have been our Avengers: Infinity War.
You’re very quickly hyper-spaced away to a new setting on Neptune, and the neon-swept city of Neomuna. If you’ve been playing Destiny for a while, you’ll be struck by how different this city is visually with impressive skyscrapers, clean streets, and a brilliant collective of bright and vivid colours. Destiny has always excelled with visually impressive settings and Neomuna is no different.
Where it does suffer however, is in its lack of character. With Neomuna being one of the first settings we’ve visited that isn’t desolate, destroyed and abandoned, it was disappointing to find the streets of this city so devoid of life even if there were narrative reasons for it. Whether it’s the Moon, Nessus, or the Dreaming City, Destiny settings have captured the spirit of their respective realms and planets in a way that you could lose yourself in the smaller details and get a real sense of their history. Neomuna is flashy but lacks that charm, instead acting as more set-dressing than a story backdrop. Granted there is a decent amount of lore to dig into if you go looking for it, but Neomuna didn’t reel us in in the way that we had hoped.
But what about the story which urges us to explore Neomuna in the first place? Well, through the opener we had hoped that we’d finally be getting to fight alongside our favourite characters from the series, in a war we’ve been training for for years. While Lightfall certainly feels like a late-story expansion, and one with plenty of big moments, it was frustrating to be served yet another set-up campaign. The story at play here felt too small and separated from the real action of this narrative, and when it did eventually bring it back, it left us with a mountain of questions and not very many answers.
We’re sure Bungie could have even condensed it all into a seasonal campaign, especially after what just went down in Season of the Seraph. We suspect, though, that integral narrative beats will sprout from Lightfall and spread across the next year’s worth of seasonal storylines. It might make the next year as a whole more interesting narratively, but as of right now we couldn’t help but feel let down. As we fought Callus, and befriended the Cloudstriders on Neptune, we really just wished we were back defending the last city alongside the likes of Zavala and Ikora.
With all of that being said, we still came away from Ligthfall with a big smile on our face, and a quizzical enthusiasm for the series. Lightfall may be a set-up, but it still leaves the universe in some very exciting places; Destiny as a whole no longer feels like it’s stuck in varying states of stasis. It is evolving, maturing, and we really can’t wait to see where it all goes. While most fans of the series will sound like broken records, exciting times are indeed ahead for the Destiny narrative.
Okay, but with all of our talk on the narrative let-downs of this expansion, what about its actual content? While exploring the streets of Neomuna, Guardians will familiarise themselves with the new Strand subclass, which we can already tell will be a fan-favourite. Threadlings seek out their prey with the Broodweaver Warlock subclass, whilst the Titan’s Berserker claws rip through waves of Vex, and the Hunter’s Threadrunner whips away droves of Cabal. These new abilities feel fresh, powerful, and fun to use, but the most exciting introduction of the Strand subclass is its grappling ability.
Guardians can switch out their grenade slot for the grapple, and it’s hard to put into words just how satisfying a great grapple swing can be. Destiny 2 was already one of the best-feeling first-person shooters out there, and the introduction of the Strand grapple just elevates it that bit more. You’ll certainly be wanting to mess around with your builds to ensure you can swing more regularly, but whether it be to avoid a killer blow, or deliver one with the momentum melee attacks, there’s no end to the fun you can have with it.
Then there’s the new Tormentors, which you’ll need Strand’s mobility to survive against and defeat. This new, big, and intimidating enemy type is the standout of the Lightfall campaign. Destiny is well know for its reliance on bullet sponge enemies, but it’s nice for the game to throw a genuinely difficult foe your way. When playing in our fireteam, a Tormentor would cause giddy excitement as we knew we would need to bring our A-game and stay on our toes — especially in the campaign’s immensely fun legendary difficulty. Whenever Lightfall threw our fireteam into a claustrophobic level with a Tormentor or two, it was easily the best fun we’ve had in an FPS in years.
There is so much we could still cover with this latest expansion, like Buildcrafting 2.0 and the new Guardian Ranks system, both of which aim to streamline the Destiny experience. However, at its core Lightfall is all about its story, setting, and gameplay changes. The campaign and setting largely let us down, with the whole thing feeling like the middle child of the Witch Queen, Ligthtfall, and Final Shape trilogy. However, the vigorous excitement that Destiny 2’s brilliant gameplay elicits greatly elevates the overall Lightfall experience, with some stellar enhancements thanks to Strand subclasses and grapples. It’s irritating to be left in narrative limbo for yet another year, but you’ll still struggle to find a space shooter that is this much fun.