After building up Destiny for 9 years, we finally get our hands on Lightfall – the penultimate act of the Light and Dark saga. The Traveler is cornered by the Darkness fleet, Vanguard is ready to prevent another Collapse and we must stop The Witness from getting to the Traveler at all costs. The exciting premise bolsters the anticipation for what’s to come – we get to explore Neomuna in Neptune alongside obtaining a new subclass, Strand; and despite being an overall excellent expansion with one of the best raids currently available and amazing post-campaign/raid content, throughout my 7hr campaign grind, the writers somehow fumbled the entire plot – everything from poor writing to even more questions was present in Lightfall’s campaign and it breaks my heart.
Flow with the River
While the people of Sol fight against the Witness’ onslaught, we warp to Neptune to stop Calus’ Shadow Legion from destroying a paracausal device called The Veil. Stranded in Neptune, we crash land into a hidden city called Neomuna – soon after, we are greeted by a couple of 10′ tall, augmented warriors called Cloud Striders, defenders of Neomuna. With the destruction laid before them, they agree to help us fight against this newfound threat. We quickly learn that Strand is somehow resonating all over Neomuna and we can wield its powers, why hasn’t the Light or Darkness beckon us to this new cosmic element is a mystery that tries to reveal to us throughout our journey to save Sol – it’s an excellent premise that somehow Bungie approved its writers an element that overstays itself during this extinction-level event on Earth; we spend far too much time trying to harness Strand while Earth is getting bombarded by the Dark Fleet, to a point where an 80’s montage happens near the end of the campaign still showcasing our efforts to harness Strand. It’s a disjointed effort in storytelling that tells practically nothing about the Veil and its importance – we get a slight idea of how important it is from the Root of Nightmares raid, but that should be left for furthering the details, not trailing behind it.
We get an amazing world with an excellent city filled with great attention to detail and wonders to explore yet every pacing felt entirely rushed – and I get it, the sense of urgency should be there when war is at our doorstep; you just don’t have time to explain everything. This leads to another issue with introducing Cloud Striders at the penultimate act of Destiny 2 – we, unfortunately, won’t care for them. There are deep moments that happens in the campaign that will never be felt because we simply don’t know them, and the writers try to force us to feel for them during some dialogues and even the closing act. It just doesn’t fit at this stage of the saga – and this leads to another big problem with pacing; despite the excellent level design and story missions, 80% of the entire campaign felt as though we were playing an elaborate Strand tutorial that could have all been done and delt with in a mission and a half. This eliminated every opportunity to learn about the Cloud Striders’ backstory and ANYTHING regarding what The Veil is.
I understand a lot of world building is done through community effort, lore books and environmental storytelling, but Lightfall needed to be much bigger than it is. Strand could have been expanded upon with the battle against the Dark Fleet – we as players would have loved to fight against them in space! I mean, the trailer showed us atop a ship before warping – a hard miss in opportunity. Additionally, what would have benefitted Cloud Striders is having them as one of the previous seasons. Like….Bungie could have easily scrapped Season of Plunder for, say, Season of Striders and have them reveal themselves given the Darkness threat looming over Neomuna. They could have helped us recover Nezarec’s artifacts and in return help them down the line. Especially given the importance of the Veil and how it connects to the CloudArk system in Neomuna – and even more so how the Veil was part of Nezarec before he was killed by Savathün some millions of years ago – something, anything to involved them better for Lightfall’s plot. It’s just, again, heart breaking and I admit, I’ve lost a bit of faith from the writers and fear for The Final Shape. I really, really hope that 2023’s seasonal story greatly justifies the way Lightfall ended up shipping.
But thankfully, that’s as far as it goes when it comes to Lightfall’s….shortcomings – there are some real improvements to the campaign. Structure has been improved entirely as well as cutscenes overall. This also includes the elimination of doing week-gated objectives to unlock all of Strand’s abilities. Actually, Bungie allowed for every Aspect and Fragment to be obtainable just a couple days after launch – which would have been gated until after world first completion, but Bungie felt pressured by the community due to underwhelming feedback from Strand – this coincidentally unlocked the post-raid legendary questline for The Final Warning, a sidearm I can’t stop using. Additionally, there’s a ton of post-campaign/raid content to rotate from which are excellent. You do get more insight about the world of Neomuna and Cloud Striders after the campaign which is designed to have the impression that we are the ones engaging, but it’s still all backwards I feel.
Un’veil’ing the New City
Neomuna is an absolutely gorgeous city with excellent level design. It’s about the size of Savathün’s Throne World but with great improvements overall. The neon lights and purple/pink aesthetics really bring the 80’s action sci-fi vibe. The soundtrack also impresses as usual. What I find most intriguing are the Lost Sectors and the integration of the Terminal Overload activity. The Lost Sectors are by far my favorite of them all – with nearly Strike-level design in them. The Thrilladrome lost sector is easily the best overall given its charming environment and homage to pretty much all gamers. Your Ghost would also comment on the environment while conversing with one of the Cloud Striders. Terminal Overload is a great Wellspring-like activity that is integrated into Neomuna instead of an activity that needs to be loaded in, which I came to hate in Witch Queen with the Wellspring activity. It’s challenging and fun with great rewards, which includes Neomuna’s own refurbished Moon weapons – though its Strand typing alongside new perks puts them leagues above them. I am thoroughly please, and so far, I have been investing myself into Neomuna far more than any current destination.
Neomuma is much more vertical than any other zone available in Destiny 2 – heck, vendor is located atop a tall building, which by the way has been improved upon regarding the upgrades you get for ranking up. Much like Beyond Light’s Europa, you will find that a zone is particularly enhanced with stronger enemies and better rewards which really helps with the grind. Also, Heroic Patrol’s offer red border weapons which caught me off guard (I don’t read much TWAB or watch trailers given the nature of wanting to jump into the expansions with a sense of wonder). With the implementation of Shadow Legion, QoL and sandbox changes, Lightfall feels so damn good to play at the moment.
Quality of Several Improvements
Now to the fun part – Strand! Oh my goodness when I say it’s the best subclass in the game – I mean it. I love my Radiant and Volatile Rounds, but nothing comes close to Suspending, Tangling and Unraveling enemies in unprecedented levels. This new subclass, I can’t figure out if it’s Darkness or just part of the cosmic forces of the universe because neither the Traveler or the Darkness gives this to you – I assume it’s because we are paracausal is why we can even see them, and also something to do with the Veil. Either way, the thought is intriguing. You will be zipping through any environment with your Grapple Grenade – yes, it substitutes your grenade button, but there’s a secondary activation with Grapple – at any point of your movement, you can melee for a detonation causing AoE damage and even Unraveling Rounds, which are seeking Strand bullets. You can then couple this with either a barricade that would send out a ripple wave, suspending all who are caught by it, or a rift that’ll summon Threading, a sentient creature that seeks nearby foes latching onto them and detonating. There is a ton of fragments that’ll alter your build from multiplying Threadlings, to expanding the ripple of the Suspension. Strand is easily the best in class at the moment that is further amplified by the updated Loadout and Mod systems.
Part of the insurmountable QoL improvements is the introduction of the Loadout system and rework of Mods. You can update your gear with mods all in one screen now, no need to constantly back out to them go to the next gear – this was especially painful for older gen hardware. After which you can then save your Loadout – ornaments/shaders and all – into slots that can be swapped with ease as well. Mods has been reworked to a degree that has left the hardcore community torn; on one hand, it has overly simplified the build process, breaking a lot of triple-100 stat builds some members worked hard on. On the other, it has removed a bunch of redundancies like Warmind Cells, Elemental Wells and the need for elemental affinity on gear to match specific mods – this made build crafting much more accessible for people that has otherwise had a problem with it – and as I person who studies this, I find this new system to be a phenomenal work on the fundamental baselines, meaning most of what made everything viable is still there like Elemental Wells, but are now in the form of Orbs of Power, a mechanic that benefits buffs, abilities and supers overall – minus the mod to have these Orbs come to you like Seeking mods of before. Additionally, Warmind Cells are obsolete but has been replaced with Tech Packs the Shadow Legion carries – a device that overshields and upon death would launch into the air, land and create an overshield field, which can then be destroyed before and after it lands for AoE damage – which can cascade into each other if the battlefield is littered with it. I find this mechanic to be much more effective since I can use any weapon to initiate and no need for mod slots to get taken just to add Warmind Cells. For the most part, the new Mod system works just as good with room for more unique mods down the line. I am eager to see what kind of Bungie has been cooking in the lab.
Endgame is Everything
Lightfall comes with a slew of new things to do and gather – as I mentioned before, Neomuna is filled with secrets to uncover and activities to dominate – Terminal Overload is a multi-phase event that demands players to be on top of their game while solving world puzzles. This’ll eventually lead to fighting multiple bosses for loot. It rotates on a daily basis which grants high-stat armor and unshapable weapons. There’s also a weekly mission that requires you to complete a weekly bounty for a device to access it. Each week has been different so far which freshen up the grind process. Upgrading the world vendor has some great benefits too, like farming red borders and such – a huge improvement to Fynch in Throne World. The weapons in Neomuna may have been repurposed, but the new graphics, perk pool and overall performance is far superior.
Unlike Beyond Light, Strand element is available on a large number of weapons this time around, with absolutely dangerous perk pools. I found that the Synchronic Roulette SMG is my go-to for summoning Threadlings from a perk called Hatchling. Couple that with Pulse Monitor and Woven Mail buff, a Strand overshield, and you can mow down a legion of fools with ease. And with major improvements to Heavy Machineguns, I found the Circular Logic to be an absolute beast of a Strand Weapon. I do see that PVP users have been enjoying the Round Robin, which I haven’t had the chance in testing – having too much fun with other weapons. Overall, I find Neomuna to be a great improvement to Witch Queen.
Root of Nightmares
And the one content I waited for to complete this review process – Root of Nightmares raid. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of the lucky ones to have completed it during contest mode, but I made it to the final encounter and let me tell you, I know it’s impossible to take in the overall experience because you’re too focused on completion, but I’ll be fuckin-damned if I didn’t mention how blown away I was throughout my experience. RoN is absolutely gorgeous in aesthetics from the moment you fly into The Witness torn ship by the Traveler, to navigating the hyperbolic geometry of cosmic forces. You will witness a plethora of Traveler architecture swirling through Darkness buildings and towers. Its geometrical design really boggles the mind – truly the design team did an outstanding work in imagination. The ivory color scheme with a hint of holographic purple and blue is perfect and I couldn’t get enough of it. I will easily be doing runs in this raid just for the sake of its design.
Each mechanic felt fresh and no, I do not find the launching pistons to be an issue. From the first encounter in clearing adds while connecting the paracausal orbs and slaying Tormentors to extend the time, to traversing through ruined cosmic structures while surviving a radial mast of Darkness energy pulses before entering a room of planets, Root of Nightmares is going to go down, for me, as one of the best raids Destiny has crafted – even if it’s overall an easy one. But it works, not every raid has to be day-one Last Wish – in fact this could be one of the better ones to bring in new Guardians into the overarching world of Destiny and build new friends. This raid was designed in mind of the new Commendations and soon-to-be implemented LFG systems. That’s a good thing, don’t let these weird gatekeepers tell you otherwise.
REVIEW SCORE: 8.5/10
Destiny 2: Lightfall may not have delivered a spectacular start to the penultimate act of the Light and Dark saga, as heartbreaking as it is, but at least the expansion was met with quality that often times exceeded Witch Queen. With the year set before us in story telling through seasonal content, one can hope that it can justify what was given to us. At least we have an excellent raid and post-content to grind through until Final Shape.