Destiny 2: The Final Shape Review

Destiny, in its many forms, has been around as a living game for 3556 days. That’s just shy of 10 years, and The Final Shape expansion of what Bungie is calling “The Light and Darkness Saga” acts as the end cap of these ten years of Destiny and Destiny 2. 

So, how’d they do? There are a lot of factors that go into your enjoyment D2: The Final Shape. Do you play a lot of the Seasons in Destiny 2? Do you care about the story? Are you really into playing around with gear, weapons, and abilities? If you’ve been keeping up with the game on these fronts, it’s gonna be a hit. But that’s a lot of factors that ultimately feel secondary to the feat of just having a living world tie up a story after so long. I am one of those folks that plays every seasonal story, that is hanging on the edge of every word in every cutscene, that gathers my group of five other friends together on a sometimes weekly basis to tackle Destiny’s premium end game content. 

So for a player like me, one that started with Destiny’s first expansion, The Taken King, I can say with certainty that they absolutely nailed it.

This is going to be a long one, so I’ve split things up into categories. Let’s start with the first thing you’ll do in The Final Shape, the campaign.

The Campaign

Setting the stakes very high with “The Final Shape” (concept) looming over everything in the universe Bungie has built up in these last ten years. In short, it is a calcification of all things; a freezing of all time, space, and creation into a condensing nothingness of vivisected life that the series’ antagonist, The Witness, has pursued using the powers of Light and Dark, and is so very close to enacting. We, after over 16 months since the Lightfall expansion, finally follow The Witness into the Traveler, a concept that has been knocked around for the better part of a decade, to end its scheme once and for all.

This takes us to the new destination, The Traveler’s  into the beautiful and thought-defying Pale Heart. The campaign is a series of seven missions, with a little break in the middle to run around the world a bit and do the new Strike somewhere in the middle, and your first brush with it is just a bee-line for the end. Each mission is to be immediately followed by the next, and even if you try and go somewhere else mid-campaign the game warns you, “hey you’re leaving The Final Shape campaign and you should really do that first.”

The Final Shapes campaign starts out a little slow, recreating some of the original Destiny 2 campaign by having you reassemble the Vanguard, with a recently resurrected Cayde-6, and try and bring the team back together. Thematically, it is exploring the old crew along with Crow, a seasonal character that finally gets his time to shine in a proper campaign, and having them confront their greatest fears. On one hand, seeing all of this again after it felt pretty explored before is where some of the early slog was most felt, but on the other, having the focus on the characters be front and center is exactly what The Final Shape needed. I love that the moments shared between Cayde, Zavala, and Ikora feel pulled right out of the lore cards, which often feature some of the most interesting or unexpected “moments” in the series hidden as a text block in some menu somewhere. Here, they are front and center. This is some of the most direct and best storytelling Bungie has put into a campaign, forgoing the need for someone to explain to you what is really happening.

It’s interwoven with some of the best mission structure any campaign has had yet. There are mechanics to almost every mission, and unique mechanics, symbols, and encounters throughout the campaign that you don’t see anywhere else, which previous campaigns have all shied away from. Even the replayable campaign missions you get access to after you finish the story have more new mechanics layered on top of these, just underlining Bungie’s commitment to integrating some of the best Destiny has to offer, which are it’s unique raid mechanics, into the part of the game you spend much more time playing.

The seven story missions are often focused on close encounters, with massive threats provided by the new enemy race, The Dread. They can push you out of cover, either by using crowd control techniques we as Guardians have employed over the years like massive area of effect grenades, by freezing you, or even just yanking you out of cover with their Strand pull. They feel like DOOM-like high pressure situations, where you need to think fast and slay quickly to survive while demanding you either work with your teammates or remember the ongoing mechanics to progress. Some of the later missions have some of the most satisfying fights and arenas I’ve seen outside of a raid in Destiny, and after two very fun campaigns back to back in Witch Queen and Lightfall, that’s saying something.

I really think the campaign is electric due to the strength of Zavala, Cayde, Crow, and Ikora as characters, complemented by the new subclass Prismatic, which you unlock right at the beginning and expand as you play each mission. These are the heart of every assault on the tower, every mission and Strike, and all of the expansions and seasons leading up to this moment. I may have been worried that there would be too much “do you remember this??” with the environment design, as you start in an overgrown version of the Destiny 1 tower, but right off the bat the level design meshes familiar and surreal to a really astounding degree. 


Let’s sidestep to the new big feature introduced within the campaign, and that’s the Prismatic Subclass. You unlock and can fully equip and customize Prismatic about 90% through the first campaign mission, and you just have it from then on. This feels like a direct response to how both Stasis and Strand, the two most recent subclasses, were teased throughout the Beyond Light and Lightfall campaigns, but not unlocked until after the campaign was completed. 

I cannot overstate how good of a change giving it to us right away is. A big part of Destiny 2 since the introduction of Stasis has been “buildcrafting”—customizing the different core and passive abilities of your subclass, alongside your armor, weapons, and armor mods, to create a machine of enemy slaying that fits the situation at hand. While you really don’t get a full scope on everything you can do with Prismatic until after the campaign is done, just having the freedom of both tinkering with it, and also using it while exploring and moving between mission objectives, is so liberating.

The idea behind Prismatic is combining “light” and “dark” into a wholly new power, Transcendence. Prismatic gives you a list of five aspects on each class, which don’t fully pull from the five subclasses, but give you a slice of each so as to create a sort of custom, multi-class that can fit the needs of multiple situations. To give a brief example, because these get pretty complicated pretty quickly, on Warlock you start with both Bleak Watcher and Feed the Void, which lets you both turn your grenade into a freezing-ice turret, and allows ability kills to fully heal you. Quickly you can populate the battlefield with a Stasis turret, freeze a group of enemies, and then shatter them, with the shatter damage causing you to fully heal instantly.

After the campaign is done and you can unlock all five aspects, supers, and grenades available on Prismatic, the amount of wild combinations any player who has been invested in the game for the last few years can explore is vast and super fun. These kinds of combinations have only been dreamed of, and through the last year in particular, Bungie has introduced different keywords from each subclass into weapons that have allowed for some of this multi-class dream to feel possible. Now, in the chaotic post-Prismatic world, I don’t think we can ever go back. 

On the level of what’s unique to Prismatic, you have a mini-super called Transcendence, that is a separate meter you charge by dealing both Dark and Light damage, either from subclass abilities, or from your weapons. Once both meters are charged, you can Transcend, and enter a state of heightened power, allowing you to throw a special class-unique grenade to deal both Light and Dark effects. It also bumps up your damage and resistance, and I love how this loop of dealing different damage effects becomes a new focus of your gameplay. You really need to reactively work toward building Transcendance, which can be super easy depending on your weapons and set up, but can also be a challenge if you aren’t distributing your damage correctly. The result is a wholly unique gameplay loop on the game’s already most-unique subclass, making Prismatic feel like such a fresh addition to any and all gameplay loops Destiny has seen. It also lets you create builds within Prismatic that let you play to that specific strength, going Transcendent, and can have you ability-spamming to your heart’s content in no time.

The Post Game

After completing the campaign, The Pale Heart destination opens up more fully, littering itself with secrets and also more pieces of Prismatic to unlock. Everything here is maybe the best part of The Final Shape expansion. You have new Exotic quests, some obvious and some hidden, you have a totally new progression system in Pathfinder, and a completely new way to engage with combat on the Pale Heart itself with the removal of Patrols and the introduction of “Overthrow”. 

Firstly, The Pale Heart is a completely solo instance-destination, a first for Destiny, so you don’t need to be competing for kills like you normally are on destinations. You’re completely free to take your time, explore, engage with pretty fun combat that isn’t too challenging, and find the litany of secrets strewn about the world. There are Prismatic fragments everywhere, and you have just tons of objectives to engage with to find them, whether they be the Cysts, which are like mini-challenge rooms that each have two versions, or Overthrow, which is an escalating public event that has no time limit and you can execute on in each of the three main areas of The Pale Heart. Then there are extra mini-objective challenges strewn across the entire map, like Darkness chests that require you to complete small minigames to open.

All of it is a rousing success because it’s all fresh and new ideas, sometimes even incorporating raid-like mechanics into trivial tasks. Plus, it’s all doable at your own pace. There are very few timers, few pressure points, few things that demand multiple party members (though there are definitely some). It’s hard to describe how special that first week was, because the Campaign ends with effectively a huge set up for the Raid, which launched the first Friday after The Final Shape released. There was a massive countdown timer to the moment the raid went live right on the directory map, and a mission objective in your quest log asking if you’re ready to take on The Witness.

That leads us to the more unique activities the Pale Heart offers after the Raid launched and was completed. One is the Dual Destinies Exotic Mission, which launched the week after the raid, and is the first ever two-person only activity in Destiny. It is an ingenious mission that has you and one other player moving through several extremely fun combat scenarios, performing unique duo-mechanics, that reminded me a lot of things like It Takes Two, ultimately leading to a very fun twist at the end that I refuse to spoil if you haven’t seen it. The reward here are the Prismatic-only Exotic Class items, which can be infinitely farmed from this mission with no weekly limit, and introduce double-exotic perks that allow Pirsmatic to even further bend the rules of the game. Some Exotic Class items can combine perks from other classes’ exotic pool, with over 60 possible combinations per class.

The other activity is called Excision, an activity that launched after the World’s First clear of the Raid, Salvation’s Edge, which we’ll discuss in a moment, and acts as the “true final mission” of Destiny 2 The Final Shape. It is Destiny’s first ever 12-player PvE activity, allowing you and 11 other Guardians to enter a battlefield to finish off The Witness once and for all. To say that this is a fantastic and bombastic finale is honestly an understatement. It’s incredible, focusing more on fun and fan service than actual challenge (although there is a very difficult version of the activity you can play as well) and is a perfect capstone to the expansion. The conclusion that plays at the end of it is emotional, poignant, and beautiful. It’s a wonderful ending to the expansion, and helps solidify it as maybe Bungie’s best Destiny expansion ever. I cannot wait to see what other 12-person activities we may see in the future.

The Raid

That brings us back to the raid, Salvation’s Edge, the final ascent to confront The Witness, and it’s a best case scenario of a raid: an absolute banger. We’ve really seen the gamut of raids from Destiny, with epic and massive raids like The Last Wish from Forsaken to even most recently the frenetic and combat-focused “assault-the-keep” style challenge in the reprised Crota’s End raid from Destiny 1. This takes all the lessons learned from these raids to create an extremely challenging and memorable experience, that feels like you’re ascending Ganon’s Tower to fight the final boss. It’s really all I could have wanted out of a “finale raid” for Destiny.

The encounters are built around team-coordination, this time layering fast-paced objective completion. Almost every encounter demands that every member of the fireteam participate in some way, whether it be because players are chosen for rolls randomly, or because there are six different things to do in the fight. It’s pretty incredible how much this escalates, culminating in Encounter 4 of the raid, Verity, which is a “puzzle encounter” that requires three players to coordinate on one half a puzzle, and the other three to coordinate on the other. This is one of the most incredible Destiny experiences I have ever had, going so far as to incorporate each individual Guardian’s appearance into the mechanics of the battle, as well as each Guardian’s unique ghost.

Salvation’s Edge is also beautiful, encompassing this massive area that overlooks the entire Pale Heart destination, at one point allowing you to see the entire destination from a single spot. The whole raid is entombed in a massive tower, and ascending it is the most video game final-boss-approach we have seen in Destiny. It’s all just awe-inspiring. It’s a real treat, and is maybe the hardest raid Bungie has ever made. It’s an excellent finale, but the Excision mission lets players engage with the final boss of the raid on a more approachable level, so everyone can get a taste of it, which I also really love. 

Final Thoughts

Destiny 2 is still a lot, it’s still a complex, action-MMO, and it’s still very hard to penetrate if you’re new to the franchise. But The Final Shape feels built from the ground up for the players who have stuck it through, who love the secrets, the mechanics, and the buildcrafting. And it’s a better expansion for it. I’d even go so far as to say, it’s the best expansion because of that. 

The ending is poignant, emotional, and one I’ll remember for the rest of my gaming days. After playing this franchise for nine years, I walked away extremely satisfied, and also hopeful for the future of Destiny. 

This game was reviewed on a PlayStation 5 system with a review code provided by PR.

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