For the past few years, every time a new expansion arrived for Destiny 2, I have pretty much always sounded off my thoughts and reviews with "this is the best Destiny 2 has ever been." So, going into Destiny 2: Lightfall, and seeing all of the planned updates and improvements that Bungie had in mind, I assumed this review would be doing the same again. However, it won't.
Let me just set the record straight and say that Destiny 2 is still in a great state, but anyone who was hoping that Lightfall would be that next big step forward for the game will be disappointed, because if anything, we've taken a step back from where Destiny 2: The Witch Queen left off. The new features and additions haven't been realised as well as I would have hoped and the Lightfall campaign is, if anything, filler before the story is capped off in Destiny 2: The Final Shape next year.
What I mean by this is that Lightfall's story doesn't feel as big and impactful as I hoped it would. It feels more like a seasonal narrative arc that has been bolstered with more of a production budget, meaning we get tons of sparkly cutscenes that do make your jaw drop. But the actual story itself feels inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, and it has a serious problem with explaining itself - something that must be an absolute nightmare for new players to the game. What is The Veil and why are we rushing to the Neptunian city of Neomuna to protect it? Who really are the Cloud Striders? What is the Witness and what does it want? And, most importantly, is the same question we've all been asking for nearly a decade: what is the Traveler? None of these major questions are answered, instead we're just pointed in the direction of bad guys and told to pull the trigger like some sort of superpowered contract killer. It's fun gameplay, but coming from The Witch Queen, narratively this is a massive step back.
So what about the new subclass: Strand. Well, the explanation leading to how Guardians come into contact with the ability is riddled with plot holes, but fortunately the actual kit itself is pretty awesome, particularly the Hunter's Threadrunner. The mobility, lethality, fluidity, and customisation all make for a set of abilities that I can see becoming more of a fan favourite than Beyond Light's Stasis, and even some of the original Light subclasses. I will say however that the Warlock's Broodweaver fails to bring the same level of thrill and severely lacks in damage, and the Titan's Berserker feels like every other Titan Super in Destiny 2, even if its damage is astronomically high at the current moment in time.
On the other hand, the enemies you face are not much different to what we've seen over the years. Aside from Tormentors - which are thrilling to face and very threatening at that - the Shadow Legion Cabal feel like every other Cabal we've faced over the last nine years of Destiny, even if they do pack Strand shields and Darkness pylons to protect them, two mechanics that have minor impacts on the gameplay, at best.
At least the new characters are interesting right? Well... not really. Nimbus feels cliche and corny, and Rohan (spoiler alert) doesn't stick around long enough for you to connect with him or even feel marginally fazed about him meeting his end. And let's not forget veteran character Osiris, who Bungie has turned into one of the most irritating and frustrating characters in the entire game in this expansion. His entire premise is just to shout at you and belittle you, while he makes no contribution or attempt to explain the plot or what's happening, which feels really offbrand for the character that Bungie has spent years and years forming.
It just all seems like Bungie had an idea for where Destiny's Light and Darkness Saga ends, and to get there, we need to wade through one last chunk of filler ahead of the action-packed finale. Do you remember how Avengers: Age of Ultron left you with that unsatisfied taste in your mouth, but was necessary to get both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame? Well that's the same feeling Lightfall has left me with; instead of a crescendo before the conclusion, the orchestra has stumbled and missed a few beats throwing everything out of whack.
But while Lightfall's narrative has its demons, Neomuna is a brilliant location. The cyberpunk city really explores verticality in a way that Destiny 2 has been afraid to do before, and the scenes and environments that it offers are fantastic to gaze at. The weapons (many of which are re-skins of other weapons) and the armour sets also have a great aesthetic, and the years of perfecting Destiny's looting and power system once again shines through in this expansion.
And while it technically isn't part of Lightfall, but more so just the wider Year 6 experience, the user interface updates that provide more direction and weight to Triumphs and personal challenges is all incredibly well handled (although being classed as a Veteran alike my friend who hasn't played Destiny 2 in two years feels like a kick in the teeth), even if the new buildcrafting and modifications system is more conflicting. On one hand, I can appreciate the changes that have been made and can see how they will benefit Destiny 2 in the long run, but at the same time, the amount of removed mods makes the buildcrafting suite feel pretty barren and almost one-dimensional currently, which is a massive step back from where Year 5 concluded - even if the buildcrafting could probably be best described as confusing to newer players at that time.
While I have faith that the next 12 months of Destiny 2 will be entertaining and packed with narrative beats that explain and cover the questions that Lightfall left players with (some of which will no doubt come when the Raid opens on Friday), it's hard to see this expansion as anything less than a bit of a let down right now, at least when solely looking at the story it tried (and clearly struggled) to tell. I understand that Destiny 2 isn't a game to blow its load within the first few days - it never has been. But The Witch Queen proved that Bungie can offer an amazing expansion campaign alongside all of the other quest lines and doodads to keep players engaged in the long run. And yet Lightfall more closely resembles the Shadowkeep and Beyond Light expansions in how it has approached story development.
I do want to add that the Exotics are fantastic and really hit that power fantasy, and the new seasonal content seems to be a lot of fun, but neither of these things offset the fact that Lightfall promised so much and simply failed to deliver on its most important aspect: the campaign. Still, Destiny 2 is a fantastic game and the rest of the expansion is excellent, but is this the best Destiny has ever been? No. Will Bungie get the ship back on course though? Undoubtedly. However, if 2024's finale (Destiny 2: The Final Shape) follows suit with a lacklustre campaign as we've seen in Lightfall, well... then there will be a LOT of unhappy Guardians.