With Future 2: The Witch Queen and its assorted seasons within the rearview mirror, 2023’s Lightfall growth has some large sneakers to fill. Improved storytelling, new gameplay modes, and the following seasonal content material made The Witch Queen growth a standout expertise, and Lightfall would not handle to achieve the excessive bar it set. Future 2’s newest add-on introduces main gameplay tweaks, an thrilling new subclass to mess around with, and loads of recent Unique gear on your arsenal, however that is overshadowed by a disappointing marketing campaign and a dull Neptunian vacation spot that make for an underwhelming mixture.
Lightfall would not waste any time setting the stage, happening shortly after the devastating occasions of Season of the Seraph. After a fast slideshow narrated by the silky-smooth voice of Lance Reddick’s Commander Zavala brings everybody up to the mark, it is all palms on deck because the Witness lastly makes its long-awaited arrival within the Photo voltaic system to battle the Traveler. From the opening mission, the motion unfolds at a breakneck tempo, as a brand new Shadow Legion of Cabal led by a reborn Calus set a course for Neptune, and also you’re hitching a experience alongside them in an effort to stop a doomsday situation from occurring.
Bungie has spoken a number of occasions about adopting an ’80s motion film vibe for Lightfall, and that affect is felt all over the place on Neptune’s main location, Neomuna. From a metropolis bathed in neon lights and a coaching montage as you grasp your new powers, to the introduction of a forged of characters that embody analogs of unfastened cannon space-cops, maverick rookies, and grizzled veterans only one week away from retirement, Lightfall wears its not-so-subtle inspirations proudly.
Nevertheless, on the similar time, the marketing campaign has the depth of a direct-to-VHS motion flick. The story is frustratingly imprecise as you chase down a paracausal MacGuffin, encounter barely upgraded area rhinos, and grapple with emotional moments that really feel hole and unearned. Lightfall has an exhilarating begin, however by the point you’ve got skilled all eight of its marketing campaign missions, it feels extra just like the unsatisfying storytelling of vanilla Future than a memorable ’80s motion image. After 9 years of being promised solutions and chasing each lead conceivable, Lightfall primarily passes the buck to the remainder of this 12 months’s seasonal content material and 2024’s The Last Form.
A lot of the story is concentrated on The Veil, an object of immense energy that you simply chase all through the marketing campaign, and is claimed to be crucial artifact within the universe. Nevertheless, the explanations for this aren’t defined. Calus, who has grow to be the most recent Disciple of the Witness, is as grandiose as ever and now resembles a Pacific Rim kaiju decked out in armored kitchen home equipment. Regardless of all this, finally he is nothing greater than a hedonistic bullet sponge who falls far under The Witch Queen’s Savathun, the gold customary for excellent villains in Bungie’s sci-fi sandbox. After being constructed up as Future 2’s subsequent main risk all through Season of the Haunted, Calus is sadly handled like an expendable henchman serving the Witness as an alternative of the grandiose conqueror that followers had come to know, love, and detest over time.
Legendary mode, which dials up the problem significantly, is a recipe for sweaty palms and victories that really feel hard-earned as you overcome seemingly unimaginable odds. The brand new gameplay tweaks and mechanics launched in Lightfall pair nicely with the Legendary marketing campaign, which have a number of exhilarating moments that may simply slot right into a spotlight reel. From a dramatic escape via Calus’ flagship to collaborating in a Cabal civil struggle that throws all the pieces and the cosmic kitchen sink at you, Lightfall’s marketing campaign is mechanically a enjoyable gauntlet to cost via as you grasp Strand–even if the narrative drops the ball ceaselessly.
Your new Darkness subclass, Strand, is launched with out a lot fanfare, ceaselessly showing within the marketing campaign as a serious supply of energy that is barely elaborated on. Whereas 2020’s Past Mild growth made unlocking the Stasis subclass aggravating, the way during which the primary Darkness subclass was launched a minimum of felt like a significant second for Future 2. However in Lightfall, Strand hits the scene after you poke round a random interdimensional wormhole, is barely elaborated on, and is primarily a set of reality-unraveling coaching wheels that you simply’re given management of periodically all through the marketing campaign till you unlock it full after afterward.
At the least the quests surrounding Lightfall’s marketing campaign do a greater job of fleshing out the growth and offering stable causes so that you can go choose a struggle with time-traveling homicide machines. Future veterans can be used to this grind, however between new missions to assert the most recent Exotics and the weekly Season of Defiance storyline–which is technically not a part of Lightfall itself–the story advised right here is much extra gripping and cohesive.
The quests surrounding Lightfall’s marketing campaign do a greater job of fleshing out the growth and offering stable causes so that you can go choose a struggle with time-traveling homicide machines
Neomuna, the brand new patrol zone the place you will grasp the artwork of Strand, is an exquisite however desolate location to discover. Because of the populace being conveniently positioned into cryosleep and their minds uploaded into Neomuna’s cloud servers, the key metropolis that survived humanity’s first Golden Age cataclysm is fairly to take a look at however has a desolate theme to its design, regardless of it being positioned as an extravagant metropolis constructed by humanity’s Golden Age explorers. It is a location that lacks the magic that made Savathun’s Throne World or Past Mild’s Europa such standout places. It has all the same old trappings of a Future location, from misplaced sectors to the brand new Terminal Overload public exercise, however however its neon-lit facade cannot conceal a dull design that is largely populated by acquainted public occasions and patrols that hardly ever deviate from the established method that Future 2 has been utilizing since 2017.
Put merely, Neomuna simply would not have the X-factor wanted to make it a fascinating location to discover. Fortunately, nonetheless, the precise construction of Lightfall’s missions makes good use of the town to offer intense missions that’ll have you ever on the sting of your seat.
As for utilizing Strand, this new Darkness subclass succeeds in shaking up the Future sandbox with its distinctive set of powers for every Guardian class. Titan Berserkers rend via enemies with frenzied claws, Warlock Broodweavers unleash a small military of threadlings to do their deadly bidding, and Hunter Threadrunners mix elegant Silkstrike assaults with sleek agility. Like Stasis and the reworked Mild 3.0 subclasses, Strand additionally advantages from a system of Points and Fragments which might be progressively unlocked after you end the principle marketing campaign.
Thus far, there have been some tantalizing builds to experiment with, and mixed with the best Unique, seasonal Artifact mods, and armor mods, Strand positions itself as an extremely highly effective software for destroying cannon fodder enemies and weakening bigger foes. With my major Warlock, I’ve set unfastened armies of threadlings whereas wiping out complete mobs of foes in a single almighty blast, utilizing Strand’s Droop and Sever debuffs to remain alive and shrug off enemy fireplace.
The important thing attraction of this new subclass is its grapple function, a capability that replaces your grenade with the choice to latch onto mystical anchor factors irrespective of the place you’re and swing into motion. In case you’re ready to sacrifice certainly one of your key explosive powers, the Strand grapple is a enjoyable addition to Future 2 that has loads of utility, permitting you to grapple straight into enemies earlier than you unleash a particular melee assault, or in the event you’re feeling courageous sufficient, hitch a experience on a Titan utilizing their Thundercrash Tremendous proper earlier than they yeet the enemies in entrance of them into oblivion.
Opposing Guardians are the Tormentors, lethal adversaries who shake up the circulate of fight with their unrelenting may and skill to seal your powers in the event that they get too shut. Tormentors have a response to each assault that you simply throw at them and studying tips on how to minimize them all the way down to dimension is a refreshing problem to tackle.
Future 2’s core gameplay nonetheless feels as polished as ever, and in typical Bungie custom, when a serious growth arrives, tons of of quality-of-life modifications have additional refined the moment-to-moment gunplay. The developer has been releasing exhaustive breakdowns on these modifications, which vary from granular tweaks and the introduction of latest techniques designed to convey new gamers to the worlds of Future 2, to a very overhauled buildcrafting system and the extremely requested inclusion of character loadouts.
For longtime gamers, the armor mod system is without doubt one of the most drastic modifications to participant funding. Gone are the times of transmatting into Ada-1’s workshop to see if she has that one mod that you’ve got been in search of, as Bungie has launched a brand new suite of mods that may work on their respective armor items no matter kind affinity. That is Bungie urgent the reset key on loadouts constructed up over years of earlier expansions and seasons, creating an excellent taking part in discipline for gamers of all ability ranges to experiment with as they create their good Guardian construct.
The armor mods mechanic has additionally adopted a number of concepts from the transmog system, making a extra intuitive menu so that you can slot mods in and shortly preview your construct earlier than you decide to it. Jettisoning clunky menus and making good use of a revamped seasonal artifact means you may get into preventing form rather more shortly. That simplicity makes Future 2 extra inviting, and with the choice to avoid wasting and change between a number of loadouts immediately, Lightfall’s gameplay enhancements create an thrilling basis for Bungie to construct upon via this 12 months’s seasonal content material.
Guardian Ranks are one other constructive step ahead, creating an outlined journey ahead for seasoned gamers and kinderguardians alike. This alternative for the Triumphs web page primarily offers you an non-obligatory, extra linear path ahead to expertise all the pieces that Future 2 has to supply, starting from campaigns to established PvE actions, Gambit, and PvP. Veteran gamers will robotically get a excessive rating on this technique, and dealing your approach as much as the actually spectacular Guardian rank of 11 requires not solely ability in each aspect of the sport, however recognition of your contributions towards making the expertise higher for different gamers as nicely.
Future 2’s Lightfall growth would not make an excellent first impression, however beneath a threadbare story that depends on an exasperatingly fuzzy motivation on your Guardian, it nonetheless feels mechanically satisfying to dive into. Evaluating it to the usual of excellence that 2022’s The Witch Queen saga established solely exposes the quite a few shortcomings of Lightfall, and that is a shadow that the following 12 months of seasonal content material might want to step out of if Bungie needs to develop the growth into one thing greater than a middle-of-road entry that stumbles towards a ultimate showdown that has been a decade within the making.