Destiny 2: Lightfall - The First Week
Another year, another major expansion for one of the biggest games in the world, Destiny 2. Bungie’s beast of a game just keeps on rolling and fans can’t seem to get enough of its truly excellent gunplay and exceedingly complicated and dense story and systems. Now with the release of Lightfall, it seems the story, or at least the story until this point, is beginning to wind up and things are coming to a head. The Traveller has finally gotten off its big round backside and joined the fight against The Witness (the apparent big bad of the entire universe) and it is up to you to ensure that hordes of The Witness’ minions don’t reach the power of The Veil, some sort of… I don’t know… thing, on Neptune.
Look, at this point, explaining the story of Destiny 2 in an opening paragraph is akin to walking through a wall, pretty darn impossible. That being said, for the first time there is a handy “previously on…” style intro to this expansion which brings players pretty well up to speed with what is happening in the world. Even someone such as myself found this handy because even though I have played every major expansion released, I still had no idea just what the hell was happening. This is one of a few steps that Lightfall takes to try and make jumping in, or back in, to Destiny a little less jarring and it is a welcome one. There have also been a host of tweaks to the UI around accolades, collections, and armour which all go to smoothing re-entry somewhat. It is still a big wall to climb to rejoin the Guardians, but it is just that little bit easier now.
As for the remainder of Lightfall’s story, it is a bit, well odd. There are some weird tonal inconsistencies that make for a pretty jarring tale. There are moments where the comedy is flowing thick and fast, all the while you are constantly being yelled at by NPCs like Osiris for not getting your shit together quick enough. I get that even the darkest story needs to have some levity, but in this case, it hasn’t been handled well, giving players the feeling of bouncing between bad jokes and dire situations. There is even a Rocky-style training montage. No, seriously, there is. I almost got whiplash from the way the tone of the story flailed about.
Speaking of training, the entire story seems to exist solely to introduce players to the newest sub-class, Strand. Throughout the story missions you are slowly drip-fed Strand skills and training, easing you into the newest power. This makes sense from a usage perspective, because Strand, as a power, is quite different in its use to the other 4 sub-classes available. It is a power about movement and chaining movement and attacks. For example as a Warlock, you grapple towards enemies instead of a grenade. If you time it right and melee the enemy as you reach it, you can turn it into an exploding ball of Strand power to throw at other enemies. I must say, during the story, I had a blast with Strand, it is exceptionally good at clearing out big groups of low-level enemies and is an absolute joy to zip around the map with a freedom Destiny has never seen before.
The fun dips a little at the end of the story when you finally unlock Strand as a permanent sub-class. This is because the recharge timer on its abilities are way too long, meaning the grapple can only be used sparingly. This drags the best part of the new class away from players, forcing them to revert to the tried and true Destiny tactics, rather than being some sort of power-slinging hero zipping around the battlefield. I really hope the devs fix this in future releases, it really is disappointing after being able to use it so much more in the story.
Neptune or Neomuna as the locals call it, is a pretty place to explore, but a little barren in terms of nooks and crannies to discover. I was immediately in love with the bright, futuristic-neon aesthetic, but quickly found it a bit of a drag to poke around in. There seems to be a distinct lack of hidden spaces, tiny openings, and weird little hidey holes that make some of the other Destiny locations so much fun to explore. That said, I am only one week into the game and haven’t had the chance to fully go over it with a fine tooth comb, so my feelings on it could change.
As for the gameplay, it is… Destiny. The excellent gunplay is, in my mind at least, second to none. I enjoy the moment-to-moment shooting of Destiny more than just about any FPS on the market. The balance, the feel of the weaponry, and the power fantasy are all as good as they have ever been. It is this that keeps me coming back for more, not the convoluted and impenetrable story or the confusing gear system. It is the shooting, plain and simple and I am pleased to say it is as good as it has ever been (even better while you are using Strand without the slow timers.)
But of course, there is a lot more to Lightfall than the story and the new map. But like all things Destiny, this is going to play out over time as new seasons come and go. I will undoubtedly keep playing for a while and slowly fade out as the year goes on, once again rejoining the fold when the next big expansion rolls around. This makes it an impossible thing to review because it is not the full game, but for the moment my feelings are that Lightfall has some weaknesses, namely the balance of Strand, the inconsistent story, and the map, but it is still an absolute blast to play through. That said, I can’t help but hope that this apparent road to the end of the current storylines is an indication that Bungie are readying Destiny 3 for a couple of years down the track. They have already announced another major expansion for next year, which will apparently finish the story, which I really hope is the case. At this point, it is just so hard for new players and returning players to get back into the game that I feel it is time for a clean slate from Bungie, a new starting point for all players, new and old. If not, I worry that Destiny could destroy itself under the weight of the story and systems baggage it is forced to carry.