Destiny 2's big 2023 showcase has unveiled what's to come in The Final Shape expansion, the Season of the Witch that starts today, and perhaps most importantly, what's due in 2024 as a new Episode model replaces the seasons that the MMO has had (and been struggling with) for years.
The Final Shape revealed
The Final Shape takes us inside the Pale Heart of the Traveler, a new destination in some ways mirroring the notorious Black Heart from Destiny 1. The Witness has already made its way inside in pursuit of the lifeless finality that is the universe's final shape in its mind. The good news is that Cayde-6 is waiting for us too, so the original Vanguard's getting back together again.
The Pale Heart is in part an ethereal recreation of key points from Destiny's history, right down to individual set pieces and encounters. But due to the influence of the Witness and the Traveler, it's also been warped into something alien and uncanny. It sounds like our ultimate faceoff with the Witness will take place in the Monolith raid inside the Pale Heart, and Bungie says the entire destination will open up after the campaign is cleared. Two more dungeons are also on the way, as evidenced by the Final Shape dungeon key.
An LFG-style Fireteam Finder is coming in Season 23 ahead of The Final Shape – formally killing the long-dead Guided Games functionality – and the expansion itself will double down on playing in a group by introducing significant changes to Destiny 2's Power system. Simply put, some activities will have a fixed Power level, meaning your Power level won't matter at all going in; you'll always be the same level in the activity.
A new Fireteam Power system will also bring the power of your whole team close to the level of the highest-level player, seemingly letting low-Power players play endgame activities with their high-level friends. Activities like Nightfalls, raids, dungeons, and Trials of Osiris will remain Power-enabled, which does raise the question of what the fixed Power system will actually accomplish, but a lot remains to be seen. (Trials will apparently be Power-fixed as an experiment during an upcoming episode, as Bungie said in the post-show.)
In a similar vein, a story crash course called Timeline Reflections is coming today. This will let new and veteran players revisit key moments from Destiny 2's long timeline, like Cayde's Last Stand in Forsaken and Savathun's rise in The Witch Queen, through playable missions with added narrative context.
The Final Shape will not introduce a new subclass, but three new Light Supers have been announced, all with a focus on supporting allies. Here's a quick summary of the new powers.
Solar Warlock - a callback to Destiny 1's Radiance, this first-person Super buffs your melee and grenade with new behavior and quick ability regeneration. Melees fire extra projectiles, and grenades become sentient little sprites that seek out enemies. While you're in this Super, allies also receive Solar buffs. A new Rift Aspect summons a little Solar buddy that scorches enemies. Game director Joe Blackburn described it as a "DPS machine" with "high" damage boosts to the whole team.
Arc Hunter - throw an arc knife and teleport to it to deliver an AoE slash attack, then do it two more times. Bungie says it's trying to be careful about this becoming potentially the most oppressive Super in PvP history. A new aspect lets you use your Arc staff to hover mid-air, granting Amplify to yourself and nearby allies. It also functions as another jump, which is mighty exciting.
Void Titan - throw three Void axes that pull in enemies and explode, then persist in the environment for you and allies to pick them up and wield them as melee weapons. This is a direct response to the wealth of "I roam, I melee" Supers that Titans have, Blackburn says, so this is a one-off ranged Super with added melee follow-up utility. A new Aspect lets you consume your grenade to create a frontal shield which charges up as it absorbs damage, then releases that energy as an AoE Void blast.
New weapon sub-families are also leaning into Destiny 2's support role. A literal support frame auto rifle will let you heal teammates by shooting them, while the new rocket pistol sidearms will let you support your team by making enemies explode. (Between this healing auto rifle and the new subclass, Bungie said in the post-show that it's actively making a point to make Well of Radiance feel less required in endgame content.)
The Final Shape Exotics include Tessellation, an energy fusion rifle that adapts to your current subclass. A trace rifle that harnesses the Traveler's energy was also teased along with "Golden Gun as a sniper rifle." Returning Destiny 1 Exotics include the pulse rifle Red Death (now a Solar weapon, not kinetic) and the rocket launcher Dragon's Breath. It sounds like we'll want these weapons in the fight against new Stasis- and Strand-equipped enemies called Subjugators, which are something of an evolution of Lightfall's Tormentors. Note that Tessellation is an instant unlock for pre-ordering The Final Shape and its annual pass.
Episodes over seasons
Speaking of the annual pass, the year of The Final Shape will look a bit different, and it's establishing a new model for Destiny 2 content. Instead of four seasons a year, we'll be getting three Episodes broken up into three six-week acts.
The episodes starting in March 2024 after the Final Shape launch are: Echoes, Revenant, and Heresy. Each will feature new quests, story missions, activities, weapons, Artifact mods, season pass ranks and rewards, and armor. You might be thinking this sounds a lot like the seasonal model we have today, and you'd be right, but Bungie says this model has a few advantages. In the post-show, Bungie described it as a "natural evolution" of the seasonal model, and acknowledged that seasons have become repetitive and reached the end of their utility.
Episodes were described as standalone experiences that will explore the aftermath of the Light and Darkness saga and can be played in any order, giving Bungie the space for more frequent changes, more loot added more often, and deeper story moments that don't have to juggle an entire year's continuity. The Episodes for The Final Shape, for example, are said to contain more cinematic moments than the previous year's seasons. "Nine beats a year six weeks apart" is the rub, with Bungie focusing on weirder, less formulaic installments. Reducing FOMO by letting players approach Episode content in any order is also a recurring point, and likely music to the ears of many players.
Somewhat confusingly, Destiny 2 will still sell season passes for these Episodes, but pass ranks and rewards will be handled differently. Each act within an Episode will add more ranks to the same shared season pass, with a total of 200 ranks per Episode. Bungie says this extended season pass will deliver more rewards overall, with player feedback shaping what's dished out. Interestingly, Artifact perks will follow a similar model, with a new row of perks added with every act.
After these first three episodes, Bungie says it will keep rolling out new episodes to tell different stories. Blackburn affirmed that the MMO isn't going anywhere. "We got some more tread on the tires here and we're excited to show you where we're driving," he said.
Season of the Witch
More immediately, Season of the Witch rolls out today. Eris is back on center stage with a scheme to fight Xivu Arath, a longstanding Hive antagonist who feeds on battle. Eris has turned herself into a Hive demigod and given us our own Hive magic to wield in seasonal activities featuring some intriguing new systems, including a deck-builder that ties into buildcrafting.
The new seasonal activities are Altars of Summoning and Savathun's Spire. The former is built for large groups and can last up to a few hours if you stick at it, with loot scaling up the longer you keep the titular altars going. Savathun's Spire, meanwhile, is the new three-player activity, said to feature random encounters with high mob density.
That said, the big new activity is the latest reprised raid. Destiny 1's Crota's End is back, or at least it will be on September 1. The seasonal trailer confirms that the raid's iconic armor and Exotic weapon are back, which is good news for Destiny fashionistas. Crota's End will be available to all players regardless of whether they own the season pass.
Season of the Witch is live now with an instant unlock for the Exotic grenade launcher Ex Diris.
As someone who just said I don't want another 10 years of this Destiny 2, I am quietly optimistic about the shift to Episodes.