the final shape preview

Destiny 2: The Final Shape Preview – Pulling Out All The Stops

Shaping up to deliver.

I feel like this is said at some point every year, but it’s a hell of a time to be playing Destiny 2. Between the best season of the year in Season of the Wish, the fantastic Into The Light free content update, and the imminent launch of The Final Shape, the community feels truly electric. After a time of relative uncertainty following the launch of Lightfall, Destiny 2 once again feels surrounded by excitement and eager anticipation for the conclusion to a decade-long saga. While Bungie have been tight-lipped about The Final Shape’s campaign, I got an early taste of what to expect in a hands-off preview.

One Final Wish

Before jumping into The Final Shape proper, Bungie showed us the finale cinematic for Season of the Wish. While this cinematic has been live since the last weekly reset, it’d be a crime for me not to talk about its significance. We follow Crow as he’s sent hurtling into the Pale Heart after passing through the paracausal portal etched into the Traveler. As his boots hit the ground, he’s immediately met with gunfire, initiating a skirmish between the hunter and his unknown assailant. A short scuffle reveals that Crow’s adversary is none other than the returning Cayde-6, who’s seemingly forgiven Crow for his prior self’s transgressions as they look towards the Witness’s monolithic stronghold in the distance.

the final shape preview

It’s a full circle moment that we’ve seen Bungie play with before. There was a similar moment between Zavala and Crow all the way back in Season of the Chosen, and even earlier again through moments in the Halo trilogy. A stroke of narrative genius, setting the stage not just for The Final Shape itself, but also for the conclusion of Crow’s arc stretching all the way back to Forsaken. It’s echoes the same quality writing found in 2022’s The Witch Queen, which was noticeably absent in Lightfall. A confident statement of intent from the team, a sign to buckle in and brace for the journey ahead.

Into The Pale Heart

It’s fitting then, that Bungie played through the first campaign mission of The Final Shape right afterwards. You might expect me to tell you about the Pale Heart and its myriad wonders, but expectations can be a fickle thing. The Final Shape kicks off not in the Pale Heart, but in the portal that ferries us there. While we didn’t see the opening cutscene, we were told that the portal destabilises as the Vanguard leads the charge, causing our Guardian to crash. The rest of the pathway needs to be traversed on-foot as we confront the forces of the Witness.

the final shape preview

This pathway between is a preview of the Final Shape itself. Darkness permeates through the environment, the skybox is awash with a deep purples, and the level geometry is a chaotic amalgamation of different environments stitched together in all the wrong ways. It’s ethereal, unsettling, and dream-like in every sense. The Taken have eyes that are coloured a distinct sickly yellow, signifying the Witness’s control over them, some of which are bound to the Witness itself, making them seemingly invulnerable.

It’s only after a few short combat encounters that we meet our first member of the new Dread enemy faction in the Weaver. A darkness empowered Psion that can displace you with waves of Strand that slingshot you towards them if you get hit. It’s a new element to combat we haven’t seen outside of getting sent out of the stratosphere by Cabal Phalanxes. Another notable inclusion is the Nodes of Splendour from Root of Nightmares. These light and dark empowered nodes are used in puzzles similar to those found in last year’s raid. The developers emphasised that The Final Shape’s campaign is another return to deeper, dungeon-like mechanical complexity.

the final shape preview

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Skipping a little bit ahead, we rejoin the Guardian after making it through the portal. We slowly move through a cave as the Traveler manifests reality around us, emerging into a picturesque grassy area outside of the Last City. The portal looms overhead amidst the lush greenery, and will slowly shrink as you progress the campaign and move away from its origin. As we explore the Last City, we encounter more of the Dread. Namely the Grim, flying bats with guns that can suppress your abilities with a high-pitched screech. Bungie also teased that the Dread have their own expanded lore to uncover in the Pale Heart.

We then stumble upon what’s called a Prismatic Wellspring. A font of focused energy, giving us access to Transcendence so those pesky invulnerable units I mentioned earlier can be dealt with. It’s an early taste of Prismatic’s capabilities before getting the new subclass proper. Prismatic Wells are described as being the result of a collision between the Traveler’s light and the Witness’s darkness, further emphasising that balance between the two is needed for harmony in the universe. After another combat arena with some dungeon-like mechanics in the form of collecting and placing buffs to move forward, we find a larger, more unstable Prismatic Well in the Vanguard Quarters.

the final shape preview

This Prismatic Well imbues us with new power, granting us Prismatic as the line between light and dark vanishes. The first loadout you get when obtaining Prismatic is curated for each class, but you’ll unlock more options as you progress the campaign and explore the Pale Heart. Some of the Aspects pulled from other subclasses are changed or reworked to fit better in the context of Prismatic. Stylish Executioner, for example, now procs off of any elemental debuff, not just Void debuffs.

The Guardian walks into the Tower Plaza from the original Destiny, where we’re attacked by the Witness’s forces. Transcendence is now built into your kit for the invulnerable units, but the team noted that there are still Prismatic Wells around the arena to gain access to Transcendence on our current subclasses. This is true for the rest of the campaign, meaning you can play through it without using Prismatic if you so wish. Aside from fighting more of the Dread here, we’re also introduced to the Subjugator, a general of the Witness’s army that uses Strand to suspend you in combat.

the final shape preview

It’s the same encounter that was shown in the gameplay deep-dive, but it’s still a thrill to see a Hunter throw out abilities of different elements in combination. It echoes the same high octane loop as Strand, quickly throwing out abilities for unorthodox combos resulting in things we simply can’t do with our current kits. A construct of the Witness watches overhead as we combat its troops, as if it’s studying our new abilities with calculting intent. After the encounter, a Fissure of Light erupts from the ground, signifying that this portion of the Pale Heart has been taken back from the Witness.

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This whole section is a real throwback in a lot of ways. Not only is it nostalgic to revisit the Tower of the original Destiny, but it also calls back to the beginnings of Destiny 2. Moving through the Last City to ambush the Red Legion and take back the Traveler from Ghaul is the kind of play space that we don’t see enough within Destiny. It provides a sense of scale and verticality that Bungie nail when they commit themselves to it, and makes for engaging arena design for enemy combat encounters. It has me eager to see how other key environments from Destiny’s past will be redesigned and reinterpreted in The Final Shape.

the final shape preview

When asked about how the team decided on what locations would be chosen from our past as locations in the Pale Heart, project lead Catarina Macedo said that areas were chosen to evoke nostalgia; “They’re locations that players who’ve been playing from the start will be familiar with.” She also commented on the difficulty of locking down the final list; “It was really hard to build the list, but the original Tower was a must-have. We asked the team what other things resonated the most over the last 10 years. It’s a love letter from the developers to the players.”

Finding The Way Forward

We then jumped much further forward in the campaign to a strike called Liminality. Described as finding a way forward to the Witness’s Spire after running into a roadblock, this strike is run by Keith David’s Zavala after Lance Reddick’s unfortunate passing last year. David does a wonderful job of honouring Reddick’s legacy while bringing his own flavour to the Titan Vanguard. One notable aspect of this strike is that Savathûn’s forces are also here to fight the Witness, but are still hostile to Guardians. The landscape here is also much more twisted and devoid of life in comparison to the opening mission.

the final shape preview

Level geometry is cut into perfect cubes, signifying the effects that the Witness has had on the natural environment. Cut up and organised into inorganic cuboids that make for a cold, calculated, and unsettling atmosphere. We still follow a Hunter here, but one that has more Prismatic options than what we saw earlier. We also get to see the new Arc super in action, letting the Hunter blink between enemies in flashes of blinding Arc energy. They’re also able to show off Gunpowder Gamble triggering off of any ability kill or debuff using Prismatic, leading to the swift defeat of a couple Hive Guardians.

Transcendence is also popped quite a few times here, granting temporary access to a powerful dual element grenade that combines Solar and Stasis to lethal effect. It’s built up by dealing light and dark damage pertaining to weapons and subclass abilities. The team also commented that while there’s no stat to build into generating Transcendence faster, there are ways to spec into it via the subclass itself.

the final shape preview

The trend of striking visual design only amps up as we progress through the strike. The environment is riddled with stone statues of hands from different races in the game, as we slowly transition into architecture reminiscent of the Dark City in the Birthplace of the Vile strike. Bungie mention here that the Pale Heart isn’t just a reconstruction of the Guardians’ memories, but also of the ones belonging to the Witness and the Dread. This has some very interesting lore implications not just for this strike, but also for other missions and activities in the Pale Heart.

It all culminates in a fight with a Tormentor called Kataxiia, Tormentor of the Ahamkara. This also has some exciting implications given the Ahamkara skulls dotted throughout the boss room, and having to use Taken Essence to power up said skulls in order to damage the boss. It’s a tantalising tease into the potential of the lore and the story beats we’ll uncover in the Pale Heart, and what they mean for the broader universe.

the final shape preview

Shaping Destiny’s Biggest Expansion Yet

If the variety in these two missions alone is anything to go off of, we can expect to see a lot of diverse environments and encounters in the campaign of The Final Shape. The team mentioned that it might be Destiny’s biggest campaign to date, and doesn’t just end with the raid when it launches on June 8th. The Pale Heart also holds many secrets to uncover as you explore, including some of the Prismatic options. The team also talked about how Prismatic has been carefully designed as to not supplant other subclasses, so they’re unsure if more will be added to the Prismatic kit over the year of The Final Shape.

While there’s a lot of focus on what’s new with The Final Shape, Bungie is also looking at providing new quality-of-life inclusions. The buff/debuff UI rework was on full display during the portions we got to see, and paints a promising picture of being more readable and easy to digest than ever. Moreover, there are additional loadout slots coming via Guardian Ranks to accomodate for the new builds you’ll be making with Prismatic. Prismatic will also be entirely unlockable before the raid launches in response to the drip feed of Stasis and Strand in prior expansions.

the final shape preview

While there was a lot shown during the hands-off preview for The Final Shape, I still feel like we’ve barely scraped the surface – especially narratively. There’s an unbelievable amount of pressure on Bungie to deliver with this expansion, a 10 year promise boiling down to a single release, perhaps their biggest ever. If what I’ve seen of The Final Shape thus far is an indicator of its wider quality, I suspect that it will go down as one of the greatest expansions Destiny has seen, if not the greatest.

The Final Shape launches on June 5th for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series consoles, and PC. Into The Light is a completely free content update that’s available now, and a bunch of previous expansions are also free to play before The Final Shape launches next month.