Destiny’s Got Plot, But Now Where Is It?

A new Destiny expansion came out and I have played it because I love me some Destiny. It’s got a whole new campaign adventure with a fun story twist: where the last expansion had the good guys learning to wield the Darkness (normally bad guy stuff), this time the bad guys have learnt to wield the light (good guy stuff). Earth-shattering stuff for the lore.

And there’s more Destiny plot than usual, but, unfortunately, it’s all still quite obtuse. Like I know what’s going on; Savathûn has somehow captured the light and we gotta figure out how. We go on a low-key detective mission trying to find out, there are some big reveals, and the story wraps up. And it happens, and it’s cool, and there’s a story with a beginning, middle, and end that’s far better than a lot of what Destiny usually does.

But it’s still more-than-a-little obtuse, much of it expecting you to have a familiarity with the lore or remember details from past seasons/expansions. Bosses of each story level come and go without too much hullabaloo, and you get to the ending before too long. There are cutscenes, but much of your story is through talking heads rather than actual scenes. It’s serviceable, but I guess I wanted more.

Don’t get me wrong, The Witch Queen’s story is told more overtly than, say, Dark Souls, a game that requires some actual detective work and putting two-and-two together to suss out what happened by reading bits of lore scattered around the world. Lore books exist in Destiny too, and they are fun reads (though I prefer to spend my video game time shooting space aliens and not reading short stories on my tv). The hiccup is that some big plot points rely on you having picked up on very specific cues from these tomes — a big reveal in The Witch Queen relies on you having a familiarity with the history of the Hive, and you won’t find that history just through gameplay.

Am I asking for more cutscenes? I don’t know; Destiny seems pretty intent on letting the player stay in control, and an argument against using cutscenes to tell stories in games is that it swaps from a video game to a movie. On the other hand, quick cutscenes, like in Bungie’s prior Halo games, do a good amount of work of getting plot points across and then letting you go back to shooting space aliens. Borderlands is another first-person shooter that’s light on cutscenes but does a good job of introducing characters and bosses in a Big Way so they leave a mark, even if you promptly kill them a few moments later. They end up leaving an impression, much more than Big Scorn Bad Guy #72 (Termiiks, Invasive Warrant) did in The Witch Queen.

Here’s the thing, though: The Witch Queen plays amazingly. It’s still Destiny, and that magnificent gameplay loop of shooting, jumping, and jumping is as good as ever. The changes to it by a new weapon class and some other fun tweaks keep it feeling flesh and, really, as much as I can rag on the story, it serves its purpose in propelling the game — and I can’t wait to find out what happens next, now that Savathûn is defeated. I just hope that the next chapter continues to improve on the game’s storytelling.

Because the lore is great, it’s just hard to get at.

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