Destiny 2 – The Problem of Impermanence and Those We’ve Left Behind
I’ve been playing Destiny 2 a lot. religiously ticking off my daily and weekly endgame to-do’s. But something happened recently that caused me to rethink my daily in-game routine.
It was something the Drifter, a mysterious and shady Guardian, commended me on at the end of the Vanguard legendary strike mission, Warden of Nothing. After defeating the boss he remarked:
Remind me to never piss you off. Sometimes I forget, you killed a God
It was a telling statement about my Guardian’s messianic status in the world of Destiny 2. I literally saved the day and everyone knows it. I know it too. But something about it rang hollow and didn’t sit well with me.
It stuck with me as I moved on to the next strike mission in the playlist, Song of Savathun, which sees you back on Titan. Your mission is to rescue a group of Guardians that have gone missing. Providing tactical support over the radio is Field Commander Sloane. She’s the first off-world vendor you meet when you embark on the Red War campaign story of the game.
Commander Sloane — War takes its toll on even the strongest
Sloane is a guardian and a soldier, proud and strong. She is Zavala’s second-in-command, working hard to secure the Vanguard’s base of operations on Jupiter’s moon. She’s every bit the quintessential soldier, all business, rules and protocol.
Due respect, Commander? I was there when the Hive found us on Earth. I was there when we stopped them on Titan. And I’ll be there when we wipe them out.
But every now and then, the toll of war exposes a tired woman who just wants a break, a good laugh and maybe some pampering. She is someone whose story I’d love to explore but I haven’t had any meaningful interaction with Sloane in over 350 hours of game time since I defeated Ghaul.
And to be honest, I have no interests on Titan, save for the occasional Flashpoint or Spiders bounty. There’s nothing else in the way of hidden weapon quests or powerful gear from Sloane that would draw me back there. Sloane’s story got me thinking though.
Who else hadn’t I spoken to in a while? Who else had I forgotten in my never-ending march to the highest power level? Turns out, there’s quite a few.
Everything is vanity; and disposable
The nature of too many other things in Destiny is ephemeral. Think of the number of weapons you’ve used and discarded. How many rifles, hand cannons, grenade launchers? What about helmets, boots or chest plates? And what of the hundreds of diverse yellow-bars who are nothing but obstacles gating our loot?
Once a newer, shinier, better one comes along, the old are tossed aside or dismantled for gun parts. Impermanence is coded into Destiny’s DNA and by extension, its characters. And like the disposable loot, these fascinating characters sadly suffer the same fate.
There are of course a few examples. Legendary and Exotic weapons and armour stay with most Guardians indefinitely. They’re the Banshees, Lord Saladins, Zavalas and Ikoras. Those weapons and characters who stick around. Not because they’re particularly important to the narrative. Instead, simply because they’re required as part of Destiny’s fundamental mechanics.
Those that aren’t fundamental? They’re tossed aside.
Devrim Kay — Sip, sip, shoot
My mind turned immediately to the charming English gentleman–sniper in the EDZ, Devrim Kay. Smooth talking, suave and handsome with a penchant for drinking tea. Monitoring the battlefield from his sniper’s nest in the Trostam church tower.
Devrim is one of the most likeable characters in the game. By his own admission, he’s an old man who can’t quite keep up with us yuppies. In his heyday, could have easily wiped the floor with us. Devrim isn’t blessed with a Guardian’s immortality but he’s a veteran who’s fought alongside the Vanguard for years.
He’s also somewhat of a father figure to Suraya Hawthorne, the spunky non-Guardian — the voice of the normals. Hawthorne has always had a problem with authority, especially the Guardian type. She’s often been on the right side of wrong needing Devrim to bail her out more than once.
Suraya, your frequent check-ins break my concentration. Let an old man snipe in peace, will you?
Devrim’s got some great war stories to tell and I’d love nothing better than to listen to him talk all day. He’s got a wicked sense of humour and a love of languages, even studying the various Fallen dialects. He’s also one of the very first characters Destiny 2 all too readily does away with. Think about how often you’ve returned to the EDZ. Be it for Flashpoints, Lost Sectors and even Black Armory content. In all of those times, how often do you visit Devrim Kay?
I’d guess your answer mirrors mine; rarely.
Asher Mir — Spare your pity Guardian
Then there’s the supremely arrogant know-it-all, Asher Mir on Io. He’s a Guardian and Scientist who lost his arm in an encounter with the Vex in the Pyramidion years ago. He also has no patience for the simple-minded; which is everyone who’s not him.
He doesn’t hide his disdain for Zavala, painting him as an obtuse, muscled brute. Asher is all about science, studying the Vex and the Traveler to gain their wealth of scientific knowledge. Amusingly, he sees our hero as his lowly assistant there to aid in his experiments.d
The politics and war around him are just an annoying racket that distracts him from his supremely important and enlightened work. Asher will sometimes, though grudgingly, offer thanks and even praise. But swears he will kill you if you ever tell anyone he said so.
Congratulations on finding your true calling in life. You have been an… adequate assistant.
It shows that Asher, like all of us, wants to be seen, respected and perhaps even loved. Yet again, we must leave Asher and his weird experiments behind.
Devrim equates to a Common drop and Asher an Uncommon. Both are pushed aside and outlive their usefulness as the story and quest for power pushes on.
Failsafe — I think, therefore I am
What about Failsafe? The delightfully weird and slightly psychotic Artifical Intelligence of the marooned Exodus Black? She makes an impression when we first encounter her in a mission to rescue the late Cayde-6.
Failsafe is perhaps one of the more tragic characters of all in of Destiny 2. Marooned on Nessus after a Golden Age expedition to take humanity beyond our solar system ended in disaster. The Exodus Black crashed, damaged beyond repair, lost. Her crew, stranded on a strange planet are picked off by an unknown enemy we know now as the Vex.
(Apathetic voice) Everyone I’ve ever known is dead, and their bones are dust.
(Cheerful voice) I am very lonely.
Failsafe is all alone for centuries until the arrival of Cayde-6 and you, the player. Centuries of loneliness have fractured her mind; she sways between two opposing temperaments. Failsafe enthusiastically welcomes our companionship, dubbing us her new captain. She eagerly helps us to rescue “the Cayde-6” as she calls him. She also helps us gather all the intel on the Vex we need to succeed in our campaign against Ghaul.
When we’re done, we climb into our ship and fly off, leaving her alone once more. We may return but only to receive our next powerful gear. It’s a shame because Failsafe, like many of these NPCs, has a rich narrative potential that’s being left unmined.
Anastasia Bray — Doctor Who?
Dr Anastasia Bray is a lone-wolf Hunter who we meet on Mars during the Warmind DLC. She’s got an obsession with Rasputin. No, not the vampire but another golden age Artificial Intelligence designed to protect humanity.
She is the reason for our journey to the Red Planet where humanity first discovered the Traveler. Ana exudes a youthful optimism and an ideology that leads her to clash often with Zavala. She believes in Rasputin’s goodwill towards humanity while Zavala does not.
Guardians aren’t supposed to investigate their past. That’s the rule. But I’m not good with rules. Not when there’s this much at stake.
But what’s truly intriguing about Ana is her backstory. Hidden in the annals of Destiny Lore, we learn that Ana Bray is a descendant of the eponymous Brays. The Brays are responsible for inventing so much tech in the world of Destiny including Rasputin and the Exos. The Exo program allows humans to transfer their consciousness into a robotic body.
Ana wants to discover more about her legacy as a Bray. She wants to bring back honour to the name. But of course, I don’t have time to help her because there’s simply no golden gun or shiny armour reward for doing so. In fact, the Warmind DLC is so narratively redundant that time spent on Mars is almost all wasted. Sure, the Sleeper Simulant and IKELOS Shotgun are worth tracking down, but Ana Bray has no impact on their acquisition whatsoever.
Brother Vance — You don’t need eyes to see
Brother Vance on Mercury is the only other person whose arrogance can rival Asher Mir’s. Brother Vance is a blind —literally and figuratively — follower of Osiris and leader of the Disciples of Osiris. His unflinching devotion and faith in Osiris are unrequited and he resents you, the hero, for having the favour and friendship of Osiris. He often speaks to you with a condescending and sarcastic tone, questioning why you an unbeliever gets to meet Osiris.
There is a deeper story to Brother Vance that the game doesn’t seem interested in telling us, like the fact that he was once a Warlock. And since Mercury is the worst location in the game by far, I’m not bothered either. And speaking of powerful gear, Destiny’s Prime engrams are a must get for the power hungry.
When a Legendary or Exotic engram drops in the wild, you have to take it to a Cryptarch, like Master Rahool to decrypt it. But does anyone remember the other Cryptarch, Tyra Karn?
I didn’t think so.
Tyra Karn — Stay a while and listen
Tyra is the first Cryptarch you meet in the game. She’s a gentle, elderly woman with a wise demeanour about her. We find her at the Farm after Hawthorne rescues us at the start of the game’s campaign.
I’m sorry, have we met before? I’m afraid losing my connection to the Light has been… disorienting.
At the time of our meeting, she’s feeling quite lost and rightly so. She’s a historian, using her Light-given immortality to catalogue the history of humanity. She’s struggling to find her purpose in this new world without the Light. She encourages the player in those early days and gives you a bit of guidance to help you get your light back. After you do, like all others, you leave the Farm and forget her.
I once returned out of curiosity and was dismayed that she’s still there, irrelevant to us now that we have the more accessible Master Rahool. What is her story? Why doesn’t she ever get mentioned again, by anyone, anywhere? Once again, I use and then discard.
Arcite 99-40 — Roger, Roger
I almost forgot about Arcite 99-40 who can be found by Lord Shaxx’s side in the tower. You’d think that he’s Shaxx secretary from the constant typing he does at his console. But at the beginning of our campaign, Before Banshee-44, Arcite was the person to see for some weapons. And after we finish the campaign, Arcite receives somewhat of a demotion. Relegated to his place as Shaxx aide-de-camp.
No longer a vendor but a voiceless character that we can never interact with again.
But I have questions. Why is he with Lord Shaxx? Who were the Red Jacks that he was a champion of? What on Earth is he constantly typing? Is it crucible rosters and results?
I guess I’ll never know.
Narry a reason to return
The status quo of these characters, their past usefulness and current uselessness are emblematic of Destiny as a whole. Bungie completely overhauled Destiny 2 due to poor player feedback and in the process managed to make these characters even less a part of the game and the story. Why bother visiting any of them anymore, aside from turning in a Flashpoint.
Planetary materials are used to infuse weapons and planetary medals are a thing of the past. The weapons and armour these characters sell are so low level and unimpressive that nobody needs or wants them. Much like the vendors themselves.
We can even go back further and look at the problem with impermanence Destiny has. At launch, Destiny 2 did away with each and every weapon and piece of armour you’d ever collected. All those hours meant nothing when it came time to fight Gaul. And why? Because Bungie said so. Will Destiny 3 force us to start all over again, again?
Will we be introduced to another round of temporary friends? When will anything in Destiny last?
I’m sad that Bungie hasn’t found a way to keep these wonderfully diverse characters relevant as the game grows. With the Forsaken expansion, each character makes some perfunctory commentary about the passing of Cayde-6. But for the most part, they remain detached from world events following the campaign.
Even though we won the war, the battle still rages in each of these characters backyards and yet no one makes mention of it. No cavalry from the Vanguard to help, no reprieve with a spot at the new Tower, no filler chat from other NPCs. All but forgotten.
I wish Destiny 2 would have some more weapon or lore quests to keep these characters relevant. It has a few already and they are masterfully done. One example is Cayde’s Will and the Ace of Spades quests. Not only do we get the juicy loot at the end but we also learn a lot about the wisecracking gunslinger.
Other characters like Ada-1, the curator of the Black Armory can be learned about through rare lore that drops during Forge activations. Same with the Drifter. His quests for the Malfeasance and Last Word tell us something more about this secretive character and his questionable past.
Why not for the others?
It’s become crystal clear why that quote from Drifter left me feeling hollow. I may be the hero of the story but I’m certainly no hero to these people. I’m just another self-absorbed Guardian who used them and left them.
The line between light and dark is so very thin. Ask yourself, which side are you on? – Uldren Sov
In attaining the games current max power, have I lost my soul by leaving friends and allies behind, with no thought or care? Even Christ asks “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?” Nay!
I will remember and celebrate those brave souls that Destiny seems to have left behind. Devrim Kay, Commander Sloan, Asher Mir, Brother Vance, Failsafe, Ana Bray, Arcite 99-40 and gentle Tyra Karn.
My heroes. Not forgotten.