Three Guardians wearing Pale Heart gear in Destiny 2: The Final Shape
Image via Bungie

Destiny 2: The Final Shape Campaign Impressions

The Final Shape story campaign in Destiny 2 is a solid return to form for the franchise, even if there are some complaints to throw around.

The great Destiny 2 Currant Error Disaster is behind us, and now every Guardian everywhere can enter the Traveler and help prevent The Final Shape. Preventing said Shape takes place partly in the story campaign, and after the laughable Lightfall campaign, how does The Final Shape’s narrative measure up?

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A Solid, If Preachy Story

Cayde-6's introduction in Destiny 2: The Final Shape
Screenshot by GameSkinny

Almost anything would be an improvement on the Lightfall campaign, so Bungie only needed the most token of upgrades to the story to make The Final Shape worth a damn. I’m happy to say they took their lumps quite well, and the story campaign for the end of the Light and Darkness Saga is a solidly told, character-driven start to what is bound to be at least a year-long narrative.

One of the only things I can say Bungie’s stories do relatively consistently is tell well-constructed character vignettes. The smaller, more personal narratives about struggles we can relate to, like loss, grief, frustration, and triumph — these are the bits Destiny 2 has usually hit the mark on. The Final Shape’s story continues this trend, retreading some old ground but recontextualizing it to serve the larger narrative, a touch I wasn’t quite expecting but was pleased by all the same.

All of the interactions with Cayde-6 deserve special mention. Whether you were around five years ago when he died or entered the game long after the Forsaken campaign was removed, it’s clear that this character meant something to his friends and left an impression on those who came after him. A lot of the value in bringing Cayde back will, of course, be lost on those who didn’t already have a stake in his role in Destiny 2. However, The Final Shape puts in a fair amount of work fitting Cayde in physically with the other characters rather than relegating his return to the mission voiceovers.

Hell, Cayde gets his own pre-rendered cutscene that, again, means way more to people who were invested in his character years ago, but Nathan Fillion brings the raw emotions of being out of the loop for five years and having the world dropped on you would create. What’s more, it isn’t just Cayde who’s a massive mess of emotion. Zavala, Ikora, Crow, and even your Ghost have a rough go of things, and while I don’t much care for the overly fast pacing of their emotive arcs, I applaud Bungie for providing them at all.

A member of The Dread in Destiny 2: The Final Shape
Image via Bungie

The one positive I would give to the Lightfall campaign is that it ends with a clear loss. The only party that truly gets what they want is The Witness, the biggest bad in all of Destiny. The rest of that story should be disregarded, but the sour taste of failure should — and does — linger on in The Final Shape. That Bungie made sure everyone in-game felt the stakes were important, even if they’re a bit ephemeral to the player base.

That said, beyond the inconsistent pacing of The Final Shape campaign, my biggest complaint is how preachy it was. “This is the final shape the Witness wants,” said everyone, again and again. Things are hard, but we need to move on. The past is the past. There are more important things. The Guardian is our savior,” and on and on.

The actual story is rather predictable, now that I think about it, but I don’t think that’s the worst thing in the world. Even a story you know the ending of can be enjoyable, though I think I called half of it before the third mission was over.

Gameplay is King

Another of Lightfall’s biggest failures was in its encounter design. Fights were either too easy or unblinkingly unbalanced. Strand also wasn’t nearly as powerful as Prismatic, and the limited tools we had in Lightfall meant any buildcrafting you’d done beforehand was useless.

The opening Prismatic screen in Destiny 2: The Final Shape
Screenshot by GameSkinny

Prismatic, and The Final Shape encounter design, more broadly, is much better than the last expansion. And I say that even with the extreme limitations placed on Prismatic for the campaign. It’s such a breath of fresh air, and gamebreakingly overpowered, to have access to abilities we understand and can build into. And the fights all take into account everything we have access to. Enemy density is much better thought out, enemy types per encounter are much more intelligently planned, and encounters come at a good clip, speeding up the narrative but keeping the gameplay fresh and interesting.

I wouldn’t say there were any standout fights in the same way, say, Savathun’s was from The Witch Queen, but I wasn’t disappointed or frustrated by any of the encounters I played in The Final Shape. None were exceptional, but none were anything less than good. Most were great and fun to unpack on a first playthrough.

Unlocking Prismatic the first time in Destiny 2: The Final Shape
Screenshot by GameSkinny

The Legendary difficulty was also much better tuned, and I don’t just mean from a combat standpoint. The level design in each encounter arena was very well executed, offering plenty of cover and traversal opportunities, as well as relatively safe places to recover for a few seconds, should you need to.

The one gripe I might have is the size of certain enemy health bars. Yes, it’s Legendary difficulty, and it should be difficult, but needing to dump more than 10 Gjallarhorn rockets to get half of a health bar down is asking a bit much. Thankfully, all of the boss enemies are still fun to fight, with distinct gameplay styles and abilities that demand near-perfect play to beat.

Music, Environments, and Other Odds and Ends

The Pale Heart of the Traveler environment in Destiny 2: The Final Shape
Screenshot by GameSkinny

The weakest points of The Final Shape are, unfortunately, places where Bungie has historically been strong: music and environmental design. Thanks to the layoffs of many of the legacy talents the studio went through recently, and even given the extra four months the expansion got, the music just isn’t up to par. In some places, it devolves into a simple drumbeat without any real personality or memorable melody. Gone are the days of the iconic Bungie choirs, strings, and drums. Now, everything is fairly forgettable, even if it technically fits within the Destiny sound aesthetic.

As for the Pale Heart destination, while I think it’s one of the stronger environments in Destiny 2 because it has to showcase a gradual shift from idyllic forests to harsh geometries, it lacks any sense of consistency. This is, of course, purposeful, but I also didn’t find any of the places I visited to have the same staying power as other Destiny 2 locales. There was nothing in the Pale Heart that wowed me like the Dreaming City, no places that showed off the same scale as Savathun’s Throne World, and certainly no iconic landscapes like the Cosmodrome.

I wish I could say more about the weapons from The Final Shape, but they’re really hard to come by during the campaign, and the best farming methods are locked behind post-story quests and activities. Sure, that’s a positive for the longevity of the expansion (for the first month or so, anyway), but having so few ways to get ahold of the new hotness was a bit frustrating.

All in all, though, I was incredibly pleased with The Final Shape, even with the horrendous server issues. We’ll see just how much the story pans out over the coming days, weeks, and months, but Bungie has done just about enough to right the ship. Time will tell if it gets any more holes.

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Author
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John Schutt
John Schutt has been playing games for almost 25 years, starting with Super Mario 64 and progressing to every genre under the sun. He spent almost 4 years writing for strategy and satire site TopTierTactics under the moniker Xiant, and somehow managed to find time to get an MFA in Creative Writing in between all the gaming. His specialty is action games, but his first love will always be the RPG. Oh, and his avatar is, was, and will always be a squirrel, a trend he's carried as long as he's had a Steam account, and for some time before that.