The fall of the Cabal homeworld, Torobatl. The heroic sacrifice of Osiris’s Ghost, Sagira. The Exo Stranger’s journeys into a dark future. What do these Destiny moments have in common? They all happened offscreen, relegated to lore books — or worse, web-only short fiction.
It’s not a new problem, of course — Destiny players have long bemoaned the disconnect between the rich lore of the game’s world and the actual storytelling it conveys through play. But it’s become especially noticeable in the last couple of seasons. The Season of the Hunt was kicked off by Osiris losing his Ghost, Sagira, to Xivu Arath’s High Celebrant. You’d think that one of the game’s most important characters becoming mortal and losing his lifelong companion would be worthy of at least a cutscene, but you wouldn’t know how it happened unless you read the story on Bungie’s website.
Similarly, the current Season of the Chosen’s narrative was instigated by the Hive invasion of the Cabal homeworld, Torobatl. The lore details antagonist Empress Caiatl’s struggles against her world’s infiltration by the Darkness and her eventual ironic role in summoning the Hive god of war, Xivu Arath. This backstory adds complexity and tragedy to a character who most players will simply encounter as yet another villain trying to take over humanity. Sure, Caiatl gets some dialogue here and there explaining her motivations, but you have to go digging to really understand what her deal is.
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You could say that this is intentional, that Destiny makes explicit only the bare minimum of narrative and that reading the lore allows for new perspectives on the game’s action. But without allowing players to act on the information that the lore gives us, all this really amounts to is winking references to how psychotic and unpredictable we as Guardians are from the perspectives of our enemies.
Thankfully, there are signs that this may be changing. This week, Destiny players are greeted with a simple cutscene in the game’s spare, line-drawn style showing an encounter between Zavala and the Crow, formerly known as Uldren Sov. It’s a simple but effective scene that allows Zavala’s excellent voice actor Lance Reddick to shine, unfettered by awkward in-game dialogue animations.
There’s no reason why we couldn’t have gotten a cutscene like this at the beginning of the season giving a bit of information on Caiatl, or one last season showing Sagira’s final moments. I’m not saying that we need unskippable lore dumps or a new cutscene every week, but a little more integration of the most important events in Destiny‘s ongoing story into the game itself would go a long way towards making it feel more alive.