Ask Destiny players what the game is about, and the answer will vary wildly, but most will tell you something along the lines of “getting loot, killing things.” However, over the past years worth of seasons, Bungie has provided players with more opportunities to get more of the loot they want while killing enemies at a faster pace. However, the fanbase is arguably at as down a place as it has been since the Curse of Osiris expansion launched in 2018. So if Bungie is giving players what they say they want, why aren’t the players thrilled with it? The answer is a lack of narrative momentum and conclusion.
Step Into the Sundial
When Destiny launched, in 2014 it was a game with problems and a lot of them. The story was a tangled mess, but it was a mess that culminated in the Vault of Glass raid. The Vex were the original main enemies in the Destiny campaign, though the other races were introduced. It was the Vex and their pursuit of the Black Garden that led to them being the perfect choice for the first raid. The Vault of Glass is very fondly remembered by many Destiny players, myself included, though I didn’t come to Destiny until two years into the game’s life cycle. The Vault of Glass was a final huge test to fight against the Vex who served as the principal antagonist in the game’s campaign.
Flash forward to the end of 2014 and the Dark Below is launched which tells a story of the Hive’s attempt to retake the Moon and awaken the Hive god Crota. The raid that followed a month later, Crota’s End, provided a conclusion to that DLC. A year later when Oryx, came seeking revenge for his son, Crota’s death, it was indicative of consequences of the Guardian’s actions in the Destiny world. The King’s Fall raid in many ways was the bow on top of the first year’s worth of storytelling with a monstrous foe that was worthy of the raid experience.
During the original Destiny, the narrative team at Bungie closed the threads that the opened. Destiny told complete stories that were satisfying and made the raids feel impactful. I didn’t run King’s Fall every weekend for months on end because it gave me great loot, I did it because it was awe-inspiring every time. Killing Oryx felt meaningful because of the story that led up to it.
The Opening of the Loops
Destiny 2 has a serious problem with closing narrative loops. In the run up to Shadowkeep, I did primers on the state of the Awoken, Vex, Cabal, Hive, and Fallen. In each of them, I looked for questions concerning each of the races that had yet to be answered. Things like where are Mara and Uldren Sov? What is Wish 15? Why haven’t we seen Calus? Where haven’t Quria, Blade Transform and Savathûn done anything with the Dreaming City? There are a lot more. I haven’t even mentioned the Nine. The point being that Bungie has opened many many doors, and closed very very few of them.
When Destiny 2 launched, it came with it the Leviathan raid. This was the culminating event of the Cabal storyline in the tradition of raids before it. The raid ended in a fairly dramatic twist reveal that still hasn’t been touched on in the years afterwards. Since then, the mini-raid lairs have consisted of fighting a Vex Hydra on the Leviathan, fighting Cabal not related to Calus on the Leviathan, and Hive on the Leviathan. None of these are as a result of any campaign build up, but merely as stand alone events. These raid lairs are joined by full scale stand alone raids, Scourge of the Past, and now Garden of Salvation. In fact, since the launch of Leviathan only The Last Wish stands as a culminating narrative event. It successfully capped off the Forsaken expansion in a meaningful way.
Bungie has had opportunities to close doors. Garden of Salvation could have easily culminated in fighting Quria, Blade Transform in the Dreaming City. Crown of Sorrow could have ended with the Guardian actually meeting Calus and being recruited to be his Shadow. Scourge of the Past had the chance to show life in the Last City, but instead sequestered players in ruins.
Seasons Come and Seasons Go
Since the launch of Shadowkeep, the seasons have meandered as well. The Shadowkeep expansion finally showcased the arrival of the Darkness to the solar system. Kind of. A single ship and a two minute long mission with no conclusion does not a good narrative make. Since then, the narrative has pivoted to a Vex invasion, a time travel story, and now a new Cabal threat. Season of the Dawn brought with it the return of Saint XIV. The narrative moment of seeing Saint with his bubble shield out and you rescuing him from certain death was certainly the best part of that season. However, it just opened another loop. Destiny is flirting with consequences.
Our actions stopping the Cabal from rewriting the Red War with the Sundial have led them to throwing The Almighty at the Last City. Yet is Rasputin actually going to close the thread of the warship by destroying it completely? Can Bungie let go of a toy they have created? There is no reason this season should end without Calus making an appearance; yet Bungie has given no indication that they are willing to let narratives come to their conclusion in the Destiny 2 era. The tragedy is that without these epic moments of conclusion we are left with meaningless final bosses like The Sanctified Mind, when we could have triumphs over Oryx. Give us conclusions that we can cheer for, not one more run through a wave based activity.
Loot without heart and soul behind it is just checking boxes. Players invest themselves in this world. They love the aesthetic and the stories behind the weapons. Players have stuck with Destiny through thick and thin. I would love to see a little more narrative thickness in the coming months.