Attempting to Manifest Destiny – How Poor Storytelling Drove Me Away

It’s not the story, but how you tell it.

I was late to the party for Destiny. When the first one came out I didn’t have a Playstation 4, so despite my interest in seeing what Bungie, the folks responsible for Halo, could cook up with a clean slate, I ended up replaying Dark Souls for the eighth time. As the lifespan of the game drew on, I continued hearing good things about it. But despite my eventual acquisition of the necessary hardware (thanks, Metal Gear Solid V) I never ended up taking the plunge. That is, until the sequel was about to be released.

“Wow, this looks great! I bet the story is amazing, too!” – Me, an idiot, 2014

With weeks to go until Destiny 2 dropped, I finally decided to see what all the fuss was about… And I couldn’t make head nor tail of it. The setting seemed interesting, the gameplay was satisfying, but attempting to decipher what the hell was actually going on was a nightmare. The story was told through the brave new medium of “Grimoire Cards”, essentially collectable in-game links to a specific page of the Bungie website. Guess which page got shut down when the sequel came out?

I’m sure this janitorial robot is integral to the lore.

Yeah, they technically patched out the lore of the first game. It’s now literally impossible using purely in-game resources to know what the story is. So much for ever revisiting the original game. But this isn’t a problem, right? Destiny 2 is here! We’ve got a whole new story to be told, and hey, they actually explain it in the game itself this time. I was with it from launch (my FOMO can overcome many obstacles) but I couldn’t shake the feeling that my fundamental confusion with the world I was interacting with was hampering my ability to enjoy it, so eventually I slunk back to Bloodborne with my tail between my legs.

This is self-explanatory, tbh. No Grimoire Cards needed

Jump ahead five years, and the new expansion for Destiny 2 is coming out. Due to nothing more than my own morbid curiosity (and perhaps a burning desire to actually like this series) I decided to hop back into it and see what was going on… Only to discover that a lot of content had been removed from the game. The original campaign is gone. Events from earlier expansions are locked, unplayable. Whole planets you could previously visit are now missing, and with them my desire to give this series any more of my time.

It just looks so cool though…

I simply don’t get it. I want to know what’s going on, and I want the game to give me a fair shot of figuring it out. It’s now totally impossible. How Destiny 2 gets any new players at all is utterly beyond me, no matter how good the looter shooter mechanics are. I don’t care how much content there is to catch up on, let me do it!

Compare this way of doing business to another MMO, Final Fantasy XIV. Thirteen years old(!), four years older than the original Destiny but still allows you to play every single piece of content that’s been developed for it. With thoughtful tweaking by the devs, it all still remains relevant and playable as the game itself changes and evolves. THIS is how you do it. I don’t care how long it might take, I just want to experience a cohesive story from the beginning and catch up to everyone else when I’m ready.

I know all these characters. Their names. Motivations. Dreams. Fears. Birthdays.

Well, whatever. Have fun shooting things in space, I guess. I’ll be down here reading the fan wiki page about what wizards are and why they live on the moon. I hear that’s a thing.

It’s Still Not Too Late to Play Destiny, But Maybe You Shouldn’t

Back in 2014 when Destiny was first released on the PS4 by Halo heavyweights Bungie, I was strictly a “FPS belongs on PC” guy. Murdering virtual simulacrums of sentient beings is the most fun with a mouse and keyboard, of that there is no doubt. As such, I decided to skip Destiny when I eventually got my hands on a PS4 a couple of years later. I was sure that it would eventually find its way to PC, and resolved to wait patiently with my trigger finger lodged securely in my asshole.
The PC release announcement never came, but the sequel, creatively titled Destiny 2, was released on PC. I jumped straight in on release day, but immediately felt out of place. I always have a problem starting a game series by playing a sequel, it’s like defying the natural order of the universe. I felt like an imposter just sauntering into the ranks of the Guardians like “Hoo boy, what a hectic few years, eh guys? Can you believe we totally killed that god-king spacebug? And what about the rampant, uncontrollable nanotechnology huh? Crazy times, crazy times…”

destiny guardians
Hoo boy, another day at the office, right guys? I hate Mondays.

I felt bound by my own neuroses to purchase and finish (to the best of my ability) the original game and catch up to the rest of the watchers on the tower. I wasn’t disappointed! Destiny is still a great game with a surprising number of players still knocking around on its servers. All of the main story can be played through solo anyway, but if you want to try out Strikes (Destiny’s 3-man dungeon-type scenarios) or the Crucible (PVP) the matchmaking system will usually see you right. A couple of times I was dumped into a strike on my lonesome, but I was always joined eventually by a fellow late-bloomer or a loyal veteran getting their weekly MMO style checklists done.

Hey, HEY! No. That’s a negative stereotype and I won’t stand for it.

The only problem is the content that can’t be accessed unless you have a pre-existing party, and I’m speaking specifically about the raids. Huge, six-man scenarios that rely on teamwork as well as individual skill to clear. With the majority of the organised playerbase moved on to the sequel, coupled with my crippling fear of strangers, I was incapable of finding a group to play with. Let me emphasise that many fans of Destiny explicitly point to the raids as some of the most fun you can have in the game, with puzzles, tough enemies and desirable loot rewards.

Damn, this looks badass. Sure wish I could have been there.

With this in mind, I would advise anyone thinking of trying out the original Destiny to go for it, by all means, but keep in mind that without a few like-minded friends it’ll be a bit tricky to experience everything the game had to offer at its peak. If, unlike me, you don’t mind jumping into a franchise halfway through and faking it until making it, I’d direct you towards Destiny 2, where there’s still time to find an active clan or enough random people to see everything the game has to offer. Oh, and if you’re worried about missing out on the lore from Destiny 1, don’t worry about it, there isn’t any.

To read about the story visit http://www.whythefuckwasn’

I jest, but Destiny is notoriously terrible for telling stories through the medium of video games. There’s a rich world to explore if you feel up to digging through a fan archive of the now inaccessible web-based “grimoire cards” that previously shed a small amount of light (get it) on the subject. Or if you have some time to kill, check out this video. You’ll be up to speed in no time. Or, uh, in an hour and a half.

Eyes up, Guardian. Enjoy!