Destiny 2 The Final Shape review - Bungie makes its own fate in stellar expansion

Destiny 2 The Final Shape review - Bungie makes its own fate in stellar expansion
Images via Bungie

Written by 

Lloyd Coombes


13th Jun 2024 14:10

Reviewing Destiny 2: The Final Shape, not unlike the expansion itself, requires a little bit of a preamble (although thankfully not a decade's worth). The Final Shape is the culmination of ten years, and as a result, you'll get out what you've put into the Destiny franchise since 2014.

I'm not going to bore you with my life's story over the last decade but suffice it to say I've been playing Destiny since the beta, and my review, as follows, will be more positive than someone who may have missed a lot of the steps along the way. Just as Return of the King or Avengers Endgame are great movies, they lose something if you've not set the stakes with the prior movies.

With that cleared up, then, I'll avoid spoilers and get straight to the point - The Final Shape is essential. It should not only act as Bungie's "North Star" in terms of the Destiny universe going forward, but it should also act as a thumbed-nose to those who say a "game as a service" is inherently a bad thing.

The Final Shape is a triumph, the culmination of ten years of a series that's wandered from its own path several times before forging a new one, and it's a just reward for anyone sticking with Bungie through the tough times (looking at you, Curse of Osiris).

GGRecon Verdict

New Guardians may have plenty of questions as to what’s going on, but if you’ve spent any time with the franchise in the past, this is worth coming back for - the Final Shape is the new gold standard for Destiny.

Destiny's Decade

Destiny 2 The Final Shape Microcosm exotic
Click to enlarge

I'll be honest, I was more than a little concerned heading into Bungie's endcap expansion to the Light and Darkness saga. 2022's Witch Queen was a tense, twist-filled affair that led to some impressive seasonal storylines, but last year’s Lightfall was a bust, at least in a narrative sense.

It felt like Destiny falling back into the trap of becoming "word soup" and I worried that The Final Shape would suffer a similar fate, especially as our Guardian prepared to enter the big ol' beachball that's been at the heart of every story beat since 2014.

Instead, Destiny 2: The Final Shape feels like a celebration of everything that came before. The stakes are high, yes, but it's impossible to sprint through its environments the way you may have on Neomuna. Every area of the new destination, The Pale Heart, has something familiar or something striking.

Whether it's statues that look like hands lining a cave or a giant Ghost embedded in a rock, everything here walks the line between familiar and grotesque. Even the landscape and terrain are sliced into pieces or strewn across the air, making for a fun playground of sorts.

It's also a fresh change of pace. Lightfall took place almost entirely in the neon-soaked streets of Neomuna, while the Witch Queen campaign was in a swampy bayou. The Final Shape is, perhaps fittingly, full of light, and while The Witness has contorted much of its architecture, that light remains just about everywhere.

It's the closest we've come to stepping out into The Dreaming City for the first time, and I'm grateful for it. Even after the campaign has wrapped, I'm finding a seemingly endless stream of secrets tucked away in the Pale Heart, making it a place I want to keep coming back to.

Confronting The Witness

Destiny 2 The Final Shape Khvostov
Click to enlarge

While the campaign isn't particularly long (you can power through it in around seven hours, including the final mission, which was unlocked post-Raid), it's remarkably well-paced. If you remember those irritating sections of prior Destiny expansions where you’d be spat out into the open world to complete trivial tasks before being allowed to progress, you'll be pleased to find no such busywork here, aside from a light introduction to the Pale Heart's Lost Sectors (which, thankfully, are some of the most fun Lost Sectors on any destination so far).

Our Guardian speaks again (albeit not a lot), but the real stars of the show are the cast that have been assembled over the last ten years. Character moments come thick and fast, whether it's the returning Cayde's one-liners and his interactions with his Fireteam comrades, or a look into the darkest times of Commander Zavala's life, digging into the wounds that Season of the Haunted opened up.

Keith David, taking over the role of Zavala from the sadly departed Lance Reddick, brings plenty of gravitas to the role, making it his own while honouring everything that came before - not unlike The Final Shape as a whole.

My only complaint with the story missions is that there is a heavy reliance on door-opening mechanics, but the flipside of this is that by introducing such a variety of them, there's a good chance players will feel more prepared for endgame content in the future.

The game after the game

Destiny 2 Still Hunt sniper
Click to enlarge

To that end, there's a post-game option to replay certain missions which adds more depth to the puzzles within, letting players learn rotations, buffs, and debuffs as a Fireteam. That helps avoid the abrupt end of a campaign and the subsequent Power grind while starting a second or third character has never been easier thanks to a streamlined levelling process.

In fact, post-game offers some excellent writing throughout a series of quests in the open world, and those dovetail nicely with Pathfinder, a new progression system that rewards individual objectives that move from left to right, as opposed to just blitzing through Vanguard Strikes you’ve seen a thousand times before.

Whereas Lightfall and Witch Queen's post-game content often felt at odds with their campaigns, The Final Shape feels like it continues things in a meaningful way, and while it doesn't exactly draw a direct line to what’s coming, there are some hints for how the franchise will move into its eleventh year and beyond.

Prismatic Panache

Destiny 2 Prismatic Titan
Click to enlarge

One of the biggest surprises about The Final Shape is the arrival of a fresh new subclass, or at least in theory. Prismatic is made up of abilities from other subclasses and folds them into one multicoloured whole.

I ran as much of the campaign as possible as a Prismatic Titan, and while I’m looking forward to digging into building out my dream offensive and defensive options, I had so much fun just using what was unlocked early on.

It didn’t take long to settle into a build that had me throwing Diamond Lances to freeze opponents, with very little cooldown on my Arc grenade, letting me rip through enemies with ease.

This is tied to Transcendence, a Prismatic-exclusive mechanic that builds a meter for light and dark damage as you deal damage of each type. Once the two meters meet in the middle, you can trigger a sort of "Super Saiyan" mode where cooldowns are reduced, and you gain access to a new grenade.

I enjoyed triggering Transcendence, and it feels like a fun tool added to my Guardian's abilities, but it was less impactful than the arrival of new Supers. Twilight Arsenal may have just become my favourite of these in the game, hurling huge axes at enemies that can then be wielded by teammates.

Prismatic has kept me coming back, again and again, after long nights of playing, and that's got me feeling hooked on space magic like it's 2014 again.

Destiny 2 The Dread
Click to enlarge

It doesn't hurt that we finally have a new enemy race in The Dread. While they rarely appear as a cohesive unit on their own, they add a new layer to battles with existing opponents. Trying to navigate a platforming section or treacherous path while they move you with Strand or freeze you with Stasis feels like The Witness' desperation reaching out, while the bat-like Grim nullifies your powers so units like the Husk can get in close.

Put simply, this is the best Destiny 2's PvE sandbox has felt in all my time playing. It's as if Bungie finally let go of the handbrake - and I don't think there’s any going back.

The Edge of Salvation

Destiny 2 Salvation's Edge key art
Click to enlarge

I've purposefully kept this review light on spoilers, and the same will go for the Raid other than to say Salvation's Edge is an exacting, but fitting, conclusion to a decade of Destiny endgame content.

It took teams almost 19 hours to beat, includes plenty of nods to the journey so far, and leaves Destiny's PvE content stronger by its inclusion. In fact, there are now so many Raids in Destiny 2 (this takes it up to nine), all with unique challenges, that you could feasibly just play Raids and Dungeons and have a great time.

The library of content is so vast at this point (provided you've kept up with expansions) that it's unsurprising to see Bungie constantly refer to Destiny itself as a hobby.

The Light in the Dark

Destiny 2 The Final Shape trailer art
Click to enlarge

I wanted to touch on the ending of The Final Shape, but not in terms of spoilers. The actual final mission and everything surrounding it is simply too good not to experience for yourself, and I'd be doing a disservice to you and the wider community by revealing anything about it. 

What I will say is that Destiny 2 (and its predecessor) has always struggled to tell a cohesive story. Much of that is reportedly due to changes during development, while a lot of it was stripped out for lore books and Grimoire cards, but there’s always been something special in its characters and its universe.

The Final Shape doesn't quite tie up every loose end from the last ten years, but it ties up many of the biggest ones while leaving some ready to explore in the future. It's begging to be unravelled further by the community while also providing an epic conclusion to those who have invested in it.

Many will scoff at the idea of live service games, but The Final Shape is a testament to how committing to a project for a long time, even when the process falters occasionally, can still offer a payoff befitting some of the best in the medium.

The Verdict

The Final Shape is Destiny 2's peak. It’s not only the game's best expansion, but one that celebrates all those that came before in a way that feels earned, and could only be achieved by a commitment to a live-service game for a decade.

New Guardians may have plenty of questions as to what's going on, but if you've spent any time with the franchise in the past, this is worth coming back for - the Final Shape is the new gold standard for Destiny.


Reviewed on PS5 with time spent on PC. Review code provided by the publisher.

Lloyd Coombes
About the author
Lloyd Coombes
Lloyd is GGRecon's Editor-in-Chief, having previously worked at Dexerto and Gfinity, and occasionally appears in The Daily Star newspaper. A big fan of loot-based games including Destiny 2 and Diablo 4, when he's not working you'll find him at the gym or trying to play Magic The Gathering.