Destiny 2 is coming. And after the first game’s ‘intriguing’ mix of dense world-building and barely existent story-telling bemused as much as it enticed, one of the biggest questions has to be “What the hell is it going to be about?”. After all, Crota and Oryx are both dead, there’s no explicit, major threat aside from the ever-present, ever-vague Darkness and - with numerous, oblique narrative threads unraveling all over the place - there’s as much scope for reinvention as there is confusing foundation work to build on.
But Bungie’s hiring of Mass Effect writer Christopher Shlerf implies that the studio intends to make pretty impressive sense of the whole mess. And you know what? With a bit of digging, I’ve found that there’s a hell of a lot of good material for him to start with. In fact, after a good old excavation of lore, some consultation with a few brilliant theory threads on the excellent Destiny Reddit, and a fair bit of tie-up work using my own several hundred hours’ experience of the game, I think I have a pretty good idea of where things are going. And if I’m right, oh boy, is everything we think we know about to go bye-bye. Let’s start with the very likely possibility that…
The Traveler is not such a force for good
Do you trust Traveler? I don’t. Because what do we know about it? We’ve been told that, with the gift of ‘Light’, it once elevated Earth to a new golden age. We’ve been told that it was followed through the universe by The Darkness, and nearly killed. We’ve been told that with its last remaining effort, it created the Ghosts so that the Guardians could stand and fight eternal. But as for who or what the Traveler really is, and why and how it did any of this? We don’t, to put the finest of points upon it, actually know shit.
Interesting theory that I increasingly find myself subscribing to: The Traveler is a bit of an irresponsible jerk. Not strictly malicious – though we do know that some dubious morality was planned in the original story – but definitely irresponsible. We know, from various Grimoire texts and a fair amount of explicit Destiny lore, that the Traveler had been chased by The Darkness – whatever the hell The Darkness actually is - for countless years. Regardless of any good intentions, the Traveler kited it right to our doorstep. But there’s a more interesting factor to consider, too, and that’s what brings us on to Greek mythology.
Mythological imagery is everywhere in Destiny. Heck, the very idea of ‘destiny’ itself is fundamental to Greek myth, where fate is such a powerful driving force that it’s frequently personified. None of this can be a coincidence. In fact, a hell of a lot of Destiny starts to make a whole different kind of sense once you start relating it to the ancient world, and in particular, Greek lore.
Remember Prometheus? He was the guy who stole fire from the gods, and gifted it to humanity in order to raise them past their then-current state of evolution. That’ll be the Traveler, then. Prometheus was eventually chased down and punished by the gods because, well, he had screwed up. Fire was not his to give, and in doing so he had broken the natural order of things. In retribution, he was chained to a rock – but kept alive indefinitely – so that an eagle could eat his liver every single day. And does that not sound a bit like he Traveler’s fate at the beginning of Destiny, where he/she/it is in a state of near death, a shard of its body held on a Hive altar so that its Light might be fed upon?
So does that mean, perchance, that The Darkness is not necessarily a force of malevolent evil, but simply something trying to reset the balance that the Traveler has thrown off? After all, from man’s point of view, Prometheus was a saviour, but to the gods he was objectively a thief screwing with their authority and messing the preferred state of the world. In fact, if you analyse some of the lore relating to Destiny's alien species, there's a good argument that this scenario - whereby the Traveler arrives at a new world and ascends its civilisation, ostensibly as a gift, but really in order to raise an army - has happened many times before, the act of 'benevolence' really one of self-preservation, performed in order to defend itself against the Darkness.
Which, all considered, does actually make the Traveler incredibly self-serving, and more than a bit dangerous. And that's before you even consider the fact that it might well have created the Vex threat to Earth in the process.
But for more details on what the Darkness actually is, read on.
The Darkness might not be that bad either
Here’s where it gets really interesting, because I reckon that things are going to get a lot more ambiguous in Destiny 2. Thus far, we’ve been told that the truth is simple. Light good, Darkness bad, Traveler friend, everything else resolutely bloody awful. But in reality, there have been seeds of uncertainty scattered throughout Destiny’s first couple of years. Consider Toland the Shattered, for instance.
The long-lost, long thought-dead Guardian was an enthusiastic student of the Darkness, eventually thought mad by his colleagues, but ultimately rather useful during the first, abortive campaign against Crota. His obsession with Hive rituals eventually led him to attempt to commune with Destiny’s most hellish species on an amicable basis. This killed him, but he may well still survive in the Hive’s Ascendant realm. A full copy of his journal is with Tower helper Eris, and he’s also responsible for one of Destiny’s big Exotic weapons, Bad Juju, which is built around a Darkness-infused frame.
Can knowledge of – even intimacy with – the Darkness be helpful and non-corrupting? It seems so. The Awoken race were born of a distant run-in with it while trying to escape during the Collapse – details currently unknown – came out unscathed, and now openly reject the dichotomy of Light and Dark. There’s possibly a not-insignificant parallel with the Traveler’s elevation of humanity there.
How will this affect Destiny 2? Expect the true nature of the Darkness to be revealed as less malicious than we’ve been led to believe. Expect Toland to return in some capacity as a major proponent of what we used to consider the wrong side. Expect a whole pro-Darkness movement to rise. In fact, expect the player-base to be split over the issue. I’ll predict right now that Bungie will introduce a binary faction system, similar to World of Warcraft’s Alliance and Horde, which will let us choose sides for differing content and rewards. In fact, we might already have seen the seeds of this in those Taken Guardians Bungie has just teased.
But how’s it all going to kick off then? Well…
Eris is about to become a major player (and probably always has been)
Following the punishment of Prometheus, the gods turned their attention to humanity, and started royally screwing with us. They sent down Pandora, along with her box (or jar) which eventually filled the world with calamity when opened. That’ll be Destiny’s post-Golden Age Collapse then. Interesting point though: One of those released calamities was the goddess of Strife, whose name was Eris. While not necessarily good or bad, she was rather the harbinger of darkly chaotic times, and instigated some serious goings on later down the line.
Now, following the events of The Taken King, we can be pretty sure that Eris has been quietly working with Mara Sov, the queen of the Awoken. And between the Awoken’s neutral alignment and Eris’ years spent living among the Hive, it’s certainly not a given that they’re fighting for the Light. In fact Eris’ actions in The Taken King’s end cutscene – in which she claims a fragment of big-bad Oryx’s sword and ‘accepts her fate’ – raise many questions about their plan. Were they just working to rid the solar system of Oryx’s threat, or did they also want him out of the way so that they could claim his power and become figureheads of Darkness themselves? Let’s not forget that Eris was on Toland’s fireteam when he was lost.
However it shakes down, I reckon it’s probable that Eris will be the instigator of a great divide, leading to the Light/Dark split I was talking about earlier. The mythological Eris’ most significant action was to kick off the war of Troy, by seeding jealousy and dissent among three goddesses. She did this by offering the gift of an apple to ‘the fairest’, leading to a grand rivalry over just who deserved it. Interestingly, the apple was known as the Apple of Dischord, a name that may already sound familiar, given that it is shared by a year two pulse rifle. Clearly, Bungie is aware of the myth.
Is it too much of a stretch to imagine that the ball of green light Eris carries might represent a certain fruit? All things considered, I’m not sure it is. And given that we’re talking about an analogous war of Troy here, having Eris operate as a sleeper agent inside the Tower for so long would give us a great parallel to the Trojan Horse. Maybe there’s a good reason the Speaker doesn’t trust her. And speaking of the Speaker…
The Speaker cannot be trusted
The Speaker is set up as the Earthly conduit of the Traveler’s will. He explains little, has absolute authority, and is trusted blindly by Earth’s greatest warriors. Yeah, that kind of set-up has always worked out so well in the past, but is there any actual evidence that he is up to no good? Tangentially, yes. Notice that he’s the only major Destiny NPC who continues to wear a mask in the Tower. That’s a bit of an alarm bell right there, particularly when you consider that the use of masks was a fundamental element of Greek theatre, primarily used to allow actors to change personas very quickly, and enforce uniformity within the Chorus.
I’m not the only one questioning his motives: consider the Cult of Osiris, the Guardians who run the Trials multiplayer mode. They follow the teachings of the afore-named exiled Warlock, and are on a mission to understand the true nature of Light and Darkness – funny how anyone embracing both sides seems to get kicked out, isn’t it? And they are not fans of the Speaker.
In particular, Brother Vance (the Cult’s representative in the Reef) has little but disparaging remarks to make. He asks what would happen if it were revealed the Speaker was a charlatan. He comments on how little use the Speaker’s comments are. He implies a falling out between Osiris and the Speaker, back when the two were master and apprentice.
The Cult’s lore states an explicit desire on the Speaker’s part to forget the past – “Out of sight, out of mind,' they say. The Speaker wishes this was true.” In fact if you read through all of Brother Vance's dialogue, you’ll find multiple, stacking references to the Speaker as a liar. As a side-note, there are also hints at some manner of plan – possibly involving Mara Sov - to bring Oryx to our solar system. Aaand we’re back to Eris again…
Whatever his place in the evolving story, it seems that the Speaker may be actively trying to hide the true nature of Light and Darkness. Expect him to be the figurehead for the Light faction when Destiny 2 rolls around, with Eris as his counterpart. Because I’m finding it increasingly unlikely that their respective, conflicting black and white dress styles can be a coincidence.
But they’re not the only players in this. Because…
Just who the hell is Xur anyway?
The weekend Exotic trader’s enigmatic nature has led many to overlook him as a big story catalyst, but I suspect the time for such indifference is over. Because there’s a major element of his identity we now need to consider. Xur is identified as an Agent of The Nine. We know almost nothing about who or what The Nine are – except that Mara Sov has communed with them in the past – but again, going back to Greek mythology, they’re a pretty big deal.
When the gods first sent down Pandora, they did so after organising themselves into the Council of the Nine. Among their number was a blacksmith. Blacksmiths make weapons. Xur sells weapons. And some of the equipment he has to hand, as we already know, is Darkness-infused. We’ve spent the last year or so pretty consistently excited by the new toys he brings us, but I suspect there’s every chance that he’s actually been seeding us with the tools of a new conflict all along.
Just one last point then…
The Stranger is surely tied up in all of this
Appearing repeatedly during Destiny’s vanilla campaign, the mysterious Exo – identity masked by one of the most maligned lines in a much-maligned script – is clearly involved in whatever’s going on behind the scenes. She appears at significant moments in the story, turning up at the end to gift us a pretty damn nice pulse rifle. But whatever her appearance and seeming benevolence, she isn’t a Guardian. She explicitly tells us that she wasn’t forged in the Light. But despite her resolution to walk her own path, she does state that where it crosses with ours, “ground could break”.
So whose side is she on then? Well, regardless of the ambiguity, we know that she must have a side, albeit one that she’s perhaps not dogmatically committed to. She explicitly calls out the Awoken for “wavering between the light and the dark”, telling our Ghost that “a side should always be taken, little light. Even if it's the wrong side.”
Could she possibly be Destiny’s analogue for Pandora? That would certainly cover the ‘not a product of the light’ angle, and the Exos’ mechanical nature and mysterious origins would also be a nice fit for Pandora’s manufactured existence.
Has she rejected her purpose since the Collapse, becoming the personification of rebellion against the very idea of destiny or fate? That would certainly fit, and give her great significance given the (probably) incoming battle of ideologies.