Destiny 2 Lightfall is a franchise throwback, for better and for worse
Destiny 2 Lightfall is here, and the game's fifth major expansion has undoubtedly divided the fanbase. While acknowledging it's not perfect, our review praised the new content, while the game's dedicated Reddit fanbase has found much less to be cheerful about.
That's always been Destimy's problem, not just now, but back when it began, too - the game has always had to reckon with a strange pricing model, a massive fanbase of players that'll hit the level cap within a day or two of an expansion dropping, and the subsequent need to keep things fresh for the months ahead.
Lightfall, however, has had the unintended effect of sending me on a nostalgia trip.
There are some light story spoilers here for Lightfall, so be warned!
Grown fat from strength
It'd be fair to say that, in a lot of ways, the last two years of Destiny 2 have been the franchise's best. From Witch Queen being the best expansion (a title it still holds to this day, we'd suggest), to the seasonal storylines that slowly built over time to make us care less about nebulous threats like the Darkness and instead focus more on the likes of Osiris, Ikora, and even some of our enemies that have come to take refuge in The Tower.
On a gameplay level, things have only gotten better, too. Ok, yes, the community is still clamouring for more in the way of PvP maps, and Bungie appears to have forgotten Gambit again, but in PvE, the new 3.0 subclass overhauls have been a revelation when it comes to leaning into the game's deeper RPG systems.
The trouble is that they've made the game's Vanguard playlist so easy it's possible to blitz through missions in minutes.
Return of the bullet sponges
I'll be honest, I'm not here to debate the merits of the way Bungie has tried to improve the difficulty in the older Strike missions (although I'm not a fan of the payload escorting mechanic being shoved in there), but I do think it weirdly brings Destiny back full circle to the first game in 2014.
For those that remember taking those first steps into the Cosmodrome in September 2014 (or earlier, if you played the Alpha or Beta), there was an almost Soulslike feeling of walking around the corner to be battered by an opponent much too high a level for you to feasibly take down. Primarily used in the pre-release versions to keep players from wandering too far, many Strike bosses in the early days were similarly tough.
I remember taking down Valus Ta'aurc while under-levelled back before Bungie updated the levelling system, cowering in a corner and chipping away at his health and hoping other players would carry me.
Walking around Neomuna, I have that same feeling, particularly when I'm one-shot by a Shadow Legion Interceptor. Ok, that's a bad example, but even playing through the campaign on the normal difficulty level, I found myself struggling while playing solo due to a lower Power Level, with Lightfall not quite offering the smooth power climb of Witch Queen. Legendary gets even tougher, as you'd expect.
On the one hand, that meant every fight was a test of my combat prowess, with character builds I've spent hundreds of hours tinkering with, knowing when to throw a grenade or when to fling a knife.
On the other, I found myself feeling more than a little drained because I just wanted to see the story through.
Beyond The Veil
On the subject of the story - Lightfall's is kind of a mess in the same way the original Destiny's was, and it's proving quite memeable, too.
Much of the player base is confused about what (or maybe even who) The Veil is, with the object in question powering Neomuna, but also capable of conversing with the Traveler, and also being of great importance to the Shadow Legion.
It's another bizarre case of Destiny giving something a proper noun but then not ever really expanding on it until we press later. The good news is that I have more faith in Bungie's narrative team now than maybe I ever have, and I know whatever The Veil is will be well explained - or at least given some more clarity - further down the line.
The bad news is that right now, it makes Lightfall feel like a Part 1, and I'm not sure if fans really want to wait a year for The Final Shape to find out what Part 2 could be. Will The Veil be revealed through the seasonal storylines, beginning with Season of Defiance? It's tough to say, but often these stories have felt tangential to the main plot, if not fairly inconsequential altogether.
Bungie said in its latest blog post that it "can’t wait for the community to learn more about The Witness’s origins, its objective, and the ways we can thwart it and its disciples throughout Season of the Deep, as well as Seasons 22 and 23 later this year" but they're also tied to season passes that are an extra purchase. Could players who don't stump up the cash get locked out of a big story beat or two this year?
So, just as it did in 2014, Destiny finds itself preparing a wonderful narrative for next year while leaving plenty of questions for the remainder of this one.
Regardless of whether it's good or bad, I'm off to the Cosmodrome for a nostalgic wander.