Destiny 2: Lightfall Review
Destiny is a game series I like so much I have the logo tattooed on my shoulder, the amount of time that I’ve spent in Destiny 2 meaning that its UI is forever burnt into my TV screen, so what I’m about to say comes from a place of love: Destiny 2: Lightfall is a bit pants.
Lightfall’s narrative arc starts strongly with the all our favourite heroes coming together to watch the Traveller be surrounded by Pyramid ships before The Witness makes their move, trapping the Traveller in a spectacular cutscene. The action then moves to the previously undiscovered human city of Neomuna on Neptune – the city that has been heavily used in trailers by Bungie, a brand new area like nothing we have ever seen, the home to humans who avoided the collapse!
Except it’s not really. It’s a massive, barren, neon jumble of towers. It turns out all the humans have popped off to cyberspace so there’s no one in the city bar some glowing torsos. The visual story telling makes no sense at all: There are roads, but no vehicles. It’s a city, but there are no shops, bars, or any building of any sort other than generic tower blocks. This massive vibrant metropolis we were promised is the emptiest area in the entire game, and that’s saying something when Europa is a frozen ball of ice.
It’s here that we meet two new characters, Cloud Striders Rohan and Nimbus – Destiny’s first non-binary character – and then race after the latest MacGuffin, which is called The Veil. When the last few years of Destiny 2’s writing have been so good, the new missions that take inspiration from 80’s action movies feel like a step back. Nobody explains what The Veil is, just that it’s important, and character seem to be talking at you to deliver plot points rather than having conversations.
The campaign missions introduce you to the new Super called Strand. It’s just laying around, because reasons, and you power up with it for a few minutes to take out some enemies before the game does the thing I hate most in video games and completely nerfs your character so all you can do is hobble very slowly to the next section. After eight very similar campaign missions we get to the final battle which is exciting and goes on for a decent length of time and then… well, it just kind of ends – no explanation, nothing. Obviously we’re going to find out more of the course of the next year, but it feels very unsatisfactory.
Another annoyance is that all through the campaign Osiris is yelling at you to train and learn to use Strand – having lost his Light, he’s now a whining man-child – but then when you do learn, it’s done in a montage cutscene. It’s a nice nod to 80’s action movies such a Rocky, but after all that griping from ol’ feather head and you learn it in a montage? It is such a cop-out. It’s might sound like a good idea to make things like an 80’s action film but it’s not the 80’s anymore, explosions and grizzled veteran and his surfer protégé just doesn’t really cut it anymore.
Strand is a lot of fun though, and you can now get Strand weapons to compliment to the new super. However, if you thought you’d be bouncing around like Spider-Man with your new grappling hook then you will be disappointed. The grappling hook replaces the grenade function on the Strand super class which means you can activate it, but then have to wait for the cooldown period before you can use it again. Mistime a jump and start falling off a building, you might think ” I will just grapple my way back!” only for computer to say no as you fall to your death. The grapple doesn’t really do any damage so I can’t see why it has such a long cooldown, it’s a very silly design.
You are also going to have to spend a lot of time Neomuna as you need to defeat enemies their to unlock all the fragments for the Strand class, as well as run a teeth-grindingly large number of public events, missions and Lost Sectors to unlock other bits and bobs. There is a new six player matching activity, Terminal Overload, which is fun, but the new Strike seems rather short and empty.
There are other issues: The Neomuna public events and mini missions are just reworks of ones we have been playing for eight years. Calus, an omnipresent big bad in the past is reduced to a mere lackey. The fact that, once again, Bungie are skimping on the voice acting budget, so even though the game is building a team of heroes to fight The Witness, many of them are completely silent or absent. There is also just one new enemy type and that feels very cheap.
The campaign and Neptune aside, the rest of the game has been given a massive overhaul. The mod system has been simplified (although it may not seem like it at first), and you can now finally save loadouts for your character so you don’t have to manually reconfigure for each activity. A new levelling system has also been introduced which basically shows just how much of a Destiny fan you are and how many hours you have spent exploring every single part of the game.
Alongside Lightfall the Season of Defiance has begun, the first of four seasons that will continue the story through the year. After almost six years of silence, Devrim Kay makes a welcome return to the game and hatches a plan with Mara Sov. It follows the same pattern as every other Season with a three player ritual activity which this time is liberating prisoners from Pyramid ships, and then grinding for loot and weapon patterns until the next part of the story comes along. It’s a little too early to say how this is going to play out, but the writing and acting is already far superior that in Lightfall.
Despite all the complaints, will I be playing Destiny 2 for another thousand or so hours until it takes The Final Shape? Of course I will. The core gameplay is tighter than ever and there’s going to be many months of experimentation with builds of new armour and weapons. The new Raid also seems like a lot of fun with some new mechanics to get a hang of, and Bungie are now close to making Destiny the superhero power fantasy that it was always meant to be.