Warning: This article includes spoilers for this week’s Season of the Wish story events in Destiny 2. You might want to finish it before reading further.
With what is ostensibly the conclusion of the story of the Season of the Wish, Destiny 2 is now proceeding to the conclusion of its 10-year story with The Final Shape. Though the next big expansion has been delayed all the way from February to June, the stage is set for players to pursue and confront the Witness, the series’ biggest villain.
Here’s the thing, though: We should be barreling toward this concluding chapter. Instead, we’re crawling.
That’s not a function of the delay, though, although it certainly doesn’t help that Destiny 2 fans are stuck twiddling their thumbs for another five months. It’s a problem with the Season of the Wish, and really all the story Destiny 2 has told since the release of last year’s penultimate expansion, Lightfall. Destiny 2’s story isn’t gearing us up for a throw-down with a godlike alien creature. It isn’t showing us the terrifying or horrifying consequences of letting the Witness go unchecked. It hasn’t even really made clear what the Witness’s goals are or what it’ll actually do.
Bungie absolutely needs something better than what we’ve seen so far–better than the Season of the Witch and absolutely better than the Season of the Wish–to bring up the tenor of Destiny 2 before The Final Shape. The game simply cannot head into its final chapter this downbeat, or downright boring, and expect players to tune in.
It’s not a hot take to say that the last year of Destiny 2 has been disappointing in some big ways. The Lightfall campaign was supposed to set up the last few big moments of Destiny 2’s Light and Dark saga but left even those dedicated lore scholars among us confused as to what the game’s villains were actually trying to achieve, or what we had actually seen happen. The Season of Defiance at least focused on an ongoing invasion of powered-up Cabal forces on Neptune and Earth, but that war has grown stale in the months since it was launched, and whatever threat it posed concluded and turned into background noise.
And with the two seasons that followed, events have been anticlimactic. In the Season of the Witch, Destiny 2’s good guys struck back against the Hive god Xivu Arath, a threat that has been looming for years now, with incomprehensible magic–and the villain apparently ran away without ever appearing on screen. Though the season alluded to some potential conflicts among the ranks of the Guardians and even the possibility of Eris Morn, a major character, going dark and becoming a threat herself, in the end, everything worked out as planned and with little inconvenience.
At the apparent end of the Season of the Wish (there’s likely one more story beat, a cutscene or something, that will lead directly into The Final Shape), things are even less exciting. After shooting enemies that kept showing up in an alternate dimensional space that doesn’t really matter or affect anyone, the spirit of the raid boss Riven used space magic to open a portal and Crow was able to chase after the Witness. The season’s big moment was a heartfelt goodbye between Crow and his sister, Awoken Queen Mara Sov, and then him disappearing through a glowy circle. And now we’re waiting for Crow to open the way for the rest of us, and we’re left mopping up in the meantime.
For a story that’s about to hit its finale–let alone one that’s been going for a decade–it’s just dull.
This isn’t a complaint about the content of the seasonal stories this year. I found Defiance, Witch, and Wish to be compelling, with close character moments that continue to build the world of Destiny 2 in a way that makes me care about it. There were years when Destiny 2’s story was completely focused on some new alien monster that we had to shoot with little or no time spent on the characters, and it was great watching Eris struggle with losing herself to the corruption of power, or finding common ground with the Ahamkara Riven, a creature whose very nature demands it inflict destruction on everyone it encounters (I wonder if Guardians can relate). The more meditative nature of the seasonal stories has been an important element in driving me to invest in Destiny 2’s tale overall, because in the last few years, it has finally felt like all these sci-fi events are affecting people.
But waiting for Crow and Osiris to open a door, an endeavor we know they will succeed in because we’ve already seen the trailers, does not inspire the thrill or dread that the conclusion of a story about the end of the universe should entail. It’s just that simple.
What’s more, Destiny 2 has really failed to sell the gravity of what we’re facing in the finale. Just lay it out for a second: The Witness used the Veil to create a link to the Traveler and enter its Pale Heart in order to enact the Final Shape. We don’t know what the Veil is (except that it is apparently an equal and opposite counterpart to the Traveler). We don’t know what the Pale Heart is (except that it’s inside the Traveler). We don’t really know what the Final Shape is, at least in any sort of practical, straightforward terms (except that it’ll basically end the universe). We don’t know what the Witness is doing right now or what it has been doing for a full year. And we’re definitely not in any serious rush, regardless.
Back out here in the regular universe, things continue as normal. There are a bunch of aliens hanging around and we shoot them. They’re not particularly dangerous. Everybody who was any kind of threat has been summarily dealt with or has disappeared. We just paraded through the Dreaming City again but did not manage to advance or resolve the story of the time-looping curse that it’s been struggling with for almost six years. The Last Safe City is not under siege and no dark forces are arrayed to block us pursuing the Witness in any meaningful or credible way. Hell, we just got done with the Destiny 2 holiday special and we’ll have another seasonal celebration event before we finally jump through that Crow Portal to see how the Witness has been redecorating inside the Traveler for 18 months.
This is not to say that Destiny 2 needs to explain everything in order for this story to function. Believe me when I say that I have read a lot of lore tabs, and additional lore tabs are not the solution here. What does need to be made clear are the stakes–what’s at risk, what the threat is, how people are dealing with it, and what they stand to lose. That can be conveyed in things blowing up, sure, but it could just as easily be shown through characters succumbing to dread and anxiety. Is the alliance with the Cabal straining under all this standing around? Are the people of the Last City freaking out about being made to “wait and see” if the universe will end? Is anybody else out there making plans to try to do something that could mess up ours, are the aliens retreating from their beachheads or redoubling their efforts, is the universe starting to slowly crystallize around us so we can see the doom on our doorstep before it reaches us? In a word: no. Not really. It’s business as usual.
Coming off Lightfall, an expansion that ended with a weak conclusion for a long-running and fascinating villain in Calus and a confusing setup for the climax of the story, Destiny 2 is already on the back foot in keeping players engaged with the delay of The Final Shape. Ten years of storytelling has been building toward the clash of the Darkness and the Light, but right now, we barely even know what we should be worried about. As someone who’s been pretty invested in the Destiny 2 story for a long time, that story should be making me care more about its conclusion, and I’m struggling to muster the interest.
Destiny 2 can’t push into the final hours of this story, when everyone in Destiny 2 struggles against its strongest force to either win or lose everything, with all the characters standing around waiting. It can’t try to make everyone worried about the coming end of the world if that end is happening somewhere off-screen. It can’t expect anyone to care about the culmination of this story if there are no clear stakes and no present danger.
The Final Shape will be an unprecedented moment for Destiny 2. The game needs to make us feel it, now more than ever.