First off I need to start this mornings blog post with a spoiler warning. If you have not played through the first mission in the Destiny 2 Forsaken expansion, then there are going to be spoilers included. Granted probably nothing more than was already spoiled with the Forsaken trailer, but I just felt like I needed to throw that out there. This weekend I spent some time playing Destiny 2 and while working on the Heroic Story mission queue I noticed one of the missions was “Prison Break” the first mission in the Forsaken storyline, and something I had not played through in awhile. I remembered really liking it a lot and opted to go replay it for powerful gear credit.
It was around this point that I realized the core problem with Destiny 2 and its story. It functionally operates in two modes… pretending that you never played Destiny 1 and re-educating you in all of the basics of the universe, or assuming completely that you were a Destiny 1 lore hound and giving you a big ole deep dive with little room between the two. The “Prison Break” episode plays out completely differently for players who were new to Destiny with the PC release and players who were veterans of the original game on the consoles. This disconnect begins from the very moment that you are treated to a cinematic between Uldren Sov and Cayde-6. This really hit me at the moment of the above screenshot… the “How’s your sister?” line either is extremely powerful or makes no fucking sense depending on your perspective.
“Prison Break” is a mission that almost exclusively references things that happened in Destiny 1… and worse things that were never introduced up to this point in Destiny 2. Sure if you went around scanning everything your ghost indicates you can scan you might have gotten snippets of information here or there but if you base things entirely upon what you see in the normal flow of Destiny 2 there are a bunch of problems.
- The player has no clue who Uldren Sov is – we last saw him in the introduction to Taken King expansion for Destiny 1
- The player has no clue who Mara Sov is… because again we last saw her in the introduction video to Taken King in the big Oryx space battle
- The player really has no clue what the Reef is
- The player has no clue that the Awoken were working with the Fallen and have no clue who Variks was/is
- The player has no clue what exactly the Prison of Elders is
- The player has no clue who Petra Venj is and why we already seemingly know her
These are all things that make this mission extremely confusing if you view it through the lens of a “brand new to Destiny 2” player. For veterans however this mission is a big romp as you roam through this place that you only managed to see a piece of before when doing trials for Variks. This is a destination I think that we all wanted to see more of and I was completely staggered by the sheer scope of the place when I first played the mission. For those who are not already familiar with it… it is just another busted ass location that is being blown up for some reason and that is largely hand waved away. There is no time spent on explaining what it is other than a Prison, and no time spent explaining who Petra Venj is other than someone who can apparently levitate her knife.
This is the core challenge of this expansion and why I think it had such split reactions. For me it was an amazing romp through places I had been and quite honestly miss greatly from Destiny 1, and for others… it is just another string of locations that were never really explained. The game does a really bad job of telling a cohesive narrative that does not require you to have watched every single Byf or Myelin lore video to understand. I was one of those players that gobbled up every little bit of lore about the first game… and as a result I sounded like a madman half of the time when I talked about it trying to defend it to the rest of the AggroChat crew as being this deep masterpiece. The game doesn’t just let players know these things, but instead requires them to jump through a whole bunch of hoops to be able to interact with the content. The Book of Sorrows is really interesting science fiction horror reading… that thankfully has been collected into an easy to read PDF or EPUB format… but to get it initially you had to roam around the Dreadnaught in Destiny 1 collecting over 40 Calcified Fragments.
The problem with this style of storytelling is it sets up a dichotomy of players. You have players like me who are willing to track down the story and chase it across various in game assets and other websites that help to summarize and condense the content into easily understandable chunks. You also have what I feel is the majority of players who just straight up bounce off of the story when it never quite pays off on the deep secrets they have heard people talking about through its storyline. If you were a lore hound, you immediately understood who the frozen hive were and why it was super exciting to see them. You also understood a lot of things about Rasputin and at the very least knew who Ana Bray was enough to be interested in meeting her. You also knew all sorts of things about Cayde-6 and his background and how someone becomes an Exo, and why Clovis Bray is the home of some really dangerous technologies.
As a new player… which is especially true for the PC crowd given that there was no option of playing Destiny 1 on that platform, you are simply treated to a list of names that have no real meaning. These are proper names which is at least an upgrade from Destiny 1 which treated you to “the traveler”, “the speaker”, “the exo stranger”, and “the darkness” among others. The names themselves however don’t have meaning attached to them if you didn’t dig for said meaning. Sure for the right kind of player this sets up a delectable puzzle that they are going to go digging for to find the answers, but you can’t expect EVERY player to want to do the leg work required to make any sense of it all. In the end I will defend the story that is being told as ground breaking, because the sum of all parts is amazing… but the game does no favors in actually helping players find it. It took me a long time to really see this point of view, but replaying through “Prison Break” was a bit of a wake up call to them simply not explaining why we should be caring about anything in this game.