Destiny 2 Gamplay Reveal: Let’s talk about the story

We’re closing in on the last few things that I have to say on the subject of Destiny 2 (for now), so bear with me?

This one’s going to be short simply because there isn’t a whole lot to talk about and I’m not expecting much story information before the beta. If the beta for Destiny is anything to go by, we should have access to at least the first five missions and the European Dead Zone. Given that the highest level that I’ve seen in the trailers is 20, it seems unlikely that Guardians in the beta will go higher than something between 5 and 10, with a lower cap probably being more likely.

But until the beta rolls around, we know a couple of fairly interesting things about the story.

For one, if the trailers are anything to go by – and that seems like a fairly risky thing – it looks like it’ll have more character moments. While Cayde got his moment in the spotlight during The Taken King (albeit via radio) this time we see him use his Golden Gun (not a euphemism) not once, but twice. Zavala had his panic bubble moment and Ikora casually tossed out a couple of Nova Bombs like it was no big deal. Whether these characters, who have spent all of nearly 3 years standing around a table, will get more moments in the spotlight remains to be seen.

I suspect that they’ll play a role in helping our Guardians reclaim their light. The fact that they’re also on separate planets suggests that they’ll play some role as key quest givers for at least a little while, until we reunite them in whatever effort we ultimately make to retake the Tower and the Last City. I’m personally hoping for the opportunity to fight alongside them as well, but I don’t know if that’ll be part of the final game.

As far as antagonists go, Gary and friends do a pretty good job of posing a respectable threat. The way they’ve been treated lends some weight to the Cabal’s reputation as military geniuses and their first appearance builds on a lot of things that have only been hinted at in the Grimoire. We know from this card, for example, that the Cabal have been watching us for some time and are actively looking for intelligence on countering Guardian abilities.

The assault on the city suggests that the Cabal found whatever they were hoping to get from the ‘Hive fleet near Saturn’ and used that information to plan their capture of the Traveller. What’s slightly less clear is the role of Dominus Ghaul Gary in all of this.

We know from this ViDoc that Gary believes Guardians unworthy of the Light and that the Cabal should have been the one to receive the Traveller’s gift. It’s an interesting story premise, one less black and white than, well, the Darkness and the Light. Unlike Oryx and his horde, the Cabal seem wholly independent of the Darkness and this might allow Bungie to flesh them out more than those of Oryx’s pals that we fought and killed. The sword logic has dominated much of the last few years so it’ll be nice to see a departure. Whether or not the change will be executed well remains to be seen.

The reason I’m more than a little sceptical is, despite the (very good) Halo vibe that the twelve-minute gameplay reveal gave me, I also remember that the story team did a heck of job hyping up the plot of Rise of Iron and the Iron Lords themselves. In the game itself, however, the Iron Lords had all of the story impact of a wet fart.

Similarly, saying ‘we have more cutscenes than we’ve ever done before’ isn’t actually a helpful yardstick because the amount of cutscenes in Destiny was never especially high to begin with. And it’s also important to note that having a cutscene isn’t quite the same as using a cutscene to meaningfully advance the story. Compare any cutscene with the Exo Stranger in vanilla Destiny to literally any cutscene in The Taken King and you’ll see that the difference is night and day.

Now let’s talk about things I do like.

First, the Halo vibe. I’m not sure how to explain it exactly, but I got a ton of Halo flashbacks as I was watching the Tower gameplay. I don’t know what caused it – there isn’t one specific thing – but I suspect it was the general sense of awe that the Cabal brought with them. The arrival of the Cabal fleet reminded me of Truth and Reconciliation, the third mission of the original Halo.

Up until that mission, the Covenant were simply groups of enemies with cool energy weapons that I could pick up after I killed them. But when I fought my way through waves of enemies just to get to the gravity lift and saw the ship for the first time, saw the Hunters for the first time, I got the sense of the scale of the Covenant. A sense of power that I didn’t quite appreciate until that moment. It was much the same with the Cabal.

When Oryx showed up, the City was fine. The Tower was fine. The Cabal show up and everything goes to hell. By nuking the tower in the opening minutes of the game, Bungie raised the stakes in a way that they’ve never really been able to do. All threats thus far have been remote, distant things. We kill them because they need killing. But with Gary? It’s personal. And that’s an incredible leap forward in storytelling for Destiny 2.

Second, the absence of the Light and the distribution of the Vanguard across the solar system. Granted, the story was probably whipped up to justify the fact that Destiny 2 needs to be a complete reset, but they’ve packaged it very nicely. There’s no real grind left in Destiny, no more mountains to climb, so I’d much rather they reset everything than simply up the level and light cap by 10 and 100 respectively.

The (temporary) removal of all subclasses – because of the loss of the Traveller – also gives Bungie a chance to introduce subclass-specific missions, Taken King style, for all of the subclasses in the game. Those little bits of story content were among my favourite in all of Destiny and I’d like to see them make a return.

Third, the reveal represented a great deal of promise. It is, in many ways, all that I hoped the original Destiny would be when I bought it. And as someone who plays videogames primarily for the stories, I hope that Bungie’s fixed the biggest disappointment of the original game. The Taken King was a dramatic improvement to all that the original game and it’s first two expansions had to offer. And if Destiny 2 takes the same big strides forward, come September I will be a very happy man indeed.

P.S. Anyone notice that the gameplay reveal seemed to start with the player’s Guardian coming out of the hangar? What’s up with that? I think we may be off-world when the attack happens, get a frantic transmission about needing all hands on deck, and then scoot back as fast as we can. What say you?

Trevor Coelho
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