Despite first launching more than half a decade ago, Destiny 2 has remained top of mind for many over the course of its life cycle due to developer Bungie’s impressive support and a run of meaty, high-quality expansions that bring new experiences and a whole lot of new content to the game. Following 2022’s The Witch Queen, Destiny 2’s latest expansion, Lightfall, is finally here and continues to build upon the ever-complicated Destiny narrative while adding in some great, if somewhat short-lived, new gameplay elements, including a new Darkness class, as well as a new raid, “Root of Nightmares.” The second-to-last full expansion planned for Destiny 2, Lightfall does feel at points like more of a proof of concept than a true core addition to the Destiny 2 experience, but nonetheless it’s some of the purest fun I’ve had playing Destiny 2, even if its story leaves something to be desired.
Continuing a tradition of keeping expansions generally on their own unique planets, Lightfall takes place on the planet Neptune in the city Neomuna. It centers around retrieving an artifact called the Veil, which is located in Neomuna and is being hunted by Emperor Calus and his Shadow Legion of Cabal. Destiny 2, especially when it diverges from its core conflicts that have been raging from the beginning, often gravitates toward telling over showing in its story, and Lightfall is no different. A few intricate and beautifully animated cutscenes aside, most of Lightfall’s story is told to you by the Ghost or the charming new character Nimbus. Because of that, it’s easy to begin to tune out the story, especially when the core motivation is clear – retrieve the Veil before Calus – and there aren’t many twists and turns along the way. This campaign certainly feels like a late-stage expansion to an already-complicated story, which deals with its entry to the lore by being an almost fully self-contained story in a separate location with few major crossovers to other stories already told, and it does ultimately suffer for it.
"The second-to-last full expansion planned for Destiny 2, Lightfall does feel at points like more of a proof of concept than a true core addition to the Destiny 2 experience, but nonetheless it’s some of the purest fun I’ve had playing Destiny 2, even if its story leaves something to be desired."
On the gameplay front, Lightfall makes very few significant changes but maintains Destiny’s fantastic legacy of having some of the best-feeling gunplay in the genre. As is the case with all expansions to this point, Power levels have been standardized and the Power cap has been raised, this time starting at 1600 with a soft cap of 1750 and an overall cap of 1810. While there have been some behind-the-scenes changes to weapon balancing and ability cooldowns, not much has changed with gameplay, and that’s probably for the best. There remains a great variety of guns to play around with, whether it’s a slow Heavy weapon, a fast-shooting SMG, or anything in between. One welcome quality of life addition is the new inclusion of loadout management, which allows you to natively keep multiple loadouts primed and ready to deploy.
The biggest addition to gameplay is easily the new Darkness subclass: Strand. While it’s a new subclass that can be equipped full-time, the campaign gives you the opportunity to wield its powers in a few distinct instances. It makes sense that the game tutorializes the new powers for a bit, though it does feel as though a significant portion of the campaign’s 8-mission, 6–7-hour campaign is dedicated to these tutorials. With that said, the Strand subclass feels fantastic. Among its powers is a new grappling hook-type mechanic that allows you to zip around areas quickly and adds some more verticality to combat and new ways for Bungie to design clever puzzles and create new, massive scope platforming sections. Easily some of the best moments of the Lightfall campaign come when wielding the Strand subclass, and I’m excited to continue feeling it out and seeing how it evolves over time.
The rest of the expansion, though, is a relatively standard fare as Destiny goes. Its new campaign is meaty enough to bring players back in and provide enough structure to get you reattached to the grind, but it doesn’t feel particularly special. Aside from the Strand missions, there is some tank-based gameplay alongside the classic on-foot shooting sessions, and while it’s all as fun as a Bungie-developed shooter will always be, it’s not particularly special. The tank missions even bring back vivid memories of driving tanks in Bungie’s Halo days. At the same time, though, it can also fall into the trap of what I call the “Knack Effect” by proportionally increasing the scale of enemies and environments with the scale of the player, so even when you’re controlling a tank, it doesn’t feel like you’re that much bigger or more powerful relatively.
Neomuna, the new cyberpunk-themed city the expansion largely takes place in, feels relatively empty despite its verticality. Compared to Savathun’s Throne World, the new location from The Witch Queen, Neomuna feels underwhelming. The only new enemy type is the Tormentor, which can be more annoying than satisfying to fight with their ability to trap you and drain your life. Of course, Lightfall also comes with the new Root of Nightmares raid, which as of writing, has just gone live. While it will naturally take weeks and months for every secret to be found, nothing indicates that this raid won’t be as fun, challenging, and visually impressive as past raids.
"The Strand subclass feels fantastic. Among its powers is a new grappling hook-type mechanic that allows you to zip around areas quickly and adds some more verticality to combat and new ways for Bungie to design clever puzzles and create new, massive scope platforming sections. Easily some of the best moments of the Lightfall campaign come when wielding the Strand subclass, and I’m excited to continue feeling it out and seeing how it evolves over time."
The biggest issue I have with Lightfall as an expansion is that it feels less like a truly vital addition to the Destiny 2 experience and more like a proof of concept for potential new gameplay features of a Destiny 3 or other new game. While there’s nothing wrong with having an idea and testing it out before making it a focal point of a brand new game, it frequently feels in Lightfall like there are mechanics that don’t quite fit the experience here and that the surrounding experience doesn’t expand because of it. The campaign’s dedicated Strand missions, for example, often take away your Strand powers without notice where it feels as though the game wouldn’t properly accommodate your abilities. Once your Strand abilities are gone, you’re back to the powers, guns, and enemy types that were by and large parts of the game before Lightfall, meaning that a good chunk of the gameplay of Lightfall isn’t new or refreshing. It can still be fun, but the cohesion and balance that the game takes so seriously takes a hit when you can feel the strings being pulled in the background.
Destiny 2 has some of the best gunplay and combat abilities in the genre. Lightfall doesn’t change that, and anyone who has played and enjoyed Destiny 2 before will be welcomed back with open arms in Lightfall. Its addition of the new Strand subclass provides great new gameplay that feels satisfying and makes me want to keep coming back, even if it can feel shoehorned into campaign missions where it doesn’t belong. The campaign itself, while not particularly interesting on the story front, is a great way to ease back into the Destiny 2 ecosystem and prepare for your Root of Nightmares run or your path to the Power cap. While it’s hard to escape the feeling that this isn’t a vital piece to Destiny 2 and rather a Destiny 2-themed cut of something else entirely that doesn’t always fit, I can’t deny that I enjoy playing Lightfall more than I enjoy playing many other games. Regardless of the new content or the future, Destiny 2 is still, six years later, one of the best shooters in the game, and Lightfall is yet another reason to come back or start fresh.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox Series X.
Strand subclass is incredibly fun; Great reason to come back to Destiny 2.
Can feel like it lacks cohesion with the existing game; Some specific gameplay moments lack the necessary punch; Underwhelming story.