Destiny 2: The Final Shape Review

I've had a complicated history with Destiny 2, to say the least. I reviewed the basegame and Forsaken early on in the game's run, but then ended up falling off for years - only returning during what may very well have been the game's weakest point in last year's Lightfall expansion. Despite it all, I walked away from the mess excited to continue my journey into the future; a sentiment that I almost abandoned after Bungie's mass layoffs last year. Despite the bitter taste in my mouth of it all, I felt like the remaining developers - and those laid off who put their hard work into concluding the game's 10-year saga - deserved their work to be seen and played.

You've probably already heard it by now, so I won't mince words - Destiny 2: The Final Shape is absolutely the conclusion that fans could've hoped for. A big part of it comes down to a truly excellent campaign, but as an overall package there's obviously far more to it than that. For one, The Final Shape adds an entirely new class of enemies in the Dread; whereas Lightfall only added one major new enemy in the Tormentor, as well as Strand-based alternatives of existing enemies. The Prismatic subclass also turns the entire game on its head.

Prismatic, unlike last year's Strand, is less of an entirely new subclass - rather, it's a set of baseline abilities that players can unlock aspects and fragments for to slot in options from every other subclass in the game. While Lightfall simplified the types of builds that players could make, The Final Shape offers the ability to truly mix and match your Guardian at the base level - even if you can never truly get the same full synergy from that kit that you would otherwise. Prismatic also adds an entirely new system to the game that prioritizes you to deal both Light-aspected and Dark-aspected damage, without arbitrarily punishing builds that lean one way or the other.

Prismatic did have the potential to be an annoyance during the campaign with the addition of certain enemies that now sport a shield that will require a player to activate Transcendance - one of Prismatic's new abilities - before breaking it. While this does mean that players will be forced to use the subclass during the campaign, outside of that stipulation these enemies never ended up disrupting play despite my concerns. Even if you can't deal damage without breaking their shields first, shooting them very quickly fills up your meter to activate transcendance. 

Outside of Prismatic and its associated additions, the new Patrol Zone in The Pale Heart offers a few new wrinkles to consider. For the first time ever, Bungie has added in an Exotic weapon with randomized perks; Ergo Sum, the new sword which was first alluded to years back sitting upon a vision of the player's eventual grave, can be grinded across activities such as Pathfinder in order to find one that best fits your playstyle.

Pathfinder itself is a new system that presumably will be used for Patrol Zones going forward; players complete a number of objectives in any order on a tree to reach their reward at the end of its branching paths; not only do you get seasonal XP for each of the nodes you've completed, but you can look ahead to see what later nodes will require you to do, and you can even pre-fill these objectives so that they're ready to clear once you've reached their point of the tree. It's a little tricky to explain, but in practice Pathfinder feels like it rewards you for engaging with many of Destiny 2's systems - and it's a nice little distraction from the targeted objectives elsewhere in the game.

As for those, the new raid in Salvation's Edge is yet another win for Bungie's raid team, with some fascinating new mechanics that truly make the most out of what Destiny has to offer. One encounter in particular was excellent even beyond its difficulty for how it completely recontextualized what an MMO raid could be, and for that alone I would be remiss in not giving the raid its due. 

For a Destiny 2 player, The Final Shape accomplished everything it needed to and more. Yet saying anything else would just be preaching to the choir; if you're already playing Bungie's FPS MMORPG, I've not told you anything you don't already know. On the flipside, if you've yet to give the game a shot - or have been lapsed for years - it's similarly difficult to make a suggestion that new players can hop on here. They can, sure, but new player retention continues to be Destiny 2's most fundamental issue. The Final Shape is an excellent expansion, and will be among the best games of 2024 - yet it's more-or-less completely inaccessible outside of those already on the treadmill.

That's not to diminish all that Bungie's workers have accomplished here, and I'm glad I was able to experience it for myself. It's just a shame that I can't in good faith recommend anyone not already familiar with Destiny and its universe give it a shot. Destiny 2: The Final Shape is a near-perfect conclusion to Destiny's first major story arc; here's hoping this can be an opportunity to open the floodgates for new players going forward.