Lightfall Might Not Be What We Thought – Iron Banter: This Week In Destiny 2

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Just about every week brings something new to Destiny 2, whether it’s story beats, new activities, or interesting new combinations of elements that let players devastate each other in the Crucible. Iron Banter is our weekly look at what’s going on in the world of Destiny and a rundown of what’s drawing our attention across the solar system.

The name and logo for Lightfall have been floating around in Destiny 2 for years now, but up until Bungie’s showcase detailing the expansion, we haven’t known anything about it. Still, those tidbits were pretty evocative–after all, we’re dealing with the ongoing war between the Light and Darkness, so Lightfall seems pretty self-explanatory. The logo featured a looming pyramid ship of the Black Fleet and a black and white color scheme, suggesting a dark and dangerous story to come.

Personally, I’ve been expecting Lightfall to be something like The Empire Strikes Back: a massive, tragic drawback for the heroes of the story, the dark night of the soul they must face before the final battle to come in the last expansion of Destiny 2’s current story arc, The Final Shape. Both the name and the logo seemed to back up a sense of a dark, desolate, and even dreary expansion.

What we saw in the showcase, however, was anything but dark, desolate, or dreary. Lightfall takes place in a glowing futuristic city hidden on the planet Neptune, one that has escaped the destruction wrought on the Solar System for the hundreds of years that have passed since the Collapse. Lightfall also got a new logo during the showcase, one that emphasizes a sort of 1980s futuristic cyberpunk aesthetic. It’s fair to say that what we saw from Lightfall was a completely different vibe from what many expected. Instead of destruction as the Darkness closes its grip, we saw a whole new world free of the wreckage that is everywhere else in Destiny 2.

The bright, futuristic city of Neomuna is a far cry from the desolation we might have originally expected from a name like Lightfall.

Just this morning, I got a chance to talk to director Joe Blackburn and assistant general manager Dan McAuliffe about the Lightfall showcase, and during that interview, Blackburn discussed mapping out the narrative of the final four expansions of the Light and Darkness saga–Beyond Light, The Witch Queen, Lightfall, and The Final Shape. As the team was looking at the mood of each of those stories and expansions, all the way back to Shadowkeep, it realized they were all pretty dour.

“We were like, oh my gosh, it’s going to be the heaviest five years of Destiny that we’ve ever made,” he said. “We’re going to feel really one note throughout this whole thing. And so, as we started getting toward Lightfall, we said, how can we keep the stakes high, but change the mood for release?”

To circumvent five straight years of dark and stormy expansions, Lightfall took on something of a, ahem, lighter tone. Blackburn also made reference to The Empire Strikes Back, noting that while the heroes lose during that movie, it doesn’t feel like they’re always losing during the course of the tale. Bungie is taking a similar approach to Lightfall.

That makes me wonder if the name “Lightfall” should be taken as literally as it appears to be. It sounds pretty straightforward, but maybe there’s nuance to the name, just like there’s nuance to the tone. Maybe Lightfall doesn’t mean a devastating loss, but something else. Maybe it isn’t the fall of the Last City, or the fall of the Traveler, or the fall of the Vanguard, as many of us have been anticipating. Maybe the fall of Light that Lightfall refers to is smaller, more personal; an ideological loss rather than a military one.

What if the battle of Lightfall is for the hearts of the people of Neptune?
What if the battle of Lightfall is for the hearts of the people of Neptune?

This is actually the direction Destiny 2 has been going as of late. Ever since Season of Arrivals and Beyond Light, we’ve been dealing with the suggestion that Darkness is not equivalent to evil, and that Light is not equivalent to good. We’ve had agents of the Darkness, including the Witness itself, asking us pointed questions about why we do what we do and why the characters of Destiny believe what they believe. Everyone, from Commander Zavala to Eris Morn to Ikora Rey to our own Ghost has been questioning their deepest beliefs, and the multiple lifetimes they’ve dedicated to fighting for the Traveler.

Now we’re headed to Neptune, a location untouched since the Collapse, and thus, untouched by either of the paracausal powers that inform everything that has gone on in Destiny 2 up until now. The people of Neomuna, the Neptune capital we’ll visit, have never had to consider the will or motivations of the Traveler, or the inherent good or evil of the Witness. Likely, they don’t even know about these forces, necessarily. That’ll free up characters we encounter there to take a different perspective on the war between the Traveler and the Witness, and to potentially add additional tough philosophical and ideological questions to the story through our interactions with them.

My mind is jumping to all kinds of possibilities for what “Lightfall” might refer to that could be something more than a straight-up military loss to the Witness. What if we succeed in our venture on Nepture to drive back Calus, but in so doing, lose the ideological battle for the people there? What if the new humans we discover in Lightfall don’t end up being allies, but rather enemies?

More than that, the “Lightfall” could concern the Guardians themselves. The Witch Queen was a lengthy story about a group of Ghosts, long the allies of humanity, choosing to support the death-worshiping Hive instead. Ever since the advent of Stasis, we’ve seen stories of Guardians falling to its influence–and they’re by no means the first to become “corrupted” by either Darkness or their own lust for power. We may be looking at an ideological war in Lightfall that causes some Guardians to give up the fight or to switch sides, and that would be as much a fall of Light as the Black Fleet sweeping through the skies over Earth.

Just because Lightfall colorful doesn't mean it can't be dark, though.
Just because Lightfall colorful doesn’t mean it can’t be dark, though.

This is all just idle speculation, but what I’m excited about when it comes to the Lightfall reveal is that, suddenly, all these new ideas seem to be in play. Maybe this is too much galaxy-brain thinking for the story, and Lightfall means exactly what we’ve always thought it meant. But Bungie has injected a huge amount of interesting nuance into the formerly black-and-white morality of Destiny 2 over the last few years. Lightfall is already a big digression from what many of us expected from the chapter in Destiny 2’s story, and there’s nothing that says we might not be surprised again.

Let me know what you think of all these random ideas, as well as your impressions of Lightfall and the Destiny 2 showcase at large, in the comments below.

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