Destiny 2 is entering the endgame of a decade-long journey with Lightfall

Dexerto recently got to sit down with Bungie to talk about Destiny 2‘s Lightfall, the penultimate expansion in the Light and Dark saga. Getting a glimpse of the now-published ViDoc, story missions, the new area, Neomuna, as well as the new Strand subclass, we also copped a look at several key quality-of-life features coming to the game. So, here’s everything we made of our extended look at Lightfall.

When the name ‘Lightfall’ was revealed back in 2021, it didn’t paint an especially bright future for the Destiny universe. The Light is a force that all Guardians tap into for their powers, as gifted to them by the Traveler. The suggestion that it would ‘fall’ foreshadowed dark times ahead. 

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That bore fruit in a cutscene released earlier this week, officially starting the ground war between the Light and Dark which has been brewing since the franchise debuted in 2014. The Traveler won’t abandon humanity as it had done many other civilizations. Instead, it will stand to fight the encroaching forces – the conflict to end all conflicts has arrived. 

With all that, you’d expect the tone of Destiny 2: Lightfall to feel quite dour – perhaps even nihilistic. However, in all the pre-release materials, Lightfall has sported a surprisingly adventurous tone all about swinging through lit-up neon cities with a new subclass called Strand. It almost looked, dare I say, fun.  

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Calus, The Witness, The Cloudstriders and Osiris will play a big role in Lightfall’s story

In a preview event for the game we attended, Joe Blackburn, game director on Destiny 2, confirmed that instead of being a downer, an action-heavy spirit is at the heart of Lightfall. “One of the challenges with Lightfall was that we knew we wanted it to feel emotionally different than The Witch Queen coming before and The Final Shape coming after.”

“So we said, well what about what I call a popcorn and soda summer blockbuster vibe? How do you achieve that feeling while still making the stakes feel real, and still care about what’s going on and that this thing is moving the game forward?”

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Lightfall is Bungie’s answer. 

It’s the end of the world as we know it

Destiny 2: Lightfall is the start of Destiny’s endgame which has been building since 2014. The Witness, the ultimate physical manifestation of the Darkness, has arrived in our Solar System and is ready to take the fight to the Traveler, the ultimate physical manifestation of the Light.

“We were created for this moment – for this conflict, this enemy”, general manager Dan McAuliffe says in the new ViDoc for Lightfall. It’s true. The Traveler created Guardians in response to the Witness’s first attack on Earth. which was originally rebuffed. Now they are back, and it’s for all the marbles this time.

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The Witness is here, primed to play a huge role in Destiny’s future.

However, the bulk of Destiny 2: Lightfall appears to be focused off-world. Instead, our efforts are focused on Neptune, or more specifically, the hidden-until-now city of Neomuna (meaning we may need to rethink the name of ‘The Last City’ back home.) While The Witness will play their largest part in the story to date, more directly, it looks like we’re going to be reckoning with Calus, who, as seen in the ViDoc, has had a rather impressive physical revamp. As set up in Rasputin’s message during the final mission of Season of the Seraph, a mysterious object called “The Veil”, a long hinted-at artifact in Destiny lore, looks like it’s going to be the target of everyone’s efforts. 

We’ve known since last year, as broken by Dexerto, that the excellent Legendary Campaign is returning too. This gives the story a very decent challenge and also jumpstarts a player’s endgame in significant ways when they are done with it. This means no matter your experience as a Guardian, there is no reason you couldn’t jump in and find what works for you. If you want this to feel like a real war, Bungie is ready to give you that experience.

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Get your Desti-Neon

All of this is taking place on the backdrop of Neomuna, a city that was hidden from humanity until now. This will be a new setting for the world of Destiny, with it being a patrolable zone filled with neon-high rises, centers of culture, and garish arcades. 

From our preview, we saw a brief loop of the area, and it instantly feels very different from anything in Destiny’s past. Perhaps besides a very brief sojourn around the Last City in a timed mission before Beyond Light, the franchise’s worlds have always been places decimated by time and ancient wars long forgotten. Destiny wears derelict like it’s on the runway for a Mugatu fashion launch. 

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Neomuna on Neptune is a lived-in city that has since been hidden from the Guardians

Comparatively, Neomuna on the other hand has only been recently decimated. While we’re arriving at it in a rough state, we’re dropping in while the attack is ongoing. It gives the city a more lived-in, of-the-moment presence. This is a place we can actually save, right now.

It needs saving too. Calus has plunked his enormous new ship, the Typhon Imperator, right onto the cityscape. It’s not clear why he’s here, but it’s certainly not good news, especially as his now darkness-infused army is running riot through the streets. It will be up to the Guardian to intervene – well, us and the Cloudstriders.

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The Cloudstriders are a new entity in Destiny 2, but they are hard to miss. These 9-foot tall chiseled beings act as protectors of Neomuna, who up until now have been trying to keep the Vex at bay. There are only two of them at any given time, a mentor and a mentee, and from the short glimpse we were afforded, they can certainly hold their own. Think Batman and Nightwing, if they were as tall as Avatar’s Na’vi and had a real thing for chrome.  

The Cloudstriders are the defenders of Neomuna

Finding our standing with these two, as well as learning about the Vex threat which is also present in the city, are going to be key questions as players get to explore what Neomuna has to hide. It was also revealed that Neomuna will be the hardest patrolable planet the game has ever seen, including what are promised to be genuinely challenging, multi-guardian events that will be worth your time. 

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Will the real Guardian, please Strand up

We aren’t being flung into the forces of the Darkness without new tricks up our sleeve. For the first time since Beyond Light, Guardians are getting a new subclass to play with. Strand is the game’s second Darkness power, and it’s joining the roster off the back of the 3.0 subclass reworks that were filled out through The Witch Queen expansion.

Strand is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to subclasses though. Besides Void, all of Destiny’s elements have a real-world equivalence, with Arc (electricity), Solar (fire), and Stasis (ice). Strand is instead string theory, weaponized into a green flurry of space magic destruction. 

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Hunters gain access to a rope dart in their Super

“Are we going to do what everyone thinks we are going to do? Are we going to make poison?” Blackburn asks in the ViDoc. This is based on long-running community speculation that the next subclass would feature poison-like properties, as already seen in-game with weapons like Thorn and Osteo Striga. “No, no, no. We’re going to do something you’d only find in Destiny.” Blackburn continues. “It’s the web of life.”

In practical terms, Strand looks like it’s going to be a very mobile subclass with emphasis put on going faster, and moving in ways not yet possible in-game. That is showcased most potently through the new grapple that the subclass comes with. This can be used anywhere in the Destiny universe (on a cooldown, of course) and can be utilized in tons of inventive ways, such as attaching yourself to your friend’s sparrows, enemy ships flying through the sky, and even Thundercrash Titans.

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It strikes me as a very brave ability to add, as Guardians have a real knack for pushing abilities past their intended points and breaking the game. Conversely, it’s also going to be gleefully exciting to see what mischief the community gets up to with the ability (which will take up your grenade slot, for those wondering.)

In terms of the classes, Strand will have a unique identity for all. Titans become the aptly named Berserkers, who spawn green blade arms, and are all about getting in the enemy’s faces and punching everything to death. Pretty standard Titan Modus Operandi. Hunters are called Threadrunners. They get access to a rope dart they can swing around like Scorpion from Mortal Kombat, but also appear to have more movement — a dangerous prospect for a class that’s already known for its agility.

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Warlocks on the other hand are Broodweavers, which Bungie refers to as the “mastermind of the minions”. Think a Diablo Necromancer, but instead of corpses of the dead, you get cute little lads made from the fabric of reality.

Warlock are getting access to the first ‘minion’ class in Destiny

While it’s still not clear exactly what the unifying identity of Strand is across the classes, it’s clear it has the potential to be broken in all the best ways. 

Quality of life and death

While we’ve covered a lot of back-of-the-box highlights, Destiny 2 has a lot of quality-of-life changes coming in Destiny 2: Lightfall that will get veteran players, like me, just as excited as the prospect of a new campaign. 

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Headlining these changes is the new buildcrafting system. Builds in Destiny are where a lot of creativity and self-expression can be built into your Guardian. By mixing aspects, fragments, and mods, you can create these beautiful conveyor belts of death that loop and weave in perfect harmony. The issue is, it’s always been a hurdle to get new and casual players to interact with it.

With the new rework, Bungie is trying to make the process far more approachable, opening one of the best aspects of the game to everyone. 

The best thing I can say about it is that it seems ordinary. That’s may sound like a harsh choice of word, but it’s meant as a huge compliment. If you’ve seen the transmog screen, this will feel very familiar, putting all the information in one place, making it part of the fluid and natural experience of navigating around your Guardian as you would today.

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It seems instantly understandable, both in terms of coming up with your own creations, or perhaps its best use case, just copying the builds of popular content creators or guides writers (of which there will be plenty at Dexerto, so be sure to come back!).

A mock-up of the mod screen shared by Bungie in a recent blog post.

You can then save all of this with the brand-new loadout system. This has been a begged-for feature since the start of Destiny 1. While third-party apps like DIM (Destiny Item Manager) have stepped in and let you save your previous loadouts and switch between them fairly easily, it’s always been outside of the game.

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This new system will make it so you can freely change your loadout on the fly, and importantly, while in activities. You can switch between your Crucible, Raid, Arc, Solar, and Void loadouts on a whim, with no need to fly to orbit or a social space to change your loadout (though, of course, you won’t be able to change in content where your loadout is locked). It’s excellent to finally see this in-game, and functioning. 

Alongside this, Bungie is also adding a new progression tool called Guardian Ranks. Destiny has long been a confusing, impenetrable experience for new players, and while the introduction of the short New Light campaign in Beyond Light helped, once you’re spat out the other end, Destiny’s universe can be hard to get your head around. 

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Guardian Ranks are both a tool to guide you and tell other players about you. You can improve your rank between levels 1-11, with the first five being about guiding players through their early experience. If you ever feel lost, these challenges will give you some direction on what kinds of activities you could and should be interacting with. 

A mock-up of the Guardian Ranks screen shown in the Bungie Showcase in August

However, if you’re a veteran player, don’t worry — you’ll enter the game already at a higher rank. You can then progress through the later levels, with the higher numbers telling the Destiny community around you that you do indeed know what you are doing, or conversely, that you might need a little guidance.

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This rank will reset back to level 5 every season, but it will remember your previous triumphs, and instead just be about making sure you know how to do the new content. Bungie was also careful to say this isn’t a new track that is intended to be ground for and is more to direct players and give a social context for your time in Destiny.

None of that is to say anything of the in-game LFG system which is coming. Unfortunately, it has been delayed until the final season of the year, which won’t launch until toward the end of 2023. It’s on its way though, and adds to the sense that Destiny 2 is coming together in the final stretch. These kinds of quality-of-life changes may not sell expansions, but they are vital to the health of this growing universe.

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It was Destiny

I’ve used the term ‘endgame’ a lot in this preview already, which is not a mistake. With Blackburn’s comments about making this more like a popcorn blockbuster, paired with the name Lightfall, it all evokes the now iconic double feature of Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. If next year’s expansion, The Final Shape is the Endgame for this saga, that would make Lightfall the Infinity War – which for everyone who remembers that film’s ending, does conjure up fears of what might be in store for our Guardians. 

There’s been a sense that something catastrophic hides on the horizon, and no talk about it being a summer blockbuster with Guardians Spider-Man swinging across the city with their new grapple hooks, helps to ease the worry. That uneasy fear, perhaps even hesitation, about the future of the universe feels new for Destiny.

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It feels immediate in a way Destiny 2 hasn’t. This fight is for all the chips, and it’s certainly not a foregone conclusion that we will come out the other side unscathed. And that’s exciting. Lightfall feels like an important step, with a new story, a wondrous city, and the mysterious Strand subclass all painting the final passages of this saga between the Light and Dark. The abyss looms, Guardians. See you star side on February 28th, 2023.