The traveler has always been a mysterious entity in the universe of Destiny. Hanging motionless in the sky as a source of light for Destiny players, the traveler has recently started moving in a signal that all is not well in Bungie’s sci-fi universe. A thrilling cinematic this week closed the final chapter of The Witch Queen expansion as we move toward the Lightfall DLC that promises to set the stage for an epic battle of light vs. dark.
Destiny 2: Lightfall arrives later this month to kick off a war and a finale to Destiny’s light and dark saga in the form of next year’s The Final Shape. After teasing the Witch Queen for more than seven years, Destiny 2: The Witch Queen saw players face off against Savathûn, a force that has been using trickery and lies to influence major parts of the Destiny storyline. But as players soon found out, it’s the Witness we should really be worried about, and we’re about to learn a lot more on February 28th.
This preview contains light spoilers for Destiny 2: Lightfall.
I attended a special Lightfall preview event with Bungie developers last week. Lightfall starts with a big question for Destiny 2 players: are you defending the traveler or humanity? The Witness and a pyramid fleet are approaching the traveler after it was last seen heading into orbit. Has it gone to the new Neomuna destination in Destiny 2, or has the Witness captured the traveler?
A war has broken out in what could be the end of the Destiny universe as we know it. Calus, the former emperor of the Cabal, takes center stage once again in Lightfall, with some amazing design work from the Bungie team. While the prospect of all-out war looms at the beginning of Lightfall, Destiny 2, players are introduced to two new big parts of this DLC: Neomuna and Strand.
Neomuna is a new destination in Lightfall, a human city on Neptune that’s been developed in secret. It’s unlike anything we’ve seen in Destiny 2 before, with bright neon lights and even a Thrilladrome Lost Sector that draws heavy inspiration from 1980s arcades. It’s here where players will quickly discover the powerful new Strand abilities in Destiny 2.
Strand is a darkness power that players can wield, much like Stasis in Destiny 2: Beyond Light. While Stasis was all about freezing things, Strand is about tangling and suspending enemies, and it looks like it will greatly impact the combat and movement systems in Destiny 2.
Players will be able to use Strand to increase their movement with a grapple hook that can be attached anywhere. This makes finishing enemies or moving around planets far different than we’re used to in Destiny 2 right now, and players are bound to find interesting new ways to use the grapple hook for speedruns or breaking older content.
The grapple hook replaces your grenade ability, but Strand pairs particularly well on Neomuna, where you can traverse the environment by swinging with the grapple hook onto special parts where it will automatically refresh your hook to let you quickly move around. If you grapple to an enemy, it will temporarily stun them, making this powerful in combat as well as movement.
Where Strand gets really powerful is in super abilities. Titans will be able to use giant blades on their hands to attack enemies in melee combos, with a heavy long-range attack that sends out Strand waves that will suspend enemies in the air. It looks similar to the Stasis-based Behemoth, and it’s bound to cause carnage in the player-vs-player aspects of the game.
Warlocks can summon a Needlestorm that has three sources of Strand power that launches out and hits enemies and explodes. This super also creates threadlings that hit the ground and chase enemies. Lastly, Hunters have a Silkstrike super that allows them to wield a rope dart that includes both light and heavy attacks that look similar to the Arc Staff.
Protecting the city of Neomuna are two new Cloud Striders in Destiny 2. Cloud Striders are usually found in pairs, with Rohan the grizzled old veteran teaching the tricks of the trade to Nimbus, a young rookie. Unlike Guardians, Cloud Striders have a limited lifespan of around 10 years due to a biotic implant that shortens their lives.
While Cloud Striders are allies, a new Tormentor enemy threatens to cause carnage. Bungie wants Tormentors to be the scariest unit you’ve ever come across in Destiny 2. They’re huge and wield a massive scythe that’s full of void energy. Tormentors can even grab you, which we’ve never seen before from a boss in Destiny 2. Bungie has done some interesting work to duck out the audio in the background if you get grabbed by a Tormentor, just to make sure it feels even scarier.
To help Destiny 2 players feel even more powerful with new Strand abilities and the challenge of Lightfall, Bungie has also overhauled its mod system and how you build craft in the game. A new Mod Customization screen makes it easier to manage your mods in a single location, and a new in-game loadouts section is a great way to save your particular build.
While Destiny Item Manager has been the go-to for saving loadouts in Destiny and Destiny 2, Bungie’s own system works during activities or when you’re roaming around a planet. That’s a great change that will make swapping loadouts on the fly possible.
This new system also means that you won’t have to equip champion mods to deal with some of Destiny 2’s more challenging enemies. For Barrier Champions, you can use radiant abilities, unraveling rounds, or volatile weapons to break barriers. Likewise, Unstoppable Champions can be stunned with Arc blinding, Solar ignitions, Stasis shatter, and Strand suspend. Finally, Overload Champions can be stunned using Arc jolt, Stasis slow, or Void suppression.
These are impressive changes to the way your abilities will affect enemies, and I think Destiny 2 players are going to have a lot of fun creating new builds to take on the more challenging parts of the game.
This new Strand subclass will also pair with three new exotic armor pieces. Titans get Aberyant Leap boots that fire out Strand at enemies in three directions when they place a barricade down. Warlocks will be able to equip Swarmers boots that create Threadlings that are similar to the Stasis Cold Snap grenade. Hunters get access to a new Cyrtarachne’s Façade (good luck pronouncing that in LFG) exotic helmet that includes a new Woven Mail buff when you use the grapple hook. This improves flinch resistance and will likely be a good choice for PvP activities.
Beyond what lies ahead with the Lightfall story, the last big additions coming on February 28th are Commendations and a new Guardian Ranks system. Both are part of a social overhaul of the game that will eventually include a built-in LFG system later this year. Commendations are social recognition from other players at the end of matches, similar to what’s found in Overwatch.
Guardian Ranks is a new system that replaces the seasonal level that we’re used to today in Destiny 2. The system goes up to level 11 (of course!), and veteran players will start somewhere in the middle of this ranked system, with each level unlocking more slots for the loadouts system. You can unlock the top levels by successfully completing things like Master Raids or Master Dungeons, and Guardian Ranks will also replace the seasonal level you see next to players in game. It feels like yet another system to grind in the game, but you’re free to ignore it unless you want those extra loadout slots.
Speaking of grinding, Bungie is also planning to make Destiny 2 more challenging and overhaul its Power leveling system over the next year. It has become increasingly easy to conquer bosses and challenges in the game, even at the so-called Grand Master level that’s supposed to challenge players the most. It’s also difficult for new and returning players to play alongside friends without grinding for hours to level up.
“While we are still committed to offering multiple difficulty levels in content such as our campaigns, Nightfalls, secret missions, dungeons, and raids, we feel like the baseline challenge in most of our content is just too low,” admitted Destiny 2 game director Joe Blackburn in a blog post earlier this week.
There’s a promise of a “big change to the [Power] system in The Final Shape” next year. While Lightfall will launch with the usual Power grind, the next season — Season of the Deep — won’t have one at all, as the Power and pinnacle cap will remain the same. It’s clear that Bungie is ready to drop the Power level grind, and I’m hoping that whatever replaces it makes the game feel less like a second job at times.
Until then, Destiny 2 players have less than two weeks to prepare for Lightfall and an epic battle ahead.
Destiny 2: Lightfall debuts on Xbox, PlayStation, and PC February 28th.