Destiny 2: The Final Shape review

Even with the imminent end of everything looming on the horizon, it’s impossible not to stop at every other moment while I’m playing Destiny 2: The Final Shape. The Witness is nearly ready to unleash its grand design on the universe, and here I am, looking in awe at vast landscapes of cubed up mountains, recoiling at cruel perspective tricks played by sinister statues, or tinkering with my new Stasis, Arc, and Void Subclass thanks to my Warlock uncovering Prismatic powers.

Fast Facts

Release date: June 4, 2024
Platform(s): PC, PS5, Xbox Series X, PS4, Xbox One
Developer: In-house
Publisher: Bungie 

Although, that’s not to say that I wasn’t engaged in the story. Destiny has long struggled with effectively implementing a cohesive narrative, but after 10 years, it has finally come together in an ambitious campaign that respects the entire player journey in its most impressive destination to date. Bungie has pulled out all the stops to deliver a monumental expansion for its space magic FPS that somehow pays off a decade-long rollercoaster of endless war across the Solar System.

There are some spoilers for Destiny 2: The Final Shape’s story below.

Confronting oblivion

Destiny 2 The Final Shape Cayde-6 aiming ace of spades hand cannon

(Image credit: Bungie)

With The Final Shape representing the end of the “Light and Darkness Saga” that began way back in 2014 with Destiny, the campaign has a lot of heavy lifting to do. Destiny has, rightfully, been criticized for its storytelling in the past, with many plot elements being either relayed poorly, relegated to lore entries, or removed from the game entirely. As a result, I had serious reservations about how Bungie would bring it all together – let alone tell a comprehensible story to conclude the arc. It seemed an impossible task, but Bungie has certainly squashed any concerns I had coming into this expansion.

The stakes are high right from the start; get to the Witness and stop it from enacting the eponymous Final Shape – the entire universe frozen in time for all eternity that the Witness sees as salvation from entropy and chaos. The first mission has you going solo into the unknown space inside the Traveler itself, known as the Pale Heart – a world of thought and consciousness physically manifested thanks to the combined powers of the Witness’s Darkness and the Traveler’s Light.

Your quest through the entire location is like a walking tour of Destiny 2 history. You start with a back-to-basics wander through a strange jungle world, facing the new Dread forces along the way, ending with you gaining incredible new Prismatic powers to annihilate these foes at the old Tower. It all culminates in an arduous climb to the Witness’s doorstep in the Destiny 2 Iconoclasm mission, and then the glorious 12-player Excision activity, capping the whole saga off with an immensely fulfilling finale surrounded by your fellow Guardians and allies.

Destiny 2 The Final Shape cutscene

(Image credit: Bungie)

Getting to such an action-packed payoff is helped by the fact that Destiny 2: The Final Shape is one of the game’s most emotionally driven expansion stories, arguably since Forsaken in 2018. Cayde-6’s return is both a great source of levity in dark times for players and a painful reminder of loss for Crow, Ikora, and Commander Zavala. I must admit that one cutscene which sees the whole team reunited for the first time since the end of Destiny 2’s original Red War campaign had me feeling a little choked up.

Ultimately, I think Destiny 2 has tended to flip between telling slightly hollow stories that mainly serve the expansion of its own universe and strongly pushing specific characters and themes to the forefront, making for more interesting stories that may be a bit heavy-handed. However, Destiny 2: The Final Shape strikes a good balance. While the story does focus on your grand mission through the Pale Heart to prevent the end of the universe, it doesn’t lose sight of its characters leading the charge around you, and that all makes for an epic but mature and, at times, poignant story about facing insurmountable odds – as well as finding purpose in a universe of conflict.

Be still, my Pale Heart

Destiny 2 The Final Shape rusted cosmodrome in the pale heart

(Image credit: Bungie)

For me, the success of the campaign is largely down to the Pale Heart. It’s Destiny 2’s first linear destination, so it feels built for the campaign rather than the other way around. This novel approach for Destiny 2 means that there’s a great sense of momentum as you journey from the relative safety of the Guardian-influenced Lost City, through each unique region of the Pale Heart, and into the oppressively dark and narrow structures imagined by the Witness. With each mission, you go deeper into enemy territory and unlock even more for the new Prismatic Subclass, like new Supers and extra Aspects, contributing further to that momentum.

But I also spent plenty of time breaking that pace to just take in the scenery. The Pale Heart is easily the most visually striking and diverse location in Destiny 2, which makes it a joy to explore even once you’ve finished the campaign – helped massively by the freeform nature of the Overthrow activity and new Pathfinder challenge system. The verdant jungles that twist around the Lost City are vibrant and inviting at first glance, but there’s plenty of weirdness as life and memories collide – giant Ghosts embedded in rock formations, human-shaped trees like something out of Annihilation, and buildings post-apocalyptically overrun with plants, notably the classic Tower.

Things only get weirder when you start venturing into the Darkness anomalies between some locations, featuring clusters of pained faces as walls, fungal masses, and angry, red geometry that reminds me of the Hiss in Remedy Entertainment’s Control. Firmly into Witness territory, you’re greeted with the familiar sight of the rusted Cosmodrome where you were resurrected, infested with giant, grasping hands and harsh deep-black Pyramid architecture. Coupled with the cosmic Damien Hirst installations and vertically sliced sculptures of Guardians, the Pale Heart’s darker side veers into light body horror.

The familiar locations and features of some regions can mean that the Pale Heart sometimes looks like a masterclass in asset recycling, but there’s enough creativity and novelty behind it that I think it’s greater than the sum of its parts. Its eldritch and almost museum-like design makes it one of the most unique video game environments I’ve explored, and demonstrates that Bungie is firing on absolutely all its cylinders.

Witness me

Destiny 2 The Final Shape art

(Image credit: Bungie)

Even with such pressure to get the campaign right, Bungie has not let up for The Final Shape’s endgame either. Some of Destiny 2’s best missions can be taken on once you’ve beaten the story, providing great challenges, fleshing out relationships more, and clearly establishing possible plot points for the future. As an example, the secret Dual Destiny mission is one of Destiny 2’s best cooperative challenges, effectively working as a two-player Raid against the clock.

Although, I think the most important endgame pursuits are the 10 Lost Ghost quests from Micah-10. They’re not especially rewarding and are even a bit repetitive, but they do a solid job of teeing up future threats to the Solar System outside the Pale Heart. It’s a good way to bring things up to date with new context, and give the post-Final Shape world some loose ends to chase or brace for. Otherwise, I think Destiny 2: The Final Shape would have appeared somewhat directionless once it was all over.

Destiny 2: The Final Shape is a true labor of love from Bungie, and I say labor because I can’t imagine the path to this point was easy. The underwhelming launch of Lightfall, followed by tragic layoffs in October, 2023, and a 14-week launch delay meant my enthusiasm had soured. Even though The Final Shape is not the end of Destiny 2, it certainly felt like it could be my jumping-off point before coming in. But after seeing what Bungie is capable of when it really matters, my interest has been restored.

The Final Shape campaign is an immensely satisfying and, importantly, cohesive story that closes out the decade-long Light and Darkness Saga. Along with some of its best endgame activities and the go-wild approach to Prismatic and its new Exotics, Destiny 2: The Final Shape is a climactic, fun, and rewarding expansion. What the studio has created is a remarkable achievement and a return to form – one that I hope can be maintained, largely because it must be if the game is to make it through another decade. 

Destiny 2: The Final Shape was reviewed on Xbox Series X, with code provided by the publisher.