Screenshot by Destructoid

Destiny 2: The Final Shape’s story was great but it missed an opportunity to be spectacular

Playing it safe isn't always the most interesting.

This article contains spoilers for Destiny 2: The Final Shape.

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Destiny 2‘s first saga has come to a close with The Final Shape expansion. Though Echoes and future Episodes promise to continue the game’s narrative, the campaign in The Final Shape essentially served as the franchise’s Avengers: Endgame, wrapping up a decade-long intrigue. And while the campaign for The Final Shape has proven itself great, I can’t shake the feeling that Bungie missed an opportunity to leave an even more significant impact than it did.

Big themes throughout The Final Shape are redemption, death, and rebirth. Every character involved experiences one or several of these motifs, whether it’s Ikora Rey coming to terms with Cayde-6’s return or Crow finally accepting his spot as the Hunter Vanguard. However, Commander Zavala, the character whose arc I was most excited to see, didn’t have the stakes I expected. Zavala shouldn’t have escaped The Witness at the end of the Dissent mission, which would have allowed for some considerable payoff.

Zavala the broken

Throughout the build-up to The Final Shape, Zavala became a shadow of his former self. After Amanda Holiday’s death during Lightfall’s Season 20 finale, the Commander began questioning his place between The Traveler and the people he cares about. Zavala, a staunch believer in The Traveler’s moral high ground, started to doubt the paracausal entity.

The Commander’s trust in The Traveler is shaken, and it’s repeatedly tested as Guardians find themselves doing Savathûn’s bidding in Season 22 and playing with wish magic in Season 23. By the time The Final Shape rolls around, Zavala is practically a different person, conscious of the after-effects of every action he takes in The Traveler’s name and skeptical of its intentions.

The Final Shape‘s launch trailer created even more questions, as it seemed to imply a sinister fate awaited Zavala in the expansion. The teaser predominately features a segment where Zavala reaches out and touches a wall of Darkness before showing a Guardian standing over a tomb. This is followed by The Witness conversing with Zavala, while the trailer’s dialogue has Ikora Rey begging the Commander to reconsider his actions.

Zavala’s journey

Screenshot by Destructoid

While the narrative build-up and launch trailer might have implied that Zavala would fall to Darkness or die, that wasn’t what happened in The Final Shape. We see the same scenes from the launch trailer during the campaign, but they don’t lead to nearly as consequential an end as I anticipated. Zavala loses his trust in The Traveler and makes some reckless decisions, but it doesn’t ever feel like he’s ever in danger of being corrupted by The Witness — let alone killed by it. Even in the one scene where there’s a hint that things might not go well for the Commander, within seconds, allies are there to back him up.

I’d be neglectful not to mention Targe, Zavala’s Ghost, in this discussion. While Zavala manages to escape the many, many grasps of The Witness, Targe does not. I can’t ignore the apparent story ramifications of a Guardian as important as Zavala losing his Ghost. Still, from a narrative perspective, I really didn’t care about Targe as a character. The Ghost only has a handful of appearances across the entire Destiny franchise and is otherwise relegated to lore pages. The loss will surely spawn some great moments for Zavala in the future, but it felt like a newly-introduced side character taking the hit Zavala should have.

Zavala’s Final Shape

Screenshot by Destructoid

If The Witness had grabbed Zavala at the end of the Dissent mission, it would have left the door open for some wild potential story beats. Of course, if he had simply died there, that would have elicited a significant impact, as he’s been a constant ally since Destiny began. However, I’m thinking bigger.

Follow me, if you will, back in time to the year 2009. World of Warcraft is in its Wrath of the Lich King expansion, and I’m forging my way across the Northrend continent, working towards the Lich King’s domain in Icecrown. About halfway through the story, the Alliance and Horde factions realize they should put their differences aside to focus on the common enemy, the Lich King. To that end, both sides plan a joint attack on the gates leading into Icecrown. The attack does not go as the combined forces hope, and many are lost, including the notable NPC Highlord Bolvar Fordragon.

Weeks later, in the Icecrown Citadel Raid, something truly unexpected happens. I learn that Bolvar is still alive, captured to remain a tortured prisoner of the Lich King. However, Bolvar gets his chance at redemption after my team defeats the Lich King, opting to wear the antagonist’s cursed crown to prevent the balance of power from spiraling out of control. Going into that Raid, I had no idea Bolvar was still alive, but once I found out, it became the impetus to press forward. I was trying to save my ally from a gruesome fate. And when that all paid off with Bolvar’s bittersweet redemption, it felt fulfilling.

This is the emotion The Final Shape could have fostered with Zavala if he had been in legitimate danger. There are a million ways it could have played out, and I’ve gone through dozens of scenarios in my head, but the one I keep coming back to is that Zavala should have been featured in the Raid, similar to how Bolvar was in World of Warcraft. In the Salvation’s Edge Raid, the second encounter features a no-name boss called the Herald of Finality. It would have been much more impactful if we fought against a corrupted version of Zavala or at least fought the Herald to free the Commander.

Zavala’s capture or corruption by The Witness would have felt like the ultimate call to action, and I imagine that even players who don’t regularly raid would feel the pull to help their longtime mentor. His rescue from the Raid could have even fit neatly into the narrative following the Salvation’s Edge Raid, explaining how Zavala can use Stasis in the post-campaign Excision mission. This wouldn’t need to be extravagant; a few lines of dialogue before and after the encounter would suffice.

Overall, The Final Shape‘s narrative was not a fumble in any regard. It’s compelling, visually engaging, and a blast to play through. That said, it feels like the story lacked the courage to take a risk where it mattered the most. The Final Shape still tells a great story, but for me, it’s the difference between an awesome expansion and what could have been the reference standard in Destiny storytelling.

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Jonathan LoChiatto
Jonathan LoChiatto is a writer, editor, and creator with content across Destructoid, GameRant, SVG, and more. Jonathan is the creator of The Dorkweb podcast and continues to dabble in entertainment. When he's not streaming Destiny 2, he can be found digging into RPGs, strategy games, and shooters.