After two mainline games, a number of expansions, and countless seasons, Destiny is fast approaching the end of its original 10 year plan. While it’s no secret that Bungie have plans to continue the universe after the Light versus Darkness saga, there’s a sense of finality and dread with the imminent arrival of Lightfall.
After an early viewing of the latest ViDoc and a lengthy hands-off preview of Lightfall’s first campaign mission and some Neomuna patrol, it’s clear that Bungie are setting up for an expansion that will fundamentally shift Destiny not just in its narrative prospects, but also in the honing and refinement of systems you engage with each time you log-on. While some of the details were understandably scarce, there’s plenty to look forward to in Lightfall when it launches at the end of the month.
Our End Begins
The Witness and its newest Disciple are here, bringing with them the threat of a second collapse as the Black Fleet closes in on Earth, the Tower, humanity, and its allies. Hitching a ride in a moment of desperation, its your job as a Guardian to step into an active war on Neomuna as the tip of the spear, engaging in the bleeding edge of conflict with only your allies to confide in. Lightfall is undoubtedly setting up for the finale to come with The Final Shape, with an emphasis on camaraderie and banding together in the face of the apocalypse.
Lightfall also touts the return of a newly transformed Calus, fundamentally changed by his encounter with the Darkness. What used to be a potential ally in vanilla Destiny 2 has since evolved into an even more selfish exile, who has nothing on his mind aside from his own preservation. There’s a haunting sense of reverence within all the groveling and worship Calus has for the Darkness in what few cutscenes we were treated to, painting him as a desperate, mortified shell of his former self.
This clearly stems from the inexplicable and ethereal existence of The Witness, the face of the Darkness, the voice in the shadows that we’ve been hearing for so long. There’s an immediately captivating reason for the Black Fleet’s arrival on Neptune, and The Witness has a presence and gravity to it unlike any other character we’ve seen thus far. Based on what’s been shown, I suspect that veteran players and lore junkies alike will be very pleased with what Lightfall has to offer from a narrative perspective, especially given all the build-up and established story threads over the years.
Weaving the Darkness
With insurmountable odds stacked against you, Strand offers a way to fight back, a tool forged by Guardians from the Darkness that The Witness has yet to account for. Tapping into ethereal, unseen threads that connect all living things and weaving them into paracausal weapons and abilities. This firmly roots Strand in the ideas of telekinesis and supernatural psychic abilities that were big in the 80s, running in parallel to Lightfall’s core fantasy of emulating action movies from the very same era.
Strand’s core appeal comes in the form of a grapple hook, which goes hand-in-hand with the cityscape of Neomuna, making for mobility and traversal likened to web-swinging. This is a tool accessible to all classes in lieu of a typical grenade, but much like the other 3.0 subclasses, you can opt for a more traditional form of ordinance instead (why would you, though?). You can also use the grapple in combat to pull yourself towards enemies for an explosive Grapple Punch, or to quickly reposition when cornered, lending to a high action-per-minute style of gameplay not found in other subclasses.
After deep-diving into the subclass with Bungie, its clear that Strand is targeting a unique power fantasy within the scope of Destiny’s current offerings, allowing Guardians to string up combatant, unleash explosive Threadlings, and more. Much like Stasis, it leans into crowd-control as opposed to raw damage, with emphasis on manipulating the battlefield through well placed abilities and timely Super uses. A special shoutout should go to the Hunter subclass, the Threadrunner, which combines free-flowing movement and dives to dart about the battlefield in a blur of neon green.
A Tormented Existence
One topic Bungie was particularly excited about, was a new enemy unit called Tormentors, which have been shown off briefly in a few of the trailers. Described as the most terrifying unit in the game, Tormentors are few and far between but aim to leave a big impact when dropped into encounters. Carrying monolithic scythes and utilizing Void energy, these hulks of Darkness offer a unique combat challenge among Destiny’s pantheon of enemy types, and demand your attention when their presence is made known.
When asked about how often we’ll encounter these monstrosities, the team said that it was a fine balance to keep combat encounters fresh while not diminishing the fear associated with them. We’ll encounter them more than a few times in the campaign, but what makes them unique is the way in which you engage them and the situations you’ll find them in. Bungie mentioned that they’d learnt a lot from Lightbearer Hive when it comes to powerful units, and that Tormentors aren’t strictly limited to Neomuna and the Lightfall campaign.
A Neon Drenched Apocalypse
A new expansion always means a new area to explore, this time with the introduction of Neptune and the city of Neomuna. A city established by a surviving branch of humanity after the first collapse, who quickly went into hiding by cutting off all communications to keep safe. In the universe of Destiny, though, there’s rarely such a thing as being truly safe, which is where the Cloudstriders come in. The grizzled Rohan and eager Nimbus are the current defenders of Neomuna, protecting its people from the Vex, and now, the Shadow Legion.
Bungie described Neomuna as a neon soaked city with a spectrum of environments, pointing in particular to an arcade Lost Sector and the aptly named Pouka Pond, which is full of the same species as66 Elsie’s companion introduced briefly in Beyond Light. Looming on the other side of the city is the Typhon Imperator, the ship that Calus commands in wake of his recent allegiances. This towering hulk of Darkness is a perpetual reminder of the war at hand, and is visible in almost every skybox due to its sheer size.
It’s a tried and true sci-fi setting, but not one we’ve seen inside of Destiny outside of the Vex Network. Neomuna’s many mysteries are waiting to be uncovered and it seems tailor built for traversal with Strand’s new grappling hook. Grapple Tangles spread throughout the city further reinforce this, refunding grenade charges to incentivize back to back grappling. It seems like a much more vertical environment that captures the overall vibe of Lightfall well, and I can’t wait to dive in and explore every nook and cranny.
Hitting Close to Home
While Lightfall is about fighting the war on Neomuna, Season of Defiance is about the ground war taking place back home on Earth, defending against Calus and his forces as they attempt to invade the Last City. Working together with characters like Petra, Devrim, Amanda, and Mara Sov as you free prisoners and defy The Witness. While details on the seasonal activity and other potential inclusions were scarce, we did get a brief look at a Darkness construct on Earth, with a tone that seems to be much more intimate than what we’ll get with Neomuna.
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen characters like Devrim and Amanda pulled back into the limelight, but there’s no better option to do so than with Lightfall. Mara Sov and Petra have also been relatively absent since Season of Lost, with Mara having some dialogue throughout Season of the Seraph, but not much else. The seasons that launch alongside expansions are always a little lighter than typical seasonal offerings, but Defiance looks to be bringing something entirely unique in comparison to Lightfall’s campaign, and should hopefully keep players hooked in the months after launch.
With original campaigns vaulted and seasonal content disappearing at the launch of a new expansion, it’s always been hard to get into Destiny as a fresh player – especially over the last few years. This is something Bungie are keenly aware of, but attempts to remedy the situation often fall flat in the face of expansive systems, countless currencies, and difficult end-game content that require helping hands. Guardian Ranks function as a way to give guidance to those who want to get better at the game, but don’t know where to start.
Each rank is a phase in your journey as a Guardian, with early stages focusing on building up your knowledge of the world and power base, where later ranks focus on build-crafting, currencies, and high-end gameplay systems. Guardian Rank unlocks are retroactive, so long time players will have a bunch of ranks out of the gate. There’s also Advanced Ranks in relation to seasonal content which will reset at the end of each season, and your total Guardian Rank will replace the Season Rank next to your name for other Guardians to see – serving as a better representation of your experience with the game.
While it remains to be seen if Guardian Ranks will function as a getting-to-grips tool for new and relapsing players, it does look to be a neat way to chronicle our prior journeys, while also incentivizing to look to the future. As a veteran player, Guardian Ranks is an exciting prospect in the way I can look back on my time with the game, and get rewarded for it, whether that be through mods, loadout slots, or other incentives.
Tools of the Trade
With an increased emphasis on challenge and build-crafting, Lightfall brings a few quality-of-life changes that players have been asking for since Armor 2.0 was introduced with Shadowkeep. First, and most notably, is the introduction of a proper loadout system, where you can save and overwrite loadouts on each of your characters. Each character will have 10 unique loadout slots that you can tailor for different activities, with customizable names and icons to boot. Equipping a loadout will also pull weapons and armor from your vault and other characters, cutting out much of the tedium associated with third-party applications like Destiny Item Manager.
The second part of the equation is the all new Mod Manager system, which shows your overall build and current armor mods on one screen. Bungie said the primary goal of the Mod Manager is to make build-crafting and mod managing less taxing. It looks to be a very streamlined and functional system that gives you all the information you need when gearing up for particular content, and will no doubt cut down on the time spent in menus. To accommodate newer players who might not have access to certain mods, the Guardian Ranks system will eventually give access to every mod in the game, removing the frustration of waiting for daily Ada-1 resets in the hope she’ll stock what you need.
The Artifact Mod system is also seeing some changes, reverting back to the limited unlock system of old in exchange for permanently active Artifact Mods. You’ll no longer have to slot these mods on your armor, meaning Anti-Champion weapon mods will be intrinsic and always active once unlocked. All of these changes are things players have been clamoring for, and its great to see Bungie open the floodgates to make for a much more streamlined experience with build-crafting.
While this preview covers a hefty chunk of things you can expect Lightfall to bring, there’s still plenty of changes not mentioned here that will impact the game. From launch to Lightfall’s collection of seasons, Bungie are looking for ways to continually expand Destiny, and build a better experience for players. Between the story that’s about to unfold, Strand, Neomuna, a new raid, and so much more, it’s a great time to be playing Destiny.
Destiny 2: Lightfall launches on February 28th. For more on Lightfall, check out our interview with the leads on Strand, and keep an eye out for our full review next month.