“Jaren stared down the nine guns trained on him. One by one, they lowered their aim. And the rest of my life began — where, in a few short years, so many others would be ended.”- Ghost Fragment: The Dark Age 2
“Arask sat in the heart of his Ketch, lit only by a weak amber glow of his viewscreen. He frowned as he charted another trip through the Themis Cluster with a quarter-load of Phaseglass. The job would barely pull enough to cover the voyage, and Ether reserves were dangerously low.”- I Thaw, Between Solar Stars
So I got back into Destiny 2 about two weeks ago. I’ve probably put 40ish hours into it since then. I’m hooked, and a lot of that is due to the obvious reasons: the gameplay, the visual design, the wonderful feedback loop the game puts players on, and the community of friends who play it with me. But I think the biggest reason that I’m fully back into it is the lore, and how stories are delivered to the player in Destiny 2.
Most modern AAA games deliver their narrative to the player as if the player is the stupidest person to ever walk the face of the earth, and let's face it, a lot of gamers are idiots. But it is always special when a game (or any form of media) deliberately doesn’t hold the players' hand in regards to storytelling and worldbuilding. FromSoftware games are known for this. But besides their work, it is rare to see this approach in the AAA space, let alone in a first-person shooter like Destiny 2. The game builds its storytelling and world less on defined narratives and more on mystery, hearsay, and folklore. There is an oratory sense to the narrative that is pretty unique when it comes to games. Everything is ancient. Lies might not be lies. And truth is rarely ever concrete.
The best stories Destiny 2 presents to players are not found in key quests or in direct cutscenes, they’re found in the margins—in weapon descriptions, in the vast lore codex, and in seasonal and weekly challenges. Yes, the core narratives at play in each expansion are often very compelling and do a lot to push the Destiny universe forward, but it is the story fragments and one-sentence narratives spread across the margins that have so endeared me to the game and its world. This is partially due to the fact that these stories are never just handed to the player. We have to deliberately seek them out in menus, random conversations, and item/weapon descriptions. And even then, the stories are never fully formed. We often have to piece them together over time or through conversations with fellow Guardians. In that way, the world of Destiny feels more natural and less made than other games, even ones that take place in a facsimile of reality. Destiny 2 is a game about space wizards but its world feels more honest, grounded, and real than any Grand Theft Auto game could ever be. That is due to the fact that Bungie has made the world of Destiny feel less like it happens in unison with the player, but rather that the world is always in a state of happening, regardless of player input. This is aided by the live-game nature of Destiny 2, and this helps the narrative feel more lived in and real because it is always happening, always progressing. Leave the game for a few months and come back and you might not recognize it. Or maybe you will. That all depends on what happens to the game world in that time—a new expansion that fundamentally changes a lot of things could come out, or a new season could start. Changes big or small could happen. And that makes the world feel as if it is always in a state of flux, of progression—much like reality. But the unreality of Destiny is what makes the world and stories therein so special, it just so happens that it is benefited by a realistic approach to world creation and narrative.
Destiny 2 has a lot of proper nouns. Names, weapons, planets, currencies, and just about everything else under the sun are given an (incredible) proper noun title. These names are stories unto themselves, hints to a deeper story at play, or puzzle pieces to stories that are still in motion. These proper nouns have rich, vast histories. A lot of them are never explained or unpacked for the player. Some are, but most aren’t. We’re asked to take them as they are at face value, and so we do. In some ways, I find it a disservice to try and unpack them, to link them to other stories in the game. I go out of my to avoid theories and wiki threads online about Destiny 2. It asks us to just exist in the mystery of it all, so why ruin that with answers, with conclusions? Destiny is an unfinished sentence that feels as if it is always being added to. Why add a period to that sentence? Why close it off? Modern media and those who intake it always beg for answers, for conclusions. And that is why 99% of blockbuster media is incredibly boring, devoid of nuance, and devoid of unanswered questions. Sometimes it is more fun not to know. We can never know everything about this world and our place in it, so why should we seek to have all of this spelled out for us in fictional worlds? It is more compelling to exist in the unknown, and I do just that in Destiny 2. I love it for letting me, no, compelling me, to do so.