What are Guardians?
Whoa! Why is there a giant metal orb floating over Earth?
Why are all these aliens trying to destroy us?
What’s up with this Darkness thing and why is everyone so afraid of it?
These are but a few of the many questions Destiny lobs at its player base throughout the main campaign. Unfortunately for players, most, if not all of these questions are left unanswered in what many would call a disappointing story.
But let us back up a bit first.
For those of you not following all things Destiny, longtime Audio Director, Marty O’Donnell (you know, the guy that made all those iconic and epic Halo soundtracks) has recently been involved in a legal battle with Bungie and Activision over his termination earlier this year.
While O’Donnell ended up winning his suit, the most interesting aspect of this legal battle has nothing to do with the case itself. Through the legal proceedings, the public became aware of court documents that detailed many of Destiny’s development struggles including the origins behind the subpar story.
Destiny was originally intended to launch September 2013, a whole year ahead of when it actually did on September 9, 2014. For some reason, Bungie made the crazy decision to completely scrap the story in August 2013, one month before the game was set to release. I can only imagine what the studio was like after that decision was made. Naturally, the release date HAD to be pushed back and was internally set to spring 2014. Unfortunately, one month after revisions started, longtime head writer, Joseph Staten, departed the company putting a new hurdle in front of the narrative team.
As we now know, the result of these narrative revisions and quick fixes was the odd Grimoire card system, where players unlock virtual cards linked to their online profile at bungie.net. That purpose of these cards is to essentially be the narrative of the game, filling in any and all story plot holes that are present in the game. The problem here is that these cards are only accessible online away from the game itself, so a good majority of the players would never see the content. Adding to that is the fact that there’s almost no incentive for the player to leave the game they’re playing, log into a website, and read each card that has been unlocked.
In my opinion, it’s a deeply flawed system that proves to be overly obtuse and a poor quick fix solution. While I have to imagine that there wasn’t a whole lot of time to put together something cohesive together in less than a year, there had to have been a better way to at least tell something of a compelling story.
If used as a way to supplement the story, it’s a great idea but when it’s used as the primary way players can understand what’s happening or who these people are, it’s lousy.
While the “year one” version of Destiny only hints at what could have been, Bungie is showing that they know they have to make good on that side of the game. With The Taken King launching next week, trailers and details have already confirmed that players will be seeing a greater focus placed on the story with NPCs becoming more involved with players and cutscenes along with greater emphasis on narrative moments.
Still, it’s interesting to imagine what kind of game Destiny would have been if the original story that was planned hadn’t been cut at the last minute. When paired with the already rocksolid shooter elements, Destiny could have been an even bigger force. For now, we’ll have to wait and see what kind of update The Taken King brings.