Destiny 2: The Final Shape Review – Bungie Sticks the Landing

Destiny 2: The Final Shape Review

Destiny 2 is a complicated topic. People who love the game – raiding, doing daily bounties, and min-maxing armour mods – are also its biggest haters. Bungie can hardly breathe without getting Nova Bombed by the community. So the challenge in releasing an expansion like The Final Shape, and tying up 10 years of history, is stouter than a Titan’s Bubble Shield.

I’ve been playing Destiny on and off since the start. With the highs of Forsaken and The Witch Queen, and lows like last year’s Lightfall, I was very invested in seeing the story through. Where hopes were high, my expectations were low given their past … turbulence. But they did it. Not only is The Final Shape jam-packed with outstanding content, it’s perhaps the closest Destiny has come to feeling like vintage, Halo-era Bungie. Put another way: The Final Shape is Bungie at their finest.


The Last 10 Years

Unsurprisingly, countless expansions mean enough lore to fill 4-hour-long explainer videos on YouTube. So, here’s where The Final Shape kicks off from. The Traveler, the mysterious paracausal sphere responsible for Ghosts and the Light, has been infiltrated by The Witness, an even more mysterious entity using Traveler’s power to twist reality into its image.

Without spoiling anything, The Final Shape brings major characters from every chapter of the story back into play. From Ikora to Cayde 6, Empress Caitl to Savathun, the gang’s all here with a part to play. Miraculously, brilliantly, it all works.

That applies to Commander Zavala too, whose brilliant voice actor Lance Reddick passed away last year. Now voiced by the equally awesome Keith David, he takes Zavala in his own direction. In fleeting moments, his cadence and delivery are reminiscent of Reddick’s performance. But creative license is liberally taken, and this Zavala shows quite a range. Zavala’s backstory and relationships were an unexpected focus during the campaign, and it made the cosmic scale conflict feel immensely personal.


By the end, David and Zavala were one and the same. Though I’ll forever cherish being able to visit Reddick’s Zavala and hear his legendary “Hello, Guardian” in the Tower, I and (I’m sure) the Destiny community salute both versions of Zavala, especially Keith David’s excellent performance under such challenging circumstances.

Zavala’s arc is one of many that hit home in a deeply personal way. Crow, Ghost, and most especially Cayde 6 are treated with remarkable care and obvious love. One particularly beautiful and touching moment will have even the most battle-hardened Guardian feeling misty-eyed. Even though I saw it coming a mile away, it was absolutely perfect.


Mission Mastery

The Final Shape is built differently than the other Destiny adventures, and narratively it’s a huge upgrade. The Final Shape’s campaign is meant to be played linearly, as a single experience. Contrasted with the usual live service narrative, it jettisons all the filler. There’s no traveling to five other locations to pick up macguffins or shoot 1000 bad guys before heading to the next major plot beat.

Missions flow freely from one to the next, letting the phenomenal level and art design shine. The Pale Heart – The Final Shape’s new environment inside The Traveler – is more logical to explore, and also more interesting than what’s come before. The Witness is twisting The Traveler to its will, meaning the art department went wild. Rocky hand-shaped outcrops dot the landscape, and every imaginable biome is represented along the way. It’s gorgeous. I’ve long believed that Bungie has the best designers and artists in the industry, and The Final Shape is their masterpiece.


The missions themselves are far more elaborate than those featured in Lightfall. More importantly, they expose the more casual fanbase to some tasty morsels usually reserved for raids and dungeons. Interesting puzzles and mechanics requiring strategy are common, and on many occasions, NPC characters join the fray. I’ve long wanted to fight alongside the Vanguard, and friends, it feels fantastic.

The highest compliment I can possibly give is that The Final Shape reminds me a lot of Bungie’s entries in the Halo franchise. That perfect balance of interesting encounter design, fantastic level construction, and general badassery is alive and well. Bungie still knows how to get it done, folks.

Structural Considerations

Careful attention was paid to mission rollout too, and I feel closer to the Destiny community now than ever before. The Salvation’s Edge raid was released during the expansion’s first week, and I feared the campaign’s conclusion would be gatekept by it. Instead, the raid served as a gateway to that final assault on The Witness, unlocking the final mission “Excision” once the Raid had been completed.


That final mission, as a singular moment, is one of the best I’ve experienced in any game. I kid you not, I was jumping around like an 8-year-old hopped up on Red Bull at the end. It’s so f**king cool. If you’ve ever played or even slightly cared about Destiny, The Final Shape is a must-play.

Production quality is phenomenal in all areas. Attention to detail from the soundtrack to the cutscenes is in perfect celestial alignment. The extremely high-quality pre-rendered cutscenes don’t feature the guardian for obvious reasons, but bring much more gravitas to the events. 10 years of musical motifs are expertly woven into a harmonious tapestry. Destiny’s music has always been outstanding, but this is a magnum opus.


Become Prismatic

The Final Shape introduces a new subclass: Prismatic. And it changes everything. The Prismatic class takes the already engaging build crafting qualities of Destiny and breaks everything wide open. Becoming Prismatic means choosing your favorite pieces of the existing classes – Solar, Arc, Void, Stasis, and Strand – and becoming an absolute Demi-god.

With the right combination of perks, your Guardian can be nigh un-killable. Abilities recharge in seconds, enemies melt, and even the most devastating incoming attacks barely tickle. It’s incredibly fun to play with in the PvE setting. Slinging Arcane Needles before dropping a healing grenade and then becoming Emperor Palpatine is peak power fantasy. Being a pink god is fantastic, though It remains to be seen how relevant the other subclasses will remain over time.

There are new supers and aspects for each Class as well, highlighted by the Hunter super that both teleports and creates a giant whirlwind of death, and the Warlock aspect that launches flaming mortars.

Thankfully, collecting all the pieces of the subclass is more fun than pain, unlike the brutal grind for the Stasis subclass in Beyond Light. I’m not bitter though, really.


The Episodic Grind

But, the grind is a key part of Destiny 2 and all live service games. Where that can, and has, fallen apart is when there’s no variety. Holster your hand cannons, Guardians, The Final Shape has a lot going on. The most interesting, for my money, are the various Exotic item quests. Each class has 3 exotic armor pieces, and there are 5 exotic weapons. Not all of these have quests of course, but one in particular brings raid-style mechanics to the mainstream, much like the campaign did. In “Dual Destiny” a duo of players are treated to some of the best mechanics Bungie has ever cooked up. It’s challenging, fun, and satisfying. Bungie, if you’re reading this: more. please.

Immediately upon clearing the Final Shape campaign, there’s more episodic content to do over on Nessus. The seasonal activity “Breach Executable” is frantic and fun, and the return of the Failsafe AI from the Forsaken expansion is more than welcome. Of particular comedic value: Failsafe catching up on everything that’s happened since Forsaken.


There have been overhauls to other Destiny mainstays like Xur and Rahool too, though I’ll avoid getting into those here. Just know that there’s ample reason to seek out even classic activities like Vanguard Strikes and the Crucible, even if those modes haven’t seen much change.

Another new and welcome piece is the Pathfinder system, which replaces bounties (in a way). Like it sounds, Pathfinder has you navigating a path akin to Star Fox levels by completing mundane challenges. At the end of each path lies powerful rewards like gear and engrams. I’d like to see the pathfinder be more obvious in the UI though, perhaps as a tab next to quests. With all the, well, everything that’s going on in the UI, it would be easy to completely gloss over the Pathfinder challenges.


Eyes Up, Guardian

What Bungie has accomplished with The Final Shape in the face of tremendous hurdles and unreasonable expectations is nothing short of remarkable. It’s a powerful and satisfying story, with the mechanics, art, design, and polish to back it up. This is Bungie’s best work in the Destiny era, and sets a lofty new bar for live service expansions. In a challenging market, Bungie have proven they’re still among the best in the business. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

The Good

  • A satisfying and resonant end to 10 years of Destiny adventures
  • Outstanding art, level, and mission design
  • Still the best feeling shooter on the market

The Bad

  • May not resonate as much for players with less franchise history