Destiny 2: Lightfall review: A game of 20 new questions

After defeating the final boss of the Destiny 2: Lightfall campaign there was an overwhelming feeling of – Is that it?

This expansion, billed as the beginning of our end, the penultimate knell before the Light and Darkness saga is concluded, flopped like the first time a child tries diving. There are wins from a system point of view, but the tonal disparities throughout the expansion don’t do the studio any favours.

This Lightfall review will have spoilers. In order to explain our disappointment, we need to showcase just how jarring the choice Bungie made with the story is.

But first, context and spoilers

The Season of the Seraph concluded with Rasputin sacrificing himself to prevent Eramis from destroying the Traveler. This event also saw the arrival of a fleet of Pyramid ships and The Witness on Earth’s doorstep.

These are high stakes, as Zavala puts it, as The Witness is the “malefactor of our collapse” and we expected this to carry a profound amount of weight.

Lightfall opens with the Traveler beaming the ship where the Witness is located, drawing the creature out in one of the best cutscenes we’ve seen in Destiny, ever.

The Witness, through a vision, catches a glimpse of something we come to know as The Veil on Neptune and entrusts the newly born Calus, Disciple of the Witness, with retrieving it. Osiris and the Guardian catch a lift aboard a Shadow Legion ship and arrive in Neptune’s orbit.

The Guardian mows through Cabal and encounters a new enemy type in Tormentors. These creatures resemble Rhulk in many ways and can supress players preventing them from using abilities. Like Hive Guardians, these enemies add a bit more depth to combat and require some skill to overcome.

After crashing a Cabal ship, Osiris and the Guardian escape to Neptune’s surface only to discover a thriving city.

This city is Neomuna. This city was formed by humans that fled Earth during the Collapse and it’s been hidden, somehow, until now. The city is protected by Cloud Striders, humans that appear to be augmented with nano technology. The Guardian teams up with the only two Cloud Striders we meet, Rohan and Nimbus. We are also quickly introduced to Strand. This new sub-class element is everywhere on Neomuna but apparently only Lightbearers can see it. An odd narrative choice having the folks from the planet simultaneously oblivious to this matter and then not much later experts in how to harness its power.

Nimbus is one of Neomuna’s Cloud Striders.

The Guardian is tasked with protecting the aforementioned Veil, but we never learn what it is, why it exists, why the Witness wants it or why this is the first we’re hearing of it This makes protecting the Veil seem less important than it is because, well, we don’t know what it is so why do we care. It doesn’t help that Osiris and the Cloud Striders talk about the thing as if we should know what it is. Bungie has now said that The Veil will be explained in this year’s seasons which we feel is a mistake. That content should form part of the expansion’s narrative rather than it being needlessly stretched out over 12 months.

Our confusion about plot macguffins aside, Bungie nails the theme of an 80s action hero film. The cutscenes are slick with bombastic explosions and high tension. In the mission Downfall, the Guardian has to make a grand escape from the Typhon Imperator with tanks raining shells down on you and enemies nipping at your heels. Alongside the setting of Neomuna, the concept of an action flick in a sci-fi setting pays off well. At first.

As is tradition in Destiny, players will have to go out and explore Neomuna in order to get more Power in order to be able to complete story missions. Neomuna is fun to explore albeit a bit flat. While Strand allows for greater mobility and vertical play, Neomuna needs to be accessible to players even if they don’t have Strand. We had hoped that a particularly hard to get Region Chest was only accessible with Strand, but we learned that we were simply not taking the right route moments later.

Big city lights.

On that note, Strand is only accessible in the campaign at specific times. There are one or two missions where using Strand is a necessity but for the most part, you can opt to not use it and we would often do just that. This is because Strand is new and we didn’t have builds that support the sub-class so while the greatly reduced cooldowns were nice, they weren’t exactly useful in most situations. 

Once you unlock Strand at the end of the campaign you can start playing with it properly and there are already a number of great ways to maximise your effectiveness with the sub-class.

Once you’ve acquired a bit of extra power it’s back into the story and in the second act things become a bit jarring.

A major character in the expansion dies in battle and the very next mission their companion is acting like they’re attending a Cabal comedy show. We later learn why this is but it’s so jarring given the weight of what is going on at the time.

Then, we have a training montage and inspirational speech which is just, bizarre. We get what Bungie was going for here with the theme of the expansion but with a major death having just happened, the threat of the end of our existence and five million other questions brewing in our minds, it just didn’t fit or sit right with us.

The Lightfall expansion’s main story culminates in us eliminating Calus. At this point, Chekhov’s Gun goes off and everything we just did, was for nothing. The first and last cutscene could easily have been spliced together and nothing we did would have mattered, because it didn’t.

Neomuna, while beautiful, could have easily been a reworked Venus or even the Moon. Worse still, after the confusing final cutscene, we learn about what went down off-handedly.

After the campaign we learn that the Witness has entered a portal carved into the Traveler. We are told that the Ghosts can no longer feel the Traveler’s light and Zavala says it is gone but we still have our powers and the power to be revived so we’re not sure what is going on. When Ghaul stole the Light in the Red War campaign, we lost our powers so what has happened now is very unclear.

Post-campaign there are a number of Exotic missions which help to flesh out Neomuna’s story significantly. All of these missions revolve around Exotic weapons which means that most players are unlikely to miss these but we wish they’d formed part of the core campaign in some way.

What makes Lightfall’s story so disappointing is that since Season of Arrivals, Bungie has been nailing the Seasonal story telling of Destiny. To get this story which races through the content, tries to switch tones on a dime and doesn’t explain anything, feels like something is missing.

We hoped that the Raid would yield more information but we’ll simply have to wait until Season of the Deep to learn more about the Lightfall campaign.

Veterans rejoice

What Lightfall does wonderfully is improve the quality of life for veteran players. While the systems require you have multiple builds in mind to be truly effective, for those who have these or are building toward them, the grind is less of a slog.

Elemental affinity for armour is gone and the mod system has been streamlined and simplified. While mods are a bit limited right now, this problem can be addressed in time with the addition of new mods. Importantly, the core system is better, requiring less of a grind for armour and less hoarding of multiple Exotics.

Players now also have the ability to create loadouts that they can swap to on the fly as well as a way to manage all of your mods from a single screen.

Quickly swap builds with a single click.

Commendations give players the ability to recognise others for their efforts in game. This system feels like it will be short lived though as it is currently being abused and if we’re honest, doesn’t relay all that much useful information.

Weapon crafting has been simplified with Deepsight Resonance now being an instant unlock and no longer requiring a certain number of defeats before being able to extract a pattern. This also means that only craftable weapons will drop with Deepsight Resonance.

Difficulty has also been tuned although there is split opinion about whether the dial was pushed too hard toward the upper end of the scale. It doesn’t help that there is seemingly a bug that has vehicles hitting anybody running a frame-rate higher 60fps and up far harder than those at 30fps.

All vendor engrams are now stored at the relevant vendors and focusing is far more user friendly and allows for a much better way to acquire weapons and armour you may want.

Destiny feels great to play but you will still be going through the motions of Ritual and Seasonal Activities every week to progress a Season Pass that unlocks cosmetics, gear, weapons and other perks for owners.


Bungie has nailed the idea of playing the main character in an 80s action movie but sadly, that tone doesn’t work when the pay-off is the impending doom of the universe.

Ultimately Lightfall feels inconsequential in terms of how it impacts the lore of the Destiny universe and it feels like a forced stop-gap between The Witch Queen and the Final Shape. What makes this so bad is that Strand, a range of new weapons and other content is locked off behind the paywall that is Lightfall and Destiny is a game that demands you pay to play relevant content. At R1 399 to access that content, Destiny is getting harder and harder to justify as a purchase.

As a Destiny-fiend with close to 2 000 hours in the game, Lightfall’s campaign left me a bit sad. The system changes are great and being able to switch loadouts quickly is welcome. The story however left me wanting. The idea of having new questions this late into the game is also just exhausting considering this Light versus Darkness saga is meant to be wrapping up.

We had hoped that Lightfall would answer some questions but instead we have way too many more and we fear Bungie is running out of time to explain.



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