A little over two months after Destiny 2 Lightfall’s launch, I finally peeled my feelings off the wall and decided to turn them into words. I think my conflict over what to say and how to say comes a lot from the community’s mixed and often polarized response. When you’re so invested in a game that lives and breathes like this, a lot of what you see or hear day to day is from that community. It was exhausting. It was hard for me to parse how I felt with the constant overreaction in places like Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube, that went from excited theorycrafting of what Lightfall could be to a hot or cold war very quickly.
The community response had a huge effect on how much I enjoyed Lightfall, which is of course partly my fault but it complicated my feelings enough to where I needed to take a break from Destiny and mull over how I felt about Lightfall, Season of Defiance, and what is to be the coming year of D2 seasons and content leading into “the finale” of the current Destiny saga.
Let’s start with The Lightfall campaign itself.
The center of the division I think is with the campaign, which most long-term Destiny players blasted through on that first day of release. Your Guardian heads to the newly discovered city Neomuna on Neptune to stop The Witness’ plan to link themselves to The Veil. Finally our enemy is at our front door, but while the seasonal story covers the war at home, the campaign is our second-front war to deal with a mcguffin.
I think a lot of expectations going into Lightfall were that it would be some tragic but massive war that ends in our enemy’s favor. It’s more of an action-movie romp across a neon-city, trying to beat the enemy away on all sides from taking the thing that the bad guy wants. It’s not complicated, I don’t think it’s reinventing the wheel, but it sure is fun. The eight missions really lean into different types of action-cinema influences, from jumping around on the edges of skyscrapers (albeit too briefly) to secluded beachfront lookouts that turn into a warzone, to huge tank fights through the backstreets of Neomuna. They ended up being my favorite front-to-back series of missions from any campaign yet, including the final boss. There is a frenetic nature to them that is exhilarating, especially in the updated Legendary Campaign mode, which has been tuned since Witch Queen to be a bit more forgiving.
For what it is, the campaign is a great, fun time. Does it make for a good penultimate event to the end of the “Light and Dark Saga”? I don’t really think so. The Witness’ endgame, The Veil, has some deep roots in Destiny history from some old concept art for the first game, potentially being a full new enemy race. But even though it’s been the subject of conjecture for years, and used in promotional materials and positioned as a very important thing, we get no answers about what it is or why it’s important by the end of this section of the story.
As a long-time Kingdom Hearts fan and also a fan of Destiny’s long-term storytelling, this didn’t get under my skin really at all. But it did for a lot of folks and they made that very audibly clear in every space a conversation about Destiny was happening in regards to Lightfall. It is certainly some kind of storytelling sin to refer to your mcguffin many, many times and never really explain what it is or why it’s important. It is set up as a mystery to unravel over time, but I think in a penultimate story, it’s a very risky move to do something like this. It leaves you wanting after the campaign is finished.
A lot of the narrative time in the campaign is used to connect with Strand, the new subclass added with this expansion. It’s been two expansions and two and a half years since Stasis, the first “darkness subclass” was added to Destiny back in 2020. For me, Eramis taking the darkness and us kind of unceremoniously “taking it too” felt like a pretty hollow introduction to using the powers of the darkness. Stand gets a lot more love, but it feels like a right thing, wrong time situation.
Strand represents the “weave of the universe”, very similar to the idea of threads of fate you might see in a Dungeons and Dragons setting. This kind of thing is exactly my shit. Yet even though it’s treated like an unwieldy weapon we must master that represents something, we don’t get as deep into its mysterious nature as I would have wanted within the scope of the story. So much of the time of the campaign is us playing with our new power and not really explaining it or the purpose of the Veil. Too much cooking at once.
Overall the Campaign is a fun action adventure with killer setpieces, but the story doesn’t deliver what I was expecting. Did it crush my love of Destiny? No, but it sure seems like it did for a lot of loud people, and that certainly hurt my relationship with consuming Destiny and Destiny content. I think for what it is, Lightfall is super fun, and for what it needed to be, it’s a miss. I won’t lament the success of Witch Queen versus Lightfall because they feel like two totally different things, but if Lightfall built its storytelling around one of the two things it tries to juggle, I think it would have felt more satisfying.
I’d say the second pillar of Lightfall is the addition of a new subclass. To me, this is the most special of events in Destiny, and it served as a major vehicle for me getting into more endgame activities back when the first Darkness Subclass, Stasis, came out in 2020. Strand is a huge part of the campaign, with you accessing charge points frequently throughout at least six of the eight campaign missions. These points temporarily give you rapidly charging abilities and supers, allowing you to spam-magic your way through fun setpieces. This time in Lightfall, instead of just doing this, there are lengthy sections, like the final boss encounter, where you do get a Strand setup that has slightly more resemblance to the endgame suite of abilities, but just like Beyond Light, you must finish the final boss and campaign mission to fully unlock Strand.
I didn’t like this introduction before with Stasis, and I don’t like it here. It’s handled marginally better, where over time each of the two starting aspects and one different fragment per class is introduced and explained so you do learn the abilities of the subclass. Stasis’ hollow ability-spam boss sections didn’t give an accurate impression of the class at all. Still, the decision to hold back the Subclass until post-campaign was the wrong one, and I think in the expansion that introduced Loadouts, a huge quality of life feature I’ll talk about a bit later, this was the perfect opportunity to break the mold and let you feel like you’re unlocking parts of a skill tree through the campaign, instead of gating it into post-campaign filler grind.
Also like with Stasis, you need to farm a lot to unlock all 14 of the fragments for Strand, which make up the major modifiers. Again, it’s easier here, you get the currency to buy these fragments by doing just about anything with Strand, and more so on the new Destination, but it just feels a lot like a half step forward. Unlocking things may not be a problem for long term players, but this is the brand new toy and you’re holding it back from everyone until they commit several hours to the campaign and beyond.
But these are all the negatives I have to say about Strand, because to get into the introduction of the class, the element, and the damage type across the game, it’s been surprising and excellent.
The surprise comes in with how well it fits into the play of the other subclasses. From the outside looking in, my concern was would Strand have enough of its own identity, ability-wise, to not just feel like “Green Void” or something like that. Strand introduces many interesting new interactions, first of which is the grapple. While it is a grenade ability and does fall victim to cooldowns, Strand as a whole gives you a ton of interesting ways to charge your grenade abilities faster. The grapple doesn’t change Destiny into the vertical, sky-bound grapple-fest of Spider-Man, but it gives you a really intricate tool; one you can use aggressively, to gain that height and distance you want in short bursts, or even just as a speedy means of escaping harm. It fits well into Strand’s overall kit, which is harassing your enemies from all directions.
One of those tools comes from “unraveling” your opponents, which makes small needle-like threads shoot in and out of them, doing extra tick damage, spreading to nearby enemies, and creating a buzzing storm of damage over time that gives Strand its own identity amongst scorching Solar or jolting Arc. It serves a diametric pair of buff and debuff, with “Woven Mail”, a temporary 60% damage resistance, and “Severed”, which forces enemies to deal 33% less damage. This trio of verbs exist alongside each class’s strength, and I got to play two of them, Warlock and Hunter, Warlock being my main class. This all goes without mentioning “Suspension”, where you can use threads to pull up just about any non-boss enemy and hold them in the air, absolutely bullying them in a way you just couldn’t in Destiny before. It’s phenomenal.
The Warlock serves as the master of threadlings, creating small mobile creatures that attack enemies you shoot. Broodweaver feels like an appropriate class name as you are conjuring up these little guys all the time, and I really like it. There is certainly more to Strand, different grenades, throwable objects you can create, but each class touches these effects differently, and from playing alongside each, and as each, the full picture is very well realized.
Like Stasis before it, Strand won’t be fully released until the end of the year; I’m definitely excited to see what gets added to Strand, but the subclass released with Lightfall feels full and interesting, with a strong identity that makes it a competitive choice amongst four already very good elements to choose from. That, and it didn’t break PvP, which is basically a miracle.
The Quality of Life
What makes Lightfall significant beyond other expansions in my eyes is how it revamped Destiny 2 as a whole. So many changes to the menus, the interface, and visuals that really shake up the routines long-time players have with the game. I’ve split this into the quality of life things I want to highlight, and the changes to the way things work, like difficulty, existing strikes, for down below.
The champion of Lightfall for me is Loadouts. Every previous player will get six loadouts right away, and ten are unlockable. This was the first thing I grinded, and having a loadout that features your armor, the mods in them, even the ornament choices, shaders, all the aesthetics, plus guns and exotics tailored with aspects and fragments of the subclass; it’s the whole package. I immediately made a loadout for each of the five subclasses, and it has made it a delight to jump between them, grind out playlists with easy change ups, and just run raids in different moods thanks to loadouts. Up until Lightfall’s release I’d keep the same loadout on for weeks because I just didn’t want to change everything around for the tenth time that day.
This couples a bit with the new mods system. It definitely felt weird at first, but it fits a new modular style that can simulate what mods were before their rework in Lightfall, but also allow for min-maxing certain abilities in a way you couldn’t before. Want more weapon damage for as long as possible with each multi-kill? That’s doable. Want to focus completely on grenades, either through using them or saving them for the right moment? Also doable. It makes it harder to jack-of-all trades a class, certainly not making it impossible, but I do look forward to them adding new mods in coming seasons.
The true impact of these reworked mods is offset a bit by the also-reworked artifact mod system. Before they were mods exclusive to the current season that were on some level required for higher level play, and now they are passive perks that unlock permanently until you reset your artifact and change them. For example, instead of slotting in the “Anti-Barrier Pulse Rifle” mod into your arms armor, when it’s unlocked on the artifact, all your pulse rifles will just be anti-barrier, no arms-mod required.
This certainly frees up a lot of space, but part of this season’s artifact lowers the cost of many subclass-specific mods, like all Void Mods, or all Grenade Mods, which means the impact of the new mod system is certainly going to fluctuate season to season. It also feels like a slightly-forceful push of the only viable subclasses for High Difficulty content, considering the same subclasses incorporated into the artifact are the ones you’re directly rewarded for using in all of this season’s end-game activities. There is more to say about this, but to summarize it succinctly, the artifact this season makes it pretty hard to run Stasis and Arc, and you really feel that when putting together loadouts and using mods geared for those subclasses. It inherently divides the subclasses you should be using because of this, and I don’t feel great about that.
Overall, the quality of life introduced by these features is genuinely game-changing. When you’re just doing regular playlist activities, it is a lot more fun for me because I am jumping around classes and really reaching into the depth of my massive arsenal I’ve accumulated in the last few years of Destiny, and that is an exceptional feeling.
Changes to Content
Now to touch on the more controversial aspects of the Lightfall expansion, which I’d say starts with a complete rework to difficulty across the whole game.
Previously, Destiny worked off your level, and generally if you grinded things out so you were over-leveled for activities you could play them at optimal-level. They’d still be hard, moreso because of modifiers like extra damage from certain enemies or elements, but they’d be manageable because you put in some ugly amount of time to give yourself an edge.
There were very specific activities that actually ignored your power level, instead setting you at a specific power below the activity, essentially leveling the playing field, making it the same difficulty for everyone who entered. Grandmaster Nightfalls, generally the hardest content in Destiny 2, set you 25 levels below the activity. Then there were Contest Mode Raids, which was the raid during the first 24 (now 48) hours of release, so everyone racing to be first was on the same difficulty curve, a slightly lower 20 level disadvantage. Then, with Witch Queen, we got Legendary Campaign Difficulty, threading a pretty magic needle with difficulty setting everyone at 10 levels below the activity, creating what I’d call a fair and fun challenge through both Witch Queen and now Lightfall.
Lightfall has now reworked all activities to use this same scaler for difficulty, where the Power Level of the activity always puts you at a disadvantage. Legend and Master Nightfalls, Master Raids and Dungeons, activities that did not impose this level disadvantage, now do.
A place where this has worked for me is Nightfalls, now feeling more in line with recent Seasonal Activities. This was discussed before the release of Lightfall, where those activities had imposed a 5 level disadvantage, making them challenging but only enough to make them feel a bit more special and engaging. Nightfalls now have that same feeling, and I like it a lot. I certainly have Grandmaster Nightfall experience, though I’ve gone on record saying the difficulty curve there specifically made them more slog than fun for me, but I enjoy them from time to time.
Where this hasn’t worked as well is in some of the more casual activities that feel really off after longer time is spent in them. I think it’s contributed to some accelerated fatigue with the game, and makes it a little more tiring to play. I don’t completely mean this in a negative way, but Destiny takes a lot more out of me through certain grinds because I feel a lot more pressure in those activities because of difficulty spikes.
Dares of Eternity, one of the optional weekly Pinnacle activities, went from a bonkers six-person activity on Legend difficulty to an absolute slaughter, teammates going down left and right. What used to be 15 minute runs have become 24-27 minute activities that don’t ever get easier because it’s just always that difficult now.
Bungie has already communicated a lot about this in their wonderful stream of information on a weekly basis since launch, and adjustments have already been made and will continue to be made. But currently, to grade the state of Lightfall in these first few weeks, that exhausting feeling has definitely left its impression.
This comes alongside the rework of two older strikes, essentially making them modern by using newer Cabal units, and improving them a lot. It gets muddy with the difficulty balance being adjusted here and there and into the future, but I am excited about playlist activity updates, and I am excited to see this approach return for the first time since The Taken King.
The other major rework outside of difficulty is a sort of reworking of Triumphs. They have been effectively folded behind a new screen in your menu, The Journey tab, that is the home of Guardian Ranks. This is another one of those half step forwards, as these ranks are supposed to act as your introduction and effective post-game tutorial of what you’re actually supposed to do in Destiny.
The first six ranks, which are skipped by veteran players, act as a, “Hey, here is how you actually play Destiny 2,” tutorial for new players. It has them visit destinations, loot Lost Sectors, claim and complete bounties, and those parts of it I think are well made. It’s the latter half, ranks 7-11, which will apparently reset every season, that is where I feel a little confused.
Many of the tasks to advance these ranks are things like “Complete Nightfalls” or higher-difficulty activities, and some are even tied to the new accommodation system, but that’s already been reworked pretty heavily in the six weeks since release. It all just feels weird, and tedious, and so far hasn’t been a system I’ve felt the need to engage with. The only reward here is clout, which just doesn’t do it for me personally.
The new raid, The Root of Nightmares, is an absolutely great time. It will forever live in the shadow of Vow of the Disciple, a top tier raid I think that felt like a cherry on top to Witch Queen, but RoN has its own strengths.
The Raid centers around Nezarec, who has been teased for a long time in Destiny 2 and especially over the last year of Seasons. It’s really cool to see a boss built up like this, and while the fight with Nezarec is kind of easy, considering the whole “Final God of Pain” thing in the name, it has multiple facets to it. Your role in the fight can certainly affect how fun it is for you, and as the player who gets to tank Nezarec’s attention like a true Raid Boss, it can be quite fun going head to head with Destiny’s Boogie Man.
The real treat here are the story told and the visuals to behold. Nezarec’s story ties very intricately into the mysteries of Lightfall. It calls back to The Witch Queen, continuing the mystery set up by Savathun at the end of that campaign, and really makes Nezarec out to be the Boogie Man lurking in every shadow of this universe. The destination itself is The Witness’s pyramid ship, which gets a big moment in the opening cutscene of Lightfall, and as you traverse it you spread Light and Dark throughout it. It has some amazing visuals, combining the Darkness Architecture established in Vow of the Disciple, and introducing a kind of madness to it that makes it feel like a Part 2 to that story.
The encounters are fun, but simple, using much more straightforward mechanics. It was nice to take a break from having to memorize 20+ symbols, but most of the mechanics in RoN are not the blow-your-hair back creativity of past encounters. It sits cleanly in the middle of my favorite raids in Destiny, but I’m excited to run it more and more, and I’ll say this, the weapons across the board are excellent. I don’t think I’ve liked this many raid weapons in a single release. It makes up for the more lacking arsenal of the rest of the expansion features, and makes the crafted weapon chase all the more sweeter for me.
Season of Defiance
The last thing to touch on here is Season of Defiance, which is included with the Standard Edition of Lightfall this time around and much like previous Expansion Seasons of Destiny, is shorter and serves more as a companion to the expansion.
The story has already played through by the time of this publishing (which is, in fairness, pretty late into the season) excluding a potential end of season set up, and it served its purpose as an introspective and somber story. I’ll revisit the season likely in a future and more regular column but it is a weaker expansion season. It does have a pretty killer exotic mission that also suffers a bit from recent difficulty changes. The base secret mission itself though is excellent, and felt like the cherry on top after I had wrapped up most of my post-Lightfall activities.
I still feel frustrated with the state of the Destiny community. I don’t think I’ve quite found my catharsis with the just weird vitriol and distrust against a game that wears its heart more openly than most live games out there. I certainly have my qualms with Lightfall, but the state of internet toxicity has bled into it to exasperate the feeling. I’m glad to have taken a break, revisited activities and parts of Lightfall, and found it very, very fun.
Lightfall feels like a big stepping stone, and overall more a half-step forward rather than the full step it could have been–even still, Loadouts, Strand, Root of Nightmares–it all helps Destiny refresh some things it really needed to. There is still more change that needs to happen, and the wonkiness can certainly be felt here, but I’m still happy to log in every week and see what comes next.
This game was reviewed on a PlayStation 5 system with a retail copy of the title purchased by the reviewer.