Destiny 2: Lightfall Impressions

Here’s my controversial take on Destiny 2‘s latest expansion, Lightfall, after having played through the campaign and spent some time working through the core and seasonal activities with the increased difficulty and new subclass, Strand:

“Not great, not terrible.”

Let’s get a few things clear first. The story is aggressively mediocre. After waiting years for the pyramid ships to finally (really, totally for sure this time) arrive at Earth, things… happen? There’s a MacGuffin. There’s a new location and trying to stop said MacGuffin from falling into enemy hands for reasons. There’s Calus returning as a Disciple of the Witness (and so many proper nouns… proper nouns everywhere) who’s… kind of bored in his role and just wants to vibe and drink. We have Zavala and Ikora and the rest of the Vanguard leaders sitting in a ship for an unreasonable amount of time while you as the Main Character go do things, make new acquaintances and earn re-skinned loot.

Finally, those same leaders – which is really stretching the definition of the word based on how impotent they appear during the campaign – continue to stand in the same position and watch as (after however long all of this took across several missions) to witness the, uh, Witness do a thing and lead to another cliffhanger ending for next year’s finale.

Sure, there will be seasonal content this year, but there isn’t going to be any resolution to that particular mystery at the end of Lightfall‘s campaign. The whole campaign gives off very much a filler vibe. Originally, Lightfall was the conclusion of the saga Destiny had been building since it’s tumultuous launch, but then they added one more, because they “needed” one more expansion to finish telling the story.

Judging by Lightfall… no. No you didn’t, Bungie.

Because Lightfall feels… well, rather light. Like a diet snack that tries to mimic the real dessert but can’t taste as good because you need to save on calories. To which I ask myself, what was Bungie trying to save on? Time? I’d rather have seen them just push out the expansion until it was ready and had everything they wanted in it. Instead, we got a campaign that feels like fluff.

A whole city but there’s no people? Handwaved by plot. 80’s retro neon future city? Seems like a box to check off in 2023 gaming. New Strand subclass?

Now that is fun.

I was skeptical about Strand at first (I am – SHOCK! – a Hunter main). But the more I played the tutorial for the new subclass (oops, I mean campaign), the more I really enjoyed Strand. Once you get the hang of it, the mobility and options for combat (Grapple + melee? Dive and suspend my enemies?) feel great. Killing enemies with Strange leaving behind an orb of Strand that acts as an explosive is a great idea. The gameplay loop for the class is just fun.

The survivability out of the box (before getting any fragments) takes some awareness and getting used to if you typically run cozy Gunglinger + Resilience + Healing Grenade builds. This is in part due to the increased difficulty to the game across the board (more on that later).

Strand comes with a caveat: during the campaign, whenever you use the class, there’s an active buff that recharges your abilities faster. Once you’re finished with the campaign and just playing in the game proper, your default grapple recharges slowly. Thankfully, Bungie listened to the complaints and released all of the fragments for Strand. This will give you some much needed options to get abilities back faster depending on how you build (and frankly, this should be how Bungie handles any new classes going forward).

Now, let’s talk about the difficulty.

Let me preface with this: I do not regularly engage in Grandmaster Nightfalls. I may have only done so once? I rarely play solo Legend and Master Lost Sectors (I have done them before). My reasoning is this: I don’t find Bungie’s idea of increased difficulty to be interesting. Champions (the higher tier enemies in Destiny 2) were not (IMO) enjoyable difficulty. Forcing me to run specific weapons and often bad combinations of anti-Champion mods and weapons (anti-Barrier Auto Rifle was pain) alone felt plain bad to engage in.

In a game that is supposedly a power fantasy of guns and space magic would often turn into hiding in corners or behind cover and plinking away at enemies until they were dead. This often leads to a time investment (yay for Bungie’s metrics!), and more often than not, I would not get the Exotic Armor reward. In general, the rewards were not worth it. Certainly not for the extended play time.

Post-Lightfall, everything hurts a lot more in the game. Your Resilience stat? Nerfed to 30% damage negation at max stats (down from 40%). Enemy health? Buffed. Various weapons? Not buffed (though a rebalance patch is coming around the end of the month to possibly address this). Overall? Stupid shit kills you faster (those damn Threshers, I shake my fist at you). Vanguard Ops playlists? With randoms, it’s a toss up as to whether you’ll have a good time or a rough time.

Stuff killing you faster is generally “just” annoying most of the time. It isn’t really stopping you from playing the game, but it makes everything take longer. And the rewards are very lackluster for your time investment. It’s not like I’m seeing a better way to get Exotic gear, or having the same level of fun as before.

Bungie’s entire first pass on higher difficulty on the game is at best an overcompensation and at worst an exercise in cynicism as they look to increase their player engagement numbers.

I’m not opposed to a more challenging experience. I prefer it come through good mission design (the concluding mission of Destiny 2’s Season of the Seraph is a great example of this). Although I never played it on that difficulty, the Witch Queen expansion on Legendary difficulty was supposedly a good example of this. But this? This ain’t it, Bungie.

Other vaguely warm takes;

  • Nimbus is annoying, but grew on me as the story went on (and the post-campaign exotic mission displays more depth for the character than we had seen up to that point). But they are definitely the Ewoks of Destiny 2. You either dig them or hate them.
  • Season of Defiance Battlegrounds are my favorites thus far and make a great case for them as (essentially) replacements for Strikes.
  • Quicksilver Storm’s catalyst turning it into a Strand weapon is a nice touch and this might be my favorite Exotic AR so far.
  • Changes to the seasonal artifact mods being passive instead of needing to be slotted is the Destiny Quality of Life change I needed.

If you really want to have Strand, like right now, then sure, pick up Lightfall. My recommendation? Wait for a sale or until after the weapon (and hopefully difficulty) adjustments. If Bungie is really listening (a meme, I know) then we’ll see changes in the near future. If Bungie really values engagement numbers over actually allowing players to have fun, then we may be in for a rough year for the franchise.

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