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The Final Shape marks “something new” for Destiny, not the end

Guardians preparing for the new Destiny 2 expansion, The Final Shape, should steel themselves for some of Bungie’s greatest work to date.

The Final Shape preview: Cayde aims a weapon

A lot has happened in Destiny over the past ten years. The ongoing saga of dark and light has run its course, and will come to its conclusion in Destiny 2 The Final Shape, but during a recent preview event the Bungie team told us that it’s far from the end of the game. In fact, it marks the beginning of something new.

The Season of the Wish finale cinematic dropped in-game on May 21, and marks the final narrative events before The Final Shape launches on Tuesday, June 4. The Final Shape release date is edging nearer, and from what I’ve been shown of Bungie’s new expansion for Destiny 2, it’s an exciting experience that pushes the boundaries of everything the developer has ever done with its space game universe.

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The cutscene shows Crow entering the portal to the Traveler and being almost immediately shot at by the instantly recognizable Cayde-6. The beloved former Hunter Vanguard was unceremoniously murdered by Crow (as Uldren Sov) back in the Forsaken expansion. This cinematic shows the reverse of that iconic execution, which saw Cayde on the floor facing the barrel of Uldren’s hand cannon. Of course, Cayde hasn’t been keeping up to date with the Destiny lore, what with being dead and all, so remains unaware that the Guardian killed Uldren before he was resurrected as Crow with no memories of his former life, until Savathun, the Witch Queen, gave him all of his memories back in Season of the Lost. I did say a lot had happened over the last decade in Destiny.

As Cayde is about to pull the trigger on his murderer, Crow’s ghost, Glint, peeks out from behind, causing Cayde to lower his weapon before reaching out a hand to pull Crow to his feet. Even before The Final Shape has begun, the fan service is palpable, and it’s exactly what players need after the somewhat disappointing and disjointed narrative of 2023’s Lightfall expansion.

The Final Shape preview: the pathway to the Traveler's pale heart shows disjointed platforms and a bright purple hue

The first mission of The Final Shape sees you, the Guardian, finding a way through the portal that’s been lingering on the surface of the Traveler since the conclusion of the Lightfall campaign. Mara Sov, who’s responsible for stabilizing a pathway to your destination, explains that you’ve landed on the route to the Traveler’s Pale Heart which is surrounded by paracausal mutilations that are the work of the saga’s main enemy, the Witness. As first seen in the Root of Nightmares raid, spheres of Darkness begin to form which need to be shot in order to reveal a path forward. This continuation of Destiny mechanics that had formerly been confined to just one activity is new for Bungie, but ties The Final Shape together with past events.

As Andrew Hopps, the campaign lead, explains, the Vanguard fleet is attempting to enter the portal with familiar faces Ikora and Zavala taking the lead, followed by the Guardian’s fireteam. “We’re following the Witness and Crow’s footsteps here, but the effects of The Final Shape are getting more violent, and the portal destabilized and stranded us on the pathway,” he clarifies. The result is a fractured environment that mutates and distorts as you make decisions and tread carefully throughout. There are puzzles, platforming sections, and enemy waves that already feel much closer to end-game dungeon mechanics than any campaign mission I’ve seen in my decade of playing Destiny.

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There to slow your progress are the Witness’ hordes of allies that have a sole objective – to prevent you reaching the Spire in the Pale Heart, where the Witness is residing. Throughout the pathway, Darkness is permeating and breaking architecture down into its component parts, which are used to progress forwards where possible. It’s along this journey that you’ll first meet the new Dread faction of enemies, including the Weaver which can dangerously wield the Strand subclass to suspend you in mid-air if you’re not careful. The Weaver also has a new combat element that enables it to grab Guardians and pull them rapidly towards it before unleashing damage. Bungie has never done anything like this before, and it’s absolutely terrifying.

Another new addition to Destiny is the rework of its HUD, which now sees environmental buffs and debuffs appearing at the top of the screen, directly below the Guardian’s health bar. Previously, these were nestled down in the lower left-hand corner and could be easily overlooked in moments of high pressure or during big fights. Alongside this, Hopps also notes that the team has spent time retuning the campaign’s difficulty so that there feels a better balance for players who want to form a fireteam of three and take on the new story at higher levels. He says that Bungie wants it to feel like there is “no wrong way to play the campaign” whether you choose to take it on solo or with friends, on the Legend difficulty or the milder Brave option. Bungie seems to have thought of everything it can to improve the player experience during The Final Shape.

The Final Shape preview: Destiny 2 ghosts are set into the mountainside

Fast-forwarding to entering the Pale Heart itself, you see the Traveler manifesting a pathway forward as you take your tentative steps. Giant Ghosts appear set into lush, green surroundings and a cutscene pans to a vista of the portal that you’ve just passed through. During your The Final Shape adventure, that portal will slowly shrink to show just how far you’ve traveled. As you continue further, familiar environments begin to present themselves, until you’re faced with the old Tower which Ghaul decimated during the events of the Red War back in 2017. As the Ghost swoons over how beautifully familiar the area is, I sigh and agree. As a long-time Destiny player and avid lover of the game, I’ve stuck with it through its highs and lows, and it feels like that dedication is about to really pay off.

Ben Wommack, combat area lead on The Final Shape, explains that there are enemies here that you won’t be able to damage yet, as the Witness has bound them to its manipulation of the Light and Dark elements. To do so, you’re directed to a Prismatic Wellspring – a small pool of purple on the ground. With a small prompt from your Ghost, you reach out and pull the power towards you. Swirls of Light and Dark combine, you’re hoisted into the air, and a small pink explosion runs through your Guardian’s body as the Prismatic subclass screen opens for the first time.

The Final Shape preview: A guardian wields the new prismatic subclass

Bungie’s new Prismatic subclass takes all of the fun of the Light and Dark subclasses and combines them into one. Combining abilities, Aspects, and Fragments from all damage types is the power trip every Guardian has dreamed of, and feels limitless. To begin with, you’ll have enough components to create a powerful, fun leveling build, but as you progress through The Final Shape’s campaign you’ll find a new, varied options, encouraging you to regularly try out new combinations.

Two new bars will appear just below your Super bar on the HUD, one pink which represents Light, and one blue which represents Dark. Dealing damage of both types, or applying subclass debuffs to foes, will fill those bars, and when it’s complete they’ll merge into one, unlocking a new system called Transcendence. This consumable energy bar can be used much like your Super, and grants increased ability regeneration, increased weapon damage, and damage resistance against combatants. I’m told there will be ways to extend the duration of Transcendence, but Bungie didn’t want to give me any spoilers.

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The team showed off a Prismatic Hunter build, which excels at using abilities to debuff targets, granting invisibility when you defeat them. A new grenade, the Hailfire Spike, is a device charged with Stasis matter and Solar energy that will attach to surfaces or targets then erupt into a slowing storm. After a short while, that device ignites, causing a deadly scorching cyclone. Another build will allow you to run with Shuriken and the Gunpowder Gamble Aspect which charges when killing enemies with any debuff applied – it doesn’t just have to be Solar as before. Those Shuriken throws will immediately charge your Gunpowder Gamble, so lining the two up correctly means you can chain fun, explosive combinations almost endlessly.

When using the Prismatic subclass, there are more fragments than usual. I saw one which caused the Guardian to become Radiant when landing powered melee hits against enemies, while another increases the size and damage of the burst when shattering Stasis crystals or frozen targets, alongside increasing the area of effect of Solar ignitions. Prismatic can be used to clear a battlefield in a multitude of exciting new ways, and I can’t wait to experiment with the hundreds of potential build combinations.

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If the Prismatic subclass isn’t quite ticking your boxes though, Bungie says it wants to make sure that running the current subclasses is still a viable option, and it “won’t stop you from doing that.” Destiny 2 game director Tyson Green says “The existing subclasses are still the best at doing what those subclasses do. They lean hard into their mechanics, they build more upon their buffs and debuffs and synergies. The Prismatic subclasses get to play with a lot of those perks but some of those perks are still unique to the legacy subclasses.”

Wommack explains that the rollout of the Prismatic subclass differs from the way Bungie introduced Strand in Lightfall. The team aimed to get the abilities for the toolkit into players’ hands in a fun, satisfying way which also reinforces the campaign journey, by drip feeding more options to you throughout the story. “There is still more to find once you’ve finished [The Final Shape’s] campaign in terms of unlocking, but we wanted it to feel like you’re getting more powerful,” he explains, “You don’t need to pause your journey for it. Move through the campaign and unlock new abilities which make you consider what you equip, what you’re using for the next fight, and have fun doing it.”

The Final Shape preview: Hands line the crimson walls

Later on, Bungie shows off the majority of The Final Shape’s strike, which occurs midway through the campaign. This is where Bungie has really outshone itself in terms of its environmental design and worldbuilding. In the mission prior to the strike, your path forward has been blocked by an infection of the Witness. You’re still trying to reach the Spire to confront it, so the closer you get to that landmark, the more the effects of the Witness are prevalent.

The strike is like traversing a world that’s in the process of being defragmented – everything has been organized into something disturbingly perfect. Pathways constrict and expand on the fly, adding a feeling of uncertain exploration, and you’ll have to crawl through hollowed-out bones before avoiding rising, flowing fountains of molten lava.

A platforming section takes place in a hauntingly beautiful crimson space, which features giant, outstretched human and Hive hands, frozen in time while desperately clawing at the negative space between solid ledges. Thorny tendrils swirl and block routes forward as you progress into pyramid ship-like rooms. Ahamkara intestines that have been reorganized by The Final Shape line the walls as you seek out interactive switches to open doors. At every moment, it feels like the Witness is trying desperately to halt the Guardians’ approach, and the pressure adds a level of anticipation I don’t think I’ve felt in Destiny so far.

The Final Shape preview: The Final Shape strike has a huge ahamkara skull in its walls

Eagle-eyed Guardians spotted the strike’s boss, Kataxiia, Tormentor of the Ahamkara, back in a Bungie news blog several weeks ago, but the implications of its existence may not have been immediately evident. Ahamkara are a species of wish dragon that can make wishes come true, but there’s usually a consequence that distorts the original request. In the Season of the Wish, the Ahamkara Riven promised to grant entry to the portal to the Traveler if the Guardian collected her clutch of eggs that had been strewn around the Sol system. What she didn’t mention, however, was that she would grant that wish, but only one person could pass through. The existence of Ahamkara bones, intestines, and a Tormentor of the Ahamkara inside the Traveler suggests that they could exist within it. The lore implications for this strike’s boss alone are otherworldly.

Watching a cutscene from later in the campaign, the contents of which I am not able to discuss, the Bungie staff team are genuinely excited. It’s very telling of the dedication and time the team has put into developing the expansion. Originally slated for a February 2024 release, Cat Macedo, project expansions lead, explains that the extra time has ensured that it exceeds player expectations. “We feel so strongly that this is our time to really deliver,” she explains, “One of the things that the extra time allowed us to do was make good on those promises and that responsibility we have for our players.” Discussing everything they’re bringing to the expansion including the new destination, raid, subclass, enemy race, and the post-campaign content she adds that this “feels like the actual big moment of Destiny that honors the ten years that players have been spending in the universe.”

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The raid she mentions, with an as yet unknown name, will launch on the Friday following the release of The Final Shape, on Friday June 7. It’s the shortest gap between an expansion release and its corresponding raid that we’ve ever seen, but the team wanted to ensure that players had the time to complete the campaign while not allowing it to grow stale, given that there are story arcs to be resolved in the raid itself. It’s no secret that this raid will see players finally face off against the Witness. Green says that by the conclusion of the raid, players will have a “better sense for where the future of Destiny goes” and says the team will be working on developing those threats and story arcs throughout the year that follows.

While the team admits it has faced problems that “anyone trying to close a ten-year story arc would face,” Green also says “there’s a lot going into closing those threads but also into keeping this game going. It’s not, by any stretch, the end of Destiny.”

Green wants players to feel satisfied with the Light and Dark saga’s ending when they finish The Final Shape. There are story arcs resolving in the expansion that some players have been waiting almost ten years to see the conclusion of. “We want it to feel a little bit sad, like endings often do,” he says, “We want it to feel like a good ending, but the beginning of something new.”

The content I previewed for The Final Shape is a work in progress and is subject to change.