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Des2ny is Canon (Story Spoilers) (Destiny)

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Sunday, September 10, 2017, 09:14 (2446 days ago)
edited by Cody Miller, Sunday, September 10, 2017, 09:19

Did you miss me? Thank Beorn for giving me my first ever ban from a bungie.org forum.

Let’s talk about the story. At the end of the day when the credits rolled, I thought to myself “wow, what a journey!”. Contrast this with “Wait… that’s it? Seriously?” after finishing Destiny. I think Bungie is off my narrative shit list! Des2ny is canon! I am very glad they put the effort in.

This doesn’t mean that it was perfect. In fact, there were a lot of problems with the story. Many minor ones, but actually some very major ones that undermined the drama, and made confusing the established rules of the universe. I was actually very worried for a while. But, at the end of the day it worked. This is what happens when you connect, and make a game that's actually about something!

Consider this my opinion on the story.

Connecting Tissue

The first thing I noticed, was that Des2ny lacked a great deal of connections between the events in the story. Many are either not shown, or not explained.

For instance, how did we survive the fall after the first story mission? We are without light. Weak. And I’ve seen what happens when people hit the ground at terminal velocity. That makes you not alive. After playing the Beta, my guess was that Amanda would dive her ship down to save you and you’d grab on. She’d try to drop you off, but she’d be shot down and crash, throwing you off. Instead… we don’t really see what happens. Our guardian stands up from a crater. This kind of undermines the drama does it not? If we can survive a fall like that, without our light, then what can actually kill our character? I was confused as to how this happened.

Zavala says that he needs his fireteam. After the cutscene ends, a message pops up that tells us Nessus is a new available destination. Out of the blue! How would my guardian, or anyone for that matter know that’s where Cayde went? How did they find out this information? You need more of a reason than “it’s time to go to Nessus”. There’s no connection presented, and so it feels like you are just going from destination to destination without a reason. That’s not good for storytelling.

Cayde is on Nessus to get a Vex teleporter. Why did he want that? He doesn’t know he’s going to need to use it in the fashion he does later in the story. Again, the reason for him running off can’t just be “so he has the teleporter for us to use later in the city”. It needs to make sense to us and the character.

On Io, we do something with a Warmind… which has no connection to anything. Maybe I just don’t remember, but how did anything we did on Io lead to Ikora coming back? Again, we lack the narrative / logical / emotional connections here.

Things in your stories don’t happen just because. They happen for a reason. A reason which makes sense to the characters. Not because you need to start the third act. Not because you need to get your characters somewhere else. But because the decisions your characters make lead them down the path. Good stories do not feel arbitrary in what happens. It should all feel natural and flow from the characters and their interactions and conflicts.

Fortunately, things picked up near the end. But more care needs to be taken with this stuff. It’s pretty basic and easy to identify with the famous South Park “therefore / but” storytelling. The gist is that you should be able to connect your narrative points with ‘therefore’ or ‘but’. If you find yourself using ‘and’ then you are in trouble. This happens, therefore that happens. Not, this happens, and then this happens. Too much of the early part of Des2ny’s story was the latter.

Plot Holes

Plot holes are things which basically stop the narrative as presented in its tracks, or otherwise just unravel the logic or render the drama inert. Des2ny has three!

First: We get our light back from a shard of the Traveler. There is no indication that it is a one time thing. In fact, we go back twice more to unlock our other subclasses. So, when Zavala is all sad his light is gone, why did our Guardian not just say “Uh, hey. If you go to this shard of the traveler you can get your light back.” Seriously. I mean, worth a shot right? Nothing as presented indicates that this is not an option or otherwise something not worth trying. I’m sorry, but that’s literally the first thing that would happen. Your guardian would either tell them to go check out the shard, or other guardians would ask you how you got your light back and try it for themselves. An easy fix would have been to have the shard fizzle out, or otherwise indicate that there wasn’t any light left after you got yours back. But Bungie didn’t do that. Really dumb mistake!

Second: Can the light be taken or not? The speaker tells Gaul that the light can’t be taken; it can only be given. Then, in a mission on Io we check out an experiment which was trying to extract light and give it to other lifeforms. At the end of the mission we are told the experiment failed and that won’t work. Okay, so the game is telling us Gaul can’t take the light. But does this not completely nullify Gaul’s storyline? The traveler sure as shit isn’t going to give Gaul its light… so he’s failed before he’s even begun. But oops, I guess he can take it after all, as that’s what he does for the finale. So why on Earth would Bungie be setting up the rules of light such that they completely remove any drama or worry with regards to Gaul, and then go and just break that rule? Worse, it just makes all the scenes with the speaker pure wheel spinning where no plot propulsion is happening. We learn about him and his past, which is good, but no actions actually materialize from this that matter within the overall narrative.

Third: Related to the second. Where is the threat of Gaul’s ship blowing up the sun? If he blew up the sun, it would destroy Earth and the Traveler, and he’d never get what he came for. So as long as Gaul doesn’t have the Traveler’s light, we know 100% that the Earth is safe. But it’s played up to be this threat that actually isn’t a threat. When we go to the ship, it’s in the process of harvesting Mercury. Who cares about Mercury? Nobody. We care about the Sun and the Earth. And so I wondered why I was going to blow this thing up when it wasn’t the most immediate threat. To do this right dramatically, the order needed to be this:

Assault to take back the city.
Gaul takes the light, and hands everyone their asses.
Now Gaul has what he came for and starts to blow up the sun.
Now you steal the ship and stop that from happening.
Then you face him in the final showdown.

See how much more sense that makes? How it’s more dramatic and meaningful? As presented in game, it’s:

Blow up the ship, which is not a threat at all at this point in time.
Assault to take back the city.
Gault takes the light.
Final Showdown.

There is so much more drama and catharsis if you order the events correctly as I did.

Tell, don’t show.

Speaking of the Starkiller ship, its presentation is out of the blue. I think we pull up some data to discover it right? But we get our information from a cutscene that’s completely out of context. We are TOLD all about the ship, but it’s ineffective because it’s not presented in a dramatic way. Remember the Death Star? We see it blow up Alderan. That’s why when it’s orbiting Yavin to take out the rebel base, we’re like “Oh shit!”. Somewhere in the narrative, our character needs to encounter this ship or otherwise witness firsthand its destruction for it to feel like a real threat. We should see how powerful is, then through the story uncover Gaul’s plan to blow up the sun. This is kinda basic stuff. Don’t just tell us shit, but have us live it. See it. Experience it.

Setups an non-payoffs

Ikora wonders about being mortal. About whether she could actually fight and risk her life knowing it’s the last one left. An interesting moment for her character, and something she’d definitely be wresting with. The speaker then talks about how bravery means death through sacrifice. Okay. Bungie is setting it up so Ikora finds her bravery, and sacrifices herself to aid the player in the last stand against Gaul. A nice satisfying character arc right? She could even come back to life when the Traveler reawakens and sends out its light. That way you could have your cake and eat it too, without breaking any established rules of the narrative universe. But… that didn’t happen. Nothing becomes of the setup, and it ends up being all talk. If you are going to bring up these themes, and you really want to hammer them home then you have these themes resonate in the characters and be part of arcs. Like, this is the kind of thing that makes stories GREAT rather than just good. Bungie could have even gone farther and have Cayde learn to be a team player or something. Again, the setup was all there, but it was wasted!

Who cares about the speaker?

After being so concerned in the opening mission, Ikora seems to forget about the speaker, as does everybody else. No rescue mission? Just have every character show no interest at all in him? Well, okay then.

A scary enemy

Gaul and the red legion are the main antagonists in the game right? So why does it feel like we never are dealing with them in the middle of the story? After the city falls, we fight the fallen… on Titan its the Hive. Then the Vex on Nessus. It’s like, we are getting side tracked. They don’t really reappear until the very end of the game. The red legion felt like a distant threat rather than a formidable foe. When we get our light back, and Gaul hears about it, he should be on a mission to fuck us up personally. Throw everything he has at us, and make us feel like we are clawing and scraping our way to victory. Because, who cares what the Fallen or the Vex or the Hive are up to while the story is unfolding? Leave that shit for the post-story missions. Give us a focus and make Gaul trying to hunt our ass down. Don’t just have him hang out the whole time with the speaker and not try to hinder us. If so, then when we win, it’s sweeter! It doesn’t ever feel like they are chasing us or a threat in the middle of the game. They do attack Io, but it’s not clear why and for what. Something about the cage? Again, connective tissue.

And the Taken… they seriously don’t need to be in main story at all.

It’s fine to involve the other races tangentially, but not at the expense of your main villains.

Choked

Why does Gaul choke his mentor, only to then turn around and do exactly what his mentor wanted? Stupid.

We built this city

In a perfect world, we’d be in the city while the assault happens so we have a nice before and after. That way when we revisit the city it would be even better. When we get up after falling, we are in this tiny area of the city. I get what Bungie was going for, but would it not have been better to put us farther away, or in a place inside the city (on a hilltop or something) where we could see the destruction on a large scale? Putting us in a tiny corner where we can’t see anything… I don’t know, it didn’t work so well.

AI Characters

I’m putting this here, because I think it’s more story related. Imagine Halo without the marines. ODST without the crew of ODSTs. Wouldn’t be as good right? But Destiny and Des2ny have zero friendly AI characters. Seriously. Des2ny shows you the three Vanguard leaders in little scripted moments, but they and nobody else actually fight along side you through the course of the game. I understand that other players’ guardians are supposed to fill in the world, but as the quality of the narrative increases, the lack of AI allies starts to hurt the story.

Imagine how much cooler it would be, if civilians are taking up arms and fighting off the cabal with you in the opening mission. Or Cayde being by your side while looking for the Vex tech, able to quip or just talk to you. It’s what gives the Naughty Dog games such life, and there were so many opportunities here that would have been wonderful.

Prerendered cutscenes.

It’s really obvious when we switch to prerendered scenes, and not only is the quality yet again bad in terms of compression, but it limits us where we have to hide our guardian. As far as the quality goes, the game install was 13 GB. So there is literally half the disc left. Give me a 30 Mbps Bluray encode on my disc. Give the people who downloaded the game the shitty versions of the cutscenes. But the real reason this is a bad decision is your guardian being absent from them. The facial animations and stuff in the in engine cutscenes look pretty good, so why isn’t everything in engine?

It’s also just ridiculous that our guardian never speaks. Come. On.

Des2ny makes Halo 5's story look like Battlefield Earth, even with the above problems.

So despite all this, the story was a monumental improvement over Destiny. I was satisfied after finishing the game, and looking forward to more. Still, it was very flawed, and I’d love to see Bungie make the step to ‘great’ with the next game, or DLC. The improvement is much enjoyed, and des2ny.isnotcanon.net will be forever a blank domain.


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