All is not well with The Finals, but I have hope Season 3 will be its best yet

THE FINALS | Season 3 | Trailer - YouTube THE FINALS | Season 3 | Trailer - YouTube
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The Finals, that FPS we all tried last fall because of its excellent destruction, hasn't caught on in 2024 the way Nexon hoped it would. The hundreds of thousands of daily Steam players who showed up in its first month have largely moved on, with its player count peaking around 10,000 Steam players these days.

All games go through periods of lower activity as players have their fill and pick up other games, but The Finals' player dip in Season 2 (which launched in March) was precipitous enough that its decline was a big topic of Nexon's recent financial report.

Developer Embark Studios will surely coax some players back with The Finals season 3, unveiled today during the Summer Game Fest show. On top of new weapons and abilities for all three player classes, season 3 will shift The Finals' ranked mode away from 3v3v3 Cash Out, instead refocusing on 5v5 objective mode Terminal Attack.

Embark's best weapon to win players back may be flexibility. Season 3's new emphasis on Terminal Attack as the ranked mode is a serious pivot for the barely six-month-old FPS. Throughout its open beta and launch, The Finals was billed as a 3v3v3 squad shooter, with all of its launch modes being variations of "grab loads of cash and deposit it across the map." In Season 2, Embark responded to players asking for more casual and team-based modes with Power Shift, a 5v5 tug-of-war format that was so well-received that Embark made it a permanent fixture. Then it did the same with Terminal Attack, Embark's riff on the classic two-site bomb mode, a few months later.

I understand why the folks at Embark might be scratching their heads about what more they can be doing to keep people interested. The Finals is already one of the most unique and audacious shooters in a decade. Putting aside its synchronized destruction tech—which to be clear, is a technical marvel—Embark is taking major swings with its classes and kits.

There are no real "gimmick" weapons in The Finals because you could think of everything as its own gimmick.

The three classes (Light, Medium, Heavy) ignore the typical blueprints for loadout customization and team roles, instead letting players spec into dramatically different playstyles with their weapon and gadget choices. You only have the one weapon slot, and a good third of the arsenal are swords, hammers, and knives. Traditional hand grenades and assault rifles sit next to goo guns, invisibility potions, and anti-gravity cubes. As I ponder whether to either bring a WWI machine gun, flamethrower, or a Home Depot-grade sledgehammer as my primary means of offense, only one other game comes to mind: Team Fortress 2.

The Finals arsenal is only getting weirder in Season 3, which is themed around a new "Kyoto 1568" feudal Japan map. All three classes are getting a new weapon, and none of them are a gun.

  • RECURVE BOW — a new weapon for LIGHTS: a high-skill, medium- to long-ranged bow that shoots arrows in a curved arc. Its range and damage increase the further back the bowstring has been drawn. 
  • THERMAL BORE — a new gadget for LIGHTS: a long-range, high-cooldown, tactical breaching gadget, that’s best used to breach walls, buildings, and other obstacles from a distance, to open up pathways or sightlines for you and your team. Perfect in combination with a long-range weapon!
  • DUAL KATANAS — a new melee weapon for MEDIUMS: its primary attack is a fast, multi-strike combo with wide reach and forward momentum. It can also charge a lunge attack and deflect incoming bullets in a defensive stance. 
  • SPEAR — a new melee weapon for HEAVIES: its primary attack is a fast long-range stab. It can also be spun up to cover a wider area. It deals less damage than the Heavy’s Sledge Hammer but is decidedly more nimble. 
  • WINCH CLAW — a new specialization for HEAVIES: launches a chain that pulls objects or enemies toward you, briefly stunning them, making it a perfect companion to the new Spear. Requires tactical use, accuracy, and skill! 

In any other shooter, I'd see a new bow or sword and think "fun gimmick, nobody will use it." Not in The Finals—there are no real "gimmick" weapons in The Finals because you could think of everything as its own gimmick. I see Sledgehammer swingers and crafty Dagger assassins who are so good that it's clear they've been maining their melee builds for months. Since coming back to the game this week, I've been full-timing the throwing knives on my Light build, forgetting that I even have the option to take a gun instead.

The Finals

(Image credit: Embark Studios)

Mode switch

These are all qualities of The Finals I didn't fully appreciate until recently. I was one of the people who bounced off The Finals after only a week or two. I found all those 3v3v3 modes too sweaty for what I considered a casual, goofy arena shooter with wicked gunplay and destruction. What I saw in The Finals was the casual marriage of Team Fortress and Battlefield, but what Embark saw was the next great esport (maybe it still does, but now in Terminal Attack).

No matter, because Power Shift exists. The 5v5 payload variant is my happy place. Like PC Gamer editor Tyler Wilde, who only played the hockey puck mode in Rocket League, I'm playing The Finals as if its casual side mode is the only one that matters. How could I not? Power Shift is still The Finals' only mode that bakes its one-of-a-kind map destruction right into the format. Players fight over control of a floating platform as it travels down streets, crosses gaps, and barrels straight through any building unfortunate enough to lie in its path. As I said when the mode was new, it's also just nice to have a bigger team watching my back in The Finals, instead of constantly looking over my shoulder for an enemy squad looking for an easy third-party squad wipe.

In this period of experimentation, it feels like the paint hasn't fully dried on The Finals. Power Shift is easily the most fun I've had in The Finals, and to me, could be a path forward for the game. But I wonder what Embark sees behind the scenes. Terminal Attack's promotion to Ranked suggests it's the new favorite mode, so does that mean the future of The Finals is a Counter-Strike or Rainbow Six Siege alternative? I can live with that… just please don't take away my Power Shift.

Morgan Park
Staff Writer

Morgan has been writing for PC Gamer since 2018, first as a freelancer and currently as a staff writer. He has also appeared on Polygon, Kotaku, Fanbyte, and PCGamesN. Before freelancing, he spent most of high school and all of college writing at small gaming sites that didn't pay him. He's very happy to have a real job now. Morgan is a beat writer following the latest and greatest shooters and the communities that play them. He also writes general news, reviews, features, the occasional guide, and bad jokes in Slack. Twist his arm, and he'll even write about a boring strategy game. Please don't, though.