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Destiny 2: The Final Shape screenshots

Destiny 2: The Final Shape

The Final Preview
by Matt Miller on May 28, 2024 at 11:00 AM
Platform PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Publisher Bungie
Developer Bungie
Rating Teen

Given the planned scope of Destiny 2’s new expansion, Bungie has left a good bit unrevealed in the lead-up to launch. While we’ve seen glimpses of new enemy types and powers, and the team has made earlier expansions available for free to everyone to allow for some "catch-up," much of the actual new campaign and events of the new addition have remained undetailed. That remains the approach even now, a week before The Final Shape's launch.

However, we recently had the chance to see at least some of the new installment in action. I walked away excited about what I’d seen and convinced The Final Shape is a piece of content squarely focused on established and returning players.

Quite frankly, that makes sense. While living games like Destiny 2 are always looking to rope in new players, this new expansion is meant to wrap up a decade of existing storytelling and conclude the saga that has been running since the original Destiny’s launch. If you have not been paying attention until now, it’s hard to believe this last chapter of the story will pull you in.

Destiny 2: The Final Shape screenshots

That truth is in evidence through both gameplay and storytelling during the hour or so of content I got to see. The hands-off demos I witnessed mostly focused on the first mission of the game and a very cool new strike. Throughout both, I was happy to see lots of nods to the time I’ve spent in the Destiny universe.

The Pale Heart is the new destination players can expect to explore throughout The Final Shape. Set in a sort of metaphysical no-man’s land within the Traveler itself, the landscape has a surreal and dreamlike quality that is unsettling and beautiful. In the presentation I watched, one of the developers off-handedly described the playspace as looking like a world “in the process of being defragmented,” and that description clicked for me.

Odd and often organic shapes – like giant hands – jut out of the landscape, and frequently, the battlefields within The Pale Heart are directly modeled after places that we’ve already visited over the life of the Destiny franchise. For instance, in the early mission I witnessed, the developers moved through a space very much like the original Tower and Vanguard command center that longtime players will recall from the first Destiny game.  

The campaign appears to be structured along an interesting linear path through the Pale Heart. During missions, you can look behind you to see the gateway into this strange world and, in the distance, a mysterious spire that you’re working your way toward. While we didn’t see later levels, the implication is that the spire becomes larger and larger as you move through the campaign, giving a sense of a quest or journey that is taking you to the end of the line. The Pale Heart reflects our memories, but also those of The Witness, so there’s also a fascinating transition that begins to occur as you work your way across the destination; the environment also begins to show the memories of The Witness and its home world, deepening the understanding of the enemy we’re facing.

Even as the landscape reminds of old adventures, the characters that are part of this story are also meant to hearken back to a full decade of play. The focus is on longtime staples of the story like Zavala and Crow and, of course, the much-anticipated return of Cayde-6.

Destiny 2: The Final Shape screenshots

Even as the story is leaning into nostalgia and established fictional elements, I found the gameplay on display does something similar. The new prismatic power set for each class is exciting, but it’s also sort of like a mash-up of existing abilities into a new whole. I’m intrigued to begin mixing and matching different abilities from both Light and Darkness subclasses and see what new opportunities arise. At least in observing the new prismatic abilities in action, its tier of power is especially impressive.

That’s not to suggest everything is a throwback to old experiences. The new army of Dread soldiers is aggressive and dangerous, and it was fun to see more of them in action, especially working in tandem to make life hard for the Guardians. For instance, the new Weaver enemy pulls Guardians in (rather than the dreaded push that so many other enemy types exhibit). That pull can often put you into close range with the Tormentors players have already fought before, which is always bad news.

Bungie claims The Final Shape campaign is the largest to date in a Destiny release, and that the story continues after the raid completes, more fully fleshing out our understanding of the saga’s conclusion. The sequences I witnessed also suggest a more mechanically complex campaign than we have sometimes seen. One of the encounters we saw in the strike (which you’ll play through as part of the campaign) demanded the Guardian finish off his foes even as the battlefield gradually filled with lava. The result is story missions that feel like they lean just a bit toward feeling like dungeons or raids.

Destiny 2: The Final Shape screenshots

The team has also put a lot of work in to ensure a satisfying adventure through the campaign, no matter which difficulty level you choose (brave or legendary), and that legendary difficulty scales depending on how many fireteam members you have. I’ve yet to prove out the claim without going hands-on, but the developers claim that a legendary playthrough should be roughly the same difficulty whether you’re playing solo or with a full three-person fireteam.

Prior expansions often focused on one or two major groups of enemies, but The Final Shape pulls in all the enemy factions we’ve fought up to this point, which gives the expansion a bit more of an epic feel than many battles we’ve faced before. Not all the factions are working with the Dread. For instance, we saw a sequence of Lucent Hive fighting against the Witness’ forces. But, of course, that doesn’t mean the Lucent Hive is on our side either.

After a lengthy delay ahead of the launch that’s left Destiny 2 players waiting through a lengthy recent season, it’s fair to say that there are some high expectations around the launch of The Final Shape. I like what I’ve seen so far, particularly the way The Final Shape plays with our expectations, and also breaks many of the rules of its own sandbox, including the new abilities to wield Light and Darkness at the same time. And while I don’t think The Final Shape looks like an easy entry point for brand new players, I do believe Bungie is going out of its way to craft a narrative and gameplay experience that is welcoming to both ongoing hardcore players as well as the large number of lapsed players who may have fallen away in recent years.

We’ll know how it all shakes out very soon; The Final Shape is set to launch into full release on June 4, and hopefully we’ll finally get some resolution to many of the dangling threads established over such a long-running game.

Destiny 2: The Final Shape screenshots

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Destiny 2: The Final Shape

PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
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