Yes, I Play Destiny for the Story

Come for the Raids, Stay for the World.

September 27, 2019

I’ve had pretty much the entire emotional spectrum of emotions regarding Destiny during is lifetime. Total disregard, interest, fascination, excitement, boredom, hype, gripe, grievances, joy, you name it. I’ve probably felt it towards this whole franchise at some point. I've bounced from playing it non-stop to not touching it for months. At first, I liked the shooting, and the chance to hang out with people and shoot some aliens. Then I liked the raids. But then, increasingly over the last year, I've found myself loving the story. I hope I with this piece can give you an insight into why.

Destiny is a now 5 year old franchise that started with the release of Destiny 1 in 2014. I have never played Destiny 1 in any shape. It was only released on consoles and I didn’t (still don’t) want to play shooters on a console. So I disregarded it from that simple fact alone.

Yet, I watched Giant Bomb play it for a while, and often with an ounce of interest. I have never cared too much about loot games; Diablo, PoE, Borderlands, etc. never did much for me. However, Destiny felt different. What really intrigued me was the texturing of everything. How all the Hive monsters were named after Fantasy tropes (Wizards, Thralls, Ogres) or all the Vex were named after Greek monsters (Hydra, Minotaur). It had proper nouns like “The Traveler”, a big, mysterious white orb that landed on Earth and no one knew what it wanted. "The Taken King", a play on the words of a King of the Taken, while he is also himself, taken. It had weapons people spoke of as if almost in legend. The Gjallarhorn. The Black Spindle. The Sword of Crota. And I knew what none of these things meant, but they sounded cool. Bungie has had a way with names like this forever (I mean, they named their flagship shooter franchise after a circle of light).

This is “Touch of Malice”, the coolest weapon from Destiny 1. It is a Hive God’s final plan to forever be remembered, because we killed him and made a weapon of his ravenous heart.

But, as it was, it was outside my reach. So I let it be, and eventually, years passed and people started talking about a sequel. And Destiny 2 would come out for PC.

I finally had my chance to figure out what all those things were. I played it, I played it for a while, for the first two months at least, through the story and up to the first raid, which was cool and all but…

It wasn’t great.
See, the main story, as it is told in Destiny 2, is bland. It’s just a big bad dude wanting to take some stuff and then we stop him. That’s it. It had little of what I thought I’d seen, all the potential seemed wasted in a world that wasn’t interested in forming a larger picture. Or so I thought.

This game's environment design is beyond incredible, throughout.

So, I put Destiny 2 down again, thinking the loot grind and the franchise just wasn’t for me. The raid was fun and all, but there was nothing else.

Curse of Osiris, the first DLC pack, came and went and no one cared. Warmind, the second came, though, and some inklings started forming. Some of the people I had played with began talking of forming a raid group again.
And I’ll not keep that any secret: The raids were the most interesting part of Destiny 2 vanilla. They’re intense, hyper-coordinated feats of gymnastics by 6 people who have to be in perfect synchronization, and it’s just a damn load of fun when it works.

The Leviathan, the first raid in Destiny 2. It's on a planet-eating ship powered by two artificial stars, governed by an usurped Emperor.

So I rejoined (not the least thanks to one of them who straight up bought me the season pass so I could play the new stuff. Thanks again Jack!!), and for a time, I played Destiny 2 as a weekly raid activity. Once a week for couple hours, then not touching it until the next one.

But there was also something else. There were quite literal whispers that some trickery was happening. A secret mission that you could only activate if you found a hidden enemy during a specific event on one planet, launched you into an underground descent in one of the most awesome areas in Destiny 2. This was the Whisper mission, and it was just a sign of what was to come.

One of my rushed screenshots of the Whisper Mission. I still want to go back there and take proper shots of the whole thing.

Enter, Forsaken.

Forsaken is widely regarded as doing was The Taken King did to 1, to 2. It, probably, singlehandedly made Destiny into something worth caring about again.

Instead of being about a rather bland threat to the Solar System like the main campaign, this was at first batch, a story about a betrayal. Uldren Sov, the Prince of one of the playable races, the Awoken, had betrayed his kind for unknown reasons, forming a new, malicious faction that seemed to want to eradicate the entire Awoken race.

The story ends (yeah, uhh, spoilers, but I’m literally spoiling history, as you’ll soon realize), with the Awoken Queen, Mara Sov, who was presumed dead after events of Destiny 1, letting the player into the Awoken capital, and stopping the actual threat that corrupted Uldren: A type of Dragon that grants wishes called an Ahamkara, a race of creatures that was killed by the Guardians (us) because they were too dangerous—yet this one was kept alive. This dragon had been corrupted by the Taken and the raid of the Forsaken was to kill her.

However, the raid was named “The Last Wish”, and that was exactly what she granted just before she died (canonically, at the very first completion of the raid, 19 hours after it was released), which set off a whole slew of events that lasted for the next several months, and some of which are still lasting to this day.

The Dreaming City, as it was when we first got there.

At first, it seemed like the wish changed nothing. But the Dreaming City (the Awoken’s capital) slowly got more and more corrupted over the course of three real-world-weeks, and that seemed to be the answer: Riven had doomed the Dreaming City. However, after the third week...

it reverted to normal.

And then it began corrupting itself over the next three weeks, to revert again in fourth. Forever, perpetually caught in a state of corrupting-but-never-corrupted, was—is—the Dreaming City, still to this day.

The Dreaming City, full corruption, 3 weeks after the raid had been completed, and every 3rd week after that.

You see, the story of Destiny unfolds in real time, so much so that the in-world time is mirroring ours: One year in real life is one year in Destiny. Forsaken actually happened a year ago. The Dreaming City has actually been looping through corruptions for a year as of September 15th.

But the question remained: Who had wished for the Last Wish? We know pretty definitely by now but for a while it was an open question. And still, now that we know who it is doesn’t mean that it is over—far from it.


Forsaken reintroduced the mystery of the world, it ended on questions, not answers, it allowed for a world in which no one had the only right idea about how to run it, and it asked of the players to understand the complex, rather than fight the simple.
Forsaken was what got me into the Lore of Destiny. I hadn’t paid it any attention beforehand, but suddenly, I was running around, picking up hidden bundles of bones and books in chests to unlock lore-books, finally available in the game.

I don't have anywhere this fits so here goes: The Exo are a race of human minds in machine bodies that must have their memory wiped occasionally because their consciousness rejects their body. In their dreams, they kill their friends.

Because here’s the thing: The lore of Destiny has not exactly been, nor still is the most digestible of objects. It is spread across the entire game in item descriptions, lore cards that are often hidden or require arcane processes to unlock, they are written in-world, often referring to events you do not know, and you read them out of chronological order so it doesn’t make much sense until you have the full picture.
And on top of that, Destiny is a living game, at shown by the above example.
If you wanted to experience the story of Forsaken, there is no one place where it can all be found. No one campaign you can just play/watch through and be served the whole plate. The Dreaming City has been cursed, you can never relive that first moment again.
It is an evolving thing, and many parts of the lore were and are learned over weeks, months, as the story slowly develops and changes. And the way it was learnt back then is something you simply cannot partake in now. The Queen’s Court, which was a tri-weekly event where we went to visit Queen Mara, is gone, she is no longer there, off planning her next moves, and no player can ever go back and experience those, outside of watching them all on YouTube.

And while that at first sounds sad, maybe even discouraging, let me present the opposing case.

Being in it while it happens it is unlike anything. It feels like you're a part of it. It feels truly special to see that the world you play in every week morph and respond and change and have every new bit of information be meaningful. It was so cool to have the Queen’s Court to look forward to every month, because it felt like anything could happen.
Yes, it means that it often takes watching YouTube summations and reading up outside of the game to get the full picture, but that also makes it feel like you are part of something greater than just your own story. 
And importantly, the lore is well written. I read the entire Marasenna (detailing the creation of the Awoken and the Queen's rise to power), and it's genuinely a good, well-written piece.
Destiny has, since Forsaken, begun to feel like a world. A world I can log into and shoot some aliens every day, and every week, I learn something new about what that means. And that’s maybe the most exciting thing I can say about it.

Destiny often questions the players' role in the story, if they are doing the right thing and with the right methods. It has referred to us as loot-hungry maniacs and god-killing heroes. Its characters are both wary of and hopeful for us.

It means that the Trickster Queen of the Hive, Savathun, who we now believe was the one who granted the titular Last Wish, has been and still is manipulating our moves and the events unfolding since Forsaken, and we still have not seen her once. And she has quite literally instilled a fear in the world that even talking about her is dangerous.

It means that characters learn and change, that the Drifter’s Gambit, otherwise just a neat PvPvE mode, gains meaning because The Drifter is (and by extension us as players) using the Darkness in ways some parts of Guardians don’t like, and for motives that weren't clear, yet we were still taking part of it.

It means that the Emperor of the Cabal, who in Destiny 2 was “just” a character who invited you onto his giant ship for some trials (the first raid, even!), who has revelled through the galaxy in excess—literally making planets into wine—now has asked us to become his most trusted assassin. What consequences that has, we do not yet know.

It means that a lorebook named “Truth to Power” that was slowly trickled to us over several months, is now believed to be so biased and corrupt we are not be able to trust any of its information, despite it holding great revelations. This is symptomatic of how Destiny almost always tells its lore from a perspective, and that perspective is always biased. We only know the history of the Hive from... the Hive.

A statue of Calus, the Cabal Emperor, buried in heaps of his own gold, deep within the belly of his ship. It should be mentioned that this is how he wants us to see him, and not how he actually looks, since... he's a robot? Maybe?

This piece is already getting too long but it’s because there’s just so much to talk about here. The lore of Destiny is bigger than I could ever describe in one piece and it’s wondrous to see unfold in front of you.

I’m so deep in now that the line “Eyes up, Guardian” can set my mind fluttering, even though I’ve never played the game in which it is uttered (Destiny 1)!
I have thought more about this one strange, cast-off line than I’ve spent thinking about entire stories: “A sword is everywhere edged, but the pieces of a bomb do not look at all like weapons until they are assembled.”
(and providing enough context for that line to make complete sense would take as much writing as I've already done)

Queen Mara on her throne, where she is no longer.

I will end with some recommendations. I could send you off to Destiny’s lore guy #1, who has covered pretty much anything there is to cover, and he has a lot of in-depth discussions all of it. I could send you to his giant complete overview video, which is fantastic and very long. If that sounds like your thing, go for it. But I know it's a lot (I also couldn't follow along with this stuff the first time) and no, you do not need to watch it.

Because my primary advice is to just go play the game. On October 1st, the base game + Year 1 DLC will be released for free. If it interests you, get Shadowkeep, the new expansion that releases at the same time, and play through that with the rest of us, and see how the story unfolds. None of know yet, and that’s what’s exciting. (You can play Shadowkeep from day 1 without having played any of the previous content). Jump in and be curious, look around at the world, ask questions. And then, together, we can seek out the answers.

Because, if you didn't know...

the moon's haunted.