Destiny 2: Lightfall’s campaign is a missed opportunity

The Witness approaches the traveler which is surrounded by Pyramid ships in Destiny 2: LightfallBungie

Before jumping in here, it’s worth noting, while we won’t go into the specifics of the Destiny 2: Lightfall campaign and its ending, we will be talking about our final sentiment. I’m not sure if sentimental spoilers are a thing, but if they are, they’re present here. If you intend to finish the Lightfall campaign, it may be best to do that first. 

Destiny 2: Lightfall has long been awaited since its reveal in 2020. With the notion that this was the beginning of the end of the Light and Darkness Saga, this was hyped to be the true meeting between the two paracausal forces. For the glacial pace of Destiny’s storytelling over its nine years of life, momentum has been picking up since Shadowkeep, into Beyond Light and the Witch Queen as we finally get into this war between The Traveler and The Witness.

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It’s why it’s disheartening that as an enormous fan of this story and universe, I can’t help but feel Lightfall spun its wheels throughout its campaign. That’s a big shame as this felt like a key moment in Destiny’s life – the time to lay out its grand design, but after the story’s finale, it currently feels like we’ve been left with more confusion than anything.

Old Ghosts

Famously, Bungie’s ending to Halo 2 was one of the most controversial and frustrating of all time. Now, some 19 years later, that specter looms over Lightfall – only this time, it’s like we’re going to give the Covenant back their bomb, but we’re not too certain who the Covenant and UNSC are.

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Destiny has always danced within the margins of mystery and ambiguity. While not always the most engaging, it was the place where so much speculation and possibility lived. Byf and Myelin have become excellent community lorekeepers and it’s been great to become immersed in years of universe-building through them. However, it feels like we’re past that point and Destiny should be dealing with cold, hard answers. Lightfall’s campaign feels like it fumbles on that point.

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The Witness confronts the Traveler in Lightfall, but you will leave with more questions.

Lost in the Darkness

With this being the penultimate campaign in the Light and Darkness Saga, it still feels like we’re largely in the dark about what’s actually going on in this war. While it’s always been the case that we’re off to the side of this battle between these god-level forces in the Witness and the Traveler, we’re fighting in a war where both sides of the conflict refuse to enlighten us about their purpose. That includes the side we’re fighting for, and it feels like we lack an understanding of the stakes.  

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Narratively it makes sense. We’re just foot soldiers. Beings in the middle of this cosmic scuffle between unfathomably powerful beings. We’re small – but in the real world, that’s proving to be a more complex needle to thread to keep us as compelled players. Even for someone who has read hundreds, possibly thousands of lore entries, and frequented lore Reddits for years, I still feel like I have a beginner’s level understanding of the central conflict – a conflict that is closing out its saga in a year.

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The core of the problem is this: I’ve played Destiny since day one, and I have a particular interest in the lore. The Unveiling lore book about both the Traveler and the Witness’s origin is my favorite. However, if someone asked me, “what is the Traveler and what does it want?” I’d not be able to answer with 100% certainty. If someone asked me, “Who is the Witness and what do they want?”, I’d have an even tougher time answering. 

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Stranding in the way

The story in Lightfall’s campaign feels hindered significantly by the introduction of Strand, which ironically is one of the joys of the experience. Strand is a blast to use, and I’ve come away surprised with how much I enjoy it (we’ll go into this in our full review of Lightfall). However, it sucks up a lot of the focus of the campaign, to the point of being suffocating. 

We seem more interested in what Strand is and how we can use it, than the universe-ending threats of Calus and The Witness right in front of us. Perhaps it was to the excellent Witch Queen campaign’s strength that it didn’t have a new subclass to contest with. The expansion was able to focus entirely on the key villain and their plans. Lightfall instead got tangled in the strings of Strand so completely, the more pressing focus seemed to fall to the side.

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Calus is renewed in Lightfall, but his role feels diminished.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Now, here’s where I do have to get into caveats and concede a lot of benefit of the doubt to Bungie – who to be clear, I have faith will make good on this story. In some form or another, the campaigns are always going to have a feeling of incompleteness. These worlds have to persist throughout the year and we need four seasons of content that inch the story forward. More answers to the key questions left by the campaign will hopefully come as the year progresses. 

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There are also side missions after the campaign, as well as a ton of lore pages to go through to glean information that will help fill out Lightfall’s mysteries. However, even if it all gets explained, it’s hard to walk away from the campaign feeling like a promise has been left unfulfilled – that a moment was missed. 

Lightfall felt like Destiny’s time to stop dealing with questions, and start paying out answers. It did not do that. It feels like perhaps, more so than ever, confusion about what’s going on is more prominent, which doesn’t feel great as we come into the concluding chapters. These answers may come over the next year and the story team at Bungie has enough goodwill built up to not cause any long-lasting concern. But, with so many eyes on the game right now, it felt like this was the time for the franchise to fully reveal itself. This was Destiny’s moment to speak clearly and plainly, but instead, it retreated to mystery and obfuscation once again.

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