The Final Shape has reinvigorated my love of Destiny 2

Posted on June 25, 2024

Destiny 2 has changed drastically since its debut in 2019, and as an on-and-off Destiny 2 fan, I’ve developed a sort of love-hate relationship with the game. Improving a lot on what the original Destiny set out to do in 2014, the sequel has gone through a lot, including moving to a free-to-play model, a leap to the current generation and several expansions that have added to the universe… for better and worse. Destiny 2: The Final Shape is the culmination of 10 years of storytelling, the latest expansion to the constantly growing sci-fi shooter from the masters at Bungie.

And, while it certainly can’t fix the longstanding issues with Destiny 2, it has reinvigorated my love of the game, simply because it’s gorgeous, fun to play, adds a tonne of compelling content and comes with a fully fleshed-out narrative.

I’m not going to spend time talking about the layers upon layers of systems that make Destiny 2 the awkward beast it is today. I can’t imagine being a new player jumping in, surely being overwhelmed by menus, concepts, and a busy hub with various confusing vendors and quests. Hell, even as a returning player after a couple of years off, it’s a lot to take in.

Smartly, there are recap quests that at least mark off the key story beats from the previous expansions, to catch you up on what you might have missed. Having played some but not all of the previous expansion content, this playable summary of events up until this point was actually a great introduction to The Final Shape, effectively a “Previously, on Destiny 2” style that kicks off the new season of your favorite TV show (unless you’re HBO and prefer to leave confused viewers in the dark. House of the Dragon season 1 was years ago guys, come on now).

“The Final Shape is by far the prettiest and most experimental Destiny 2 has ever been.”

There’s a linearity and flow to the main campaign in The Final Shape that is easy to digest. The Witness is the ultimate big bad, and it’s your job to stop him from creating “The Final Shape”, which is basically the calcification and destruction of all life in the universe. This is the end of Destiny’s first major saga, known as the ‘Light and Darkness’ saga; a lofty task to tie everything up into a neat little bow after so many years of add-on content, twists and turns.

Notably, Cayde-6 makes his return after being killed off in the Forsaken expansion. I was worried this would feel like a bit of a cop-out; bringing a major loved character back to life after a dramatic end can feel cheap. But, the justification for him coming back into the fray makes sense, and he is so darn likable that it was just a pleasure to have his voice in your ear again, to the point where I didn’t care.

Cayde-6, along with Ikora, Zavala and Crow all get their fair share of character moments, from impressive flashy cut-scenes to smaller, more intimate chats. It’s honestly lovely to spend time with them again, and the campaign of The Final Shape gives everybody a moment to shine. After the disappointment of Lightfall, it seems like the team at Bungie took that feedback to heart, as this expansion is far more willing to answer questions rather than tread water over useless plot points. While there will always be overarching mysteries about the Destiny 2 universe and how it all exists in the first place, the journey to battling The Witness in a last stand works well and gives these characters a finish line of sorts that they’ve been racing towards for a decade, the absolute definition of “it’s a marathon, not a sprint”. It’s a bold, satisfying ending when it’s all said and done.

The Final Shape is by far the prettiest and most experimental Destiny 2 has ever been. Large, gorgeous and lush green landscapes are a joy to explore, but make way for some truly dark and dastardly locations as you progress further toward your showdown with The Witness. Tunnels made from body parts, weird faces with agonising expressions protrude from walls, and strange LEGO-like shapes create winding pathways through labyrinthian memories. While you don’t traditionally battle The Witness throughout, the unsettling atmosphere and creepy setting make for quite the tension-filled buildup as you inch closer to the final confrontation.

There’s a healthy dose of nostalgia for long-time fans, too. Early missions reference the original Destiny Tower and where it all began the day you met your Ghost, and that goes a long way in reminding us and the characters in Destiny 2 just how far we’ve come.

Prismatic is the new subclass that allows you to combine it with elements from the other subclasses available, making for a nice change of pace, and I enjoyed progressively trying out new abilities as they were drip-fed throughout. The fact that you can combine these new Primatic abilities with existing favourites means there will be a lot of tinkering from dedicated players to find the best builds, mixing together Light and Dark in ways that can alter how you approach combat.

The new faction, the Dread, an army of Darkness-powered entities created by the Witness, includes a flying enemy, which is a first for the series. They fly in swarms and can dodge attacks, along with stunning you with a screech. At inopportune moments, they can knock you off course when you’re tackling some of the more fast-paced platforming challenges The Final Shape puts in front of you. There are two new subjugator units as well, the Harbinger and Omen. These hulking jerks cause high damage quickly, using Strand attacks to launch you across the map, and Stasis powers that force you to be stuck in place, respectively, providing a decent challenge. There is a sort of over-reliance on enemies being shielded unless you gain Prismatic energy from pools lying about the place (dubbed by my squad as ‘sparkle-dust’). This can be frustrating at times, but it all adds together to give The Final Shape a different flavour.

What makes The Final Shape stand out within its combat though is its use of some light puzzle-solving, which would be simple in and of itself, but they’re usually mixed in with heavy combat rooms that won’t stop respawning until you solve them. For example, matching Glyphs from one area to the next is all well and good, but made all the more difficult by relentless enemies constantly on your tail. Other times, there are coloured targets you have to reflect different-coloured enemy bullets onto before you can progress. They’re not all implemented wonderfully (enemies targeting the one player without a reflective shield made some of these take a bit too long for my liking), but they inject some much-needed variety into the otherwise repetitive shooting gallery.

Truth be told, there’s a lot of Destiny 2: The Final Shape that I’m still working through. I haven’t yet finished the epic raid that was released the week following the launch of its campaign, but it looks to be a beast worth taking on with some excellent mechanics and challenging difficulty. The first Destiny 2 Episode, Echoes, is also now available and is the first of three Episodes that will launch in Destiny 2 during the year of The Final Shape, lasting until early October. The Destiny 2 community is chattering about how this might be the best expansion the game has ever seen, and that’s a big compliment for a series that has had just as many highs as it has had lows.

All I know is, after a couple of years of shrugging my shoulders whenever Destiny 2 comes up in conversation, I’m now excited to talk about it again, and even more excited to continue to play it. For a five-year-old game and a ten-year-old story, that’s pretty bloody impressive in my books.