(Photo courtesy of 1337 Games) “”Destiny 2: Lightfall” follows the protagonists as they face off against The Witness.”
After a long and successful run, the “Destiny” video game franchise is standing at the doorstep of its 10-year anniversary in 2024. The first major overarching saga of the franchise that began back in 2014, which developer Bungie is referring to as the “Light and Darkness Saga,” is nearing its conclusion in next year’s “Destiny 2: The Final Shape.” Yet, this February, we got “Destiny 2: Lightfall,” the penultimate story expansion that is intended to set up the story for its grand finale. While the expansion adds many great and fun new features to the game, the narrative itself leaves much to be desired and fails to take advantage of the huge opportunities it had.
To begin with the positives, there are a lot of things that “Lightfall” does right, and most of them have to do with the new gameplay features that have been added. If there is one thing Bungie has been on fire with lately, it’s adding quality-of-life improvements to the game that make for a better and more convenient experience for players. The biggest example of this so far is the new savable loadouts feature, which is something players have been asking for a long time. PVE and PVP make better use of different armor stat configurations and weapon loadouts, so being able to seamlessly switch between pre-saved builds rather than going through the hassle of doing everything manually is a godsend.
With what Bungie started doing with the game’s difficulty in last year’s “The Witch Queen” expansion—when they added a hard mode for campaign missions—they are emphasizing even more with “Lightfall.” The “Legendary” difficulty mode for the campaign is as challenging as it is fun, and the increased rewards make it very much worth the extra effort. New enemy variants lead to unique and interesting encounters, and the new exotic weapons and armor pieces, as usual, allow players to find new strategies and tricks to use against enemies.
Perhaps the highlights of the new gameplay features are the three “Strand” subclasses, which players will get to learn how to use. On top of being incredibly fun and powerful, these new abilities fundamentally change movement in the game, with things such as grappling hook powers altering traversal at its core. While these powers will likely be balanced by Bungie in the near future as players find their usual clever ways to exploit them, it cannot be understated how the developer has truly knocked it out of the park with their implementation.
Unfortunately, not everything about this expansion is worthy of such extensive praise. The story of Lightfall—what has been teased as THE climactic story moment for the franchise before the final chapter—is wholly underwhelming. It promises answers, but it only leaves players with more questions about the plot devices and characters in this story. Leaving off on a massive cliffhanger that feels woefully undeserving of even being referred to as such, “Lightfall” is essentially a $100 first act to a story that should have been complete. For a narrative that was being propped up as the “Infinity War” to the finale’s “Endgame,” this latest entry ends in a way that can only be described as Thanos arriving on Earth, only for the screen to cut to black and leave the audience completely in the dark about what exactly is about to happen. While it has its moments, the story of “Lightfall” is disappointing in the worst spots, which burns a bit extra considering how fantastic the story of its predecessor, “The Witch Queen,” was. Now, it simply feels like “The Final Shape” will have to do extra work in wrapping up the loose ends from this story while telling its own.
At the end of the day, “Destiny 2: Lightfall” is not the worst expansion this franchise has put out, but it is also far from its best. While there are many gameplay features and new endgame content that will certainly keep players hooked for the next year or so, the heart of this franchise—like many Bungie games—is its story. It is the reason why fans are here, and what everything revolves around, due to its live service model. Unfortunately, in that department, it did not succeed where it should have. Hopefully, Bungie redirects their course and delivers big for their final chapter next year.