Destiny 2: The Final Shape – The End To Light and Darkness

Destiny 2: The Final Shape has been the finale ten years in the making. One with high expectations and even higher tensions. And Bungie pulled it off.

Published: June 12, 2024 8:30 PM /


A screenshot from Destiny 2: The Final Shape, showing a Warlock, Titan, and Hunter sitting on a spaceship looking out into space, Earth and The Traveller are visible.

In 2014, the launch of Destiny promised the start of an epic ten-year story. It was a promise echoed by other live-service games that rose (and fell) in its wake.  With Destiny 2: The Final Shape, Bungie's space opera is the first to reach this major milestone. As such, The Final Shape is packed with high expectations.

The narrative must surpass previous expansions, and work as an extended conclusion, bringing narrative threads and character arcs to a close. The gameplay must continue the high bar set by Bungie's esteemed pedigree. Finally, it must set the stage for what will come next in this sci-fi universe.

Yet, despite all of these expectations, a series of layoffs, and the studio's pivot to other projects, Destiny 2: The Final Shape delivers. It's the best expansion ever released in Bungie's history, packed with excitement, larger-than-life drama, and the most satisfying gunfights.

A screenshot from Destiny 2: The Final Shape, showing a gloomy factory interior corrupted by large black tendrils
It's the Cosmodrome but...wrong.

Destiny 2: The Final Shape – Into The Pale Heart

After the year of confusing storytelling in last year's Lightfall expansion, the main story of Destiny 2: The Final Shape is simple in plot and grand in stakes. The Witness, the godlike being of the Darkness and grand architect behind some of Destiny's most horrendous atrocities, is on the cusp of completing their grand design. By delving into the heart of The Traveler, it plans to use the cosmic powers of Light and Darkness to form the universe into The Final Shape: A calcification of reality where everything is forced into a waking nightmare of permanent stasis.

Thankfully, the Alliance forces have found a way to pursue The Witness into The Pale Heart, spearheaded by the player's Guardian.

Complicating matters is the nature of The Pale Heart. It is a landscape formed by memory twisted into surreal and unnerving shapes by The Witness' influence. To make things worse, this funhouse mirror of nostalgia is invaded by a brand new enemy faction known as The Dread.

A screenshot from Destiny 2: The Final Shape, showing a mountain range in a sandstorm, tortured human faces and hands can be seen jutting out of the rock face.
This imagery gets worse the more you progress.

Presentation-wise, Destiny 2: The Final Shape is packed with the kind of fast-paced, larger-than-life, operatic storytelling that made Bungie a household name. It navigates high drama and bombast alongside quiet contemplation on the nature of life, suffering, and the bittersweet beauty in something coming to an end.

In every sense of the word, the story of Destiny 2: The Final Shape feels... well, final.

This propulsive storytelling blends well with the level design of The Pale Heart. The environments are familiar vignettes and locations across Destiny's history corrupted into unsettling new forms. Faces contorted in anguish jutting from a rock face. Hands with too many fingers breaking out of the ground. Buildings and caverns that are built upside down. This is taken to its natural extreme in the new Salvation's Edge Raid: an uncanny fortress packed with alien liminal architecture.

Bungie' narrative team uses this surrealism to provide fan service with sinister overtones. From art direction alone, the campaign celebrates the game's history, an exercise in nostalgic horror, and a masterclass in an apocalyptic atmosphere.

A screenshot from Destiny 2: The Final Shape, showing Cayde-6 talking about his death and resurrection
Melodramatic? Yes. But powerful.

While I was initially skeptical, Nathan Fillion's return as Cayde-6 is handled expertly, forming the beating heart of Destiny 2: The Final Shape. He completely nails the emotional minefield of coming back from the dead with the right amount of solemn contemplation and wry wit.

A close second for acting MVP is Keith David as Commander Zavala. David effortlessly makes the character his own, maintaining the taciturn stoicism of the late Lance Reddick's performance while bringing a tangible pain and vulnerability to the role.

A screenshot from Destiny 2: The Final Shape showing the Prismatic Warlock subclass menu
I am still finding new synergies with this.

Breaking Down The Wall Between Light and Darkness

Gameplay-wise, Destiny 2: The Final Shape doesn't try to fix what isn't broken. A loop of guns and space magic striking down aliens and getting loot. At this point, you've either bounced off of this gameplay, or it is comfortably familiar.

The new wrinkle added in this expansion is the new Dread enemies. Overall, they are a great new enemy faction. They introduce elements of air superiority with the flying Grim alongside crowd-control with the Subjugator's Strand abilities. They feel like a natural extension of The Witness' forces and complement established enemy factions.

But the biggest draw of this expansion is the new Prismatic subclass. In the simplest of terms, it is the Build-A-Bear of Destiny subclasses. You can take elements from different subclasses and combine them. This leads to strong combos that aren't normally possible. Furthermore, it introduces a new empowered mode called Transcendence, which introduces more enhanced abilities for a brief period.

A screenshot from Destiny 2: The Final Shape showing a Warlock on a platform in a complex distorted mountain range. The entire image is in black white.
Strand needles, Void grenades, Stormtrance Super... life is good.

As someone who has put hundreds of hours into Destiny 2, the Prismatic subclass is a dream come true. Overlapping damage-over-time effects with Jolt, Scorch, and Devour. Combining Strand, Stasis, and Void into nightmarish crowd control. The list of possibilities goes on.

Prismatic feels like a acknowledgment by Bungie to their dedicated fans. After so many years learning the ins and outs of abilities and gear, this new subclass represents your mastery of the game-breaking your limitations.

This burst of personal empowerment doesn't completely disrupt Destiny 2's overall balance. Prismatic is great, but it doesn't give you every class ability. Some are only accessible within their dedicated subclass.

A screenshot from Destiny 2: The Final Shape, showing The Witness surrounded by a swirling vortex of energy. A Guardian is in the foreground, protected by a glowing shield
This was a nightmare on Legendary difficulty.

The gear game continues a gradual shift in Bungie's weapon design. Early on, weapons were key to damage and crowd control with class abilities playing support. Now, outside of exotics, weapons support the abilities. Popular perks involve reducing ability cooldowns, generating Super energy, and even briefly healing teammates.

The result is more visually busy gunfights with larger enemy hordes. But it also means getting god roll on weapons feels less important.

A screenshot of Destiny 2: The Final Shape, showing a parade of glowing lanterns floating over Earth. Zavala, Ikora, Crow, and a Warlock can be seen in silouhette.
After ten years, it's over.

The End of An Era

Recently, Bungie laid out their plans for Destiny 2 after The Final Shape. They will be moving from long overarching narratives to an episodic structure, exploring the consequences of the final battle against The Witness. It's a noticeable but measured scaling back of ambition. One that comes with the acknowledgment that people may wish to move on to new things; both the players and Bungie themselves.

In 2014, Bungie launched Destiny, a game that spawned the concept of the live-service game with an epic ten-year story. After initially bouncing off, I have been an avid player. Reading lore, playing through the raids, and developing long-lasting friendships with my fellow Guardians. In 2024, Destiny 2: The Final Shape concludes its story in a way that players will remember forever in an industry flooded with failed attempts to capture its magic.

It was a decade packed with euphoric highs and salty lows, but when it mattered most, it ended beautifully.

The copy of Destiny 2: The Final Shape used in this feature was provided by the publisher -- all screenshots were taken by the author.

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| Staff Writer

Ever since he was small, Tyler Chancey has had a deep, abiding love for video games and a tendency to think and overanalyze everything he enjoyed. This… More about Tyler

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