It's your density--I mean, destiny
There are so many things we love about Destiny, but sadly, the story isn't one of them. In between shooting and looting through the solar system, a floating shape with the voice of Tyrion Lannister speaks an encyclopedia's worth of names and places at you. And while that's fun for a while, without context, none of it makes a lick of sense. Who the heck is the Fallen? Why are they hanging out in a Russian ruin? Why are we hacking this computer? Why is anything anything?
The worst part of all of this is that there's actually a ton of great lore here--the game just doesn't explain any of it to you. Instead, Destiny relegates much of its story to Grimoire cards found exclusively (for seemingly no reason) on developer Bungie's website. Luckily, I've pored over many of them in an attempt to make some sense out of Destiny's crazy plot full of made-up sci-fi lingo. Here are some of the basics.
The Traveler basically started all of this
Hundreds of years in our future, humanity makes its first manned voyage to Mars. While we were busy gathering Martian rocks and hopping around in space suits, we stumbled on this giant sphere thing, known as The Traveler. We don't know where it came from, or how it works, but it ushered in a Golden Age of humanity.
What does that mean? Well, how does living to be 300 years old and terraforming the inner solar system sound? Unfortunately, as these things go, the Golden Age didn't last, and a blight known as "The Darkness" (no, not the British hair metal band) showed up to put our upstart race in its place. Lucky for us, The Traveler sacrificed itself to keep us safe, and now this big, dead orb thingie hovers over the last bastion of humankind.
Ghosts protect the Guardians and can hack the planet
It's lucky that your Ghost found you when it did; otherwise you'd still be dead right now. As it died, The Traveler created countless tiny floating robots to seek out Guardians--those who wield "The Light" against "The Darkness" (hooray for vague and nebulous terminology!). They're master hackers, adept navigators, and mediocre expositors.
While there are many Ghosts, it's believed that there are actually a finite number out there. The loss of even one is a devastating blow to humanity's efforts to push back The Darkness.
The City is humanity's last bastion of hope
The City is the last place on Earth where humanity can feel safe--and even then, it's still got massive issues. The dead husk of The Traveler hovers over this last holdout against the Darkness, and while the Golden Age may have gotten rid of things like racial inequality forever, people still suffer from a lack of supplies and a general sense of fear and dread that hangs over the last human metropolis.
It's also the location of The Tower, a place where Guardians chillax between missions, where massive dance raves are held, and where The Speaker hangs out. Also known as "The Voice of The Traveler," The Speaker attempts to make sense of The Travelers wishes, commanding Guardians to go out and fight The Darkness. He also sells some sweet legendary armor, so be sure to look him up.
It's not just humans who have it rough, though
When you initially create your character, you've got three different choices: humans, Exo, and The Awoken. Humans are pretty obvious (and if they're not, well, I don't think I can help you with that one), but the other two? Destiny barely even touches on who these races are or why you'd want to pick them (besides the fact that they look super cool).
Anyway, the Exo were originally sentient robots built during the Golden Age to protect humanity during war. Now, they've been powered up again to fight of The Darkness. The Awoken, on the other hand, descended from humanity, but fled to The Reef (a secluded area in an asteroid belt) when The Darkness came. They've since been transformed by some unknown event--very mysterious, indeed.
The Fallen are basically aliens who've watched way too much Game of Thrones
First off, The Fallen are in no way like The Covenant from Halo, so let's just get that out of the way now. The Fallen are actually a race of aliens with a hierarchy not unlike that of everyone's favorite character-murdering HBO television show.
The regal Captains form the high command of The Fallen's ground troops, and they issue orders to the lowly Dreg. Each faction of The Fallen is broken up into Houses, who command various locations throughout the solar system. Houses are commanded by Kells, who essentially declared that humanity doesn't own their territories any more. Don't worry--you're forgiven if none of this seemed obvious to you while you played.
The Hive are a constant reminder of humanity's failure
Attacking near the end of humanity's Golden Age, The Hive currently live in the Earth's moon, though they've started spreading their influence to other planets. They are an ancient race, resembling a more royal version of the shambling undead. Those wizards that came from the moon? Yep, that's The Hive.
The Hive is not The Darkness, however, even though they seem like the best candidates to be considered such. The Darkness works with each of your enemies to give them strength, but it is not a specific entity--at least, it's not one you see in the game at all. No, The Hive are more like the Zerg from Starcraft; quick, numerous, and deadly.
The Vex are time-hopping cyborgs
Did you know that the Vex are a race of part mechanical/part organic robots that travel through time and space in an effort to take over humanity's last outposts? No? I didn't either until I looked it up, so you're not alone.
Yep, the Vex hail from an distant location in the galaxy from an unknown time, and show up through those massive warp-gates you're always shooting at. They might hate humans and their squishy flesh, but they hate the Cabal just as much, if not more. Speaking of the Cabal
The Cabal are a race of giant world-conquerors
When you get your ass to Mars, you're introduced to the Cabal--a race of hulking, brutish, bipedal aliens that wield massive suits of armor and even bigger guns. Everything about the Cabal is big--their ships, their weaponry, even their size. And no, they're totally not Brutes.
Lucky for you, their heads are just as fragile as everyone else's, and when they explode, a black slime bursts out of the spot where their brain used to be. Humans have tried to figure out what this sludge actually is, but have been met with disappointment. Still, it doesn't change the fact that everyone of them want you dead, and will stop at nothing to make that a reality.
The Queen of the Awoken holds the location to the Black Garden
The Queen of the Awoken and her brother both rule in the Reef--the last bastion of the Awoken outcasts. She's a real badass, proven by the Fallen guards flanking her throne, seemingly under her command. Apparently, she defeated the Kell of the House of Wolves, and took the place of their leader.
Like everything in Destiny, The Queen's history is wrapped in mysteries, but hopefully some more light will be shed on this enigmatic figure during the special event currently running. But one thing is certain--she knows how to get into the Black Garden. What exactly is the Black Garden? Well
The Black Garden marks the location of the beginning of humanity's end
The Black Garden is ominous, hidden, and most of all, important. It's the last story mission in Destiny (as of right now), and your ultimate goal is to get there and stop whatever evil hides in it. So what is it, exactly?
The portal to the Black Garden may be on Mars, but the actual location is off on some faraway, unknown planet. Once there, you'll notice an overwhelming amount of Vex, all looking to stop you from reaching the center. The implication here is that this is where the Vex are likely manufactured, and the Garden is actually the staging ground for humanity's utter defeat. Lucky you got there just in time.
I am so lost
Well, there you have it: all the context you'll ever need to enjoy Destiny's brilliant story. Then why do I still feel confused? If you've got some Light you want to shed on this Darkness, let me know in the comments below!
Looking for some more Destiny? Check out these 10 things you should do in Destiny before you die, or these 11 small things Bungie can do to make Destiny even better (hint: one of them has to do with the story).