“Destiny 2: Lightfall’s” quality depends on what you value in a video game


“Destiny 2: Lightfall” is the seventh expansion for “Destiny 2.” It continues to evolve the gameplay in new and exciting ways but drops the ball with its storytelling. (Photo courtesy of Bungie Inc.)

Ian Young, Staff Writer

*This review contains spoilers for “Lightfall’s” story and activities.*

“Destiny” as a franchise brings different reactions from people. For some, it is a game that has no story and a company that constantly gaslights its players by bringing very little content and makes up for it with constant excuses. For others, this is a game with a rich, deep story about the fight against the Light and Darkness, some of the best feeling gameplay in gaming and tons of content added every few months to keep old and new players interested.

The newest expansion for “Destiny 2,” a free-to-play, online first-person shooter video game, titled “Destiny II: Lightfall” was released Feb. 28. It is the seventh expansion for the game since its release Sep. 6, 2017. The game was developed by Bungie Inc., the developer behind the “Halo” franchise. In “Destiny 2,” players assume the role of a Guardian, protectors of Earth’s last safe city, as they wield a power called Light to protect humanity from different alien races and combat the looming threat of the Darkness. Since then, the game has released six expansions that have added new story content, activities, sandbox and system changes. 

“Destiny” storytelling has come a long way. The main criticism the franchise has faced since 2014 is the lackluster storytelling the game possesses. The criticism was especially harsh since Bungie Inc. has been known to have great storytelling in their games, like the “Halo” franchise.

A Hunter uses Strand to fight off waves of enemies. Hunters can summon “Silkstrike,” a rope dart used to clear out enemies around the player and do heavy damage on a single target. (GIF by Ian Young)

Since then, Bungie Inc. has released multiple expansions for the original game, “Destiny: The Taken King” and “Destiny: Rise of Iron.” These expansions improved the storytelling, but there was still a discrepancy between the main story and the lore, mostly told in written text that was optional to read and was where the world of the game was really fleshed out. “Destiny” was rich with history and story, Bungie Inc. just didn’t know how to use it.

When “Destiny 2” launched in 2017, it saw an evolution of storytelling. Most of the important events we were reading about were now activities players could partake in. The real shift was in 2022 with “Destiny 2: The Witch Queen,” where “Destiny” told the most interesting and immersive story in the franchise. All of this was backed up by the seasonal story, where every three months, a new storyline was explored that continued to flesh out the world of “Destiny.”

All of this is to say that the storytelling of “Lightfall” is a big step back from what I hoped for.

“Lightfall” Campaign

“Lightfall” has the player continue their role as a Guardian and travel to a new destination, Neptune, to stop the forces of darkness that seek to end all life in the solar system.

The story compared to “Destiny 2: The Witch Queen” was a major step down in storytelling. The quality character moments, cohesive storytelling and intrigue that came with the previous expansion is gone, replaced by a confusing, MacGuffin plot line where the player is tasked with securing the “Veil.”

The worst aspect of the story is that nothing is explained to the main character. The player is searching for this powerful object, the Veil, and stopping enemies from reaching it first, but the player is never told what it is. It is especially frustrating when all the characters around you act like they know what the Veil is but never tell the player.

The Witness is the main villain of the “Destiny” universe. Their interaction with the player and Calus is the best aspect of the story in “Lightfall.” (Photo by Ian Young)

It is disappointing because the two main villains, the Witness and Calus, are well-written. The interactions between these two characters are the best aspect of the story because of their voice acting. The contrast between this spoiled, former emperor of a culture that fantasizes about war portrayed by Calus and the uncaring, god-like being the Witness brings is so good, and it is a shame they were not on screen longer.

Compare that to a new character, Nimbus, who is a warrior on Neomuna, a hidden city on Neptune. In a story meant to be dark and hopeless, Nimbus comes off as annoying and quippy. It’s disappointing, as Nimbus is non-binary, a character identity I have never seen represented in a video game before. It is cool to see more diverse characters in the media, it just makes it much more frustrating they were written so poorly.

Nimbus, a Couldstrider who defends the city Neomuna, is a new character “Lightfall” introduces. Unfortunately, their writing is one of the worst aspects of the story. (Photo courtesy of Bungie Inc.)

I think what hurts more is that “Lightfall” is the stepping-off point for “Destiny 2: The Final Shape,” the last announced expansion and the end of the Light and Dark storyline that has been taking place for a decade. This did not feel like a stepping-off point from a storytelling point of view, it felt like another B-plot storyline the player just so happened to be a part of.

A New Subclass: Strand

Even though the campaign was not very good, the new subclass, Strand, is excellent. Strand is the second darkness subclass introduced in “Destiny.” This power allows the player to use powerful energy to suspend targets, manifest bombs into existence and use a grappling hook to move to places quickly. The addition of Strand works well with the other subclasses, as it is viable in all content in the game. The subclass promotes aggression and gives the player the tools to do so.

A Titan uses Strand to defeat enemies in an arcade. Titans can cast “Bladefury,” which summons two large blades used to suspend enemies in place and do large damage to a single target. (GIF by Ian Young)

The grappling hook is a major part of why this new subclass works so well, as it gives the player so much freedom when fighting enemies. Instead of a subclass that promotes running and hiding, Strand forces the player to push into the front lines and take control of the battlefield. This allows for breathing room when fighting a large wave of enemies as well as a new way to deal with some of the stronger enemies. The peak of the subclass is the supers, the ultimate abilities each subclass has. 

Each main class, Titan, Warlock and Hunter has a different super that plays into their core identity. Since I play as a hunter and my super allows my character to spawn a rope dart, the grappling hook identity fits well with my playstyle. It is fun and strong, which is all I can ask for whenever “Destiny” introduces a new subclass.

Neomuna: A hidden but thriving civilization

Neomuna is where the majority of “Lightfall” takes place. It is a lost civilization on the planet Neptune, only recently discovered as Calus’s forces invaded the city. The player is tasked with exploring the city to protect its inhabitants as well as the Veil centered in the middle.

From visuals alone, Neomuna is one of my favorite locations in the game. This is a departure from other locations in the franchise. Instead of ruins from a civilization from centuries past, we explore the peak of civilization in the world of “Destiny 2.” The neon skyscrapers packed together on the diamond sands of a vast ocean are just pretty to look at and play in.

A Warlock uses Strand to defeat a group of enemies. Warlocks are able to cast “Needlestorm,” which summons tracking orbs that seek out enemies. (GIF by Ian Young)

It is also one of the most well-designed and thought-out areas in the franchise. Although it is smaller than other explorable areas in the game, it is much denser, as there is much more to do on Neomuna. Enemy spawns are much more frequent, guaranteeing there will be something for the player to fight as soon as they load into the area. These enemies are also more difficult compared to those in other areas because the game locks the player’s Light level, the in-game indicator of a player’s strength, at a specific level. However, it makes me much more engaged with the enemies I fight instead of just effortlessly mowing down everything in front of me.

Neomuna also has the best edition of the large, matchmade public event “Destiny 2” has seen to this point. Other interpretations of this activity, Escalation Protocol and Blind Well are good, but both have drawbacks, mostly due to matchmaking, a system that allows players to find others to play with naturally. This new event, Terminal Override, solves this problem by having dedicated matchmaking with other players on the Neomuna map. The activity also drops specific loot that cannot be earned anywhere else, making it a viable location to obtain quality gear.

Neomuna is a hidden city on Neptune where players discover Strand for the first time and use it to defend the city’s citizens. (Photo courtesy of Bungie Inc.)

The main reason I like Neomuna so much is that it is a great location to hang out and grind out loot if I have nothing else to do. There are a bunch of collectibles and secrets that give out strong gear and finding those while exploring is a great feeling.

Sandbox and systems

Last year, when “The Witch Queen” came out, “Destiny 2” was going through a game difficulty crisis. Every bit of content in the game was brain-dead easy due to poor balancing of the player’s power. Every enemy I fought would just crumple like paper if I even looked in their general direction due to the overwhelming power of my Guardian’s abilities and the health of the enemies I was fighting.

“Lightfall” brings a structural rebalancing of how difficulty is presented in every activity in the game. All its content is noticeably more difficult, and “Destiny 2” is a better game because of it. 

Most activities now limit the power level of the player, ensuring that the content is a little bit stronger than the player’s current level. This small scaling adjustment means that I have to be aware of what I am fighting and plan out how I will tackle certain challenges, allowing me to engage with the game more. I have to use more of my builds and loadouts instead of killing everything with one weapon or ability.

Three Guardians fighting a Tormentor. Tormenters are a new enemy type in “Lightfall” and add to the new difficulty scaling in “Destiny 2.” (Photo courtesy of Bungie Inc.)

The new loadout system is something I have been dreaming of for this game for years. The system allows the player to seamlessly build a loadout, save it and switch to it on the fly whenever they want at a press of a button. It massively opens up the game for more room to experiment with different abilities, weapons and combinations of the two, as any great build the player makes can be saved and changed. The user interface is so clean and out of the way that it never hinders my experience using it and only makes it better.

Another change to build crafting is the updated mod system for the player’s armor. Armor mods add buffs to certain abilities. Some increase damage, shorten ability cooldowns and other things. “Lightfall” reworked the entire system to make it easier and much more digestible for the player base as a whole instead of the veterans who know everything about the game. There is a negative to taking out some of the more exciting mods that really defined the system, but this revamped system leads the way for new mods that will surely replace what was lost.

However, the new Guardian Ranks System doesn’t make up for what is lost.

Since the 2020 expansion “Destiny 2: Beyond Light,” “Destiny 2” has struggled with the new player experience. There is a quest for new players, but once that quest is completed, the player is dumped out into the world with no real direction on where to go.

“Lightfall” adds the loadout system, an easy and effective way to save builds created by the player. (GIF by Ian Young)

Guardian Ranks makes up for the terrible new player experience. The system is on a 1-12 rank system where every rank presents different objectives and challenges. The first six ranks help new players learn the ropes of the game by asking them to run the core playlists, earn some gear and level up. In this regard, it does the job, but it feels like a Band-Aid fix to a larger problem and the removal of content from “Destiny 2.”

Whereas Guardian Ranks is for consistent players, ranks 7-12 are designed to be earned by masters of the game who want to flex their status. This fails every three months when the ranks are reset to rank six. This will effectively rank newer players who have only played for a few hours and veterans who have years committed to the game on the same level, so there isn’t a reason to work for it after reaching rank six.

What’s more discouraging is that to reach rank 12, the player has to participate in the awful accommodations system.

Guardian Ranks, a new system with “Lightfall,” tracks the player’s journey as they play. It is a good system to help newer players learn the ropes of the game but doesn’t fill the void left by a rough new player experience. (Photo by Ian Young)

Added with “Lightfall,” accommodations is a system that allows the player to commend and award other players in an activity with certain titles. For example, if the player had a fun time with someone in a player-versus-player game mode, they can give them accommodation for that. In theory, it is an excellent system that would make itself home in “Destiny 2,” as it highlights the positive attributes of different players so it can be easier to find groups to play with.

Instead, accommodations is a system that is linked with rewards and is easily exploited. The current way you distribute accommodations is also very lazy and uncoordinated and makes the feeling of giving out accommodations to those who deserve it less meaningful. This system needs to be overhauled before the looking for group tool, a system that allows the player to search for groups to play with, arrives later this year.

“Root of Nightmares”

 The raids in “Destiny 2” are the pinnacle experience. I don’t mean this in terms of loot and difficulty, but nothing highlights the best aspects of the “Destiny” franchise quite like a raid, and “Destiny 2: Root of Nightmares” is no exception.

A raid is a six-player activity that lasts about an hour or two where all players have to work together to solve puzzles and kill bosses and enemies. Raids build off the main story of each expansion, not being essential for the story, but adding further context and lore to broaden the story. “Root of Nightmares” takes place on the Witness’s ship, overgrown with this biomechanical plant life, and the players need to seek out and destroy an ancient evil that has reawakened.

The accommodations screen, a new feature in “Lightfall,” allows the player to commend their teammates in most activities in the game. Unfortunately, the system is tied to rewards, resulting in players abusing the system. (Photo by Ian Young)

“Root of Nightmares” continues the quality of raids as it is an exciting experience. Exploring this colossal ship overgrown with a bright, colorful ecosystem is exciting not only to traverse, but also discovering more about the final enemy that lies ahead. Bungie Inc. continues to flex its artistic muscles with its level design and music in this raid.

Gameplay is where things begin to stagger a bit. There are two puzzle encounters and two boss fights in the raid. Each encounter builds off one another until it ends with a final fight. Compared to previous “Destiny” raids and all of the content added with “Lightfall,” “Root of Nightmares” is the easiest raid in the franchise.

However, difficulty does not equal quality. “Root of Nightmares” is still a fun and exciting experience. Nothing beats going into a long activity with five of your friends and kicking butt while solving puzzles and beating large, intimidating enemies. In my eyes, this is a new opportunity for players who have not participated in raids to dip their toes into the water and try them out. For others, the pinnacle experience of “Destiny 2” has been cheapened.


“Destiny 2” as a whole is in a good spot right now. The last few years have segmented the game as a live service success story, whereas other games have tried and failed to do what “Destiny” does. 

Macrocosm is the third encounter of “Root of Nightmares.” It is the first boss fight in the raid and tasks players to shift planets around to make the boss vulnerable. (Photo courtesy of Bungie Inc.)

However, “Destiny 2” definitely took a blow in its narrative. The lore and environmental storytelling is as rich as ever, but the campaign was definitely disappointing compared to “The Witch Queen.” The seasonal content, side-plot stories and activities released every few months will most likely patch up what “Lightfall” tried to do, but most of the player base will not be around to experience it. Most of the players will come for the yearly campaign, and most of the people who came for it this year were confused by the storytelling or let down by annoying characters.

As for gameplay, “Destiny 2” is great as ever. “Lightfall” continues the evolution of “Destiny 2” being one of the best feeling shooters on the market. With the new difficulty changes, the introduction of the Strand subclass and the new sandbox and quality of life improvements make “Destiny 2” a better game.

There are still some gameplay aspects that still fall behind with the other great aspects of “Destiny 2’s” gameplay. The new accommodations feature is a mindless addition that currently makes the game worse, the game mode Gambit has not seen any additions or changes in years and the player-versus-player experience Crucible is fun, but has little to offer for any player seeking a serious player-versus-player experience.

“Destiny 2: Root of Nightmares” is the new raid as a part of “Lightfall.” Raids are a six-person activity that promotes teamwork as players solve puzzles and defeat enemies. (Photo courtesy of Bungie Inc.)

The worst thing about “Destiny 2” right now is the new player experience. With little guidance from the game to tell the player what to do, to overstimulating the player with pop-ups and quests, it is really hard to recommend “Destiny 2: Lightfall” to new players until Bungie Inc. adds other planned features and overhauls the new player experience.

For me, and for other players who have been playing for years, this will be another evolution of the hobby I have been enjoying for nearly a decade. Even though the story was disappointing, I had a blast going through this expansion with my friends and experimenting with everything new added. My hope for “The Final Shape” is that it can make me passionate about the story as well as the gameplay. I have hope Bungie Inc. will deliver, but only time will tell.