Destiny 2: The Final Shape review – an expertly crafted epilogue refined to near-perfection

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Since its release back in 2017, Destiny 2’s sprawling story of Light and Darkness has been served to players across expansions and seasonal updates. As someone who adores Bungie’s work on Halo, particularly the sombre Halo: Reach, I hesitated to dive into Destiny’s MMO-like weapon grind and abundance of activities. But with The Final Shape expansion promising a thrilling conclusion backed by years of character development, I decided to see what Bungie has been cooking. After 343 Industries’ middling Halo Infinite campaign, The Final Shape blew my expectations away.

While jumping in right now means you’ll miss out on plenty of context, reworked power levels let you start The Final Shape right away. The Traveler, a mysterious moon-sized entity hovering above the Last City, is a powerful choice to build a world in, especially since it has been powering the forces of Light for ages. Veterans may scoff at someone who doesn’t understand the culmination of years of worldbuilding but you have to start somewhere. 

The player looks on as Zavala, Cayde-6, and Ikora have a conversation.
Familiar characters make a return in The Final Shape. Image captured by VideoGamer.

The game’s focused plot helps with this as well. The Witness manages to break into the Traveler and threatens to end the world’s entropy by what they call The Final Shape, a powerful moment frozen in time. This would capture a person’s biggest victory or deepest torment, a LEGO altar of misshapen blocks dedicated to preservation. While I’m not drawn to black-and-white stories of good and evil (unless we’re talking Tolkien), the Witness’ attempts at resurfacing the old wounds of your friends make for some intense emotional beats. Seeing them relive their worst fears and losses bugged me more than the villain’s goal of rewriting reality.

There’s a small cast here but that works in the campaign’s favour, rekindling your connection with old favourites.

There’s a small cast here but that works in the campaign’s favour, rekindling your connection with old favourites. The lavish cutscenes between missions showcase Bungie’s expansive creative vision, drawing on all the lore they’ve built, leading to this final confrontation. It’s made clear that Ikora, Zavala, Cayde-6, and Crow have toughed it out through some crushing circumstances. It’s unfortunate that Lance Reddick couldn’t see Zavala’s journey through but Keith David (the Arbiter from Halo) handily picks up the mantle of a dogmatic warrior with an eroding will. He honours the role Lance played while bringing his own energy, almost mirroring the story’s developments. Cayde-6’s return gets an explanation too, getting Nathan Fillion (Buck from Halo) back into the fold. 

A player looks at distorted faces on the path to an objective in the game.
Eerie level design elevates the game’s stages. Image captured by VideoGamer.

The first mission itself was brimming with excellent level design, smart puzzles, and clever enemies. I counted at least four moments when I stared in awe: alien pillars emanating corrupted purple hues, a bridge made of drops of light, massive Ghost drones jutting out of a lush jungle, and a surreal cityscape in exotic colours. As you make progress on the horizontal map, you move through the Traveler’s cosy spaces towards the Witness’ corruption. Bungie is at its best here, pairing dismembered limbs and hollow faces peering through cracked glass with sci-fi pyramids, serene forests, and some familiar locations. This sense of isolation mixed with whispers of hope extends to its soundtrack, which accompanies the focused campaign incredibly well.

Bungie is at its best here, pairing dismembered limbs and hollow faces peering through cracked glass with sci-fi pyramids, serene forests, and some familiar locations.

Combat encounters are mixed in with dungeon-like puzzles that keep you on your toes. Mini-stage segments, where you teleport in to clear puzzles before taking on bosses with a superweapon, are a surprising highlight, particularly ones where rising lava or toxic air would put you on a timer. Stages have secret rewards as well for those who seek out every path and crevice. The star of the show is the new Prismatic subclass and the Transcend ability, a mini-Super that lets you break certain enemy shields and utilise abilities from every domain. 

A player fights Vrihn by aiming a rocket launcher at them.
New weapons and enemies make combat a blast. Image captured by VideoGamer.

I love the ridiculous weapon variety and it didn’t take long to fall back into the power level min-maxing common in ARPGs. From pulse rifles to hand cannons and charged-up swords, there’s a sci-fi weapon in here for everyone. While some guns feel floaty, they all sound incredible and are great at representing the damage they’re inflicting on Tormenters and Subjugators. An assortment of weapon modifiers means I’ll be foraging for gear long after the campaign. While some cosmetics cost money, Destiny 2 rewards dedicated players with solid looks, too. Eagle-eyed fans may spot enemies and puzzles borrowed from earlier expansions but to me, facing foes with abilities that didn’t feel like gimmicks felt refreshing.

I was able to clear the campaign in about 10 hours on a solo run. And there’s plenty more to do in the postgame at The Pale Heart, from working towards Exotics or clearing new missions. Seeing campaign-grade cutscenes in some of them was a pleasant surprise. While the first seven missions don’t answer every mystery within the Traveler or vanquish the biggest threat, I expect the Salvation’s Edge raid and a final community mission to wrap things up neatly.

People frozen by the game's villain in a cinematic.
The Final Shape threatens to undo existence itself. Image captured by VideoGamer.

Bungie needed The Final Shape to be the best expansion they’ve put out to address its dwindling player base. And the work that has gone into it is evident from minute one, even for a newcomer like me. The Final Shape is Destiny 2 firing on all cylinders, balancing a story of overwhelming odds with expertly paced combat and puzzles, all set in stunning environments. Fans who’ve come along for the ride will reap solid payoffs despite the Traveler’s Light and Witness’ powers still being shrouded in symbolism. 

Much of the earlier complaints about the barrier to entry have been addressed, making for a seamless entry into the latest campaign (launch issues aside). There’s plenty of homework you can do afterward to understand the world, of course. There are entire planets and civilizations out there with engrams to earn, bosses to fight, and Exotic weapons to hunt. The Final Shape might be an incredible finale for long-time fans but to me, it’s a new beginning as someone who loved Bungie a decade ago. If you’re on the fence, dive in feet-first.

Reviewed on PC.

About the Author

Antony Terence

Antony Terence is a Guides Writer for VideoGamer. While he is particularly fond of city-builders, shooters, and strategy titles, he won’t turn down a good JRPG or a turn-based roguelike.

Destiny 2: The Final Shape

  • Release Date: 4 June 2024
  • Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X
  • Genre(s): Unknown
9 VideoGamer
A player looks towards the threshold in the Traveler.

verdict

The Final Shape is Destiny 2 firing on all cylinders, balancing a story of overwhelming odds with expertly paced combat and puzzles, all set in stunning environments. Much of the earlier complaints about the barrier to entry have been addressed, making for a seamless entry into the latest campaign.
9 Gorgeous environments with smart level design Well-paced combat encounters and puzzles Strong storytelling backed by voice acting and years of lore Prismatic subclass doesn’t reinvent the wheel