For all its shortcomings, Destiny 2’s Lightfall expansion pulled me back from the service game’s burnout

If you’ve ever burned out at a video game, you know what it’s like. Suddenly you’re exhausted every time the game you once loved shows up in your Steam library. Every time someone in your earshot talks about it, you’re filled with that ever-present cynicism that doesn’t stop. Nothing about the game is good, everything is bad, and no one can convince you otherwise – even if you were its biggest fan just a few months ago.

Since returning to this hobby in 2016, I’ve played – and dropped – many games. But the game I owe the most — and the one I associate most with work — is Destiny 2. I got into Destiny 2 at the request of some colleagues, and just as I’ve done the same job for the past eight years , I play Destiny 2 right after launch.

Here’s the Destiny 2 Lightfall launch trailer to give you an idea of ​​things.

Destiny 2 felt like a perfect game right from the start of my return to video gaming. It was simultaneously simple and complex, a buttery smooth, visually stunning first-person shooter with an intricate lore that juxtaposed what was actually happening in the game. I loved that suspense point and tried to sit in it as much as possible, these lore entries fired my imagination with the endless narrative possibilities they offered, although no one can deny that hours of reading is addicting gameplay.

But over time, my relationship with the game changed. The colleagues I started playing it with gradually disappeared. What was once a fun thing to do with friends in the evenings and weekends has gradually turned into a solo affair. My minor issues with the game grew and boiled into irritants. Eventually I identified full blown systemic problems with the franchise. Destiny was no longer something I casually enjoyed, not even really a game that I was fanatically attached to; It was a burden I carried, something I needed to subject to particularly critical scrutiny.

Destiny 2 Lightfall - a mural on a wall on Neomuna
Destiny 2 Lightfall - an abandoned open cocktail bar on Neomuna
Destiny 2 Lightfall - Neomuna's impressive skybox in pink and peach
Destiny 2 Lightfall - another Neomuna skybox that features neon pink skyscrapers at night

When I played, I played listlessly. When I wrote about the game, nothing came out but hypercritical screeds. I wasn’t in the state of being a capital C “critic” when it came to Destiny 2, but I did. It got to the point where, while everyone was celebrating The Witch Queen, I wrote about… the inherent issue of the game’s context-free heroism (as I saw it) and swore up and down that I would never write about Destiny 2 again.

That’s clearly a vow I broke – and now we’re at the beginning of a new cycle of expansion. Lightfall has arrived and has certainly polarized. Once again I’m sitting at an unexpected juncture, this time between the community’s negative feelings about the expansion and my own attempts to re-engage with it in a positive way.

I’ve been playing Destiny 2 a lot over the past three weeks. I got into the campaign on day one with no issues and it took me about two days to complete. I then spent the rest of the first week on post-expansion “content,” introducing Season of Defiance, and raising my Warden’s power level to something that was easier to deal with enemies. For the second week, I focused on a few exotic quests, the second part of the seasonal story, and the game’s regular “content conveyor.” As week three begins, my focus has shifted entirely to seasonal activities. Viewed from above, this more or less corresponds to my experiences in previous expansions. Actually I don’t hate it at all.

Destiny 2 Lightfall - Neomuna fight with a pink neon light
Destiny 2 Lightfall - the beach subclass screen that shows skills and a green tint

To be clear, I found Lightfall’s campaign to be pretty weak, especially compared to The Witch Queen. We spent 12 to 14 hours running around Neomuna chasing after a single mysterious MacGuffin, with a single not-so-quick detour to learn Strand, the game’s new Darkness power. Calus is either the most mind-blowing final boss or the most brilliant subversive “if you think about it”. Despite being the main series’ hyped enemy, The Witness appeared in scenes that amounted to cameo appearances and left the campaign without pressing questions being answered. Nimbus is annoying (although I still love her), Rohan was too much of the buddy-cop “old partner” stereotype, and Osiris was genuinely angry as the main driver of the narrative.

These are all pretty substantive issues! I’m definitely not the only one who has them! Why am I not upset anymore?

Destiny 2 Lightfall - the mod customization menu
Destiny 2 Lightfall - the Guardian Rank welcome screen with 11 levels
Destiny 2 Lightfall - Character Recommendation Screen with three characters and a choice of who to recommend

I’m struggling to pinpoint it – and it’s got me wondering if there’s anything inherent in Destiny 2 that might contribute to Burnout, and if that’s changed. A few come to mind: It’s been going on for an exceptionally long time and it’s a live service – but there are plenty of others that could be said the same about. Destiny 2 came out in 2017, sandwiched between Ark: Survival Evolved and Fortnite, right in the middle of the industry-wide live service trend, a trend that newer games like Marvel’s Avengers or Suice Squad: Kill the Justice League are seeing as pushback at seen on their loot-grinding models seems to be seeing a significant decline today.

Destiny 2 has a bolder narrative than its predecessor, but it’s always maintained the core loop of playing through the same limited activities week after week. And that for six years straight? Not exactly my idea of ​​a good time. Combined with the original Destiny, we’re approaching a full decade of interacting with this particular game model. It would be wild for Bungie to expect anyone to stick with the game every week for nine years. We have to take breaks! It is necessary for our well-being!

Destiny 2 Lightfall - a cutscene where the traveler fires a beam like the Death Star
Destiny 2 Lightfall - a view from space of the traveler captured by the witness

I deleted Destiny 2 from my console’s hard drive after my flameout. I played other games. I went outside. I put some distance between me and this game. And to be honest, I really didn’t expect to ever come back to it. The reason I’m here is because, as I’ve been following the marketing for Lightfall for all of last fall, I expected to hear that cynical voice in the back of my mind with every promise and announcement from Bungie. For the first time in years I didn’t hear it.

Lightfall isn’t Destiny 2’s best expansion. I don’t know what caused its story issues, and I don’t know what burns people out so hard in Destiny 2. But as of now, I’m willing to take Bungie at its word that the expansion was meant to be the start of a full year of interesting seasonal stories leading up to The Final Shape. This time I feel like traveling – and last but not least, it’s a lot of fun to hook onto rockets with Strand’s new grappling hook. Maybe that’s what I was missing before.


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