Destiny 2’s next major chapter is just around the corner, with the Lightfall expansion set to arrive on February 28. The expansion represents the penultimate storytelling beat in the long-running Destiny saga up to this point, dubbed the Light and Darkness Saga by Bungie. I got an early look at a new ViDoc, as well as more thorough demos of the expansion’s planned systems, and I’m delighted to see some significant improvements coming to one of my favourite hobby games.
Lightfall’s most significant contributions are on the planet Neptune, in a city named Neomuna, which has been thriving for hundreds of years outside the perspective of the rest of humanity. The metropolis is a break from many previous Destiny locations, which were frequently dominated by ancient ruins. Neomuna, on the other hand, is colourful and neon-lit, having survived the Collapse that wrecked much of the rest of human society.
Cloud Striders, Neomuna’s defenders and rough analogues to the Guardians we play as, are two of the most notable characters we will meet. Rohan, a weathered veteran, and Nimbus, a relative novice to their ranks, are introduced to us. They are both cyber-enhanced and appear to tower over normal human heights. As a general rule, the Cloud Striders collaborate in a Mentor-Mentee relationship, possibly deriving inspiration from the Jedi of Star Wars fiction. In an unexpected twist, the Cloud Striders only survive about 10 years following their significant improvements, as opposed to the Guardians’ supposedly eternal lifespan.
For many years, the Cloud Striders have kept the Vex at bay on Neomuna, but the emergence of Calus’ Shadow Legion poses a new threat. The Typhon Imperator, Calus’ new spacecraft, has landed at the far end of the city, destroying a vast part of the beautifully lit metropolis.
I saw the full first mission on Neomuna, in which the player’s Guardian battles Shadow Legion forces that have been augmented by The Witness – the long-awaited big villain that has been making its way to our solar system for so long. I also saw several Tormentors, the new scythe-wielding adversaries who draw Guardians in for lethal assaults. The conflicts I watched were fast-paced and furious, owing partly to the utilisation of Strand’s new power source.
Gamers will soon be able to access a completely new subclass centred on Strand, which is described as a cosmic thread that binds all life. It is a power source that comes from within the Guardian rather than from the Traveler or The Witness. On the first task, you have limited access to Strand, but you do not fully unlock the subclass. Each class (Warlock, Titan, Hunter) has its own subclass, but everyone has access to the new grappling ability, which replaces your grenade slot when active.
What I observed of Neomuna piqued my interest. The battlefields were large and densely populated with enemies, with a variety of unique locations. While I couldn’t get a strong sense of exact size in contrast to other locations, the map’s quick glance suggests a destination of comparable scale to prior ones, with three big public play bubbles and a number of smaller, more intimate places that branch out around the city.
While much of the story is likely to unfold on Neomuna with a focus on new characters, the Season of Defiance is a counterpoint, mostly centred on familiar characters on Earth attempting to repel Calus’ forces, so expect a lot of familiar faces from established fiction when attempting seasonal content.
Apart from various new locales and characters, Lightfall is distinguished by a significant attempt to improve the playing experience.
The emphasis on buildcrafting and loadouts is a key component of that upgrade. A new build management panel allows you to see your full build in one location without switching. This also makes it more easier for friends and content providers to capture and share a build. Vital information, such as the types of Champions you’re prepared to face, is immediately visible. The new seasonal artefacts move away from unlockable benefits and mods that must be applied to your armour. Instead, artefact unlocks are instantly unlocked and active.
In a related development, Destiny 2 will now have a fully fledged loadouts option. This one is really interesting for me because it feels like a long-overdue option to encourage easy experimentation of different builds and cosmetic looks, as well as conveniently queuing up multiple loadouts for the various activities I might engage in. Loadouts allow you to bring a complete set of equipment (and related mods) onto your character, and the things can be on your character or in the Vault. Modifications to shaders or other cosmetic features are also applied to your new loadout with the press of a button.
To put it another way, if you have a favourite set-up for raiding, another for Crucible PvP, and a third for fooling around and exploring, you can set them all up to swap between on the fly. Loadouts are never locked out and can be changed at any moment, with the exception of particular closed loadout activities, which have always been the case. As a player whose time in-game is occasionally restricted, I’ve often gone with one powerful favoured loadout that could get me into the action quickly. That is likely to change with this new strategy.
Lightfall also introduces Guardian Ranks, a mechanism designed to answer the question “What should I focus on next?” Guardian Ranks let you to go via various tasks and activities, providing clear goals on how to improve and further expand your Destiny 2 experience. Other gamers can see your rank. Long-term gamers will almost certainly have multiple ranks completed when Lightfall launches. Several activities carry over from season to season, although ranks are partially reset with each new season, reflecting the seasonal activities that you may be involved in. Guardians with the highest ranks have definitely spent a significant amount of time not only with Destiny 2, but also with the current content.
Lightfall is in an unusual position as the final major expansion before the storyline’s climax with the Final Form next year. The action and plot must be distinctive and engaging, but there is also a lingering sensation that a far greater beat will be released next year. Lightfall, on the other hand, appears to be exciting and entertaining. Strand appears to be an exciting addition to our arsenals as Guardians, and the improved player experience enhancements will be greatly appreciated. Gamers only have a few weeks till they can experience the expansion for themselves.