Destiny 2: The Final Shape's wild new reality-bending Strike mission is full of lava, lost cities and dragon guts

Cayde-6 pointing a gun
(Image credit: Bungie)

As a long-time Destiny 2 player, it's the new systems of next week's expansion, The Final Shape, that have been occupying my brainspace. The buildcrafting potential of the new Prismatic subclass; the sandbox impact of the nerf on Well of Radiance—that kind of thing. But in a recent hands-off demo, Bungie gave a tour through the other part of a Destiny 2 expansion: the intriguing new destination.

To cap off the Light and Darkness saga as we approach 10 years of Bungie's looter shooter series, we're going inside the Traveler—the iconic orb that's been hanging around in Destiny skyboxes since it launched in 2014.

(Image credit: Bungie)

"One of the big ideas for the Pale Heart [of the Traveler]," says Cat Macedo, expansions project lead for Bungie, in an interview with PC Gamer, "is that, because you're going inside of a god, and no one has ever gone inside this particular god, how are we going to represent that? And so there's going to be moments where we're going to see the pure Traveler and what that looks like. But this is a place where it is shaped by the players and the Guardians' memories, and the Vanguard as well."

We see some of that in a run through of the first mission. When the player lands inside the Traveler, the landscape begins to reshape itself in response to your character's presence. The first mission ends in a memory of Destiny 1's Tower social space, overgrown with vegetation and under assault by the new Dread faction.

"We're really excited for players to both feel the familiarity of these places and these characters, and feel the twist that The Witness is present and twisting things in a way that's really interesting," says Macedo, referring to the main antagonist of The Final Shape. The Witness's influence will be felt throughout the Pale Heart—corrupting the space and warping the nostalgic factor of its locations.

(Image credit: Bungie)

The most interesting location came later in the preview, when Bungie ran through a Strike mission from The Final Shape, called Liminality. The space is a view of what The Final Shape itself is—the Witness's plan to essentially defragment the universe, sorting all of its elements into a frozen, ordered state. As the player progresses through the tunnels, they climb unnatural blocks formed of multiple elements sorted on top of each other, and jump across giant stone hands that grasp from the walls.

The boss of the Strike is a Tormentor referred to in-game as the "Torment of Ahamkara", and the wish-dragons have a presence throughout the mission. As you approach the first meeting with the boss, you can see Ahamkara guts being built into the walls of the space. And throughout you need to collect Taken energy and hand it to Ahamkara skulls to progress. These sections have you break away from the main combat arena for some light jumping puzzles. When you collect the Taken energy, lava pours from the walls, forcing you to rush for the exit before you're trapped and killed.

After the first encounter with the boss, the environment shifts and the player emerges into an abandoned town that shares an aesthetic with the Witness's Pyramid fleet. Here Bungie reveals that the Traveler is forming reality not just from the player character's memory, but also from the Witness itself—giving us a brief look at what is presumably the homeworld of the species that mind-merged itself into the universe's big bad.

It's a striking space. There's a worry with any abstract location that the relative lack of rules and cohesion will make something that feels lesser to explore—a collection of loose ideas with no constraints to bind them into something that feels tangible. That's for sure a danger here too, although as long as the symbolism serves a purpose it should make for a memorable campaign.

As a series of combat arenas, though, I'm excited for what The Final Shape has planned. Even in this short preview section, the Strike mission offered plenty of variety, both in the layout of its arenas and the combatants itself. Throughout, the player battles everything from Dread to Taken to the Lucent Hive—a nice variety of combatant types that should hopefully make for some fun combat challenges.

After the last year of Destiny 2, and especially a Lightfall campaign that underwhelmed, I'm hopeful that Bungie has cooked up something memorable for The Final Shape. It looks plenty intriguing, for sure. Hopefully the story is also on point, and delivers a worthy end for the saga.

Phil Savage

Phil has been writing for PC Gamer for nearly a decade, starting out as a freelance writer covering everything from free games to MMOs. He eventually joined full-time as a news writer, before moving to the magazine to review immersive sims, RPGs and Hitman games. Now he leads PC Gamer's UK team, but still sometimes finds the time to write about his ongoing obsessions with Destiny 2, GTA Online and Apex Legends. When he's not levelling up battle passes, he's checking out the latest tactics game or dipping back into Guild Wars 2. He's largely responsible for the whole Tub Geralt thing, but still isn't sorry.