I’ve rattled on over the last few days at some of the things I have been disappointed thus far in the Destiny Demo experience, or at least airing some of my concerns and misgivings. I thought I should probably spend some time this morning talking about one of the things that they are doing amazingly well with the launch of Destiny 2. One of the core reasons that most of my friends bounced off of this game… was the lack of story. Don’t get me wrong… there is plenty of story to be had… they just lay it out in a way that is largely nonsensical. Only by hoarding weapon and armor descriptions… hundreds of grimoire cards… and then cross referencing those against missions in the game and random nonsense that is in the background of the level design… do you actually get the true picture of what is going on. Please note… that I didn’t actually do this on my own but at some point I stumbled across the Myelin games channel and drank deeply of the font of lore theory. If you want the story in a much more digestible form then I refer you again to the amazing Lore Primer video that MyNameIsByf created where he attempts to lay everything that we know for certain out in a linear timeline… that happens to be an hour and a half in run time. Prior to launch they claimed the game would have a story line rivaling that of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter or Star Wars… and we all balked. In truth however it does in fact have this story woven through the fabric of the game… but makes every possible attempt to disguise it from us and make it harder to figure out than is humanly reasonable.
This time around however they swore they had changed, and when we got our hands on the PS4 demo… as I have said before there is literally more story in the Homecoming mission than there was in the original game sequence leading up to the Black Garden. I am not trying to be hyperbolic here… but in truth there is way more character exposition than exists in any form in Vanilla Destiny. We were introduced to a cast of characters… like The Traveler, The Speaker, The Stranger… and a handful of characters that I could tell we were supposed to care about that served as our class leads…. but never actually did much in the way of leading. We also had a nonsensical enemy in the form of “The Darkness” which sorta felt as stupid as attempting to go to war against “Terrorism”. We lacked anything resembling a big bad Villain that we the players were focused on… and when we did get raids… we had no emotional payoff in taking down Aetheon or Crota… because they were just another name in a long line of names that meant nothing to us. One of the best experiences I have ever had was when I finally took down Arthas… the Lich King for the first time… because I had an entire expansion focused on combating the forces of the scourge and playing cat and mouse with him across a continent. When it finally resolved and we got to see that cut scene for the very first time… there were literal tears of joy in my eyes. With the Taken King we got a better shot at a big baddie… but even then we didn’t really have enough time to learn to hate him the way we should have. The emotional payback element was largely missing because he zoned into our solar system… blew up a bunch of Awoken… and then wrecked a ship that wasn’t even ours. We had a dozen or so missions to get into her head, and by the time we took out Oryx… it was cool and definitely felt epic but was still lacking any resounding payback theme.
The core problem there… is the Taken King content and our supposed “war” with Oryx happened disconnected from anything that we actually cared about as players. The Tower… our home for the last three years remained largely unscathed… as did the Reef other than a few NPCs swapping places. There was no sense of loss to fuel our desire for revenge, and while it is a freaking amazing expansion and a leap forward in storytelling… but still not quite there. With Destiny 2 there are so many things changing… and in truth they needed to. There will be players that lament the loss of their shiny vault full of weapons… and I won’t like there are a lot of things I will be sad to say goodbye to. However what we are getting is a tangible reason for fighting and that means so much more than any given piece of loot could… and the folks that know me really well will be shocked to hear me say that. The history of the city is built on the backs of major flash points that we can only really find out about in legend… or in the name of locations. Growing up I heard about all of the things that my Grandfathers went through with World War II… how one Grandfather stormed the beach at Normandy… got shot up by a gunner and just happened to fall into a trench with a medic that could patch his punctured lung. That was his story though… and not mine… much in the same way that the tales about the fabled Guardians of the past are just legends and didn’t really factor much into my day to day game play. In Destiny 2 we start the game by living through the fall of the Tower and the loss of our Light as a source of power… as well as the potential loss of our constant companion the Ghost. We have reason and motive to want to take back what was ours from this Chubby Darth Malgus. I am so ready to hit the ground and start taking down Cabal as I at the same time attempt to fortify and rebuild our new home… the Farm.
Another thing that the Taken King did better was start to give our class leads a personality. Cayde-6 went from being a random Exo Hunter in the tower… to Robotic Mal from Firefly. Zavala went from being that dude that sold me crappy Titan gear… to being the Stalwart defender of the tower and the “worrier in chief” about everything. Ikora Rey went from being someone I never actually talked to… because the Warlock jump is horrible… to being this sassy arcane dynamo. The Homecoming mission took all of these elements and built on it, and they have been carrying this mission forward in the form of a flood of videos about Destiny 2. I’ve been linking them in and out of the paragraphs of text, and they do this amazing job of packaging up the elements of the world that you might want to care about and delivering them to you on a silver platter. Yesterday the live action video shipped and it is truly amazing… and I said this before but there is no song better for a “getting shit done” montage than Sabotage by the Beastie Boys. Leading up to this however there have been five character vignettes… one for each of the class leads: Cayde-6, Zavala, and Ikora Rey… as well as one for Hawthorne the person who is going to be helping us a lot at our new home on The Farm… as well as one for Ghaul our new bad guy focus. They’ve done more in the months leading up to the release of this sequel to set the stage and give us a reason to care about it… than they did in the entirety of three years of the original. For me… its like getting to share this gift with all of my friends because I was the only one mental enough to actually go digging into the lore. For the last few years my friends have had to listen to me rattle on about this or that from Destiny without actually knowing any of the context. Here is a giant fucking context sandwich… and it gives me a lot of hope for the future. I think Bungie gets it… and they understand that you cannot just throw a train of breadcrumbs in your game and call it good. They started in the middle of an established story… but never gave us enough bearings to be able to really find our way clear of caring about what was going on. I’ve said before that the central focus of Destiny is shooting space monsters with space guns… and I still stand by that. If you are really not into that premise then no amount of story is really going to make you want to stay. However… it does give you some reasons for why you might want to shoot those space monsters… and understand where exactly your space guns game from.