Destiny 2: Lightfall’s launch polarized fans amid negative reviews

The launch of Destiny 2: Lightfall this week brought a huge influx of players on Steam and consoles who wanted to check out Bungie’s next expansion for their online shooter. As the penultimate story of the Light and Dark saga, paving the way for The Final Shape in 2024, Lightfall pushes the larger storyline towards the closing chapters of its 10-year history while revising its gameplay systems. However, the overall reception from the community seems to tell a different story.

Following its release on February 28, players on social media, Destiny 2 Reddit, and YouTube have been actively expressing their concerns about the expansion’s current state. While the Destiny community has not hesitated to share opinions, there has been a flurry of criticism about Lightfall’s core narrative, Neomuna’s new setting, Strand’s complicated methods of unlocking, and how difficult it is for new and returning players to revisit the altered experience.

Currently, Lightfall reviews on Steam have a “mostly negative” rating, with players not approving of the game’s narrative and general approach to the annual reset. For now, we’ll share some of the community’s top insights and what Bungie covered in their recent This Week At Bungie blog post.

The main narrative

A lot has happened in the Destiny universe since its debut in 2014. After great conflicts with the Fallen, Hive, Vex, Cabal, and Taken factions, the Guardians forged alliances with factions from opposing armies and even embraced some limited powers of darkness. All the while, a new threat emerges in the form of the Witness, an emissary of Darkness and Destiny 2’s current great evil, who seeks out the Traveler for his own nefarious purposes.

At the end of Season of the Seraphim – a now retired event that ran throughout December and late February – we saw The Witness lead his Black Fleet to Earth to capture the Traveler. As the Traveler left orbit, the Guardians and their allies confronted the Black Fleet, leading to the events of Lightfall. In the current expansion, the Guardians and allied forces travel to Neomuna, a hidden city on Neptune that has been invaded by the Shadow Legion. Led by Emperor Calus, a recurring villain from Year 1 D2 who is now a servant of The Witness, he seeks to obtain a hidden power source in a hidden city.

Early on, Neomuna and her new heroes, The Cloud Striders, showed promise. However, the general reception cooled considerably when the scale of the campaign and its storyline were found to be smaller than expected. Moreso, the sense of urgency shown in the campaign’s opening act was dulled as players settled into Neomun and began interacting with characters like Nimbus, the story’s comic relief. This has led some players to see the campaign as less serious than it was set out to be, and more like previous expansions.

Moreover, the plot details and storyline of this expansion left fans perplexed – so much so that popular Destiny 2 content creators like Paul Tassi and D2’s history expert My Name is Byf posted videos explaining why the campaign’s light-hearted tone undermines the larger story and how many significant plot details and events are introduced without much explanation. One point of contention was the inclusion of Strand in the plot and the fact that the game does not provide much explanation regarding its origin.

“All of Strand’s insertion into the narrative just doesn’t help, it seems like the hurdles were only put in place to take advantage of this new subclass, and that’s a huge pity for the greater [invasion] conspiracy because [Strand] that’s what Lightfall is all about, after all,” said D2’s popular story content creator My Name Is Byf in a recent video. “As a seasonal storyline, that would be awesome, but as an expansion story, when there’s a literal attack on the Traveler – I mean, come on? [Strand] it comes out of nowhere and is not explained at all in history.”

One of the more frequent complaints from the community concerns details about the “Veil”, a mysterious power that the game presents as a long-known detail but has only recently been discussed. This change in plot also led to online memes and jokes becoming a regular sight on Destiny 2’s Reddit.

I’m a Destiny 2 “lore dad” quote and I can’t tell you what Veil is because I don’t know

While Bungie is obviously reticent about details about The Veil and other narratives, the developers have expressed that Lightfall’s story will continue to develop in the coming weeks, and that the current Season of Defiance event launched with Lightfall will also add more important details to the plot.

“I’m destiny 2’s ‘knowledge daddy’ quote quote,” said My Name is Byf in his video, “and I can’t tell you what the Veil is because I don’t know.”

Getting the thread

One of Lightfall’s standout additions is the Strand subclass, the first new playstyle since 2020’s Beyond Light expansion. The new subclass allows players to manipulate the green energy weave to grapple areas, bind enemies, and summon green energy creatures to deal extra damage. So far, the class has been well received and there have been plenty of stunt videos showing how far players can go in grappling.

However, the community problem with Strand is that it seems minimal at launch. Like Beyond Light’s Stasis, Strand’s progression and power increase was intended to be linked to weekly challenges, with future story bits added in updates. Basically, this means that the progress was tied to a set schedule dictated by the release of new content by Bungie. This led to concerns that the new class would be capped for an extended period of time – concerns that were intensified as players unlocked Strand for permanent use after the campaign and discovered that the signature grapple ability had a long cooldown and that other unlockables had to be purchased with large resources that would take time to earn. In addition, he was rather weak, suppressing the feeling of wielding a chaotic and unknown element.

In an attempt to address this issue, Bungie announced a new update on March 2 that will allow players with a subclass to unlock all available fragments. This new update will unlock the proper Strand, giving players still making their way through the power grind new options and opportunities to experiment with the game.

“We’ve decided to release a live update that will unlock the full set of Strand Fragments for all players,” Bungie wrote. “While these extra Fragments will be unlocked per class and you’ll need Strand Meditation to get them, it should be a great way for everyone to experience more of what Strand has to offer before we head out on the raid next week.”

Redesigned gear system

Along with the new story content and localization, Destiny 2 also added a revised equipment system and resource management. Previously, mods for armor pieces were tailored to specific pieces and were also tied to unlocks from seasonal activities – with new mods resetting progress. If players wanted to participate in certain events, certain artifact mods – such as anti-barrier, incapacitate, and other combat buffs – were essential to success and required players to tune them to their gear. Build creation has been improved with the new expansion, and many Seasonal Artifact Mods now add attributes to characters that don’t need to be set.

While the scope for crafting has expanded, the Destiny 2 community has raised concerns about the best options to equip a character in light of the many tweaked mods. Moreover, it also rendered some of the community’s favorite builds unusable, requiring extra effort to customize character loadout. Added to this is a new armor reloading system, a revised version of the discontinued elemental well mods that now aim to increase your character’s defense. The new system brings back the basic problem of ensuring you have special buffs added to your character or you can handle encounters that are too difficult.

Revised mod customization is intended to provide more flexibility and variety in building creation.  Screen credit: Alessandro Fillari

Revised mod customization is intended to provide more flexibility and variety in building creation. Screen credit: Alessandro Fillari

In another video, popular Destiny 2 content creator Datto shared his thoughts on modding. Although he stated that he still needed more time, he remained optimistic about the system than most other fans. However, he expresses concern that this could fall into narrow building trends among the community.

“There is a good foundation on which to build [mods] now and hopefully Bungie plans to introduce more as the year progresses. But those who understood the system in the past now have a less interesting world of mods and building. The equivalents of these base mods are now left in seasonal unlocks, and I’m worried that building will just consist entirely of what’s in the artifact mod and little else.

Currently, Bungie has yet to fix the issues with the mod systems, but the studio has added an update to fine-tune recurring issues with specific buffs from the game. So far it’s still early and the community is still experimenting with the possibilities of new class and mod updates. We’ll have a clearer picture of how the new armor mod system fared in the coming weeks.

The road ahead

While the launch of Lightfall went relatively smoothly on a technical level, the content of the expansion has been scrutinized by the Destiny 2 community. Aside from these major issues, the community’s response to the annual refresh has been positive. However, given the nature of Destiny 2 as a live-action game that will continue to evolve over the next year before The Final Shape is released, there’s still a long way to go.

It’s still too early to tell how Lightfall will fare among Destiny 2’s expansions after just a few days. However, with the upcoming release of The Root of Nightmares Raid on March 10, we’ll start to see where Lightfall’s story is heading and its implications for Destiny 2’s broader storyline.

Stay tuned to IGN for more information on the current state of Destiny 2: Lightfall as well as our upcoming review of the game.

Alessandro Fillari is a news writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @afillari.

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