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Destiny 2: The Final Shape Review

The Light at the end of the tunnel

Destiny 2 has lived a very controversial and tumultuous life. Developer Bungie has been making various changes that the community either loves or abhors, and there is no in-between. As a result, the relationship between the studio and the players has always been tense, and Bungie’s response has been to constantly promise that things will be better, especially with the story. As a player, I have been hearing promise after promise that The Final Shape will be a rousing, compelling conclusion to a saga that started back in 2014, but I’m not convinced The Final Shape is a delivery on those promises.

The Final Shape takes place not long after the events of Lightfall. The Witness has made its way into The Traveler and is looking to enact its final shape (oh my goodness he said the thing!). You, the Guardian, venture into that same being who is responsible for your powers, with the goal of stopping The Witness in its tracks. Failure to do so effectively means the end of everything, as The Witness’ final shape means everything will be permanently frozen as one perfect moment.

It quickly becomes apparent that The Traveler is not incapacitated in any capacity, and wants to help you. The inside of The Traveler is known as The Pale Heart and the environments within are recreations of areas that the Guardian has visited in the past. From the frozen cliffs of Europa, to the place where this whole thing began, it’s evident that the design and direction of The Final Shape is one steeped in nostalgia and fan service.

Destiny 2 TFS review 1

Nostalgia and fan service aren’t exactly bad things unless they are put there in place of writing with substance which is the territory that Destiny 2: The Final Shape constantly treads. Cayde-6 sees a return after being dead for six years (I miss the Forsaken expansion) and it is immediately evident that the sole purpose of his resurrection is to appease fans, as his inclusion in the story itself only serves to get in the way of the campaign’s pacing. Pacing is something that Destiny 2 has struggled with in virtually every expansion. Bungie refuses to budge on its philosophy that an expansion’s campaign is strictly eight missions long. For most of the expansions, it’s largely forgettable as the story never felt like it meant much, but when it is the conclusion to your decade-long story, eight missions are just not long enough to conclude a narrative like this in a satisfying way.

What The Final Shape’s story boils down to is Cayde-6 being sorry for dying (it’s dumb, I know), Ikora Rey and Cayde-6 making up, Zavala being edgy and stupid, and The Witness’ composure being thrown out the window in a campaign that doesn’t feel satisfying or logical at all. To make matters worse, because a large chunk of Destiny 2’s story was tied to seasonal content that has been removed, it means that The Final Shape constantly retreads old and tired story beats so people who missed out on that content have the context behind those characters’ actions. As someone who was present when those story beats were first explored, it sucks. There is even a moment when your Ghost reminisces about when it first resurrected you into a Guardian, which would be a nice moment if it hadn’t been done multiple times before.

It’s this revisiting of the story and relying on the game’s past that makes the campaign feel like nothing. It almost feels like you’re talking about the previous story, then The Witness interrupts you so you chase him, then you take another moment to talk about the past, and then The Witness shows up again so you chase him again. There are, of course, some interesting new ideas that are put in front of the player, but the game moves on to the next idea before it feels like the previous one was thoroughly explored. It all begins to feel so stilted.

It’s not exactly that the campaign is terrible, in fact, it is mostly just fine. The problem is that Bungie has been promising insane storytelling with this expansion for so long and this falls so incredibly short. It’s at a point where the claim that Destiny 2 is a narrative-focused game feels like a complete lie, especially when you consider the fact that over half of the story is missing now thanks to seasonal storytelling and core content that has been removed. On top of that, its proper ending just shows that death means nothing in the Destiny 2 universe and so any character’s death should be ignored because it will only be a matter of time before they are resurrected.

Destiny 2 TFS review 2

Now while the story is serviceable at best, the playable content itself is very good. On a gameplay basis, the campaign is fantastic. The missions are fun, the combat encounters are both unique and challenging and the way the game makes the new Prismatic subclass actually usable compared to Lightfall’s Strand subclass is great.

The Prismatic subclass is best described as a jack of all trades, but a master of none. It allows for some great mixing and matching of subclasses to create unique builds that help minorly address the one-note nature of Destiny 2’s buildcrafting systems. One of the biggest problems with Destiny 2’s buildcrafting is the fact that things being tied to specific subclasses can often box your build variety in detrimental ways. For instance, the Arc Warlock has some great abilities and features, but it comes with the tradeoff that you are tied to using that subclass’s subpar Super. Prismatic does away with this, as it brings in various facets and features of each subclass. Not everything from every subclass is available, but what is there is quite fun to engage with and it feels like much better suited to Destiny 2’s design shift to horizontal progression.

If you wanted any proof that Destiny 2 is focusing more on horizontal progression than its previous linear progression models, take a look at how gearing-up alternate characters works in The Final Shape. In previous expansions, levelling/gearing alternate characters that were a different class to your main meant that you had to engage with the game’s linear progression system and slowly climb your way up in power level. In The Final Shape, this has been completely removed, once the power climb has been completed on one character, gear drops for alternate characters will match that level – the levelling experience is all but gutted.

The idea of ditching the linear progression model isn’t exactly a bad move, but steps need to be made to ensure that the horizontal progression is great to engage with, and while Prismatic is a step in the right direction, buildcrafting in Destiny 2 is still fundamentally asinine. RNG will always be a factor for a looter-shooter like Destiny 2, but the insane levels of RNG needed for decent builds are just frustrating and arbitrary. Every build still devolves into getting the Resilience and Discipline to tier 10 (stats of 100), or however high you can muster, and then from there you work on whatever tertiary/supplementary stats you need, usually Recovery. Rolling the dice on gear for it to have a high stat total and good distribution of useful stats while ignoring useless ones is placing RNG on top of RNG on top of RNG. Having such core systems be so wildly out of your control just feels so awful, and until the entire system is reworked, the buildcrafting will always be boring to engage with.

Destiny 2 TFS review 3

The Pale Heart as a patrol zone is surprisingly refreshing in how focused it is. It sees a big change in direction from normal patrol zones as it isn’t a public destination like prior zones. Instead, it is set up as an instance for each fireteam, which means that the public event cycle is entirely in your control. Each zone has an overarching event called Overthrow which you progress by defeating enemy combatants, completing smaller events, opening chests and various other miscellaneous activities. While it sounds boring, because it is scaled to be achievable by a solo player, it means that doing it in a group is incredibly fast and the speed at which it can be completed in this scenario is oddly satisfying.

One of the bigger post-game changes has to do with the Pathfinder system. Not to be confused with the TTRPG game of the same name, Pathfinder acts as a replacement for most of the bounties that players used to have to grind in the game. It gives the player various tasks to do, and doing enough of them in a specific order will grant the player with a reward. There are two versions of this one for The Pale Heart and one for the core playlist activities. The one for The Pale Heart is great as it has you engaging with everything that the new area has to offer. The core playlist activities one is mostly just fine. The objectives are largely the same as the old bounties but you don’t need to be picked up from vendors constantly.

Now for the big ticket item, the raid. Salvation’s Edge is the final piece of the Destiny 2 raid puzzle that is a part of the Light vs Dark saga. I did some of the raid on contest mode and it is the first time Destiny 2 felt challenging and well-designed in a long time. Most of the raid requires clear and succinct communication, as it is easy for comms to get busy otherwise. On top of that, the enemy placement and distribution are clever enough that they can still be an issue even with the contest mode being off. Each encounter builds on the central mechanic (sending back and forth between two plates and using resonance that spawns to close conduits) in such a great way and it is completely thrown away at the end. The fourth encounter, while not exactly using the central mechanic of the prior three encounters, is unique and brilliantly designed enough to stand as one of the best encounters in the entire game. It’s fun, engaging, and incredibly creative in its ideas and execution. It is followed by a raid encounter with The Witness, Destiny 2’s big bad evil guy, that is so simple and disappointing that it honestly feels phoned in. This final boss doesn’t have the unique design to excuse it for dropping the central mechanic of the Salvation’s Edge raid, and instead, you are left with an encounter whose design feels like it both comes out of left field and is overly simplistic. I’m not even joking, the average team will need more people to know how to do the Nezarec fight (Destiny 2’s most embarrassing raid boss fight) than they do for The Witness, the villain who has been built on and alluded to for over half a decade.

What is also sad to see, or rather to hear, is the music. Destiny 2 has always been consistently fantastic in two aspects – its art and its music. The art is, as usual, absolutely killer. Bungie’s art team almost never misses and the design of all the new areas in The Final Shape is nothing short of incredible. The music, however, is another matter altogether. As a part of the Bungie layoffs, beloved composer Michael Salvatori was let go from the studio and you can feel his absence. None of the music invokes that same feeling that previous expansions had. The scores for Rhulk, Nezarec, Riven, Oryx, Aksis, The Taken King, Forsaken, Witch Queen, and more just felt like such a vital piece of the puzzle and the lowered quality of the music just proves that right. It’s not exactly that the music is bad, but the soundtrack was used in such a clever manner that aided the atmosphere of the game’s encounters and environments. The Final Shape’s soundtrack doesn’t even come close to the heights that the music from previous expansions reached. Hell, even the music for The Witness’ fight in the raid just feels like a dumbed-down version of Nezarec’s music.

Final Thoughts

Destiny 2: The Final Shape is by no means a bad expansion. In a lot of areas, it is great. The Prismatic subclass is fun, the campaign on a gameplay basis is varied and engaging, the revamped design of The Pale Heart is awesome and there are a lot of secrets to be found. However, on a narrative front, it completely drops to ball and proves that Bungie’s claim that the story is important to Destiny 2 is entirely false. If you are in the game for the story, you will be disappointed by The Final Shape when you give it any form of critical thought, but if you are in it for more than the story, then The Final Shape is a solid step in the right direction. I can only hope that Bungie is able to continue the good work and bring the game to a much more positive state than it has been since the departure from Activision-Blizzard.

Reviewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher

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Destiny 2: The Final Shape Review
Promises, promises
Bungie has been promising the world to us with Destiny 2: The Final Shape and has proven that competent and cohesive story writing is something that is no longer on the cards for Destiny 2. While the story is quite disappointing, there are at least steps in the right direction in a game design sense to make the game feel better to play.
The Good
The Pale Heart is a great new patrol zone
Salvation's Edge is (mostly) a fantastic raid
Primsatic is a great new additional that makes buildcrafting slightly less boring
Pathfinder is a creative solution to bounty grinding
The Bad
The buildcrafting is still mostly one-note
The story is serviceable at best
Final encounter of Salvation's Edge is disappointingly simple
7.5
Solid
  • Bungie
  • Bungie
  • PS5 / PS4 / Xbox Series X|S / Xbox One / PC
  • June 4, 2024
  • CPU: Ryzen 9 7950X
  • Motherboard: ASUS TUF Gaming X670E-Plus
  • GPU: MSI RTX 3080 Ti GAMING X TRIO 12GB (Driver ver. 555.99)
  • Memory: G.Skill Trident Z5 RGB 64GB (2x32GB) DDR5-6000 CL32
  • Storage: Samsung 970 EVO Plus NVMe SSD 500GB (OS), Kingston NV2 M.2 NVMe Gen4 SSD 4TB (Game install)
  • OS: Windows 10 Home (Build ver. 19045)

Written By Jordan Garcia

Jordan lives and breathes Dark Souls, even though his favourite game is Bloodborne. He takes pride in bashing his face on walls and praising the sun. Hailing from the land of tacos, he is the token minority for WellPlayed.

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