When Destiny’s latest expansion Rise of Iron came out those many months ago I was excited, much like many other players of this wonderful game. Not just for the new physical content that we were getting but because of new lore. Ever since Year One when we were given the namesake weapons of the Iron Lords – Jolder’s Hammer, Gheleon’s Demise, Silimar’s Wrath etc, people have been clamouring for more story in relation to these heroic figures. But what we got was a short series of missions that basically told us that the Iron Lords died fighting a technological virus. That was it. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why Bungie made the story short. But this highlights one of the key problems with Destiny, and that is rushed storytelling with a lack of links between the elements in this created universe.
Links Make The Story Tighter
Now I will be the first the admit that the story of Destiny has gotten better over the years, particularly with the launch of The Taken King, but the lack of links between expansions and indeed within them, fragments the story and at times makes it seem as if there is no true objective other than ‘fight’. During the Vanilla Destiny campaign we were required to complete a mission wherein we destroyed a Shrine to Oryx, but at that time no one knew who or what Oryx was so why were we destroying it? Fast forward to The Taken King and the obscure dialogue from Ghost at the end of the mission (“It was communing with something, their God or King”) finally made sense. It was a link that brought the new story in with the old and that served to bind the universe together slightly (and being the lore lover that I am, I was so excited).
This is what needs to be done throughout the Destiny storylines because as we have it, there are a lot of stories that need to be told or connected or not be glossed over. Returning to Dishonored, as Corvo you skulk about through the ruined and plague infested city of Dunwall stealthily attempting to get your life back. But as you discover the hidden places and the abandoned apartments, you can find plaques and letters, books and scrawled writings on the wall. These little tidbits tie the missions to the universe, and the universe to the objectives all over again. They are not necessary to progress through the game as the mission summaries at the start provide plenty of information but they create the links that make the missions deeper and create a sense of urgency and danger.
That is what is lacking in Destiny, the links that tie the story together and so create a reasoning behind it. Something that is more than a simply one-dimensional objective that doesn’t seem to carry on with significance. We are killing and fighting to protect the Traveler and fight the Darkness for sure, and training hard in the Crucible and have all these mythical figures on our lips. Names such as Osiris, Saint-14, Rezyl Azzir, Ana Bray float around within this great universe and many more legends and stories besides, but we never truly learn what has happened to them. Maybe it is an intentional way to cultivate mystique or maybe there are just a lack of consistent links within this, at times, convoluted storyline.
Small Details Can Hold Big Stories
A common expression heard all around the world is, “the devil’s in the details. This means that hidden meaning or even common knowledge about the world you inhabit is found in the smaller items and elements of that same world. A scrap of paper lying around, a notch in the wall, some hidden symbols – these all can boost how immersive a created universe is. Destiny seems to focus a lot on the big stuff, big enemies to shoot, big threats to fight and big guns to find. But sometimes this game that we love misses some of the finer details that could serve to deepen the universe. Maybe adding some sort of scrawled script in the Reef showcasing the crimes of the inhabitants of the Prison of Elders or scrawled notation in Hive infested places relating to their assorted gods or even Toland. These tiny, minuscule details have a big ripple effect within the world.
Not only does it create new links but it deepens the game and it makes it feel as if it is more tangible and real as opposed to a blind shooter-type game. At the same time as adding depth and personality it can also provide helpful clues and secrets that are for us to figure out as opposed to straight up being told by Ghost. Skyrim does this amazingly well, having a massive universe and throwing enough clues and discoverable secrets within it to make the assorted Dragonborn feel like they are part of that strife-ridden world. Puzzles to solve in the form of turnable combination pillars and gemstone claws as well as how to become part of the Dark Brotherhood are rife in Skyrim. Solving them provides a sense of accomplishment and serves to immerse players into the game further.
In a nutshell, the smaller details can have the biggest effects.
Endgame Doesn’t Just Have To Be A Grind
As I have mentioned before, the Rise of Iron campaign was purported to be of a smaller scale so that players could enter the end game content at a quicker rate. But, and here is a radical thought, what if the end game content itself serves to link to the main campaign? While the Raids of each expansion are fun little activities and have their own history and lore, it is split off, for the most part, from the rest of the game, besides the most cursory links. Let us take the Raid from Rise of Iron, titled the Wrath of the Machine. It is quite fun and the mechanics are quite interesting, but besides from having the objective of stopping the Fallen from utilising SIVA, we do not get any additional information that links the Raid bosses to the SIVA itself and the Devil Splicer hierarchy.
Sure the Grimoire provides us with a small bit of information on each particular boss but a lot of questions are left unanswered. How did Aksis (for example) become the highest level SIVA/Fallen entity in the Cosmodrome? Can any Fallen become ‘Perfected’ or is it only tied to the higher Fallen? Maybe it is just my desire to know more, but the Raid itself seems disjointed and cut off from the rest of the game. For all the flaws of the Dark Below and the Taken King, the Raid was decidedly connected to the campaign. We needed to finish off the Hive Gods in their throne worlds before they came back to the normal realm
Lore Is Hard To Find…And Hard To Access
The previous paragraphs have led me to my final point. A big part of the problem with the Destiny universe that is not huge in the other assorted games I have mentioned, is the fact that the lore and history of the game world is only accessible through our world. You are required to utilise the Bungie website in order to access the knowledge and lore you have accumulated. This undoubtedly breaks up the integration and immersion of the amazing Destiny universe. The lore discoverable within the hidden Grimoire Cards is unique and quite interesting and with some digging, links can be found between the cards and events that occur.
The fact is without some unique terminal (even out in the game world – perhaps the Ishtar Collective Facility) that we can find and access all the interesting discoverable material, the game will feel a little disjointed. This of course will flow back to the need for links. Delving into a mission where they mention the Exo Stranger, you can go back and find information on that same entity. Like a database of all accumulated knowledge. In Skyrim you can collate and collect books on phenomenon from around Tamriel, and you can read them at your leisure or if you need to know more about a location or an ally/enemy. In Dishonored the books and journal articles discovered were automatically added to a journal to be reviewed whenever you or Corvo pleased.
The lore within a game is part of the game world and should not be excluded from the game itself.
Destiny is an amazing game and the universe is so rife with interesting unique topics and entities that need to be explored. Lines need to be drawn to give players even a little info. I love this game and will most likely love it forever but the story is, at many times lacking, only helped by the online Grimoire Cards. The story of Destiny is getting better but it is not quite there yet.