The final form of Destiny 2 brings new depth to its missions and “defragmented” world

Ten years ago, the story of Destiny began with the Traveler, a divine entity the size of a small moon, who hovered above the Earth and bestowed superpowers on humans to use against advancing alien hordes. In The Final Shape, Destiny 2’s next expansion, we’re finally ready to find out what’s inside that giant robot sphere.

Apparently it’s kind of weird there.

We got a few quick glimpses into the Pale Heart of the Traveler, the new location where the final showdown between humanity’s heroes and the Witness, Destiny 2’s main antagonist, will take place. However, during a recent hands-off preview event, Bungie provided an extended look at the Pale Heart, a part of the universe where memories and emotions combine with the Traveler’s near-magical paracausal power to redefine reality.

The Pale Heart is a place that, according to Bungie, uses the experiences of everyone in it to create the world they see around them. In the first missions of The Final Shape’s campaign, you’ll see nostalgic elements from Destiny’s past decade folded into the landscape – things like giant Ghost grenades and overgrown parts of old locations, levels and social spaces.

But the power of the Traveler, the Light, clashes with the power of the Darkness of the Witness, and that also causes the landscape to twist and turn, especially as you dig deeper.

“You can think of it as traversing a world that is being defragmented,” campaign manager Andrew Hopps said during the preview.

While the preview didn’t provide a comprehensive overview of the expansion, it did give some impressions of what players can expect, showing off parts of the campaign’s first mission and a later Strike that’s also part of the story. The mission begins with the Guardian, the player character, entering the large pink portal to the Traveler who has been staring players in the face for the past year. However, it’s not just a matter of entering the portal and jumping out the other side. Instead, you make your way through a disjointed collection of bits of architecture, spaceships and terrestrial locations, all haphazardly thrown together. As the Pale Heart combines different elements from memory to create a new reality, the portal feels like the place where all those pieces are stored until they’re needed; as if the memories manifest into new objects, but without any guidance they come together in a meaningful way.

As probably expected, the path through the portal is home to enemies trying to stop you. These include the Taken, who now have an eerie yellow eye – an indication of the Witness’s control over them. This is also where you first encounter Destiny 2’s new enemy faction, the Dread. Bungie has previously detailed the various threats that make up the Witness’s new army, but you’ll start by encountering Weavers, small enemies that use the Strand abilities introduced in the Lightfall expansion to get at you with ethereal ropes . Weavers can grab you and pull you towards themselves and out of cover, leaving you exposed to attacks or sometimes just throwing you off a cliff.

Hopps noted that Bungie has spent time rebalancing the campaign’s difficulty, especially on the legendary level. The idea is to make sure missions feel tough but fair, whether you’re playing alone or with a team of one or two other people, although Hopps didn’t go into detail about what adjustments the developers have made. Bungie is also putting more emphasis on adding raid and dungeon-style mechanics to more missions, and in the preview we saw elements like the Light and Darkness ‘seeds’ appearing in Lightfall’s Root of Nightmares raid. These don’t work quite the same way as the raid, and you can use all of these mechanics as a solo player, Hopps said. But in both the campaign mission and the Strike shown during the presentation, there were additional mechanics that should make progression through the Pale Heart a little more complex than just shooting a bunch of monsters.

Bungie quickly abandoned the portal portion of the mission and skipped ahead to after the player had finally fully entered the Traveler. Here we got our first glimpse of the Pale Heart, where the early parts are lush and green. At times, plants and rocks appear right in front of you as you walk, and soon you discover strange sights, like bits of the Last City and those enormous Ghost Shells, overgrown and looking almost ancient as they jut out. of the landscape.

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“This was something we did from the beginning as a concept for The Final Shape, and we really wanted this big moment after the 10 years of the Light and Darkness Saga to evoke a lot of nostalgia for players,” said Catarina, head of the expansion project. Macedonia. “And one of the ways we wanted to do that was through the environment that you go through. So we had the idea that when you enter the Traveler, everything around you is shaped by these memories of you as a Guardian, places where you where you’ve been, things you’ve seen, scenes you’ve experienced.”

The level takes the player through these overgrown parts of the city, where they encounter more Dread enemies. These include the ‘bats with guns’, the Grim, who have an astonishing screeching ability that can be particularly dangerous if it nails you while you attempt something harrowing like jumping over a gap. The Grim are also the first flying enemies in Destiny 2 to have wings, meaning they move up and down as you fight them, adding a slightly different wrinkle to the battle. Even further, players will encounter a Harbinger: a new Dread enemy that ranks similarly to the Tormentor in terms of danger to opponents. Where Tormentors feel like smaller versions of the Root of Nightmare boss Nezarec, Harbingers are more like Rhulk, the boss of the Vow of the Disciple raid.

The Harbinger also has Strand abilities, which can turn some players’ powers against them. The Harbinger can suspend you with Strand in exactly the same way opponents can in player-versus-player combat, locking you in place and opening you up to serious damage. Harbingers are generally less mobile than Tormentors, but rely on ranged combat rather than melee attacks.

The landscape of the Pale Heart responds to the presence of Guardians, filling the world with elements from their memories and experiences. But the Witness also has the same effect, and things will become more corrupt and dark the closer you get.

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“We’re doing this, for the first time, telling a lot of stories through the environment,” says game director Tyson Green. “You travel from a place where you know where you are and what is going on, and it feels relatively safe, to a place of increasing danger and proximity to the Witness. It’s really a very notable environmental journey that we haven’t really done in any of our previous expansions.”

After the first mission, Bungie showed off a new Strike that takes place about halfway through the campaign. Here we have ventured deeper into the Pale Heart in search of the Witness, and the landscape has changed dramatically, becoming rockier, desolate and barren. This one is themed around Destiny’s ‘wish dragons’, the Ahamkara, with players facing a huge Tormentor boss known as ‘Tormentor of the Ahamkara’.

“One of the things that we’ve seen even in previous releases, especially when we started exploring the pyramids and seeing what their architecture looked like, we saw a lot of reshaping of normal objects. I’m sure everyone remembers the horse with a lot of butts and stuff,” Macedo said. “Because the Witness is trying to determine the final shape [and] reshaping everything into perfect silence, one of the big things we wanted to do as the Guardian gets closer to the spire where the Witness stands at the center of the Pale Heart, we wanted to bring more of that distortion and reformation, and more discomfort, and that feeling that this isn’t quite right.”

“So that was the big inspiration behind that: take that language and turn the dial all the way to 100, and see how twisted we can get,” Macedo continued.

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The Strike includes Dread enemies and Taken, while also introducing another enemy for players to face: the Lucent Brood, the Hive under the control of Savathun, the Witch Queen. Savathun and her forces are also trying to oppose the Witness, Green noted, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re on your side. In the Strike you fight Lucent Hive a few times.

Like the campaign, the Strike also works in new mechanics that are a little more similar to dungeons or raids than we’ve seen in previous raids. You’ll chase the Tormentor through the Strike and work your way through gaping caverns and barren valleys. As you fight the Strike’s main battles against enemies like Harbingers, you’ll see strange Darkness pouring into the area, as well as large opponents with unbreakable shields. To clear them, you’ll need to look for nearby Ahamkara Skulls. If you find an item called Taken Essence, you can strengthen the skulls and break the shields. Are to get the Taken Essence, that’s the hard part though.

Normally you’ll head into a side room looking for what you need to strengthen the Ahamkara skulls. In the sections we saw, the rooms are full of walls and platforms, and if you grab the Taken Essence at the far end you’ll have to run back as Darkness sludge fills up around you. In one room, the walls close in on you like a trap in an Indiana Jones movie, forcing you to jump over them and duck under obstacles as you run outside. In another case, the sludge fills the room from the floor up, so you have to climb platforms to avoid it on your way out.

In a later area, jump through a hole in the wall and find yourself in an environment that resembles the inside of Riven, the Ahamkara that serves as the final boss of the Last Wish raid, revealing the strange architecture and reform of the reality to be further strengthened. within the Pale Heart. In another section you walk through a corridor full of gigantic stone arms. The statues serve as platforms and take the form of human and Hive hands, as well as Ahamkara tentacles.

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Among the locations in the Strike was also a city with the same architecture seen in the pyramid ships of the Black Fleet – suggesting that this location may have manifested itself from the Witness’s memories.

“We don’t want to get into spoilers, but a lot of what you’ll see is not just your memories, but memories of other things that are in the Pale Heart – so the Witness, even the Dread,” Green said. . “So there will be some deep lore in there that I can’t wait for people to tease and bring to light.”

Bungie ended the preview shortly before the end of Strike, leaving us guessing where else The Final Shape’s campaign will take players, or what else the world has to offer. But we do know that, like Neomuna and Savathun’s Throne World, the Pale Heart of the Traveler is a new location that you can freely explore. According to Hopps, the story will also extend beyond the first week.

“I would say this is our largest campaign yet,” Hopps said. “It doesn’t just end with the raid.”

For more from the preview event, check out what we saw of the new Prismatic subclass in action.

The Final Shape will be released on June 4.

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