After last year’s stellar Destiny expansion and some solid to great seasonal content, fan expectations were quite high for Lightfall. Unfortunately, Lightfall falls a tad short when compared to its brilliant predecessor, although it is still plenty fun enough to keep this fan engaged for the foreseeable future.
Lightfall begins with an attack upon the Traveler and humanity from the combined might of the Witness (the big bad introduced at the very end of Witch Queen’s campaign) and the traitorous Cabal ex-Emperor Calus’s Shadow Legion armada. We quickly learn that Calus and the Witness seek an item called “the veil,” which happens to be located in another bastion of humanity hidden away on Neptune.
And like that, we’ve already hit my first issue with Lightfall: the veil. Even after playing through the entire campaign, I still have no idea what the veil actually is. Making matters even worse, it’s one of the two maddeningly mysterious macguffin’s in the expansion, and they are far from the only tidbits of Lightfall lore in dire need of some kind of explanation. Despite how much I love the cyberpunk-esque city of Neomuna from an aesthetic and gameplay standpoint, it doesn’t feel anywhere as interesting to explore story-wise as the Throne World in Witch Queen because Lightfall’s campaign does little to make me care about the people who live there and their protectors. Sure, the Cloud Striders (super cyborg soldiers that safeguard Neomuna in pairs and use high-tech surfboards) are cool, but I never really got to know them. Sadly, that overall lack of story depth and world-building is felt throughout the vast majority of Lightfall‘s campaign.
Having said that, I still think that Neomuna is one of the most unique and fun sandboxes that Bungie has allowed us to play in thus far. The futuristic city’s citizens may have basically Matrix-ed themselves to avoid the dangers of a Cabal invasion, but Neomuna still does feel like a place that was a bustling metropolis until very recently. It’s a locale clearly inspired by the likes of Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell‘s settings, which is something I certainly won’t complain about.
Lightfall also introduces a fifth subclass for Guardians: Strand. It’s basically green strings that connect all living things, and once you tap into it you can use them to suspend targets mid-air, generate explosive orbs of thread to throw or shoot, and create little, fibrous critters that attack nearby enemies. You can also use them to swing around Nemouna like spider-man, albeit at the cost of your grenade ability. The latter power was really hyped up by Bungie leading up to Lightfall, and while it is occasionally fun, it recharges far too slowly for me to ever consider using it in challenging combat thus far.
The rest of the Strand abilities are terrific though, but the method to unlock them is awful. In order to unleash the full potential of Strand, you have to grind tons of events, missions, and kills with the unupgraded subclass equipped, meaning that you’re forced to use a subpar set-up for hours on end in order to get to the point where it’s actually fun to use. Another slight knock against my initial experience with Strand was how Lightfall’s campaign forced me to use Strand multiple throughout the campaign. While you get access to the whole subclass during these moments, I found it a little more than frustrating to have my top-tier Void build ripped from me during huge battles, boss encounters, or both during Lightfall.
Although, I guess I can’t complain too much about the Strand sections of the Lightfall since the campaign felt more consistently challenging overall then the Witch Queen‘s. In fact, it’s that consistent difficulty that left me with a fairly positive feeling about Lightfall. The WItch Queen’s Legendary campaign was certainly hard, and I still genuinely love it, but it had peaks and valleys of slightly easier moments and some that were almost too tough for my taste. Lightfall offers a more even, yet still hard as nails Legendary difficulty, something I appreciated immensely.
Another thing I really dug about Lightfall was the new miniboss enemy type, Tormentors. They’re big, hulking brutes that move frighteningly fast, can suppress all of your abilities if you let them get too close, and have a grab move that I’m pretty sure means instant death on Legendary. Whenever a Tormentor showed up on the battlefield it became a necessity to take down as quickly as possible, and offered up some of the most fun (and terrifying) enemy encounters that I’ve experienced in Destiny in quite some time.
Lightfall’s biggest change, and possibly my favorite part about it, is the way it shook up the armor mod and loadout system. I’m not going to go into too much detail here, but I’m a huge fan of what Bungie has done here. Their overall goal was to simplify building out your Guardian, and they did so with flying colors. Plus, the ability to save weapon/subclass loadouts is one of the most impactful quality of life changes in all of Destiny‘s eight-year history.
All in all, Lightfall definitely feels like a bit of a mixed bag when compared to The Witch Queen, but I have still enjoyed most of my time with it so far. The story could’ve used a little more time in the oven, but Strand (when unlocked) the hearty challenge offered by the Legendary difficulty, and the mod/loadout changes were enough to keep me content.