The year of Destiny 2 The Witch Queen, Year 5, has arguably been the best in the history of the Destiny franchise. Some great gameplay changes and additions, exciting new activities, and seasonal stories that saw Guardians help allies with haunting therapy, piratically plunder relics, and teach an AI super weapon what it is to have a purpose. However, the imminent launch of Destiny 2 Lightfall heralds the arrival of the Destiny Content Vault once again, coming to cast some of the game’s best stories into the void.
While the Beyond Light and Witch Queen expansions both had their own rounds of significant content vaulting, this relatively small batch for Lightfall feels like it stings the most. Destiny’s lore and story has (rightfully) been criticised over the years, but this year has seen some of its best stories – and it’s a huge loss that so much is leaving the game.
Lost in the dark corners of time
The story of the Destiny universe is often inscrutable, with tales of mysterious “paracausal” forces of Light and Dark, a magic space orb that can create immortal warriors, and ancient alien species of worm-worshipping horrors, among some of its most outlandish story threads. But the last few years has seen Destiny 2 propel itself into a new era of storytelling as it has embraced the live service seasonal model. Those grandiose yet utterly mystifying narratives remain, but the stakes are far more personal as characters that Guardians have come to love and hate over the years drive the action and develop in seasonal stories making for some excellent narrative moments.
So why is it that these stories are relegated to the Destiny Content Vault so easily? Great stories such as Crow, Zavala, and Caiatl facing the traumas of their pasts, and uncovering Calus’ transformation to full-on disciple of the Witness which we’ll see in Lightfall. Year 5 has closed out with more Bray family politics culminating in Guardians finally bringing back the AI Rasputin, allowing him to find his own purpose and eventually sacrifice himself in a stunning season finale. This year’s stories have shown that Destiny can say meaningful things about love, loss, war, politics, and so much more, and not just spew endless space magic jargon about Light and Dark. Losing these seasons and stories sucks, leaving only scattered activities with little narrative context and the loot we got on the way.
While content vaulting is painful for players in many ways, it must be a different kind of pain for Destiny 2’s developers at Bungie. You have to assume that they take no pleasure in removing beloved content, but the Destiny Content Vault is a somewhat necessary evil. In an interview with Edge magazine, current Destiny Vice President, Mark Noseworthy, explained that developing Destiny is a bit like running Disneyland – it’s full of attractions but there’s only so much space. Therefore, content needs to come and go to prevent things ballooning uncontrollably and becoming impossible to work on. But as one of Bungie’s writers, animators, programmers or artists, it must be strange to know that your work has a limited lifetime.
Hope for the future
Thankfully, Bungie is making a concerted effort to reduce the amount of content that gets swallowed by the Destiny Content Vault, and we already know that some adored activities are making a comeback. Three Exotic Missions, including the excellent Presage, are all returning with Season of the Deep, so could this eventually lead to fan favourites like The Whisper and Zero Hour returning too? We also know that another Raid is being reprised for Season 22, so this could be the first Destiny 2 Raid to return from the vault.
We also know that all current and future expansions are safe, so the likes of Beyond Light, The Witch Queen, and what remains of Forsaken aren’t going anywhere. But isn’t this only going to exacerbate existing issues? Old content coming back is excellent, but without its wider context, players that have never experienced it before won’t easily understand how it fits into Destiny’s story. Of course, more content sticking around also means an even bigger file to fit on our PCs or consoles.
Looking more broadly, content vaulting in Destiny 2 speaks to a much greater issue of live service games threatening video game preservation. Maintaining a colossally complex game like Destiny 2 is clearly fraught with compromises, and I hope that the developers are, for now, content with the fact that their works have an expiry date – forever immortalised in images and videos, but likely never to be witnessed in their original form again.
However, Bungie’s current steps to limit what goes into the Destiny Content Vault are reassuring. I hope they can surprise us with interesting content until the next inevitable round of vaulting, but I’ll always long for the day when Destiny’s story – expansions, seasons, and all – can be experienced in its complete form. So as the final day of Destiny 2’s fifth year comes to a close and we prepare to battle Calus and the Witness head on in Lightfall, let’s raise an opulent chalice to everything that won’t make it to the other side.
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