Destiny 2: The Final Shape review – One of the best expansions ever made

Patrick Dane
Destiny 2 the Final Shape Key art

Destiny 2: The Final Shape isn’t something that comes around very often. The market is dominated by live-service titles, but it’s rare for them to culminate into a moment — especially one that has been building for ten years. 

Games like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy 14 have certainly had big, climactic finales. However, Destiny has been building, in some way, towards the confrontation of the Light and Dark since the franchise launched in 2014. From the first cutscene in Destiny 1 where Bill Nighy’s Speaker introduced the conflict, the sense of The Darkness vs. the Traveler has been at the forefront.

Admittedly, we’ve been off the beaten path from time to time. There have been robo-viruses infecting aliens, a campaign of vengeance against a now friend, and an invasion by a horde of Romanesque space hippos. However, hidden away in the deeper lore, the root always led back to The Darkness and The Light. 

When Destiny launched, it was said that Bungie was putting together a “10 year plan” for the franchise. After a rocky initial launch, it was used somewhat as a punchline. The joke was there’s no way this bizarre, experimental, confused shooter MMO would last. Suffice it to say, Bungie has had the last laugh. 

So here we are. The Final Shape. The moment Guardians have been envisioning for the better part of a decade. Frankly, it’s an impossible task. It would take a miracle to live up to so much promise, especially after stumbling during Lightfall’s story last year… right?

Well, miracles would just be called wishes if they didn’t happen every once in a while. This isn’t the work of a higher power, though, but instead a developer at the absolute top of its game.

Destiny 2: The Final Shape Key Details

  • Price: $49.99
  • Developer: Bungie
  • Release Date: June 4, 2024
  • Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One & PC

First Cayde

Cayde and Zavala hug in Destiny 2: The Final ShapeThis is a character-driven story about reconciling grief

The Final Shape is a campaign with narrative at its forefront. This doesn’t spin its wheels in place like in Lightfall, nor does it take any sort of detour. It also doesn’t retreat into a mystery like in previous expansions. This is a story about the Guardian and every major player in the franchise set on a collision course with The Witness, the biggest bad in Destiny history. 

However, there’s more than just the fight with the Witness here. This is easily Bungie’s most character-forward story, too. Destiny 2 campaigns often get caught up purely on the events of the plot. The Final Shape feels different, though. It walks this tightrope of feeling like a universe-ending conclusion and also an intimate examination of the people caught in the middle of it. 

While there are scenes of wonder in the story, it’s pretty dour for the most part. That’s fitting of the moment, too. Cayde-6 is back, and while he still quips here and there, he’s not the comedy relief guy of the crew anymore. Instead, he finds himself having to be a leader with a lot more worldly wisdom than he previously did. Dying apparently is a great teacher. Elsewhere Zavala, now voiced by the instantly recognizable Keith David taking over from the late Lance Reddick, has a major crisis of conscience. His actions make sense, though. The amount he’s been through, the sacrifices he’s made — there is a keen, understandable reason for what he’s doing.

There are heavy themes of grief and mourning, as well as the ultimate responsibility to live on regardless, even in the face of immense pain. This was a risky tact to take with the story. The game slows the action to focus on these somber scenes. However, the characters are handled so excellently, they provide a soul to the broader narrative of The Final Shape. 

Cayde’s new shade of wisdom is an excellent fit for him, Zavala’s crisis has been building for years, and Ikora’s iron resolve begins to falter as her foundations begin to crumble. It’s so well done, and it’s the standard for the kind of character work the series should hold onto into its future.

Witnessing greatness

The Witness in Destiny 2: The Final ShapeThe Witness finally comes into its own to become Destiny’s biggest bad.

[This section will discuss notions about the structure and emotions of the game’s finale, but contains no direct spoilers]

It’s not all sad campfire talks about loss, pain, and the temptations of the Darkness though. This is still the ultimate showdown with the strongest known being in the universe. 

The Witness really comes into its own in The Final Shape. It steps into the forefront, a move that probably should have happened earlier but one that is welcome nonetheless. There are hundreds of lore entries you can dive into to get the full lowdown on The Witness — and you should; it’s a fascinating character. But the tl;dr is this: The Witness used to be an entire civilization that now exists within one being that wants to freeze reality into the shape it deems perfect — ridding pain and suffering, but also all life and potential at the same time.

This confrontation is handled in an inventive, multi-tiered way that incorporates all of Destiny 2’s mightiest tools. The initial seven missions in the campaign lead into the raid, Salvation’s Edge. This became the raid with the longest World’s First in Destiny’s history —- and is quite possibly the best ever made in terms of spectacle, mechanics, and difficulty. Then, the events of the raid lead into a brand new activity, Excision, the franchise’s first (sanctioned) 12-man activity. 

This mission is an extraordinary moment. A cathartic rush of adrenaline, characters, and pay-off as 10 years of storytelling devolves into an actual war of Guardians, allies, and ultimately The Witness itself. The Avengers: Endgame comparison feels too easy to make, but it doesn’t feel like Bungie is trying to hide that. What makes it work, in the way that the climactic battle of that film does, is that it has 10 years of story built into it. It doesn’t matter that it’s riffing that hard on that moment: Destiny earned it. 

This all culminates into a remarkable mission that’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in a game before wrapping up in a way that will test the cold heart of anyone who has ever cared about this franchise. From the start of the mission to the last cutscene – it’s an astonishing sequence. It might be my favorite in any video game ever. Full stop. Period. 

Filled with Dread

The Dread in in Destiny 2: The Final ShapeThe Dread Offer a whole host of powerful Strand and Stasis abilities.

Making this occasion feel bigger is the inclusion of Destiny’s first new enemy race since Forsaken. The Dread are some of the game’s toughest enemies, with some of the most intense abilities. A lot of it revolves around Strand and Stasis, making them shapers of the battlefield more so than any other race. While, as Guardians, crowd control is our bread and butter, this is the most we’ve had an enemy faction throw that back at us. 

The way the Dread’s abilities mix can be utterly brutal. Stasis crystals are flung around the field to freeze you, and Strand abilities are used to pull you into danger or suspend you in place. If you don’t get on top of a situation, it can spiral quickly against the Dread. 

Never before has there been an enemy that can literally drag you out of your cover or immobilize you so completely. While it can become a real challenge to face enemies that carve out the battlefield in their favor, it never becomes completely oppressive. They’re a threat but rarely tip over into obnoxious. 

They can also be hilarious too. At one point, I was fighting a tougher Tormentor, relatively safe from a distance. That was before I was yoinked by a Strand Weaver right into the Tormentor’s grasp, who promptly grabbed and killed me. I couldn’t help but laugh at the enemy’s ingenuity — they got me.

Beyond the Pale

The Pale Heart in Destiny 2: The Final ShapeThe Pale Heart is the best Destiny 2 location to date.

All of this takes place in a destination players have long speculated on. The Pale Heart brings us into the Traveler as we explore one of the most unique locations ever introduced into Destiny. 

For the first time, a Destiny 2 planetary location isn’t a big circle, but instead a straight line. That may seem like a minor change, but it actually provides a path of momentum through the game’s increasingly dire story. As you first enter the Pale Heart, there’s a sense of awe and magic to this reflective world of beauty. 

As you stumble through verdant recreations of your memories, it’s clear you’ve had an effect on this world. It recreates locations and scenes from your past. However, as you press deeper down the funnel the Pale Heart forces you through, it’s clear something is wrong. The Witness is equally having an effect on this space, with clear corruption becoming more distilled and potent as you get close to The Witness’s looming tower. Before long, it’s all dissected faces of pain and a lot of hands. Like, a lot of hands. So many, many hands. 

This is Bungie’s most visually stunning planetary location to date, and honestly, it’s not even that close. It all abides by a singular vision, but one that’s refracted through a prism going from wonder and growth to anguish and desolation. It’s a hell of a thing to look at and a ton of secret nooks to go out and explore.

Thematic prismatic

The three Destiny 2 Prismatic Subclasses
Prismatic is an intensely unique subclass that you can buildcraft for hours.

The other big addition to The Final Shape is Prismatic. This new subclass brings together both Light and Dark under one roof. This allows players to deeply customize their subclasses into a marriage of both sides. 

If you throw together something that at least functions, this is a fun new wrinkle in a Guardian’s arsenal. The crux of the subclass is you need to be able to balance both Light and Dark damage, in order to fill up a bar to activate Transcendence. This acts almost like a second super, that’ll give you all sorts of gameplay benefits, including increased ability regeneration, better resistance, and a whole new grenade that mixes Light and Dark. 

Prismatic is easily the most complicated buildcrafting can do in the game. This is because it’s not just about throwing on the best aspects and fragments that complement your Exotics. Instead, the subclass pushes back on you in a meaningful way. 

You need to be able to build both Light and Dark meters. That balance to meet Transcendence provides complication in your setup, where you’ll have to consider every ability, super, and weapon you’ve equipped while playing the subclass. For newcomers, this may prove to be a little overwhelming. However, if you’re well-versed in Destiny 2 buildcrafting, it’s a unique challenge. 

It’s safe to say the best builds are still being conceived. The newly released Exotic class items bring in a whole other complex dimension to Prismatic, too, and that’s going to take some time to shake out. However, regardless of where it all lands, Prismatic is a unique addition to Destiny 2 that will hopefully be built upon in the future.

Taking shape

The new Titan Super is a hell of a time.

There’s a lot more in this expansion, too (and looking at my ballooning word count, I’m not going to get to it all). However, I’ve only touched on the big marquee, back-of-the-box features here. As mentioned, the Raid is a wild, challenging experience that may be the best Bungie has ever put out. There are some amazing exotics added to the game, like the meta-defining Still Hunt sniper that gives players a pocket Golden Gun Super or the first-of-its-kind heavy Trace Rifle Microcosm

There are also new Supers for every class. The Titan Super, which provides Void axes for the full team, is really fun to use with multiple Guardians. Hunters get to zip around with an Arc teleport that clears entire rooms. Warlocks regain the solar Song of Flame which allows them to constantly rotate abilities to a supercharged finger snap, to a tracking grenade in the form of a bird. 

There is also a secret Exotic Mission that has recently opened up, and it’s the best Bungie has done — feeling almost like a new type of Dungeon or Raid activity but for just two people. I’d love to see that idea explored again in the future. 

The point is, it’s not just the big things that work in The Final Shape – it’s everything. It all works. The issues feel minute, and everything put into the game, big and small, feels like a best-case scenario for the development team. Of course, there’s still time for issues to reveal themselves, metas to stagnate, and Episodes to disappoint, but right now —- Destiny is at its absolute peak.

Here at the end

Destiny 2: The Final Shape characters
This is a fitting end to Destiny’s first saga.

The Final Shape is not just the best Destiny expansion ever made — it is one of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had — and I’ve been gaming for over thirty years. Profound isn’t a word I expected to be using when first jumping into the expansion, but it’s hard to think of a better one, to sum up my time.

There is a caveat to all this, though —I have a long history with Destiny. I have over 3000 hours played and have met many friends through my journey in the past 10 years. The Final Shape is a celebration of that time. The story I told with my Guardian intermingled with my own life. It’s nearly impossible for me to untangle that from my experience. 

If you don’t have that history, it’s harder for me to say exactly how you’ll find The Final Shape. I still believe even if you just picked up the game, you’d have a very good time with it. The campaign is excellent, the Raid is an all-timer, Prismatic brings previously unseen depth, and the Pale Heart is an astonishing creation. It’s hard to envision anyone who likes Destiny even a little walking away having an overall negative experience. It’s a great expansion, even in a vacuum. 

However, what makes all of this really come together into a beautiful achievement is how all of these aspects return to Destiny’s core soul — the people you play with. The fact the game encourages you to do all of this with friends, take part in the community outside of the game, and feel like you’re living in a collective moment — that’s what really makes this special. That’s always been the best part of Destiny: its ability to bring people together. 

The Verdict – 5/5

The Final Shape is a sentimental love letter to the social and community aspects of gaming. The power of creating a group of friends and playing something together. The stories you experience in-game and out of it. It’s not just the culmination of the expansions and seasons of the last 10 years, but the people we met along the way. It’s so rare for games to get to this moment – a climax of a decade of storytelling – and it’s practically unheard of to have it end so satisfyingly. Bungie did what seemed impossible with The Final Shape – it nailed it.

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