Bungie’s newest IP Destiny has been out for exactly three weeks now, but it only took a day or so for gamers to work their way through the campaign and mutter to themselves, “huh?” or “what?” or even “wait, so who is that person again?” I could easily wield my analytical scalpels and dissect all that went wrong in Destiny’s story (and I intend to do so), but for the sake of summary, I’ll contain myself and boil the problems down into two very simple, very frustrating words: Grimoire Cards.
The issues in Destiny’s story begin to come into view when people complete the campaign and have to really, truly think about why exactly they were fighting the four main enemies that the game all but lines up in front of them. Who were the Fallen? The Hive? The Vex? The Cabal? Bungie gently slips the player into the boots of a Guardian, carefully picks them up and dusts them off, then tells them to brutally murder waves upon waves of sentient beings without providing any real information as to why.
“Are the Cabal evil?” you ask, as you decapitate said creature with a single shot of your sniper rifle, accompanied by a satisfying fwoosh.
“Probably,” Bungie replies, its gaze fixed on a box of donuts across the room.
“I mean, are they trying to destroy the Traveler?”
Bungie takes a sideways step toward the donuts. “Not really.”
“Okay, so why am I killing them, then?”
But by the time you get the words out, Bungie has begun stuffing its face with the baked goods, muttering something about going to Bungie.net and reading the Grimoire Cards you’ve been passively collecting. Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to formally introduce you to one of the main problems with Destiny’s story. Regardless of whatever issues Bungie might’ve faced during production, what the player is left with at the end of the day is a game that doesn’t bother much with exposition. Gamers are given only the most basic details: The Traveler is light. Guardians protect the light. The Fallen are darkness. Guardians have fisticuffs with the Fallen. But when more details are needed for the story to make sense on a level deeper than the age-old war between darkness and light, they are nowhere to be found… except on Bungie.net.
A very basic guideline for writing competent stories is to provide the reader/viewer/gamer with some details about the world around them. These details are critical in establishing a connection between the events of the story and the person experiencing it. If I don’t know exactly what the Traveler is or why it’s important that I protect it, then I have absolutely no reason to care. When the climax arrives and the Vex are hurling their frail robot bodies in my direction so that I stop ruining their plans, I will simply mow them down and call it a day. The Grimoire Cards system broke Destiny’s story by forcing gamers to literally stop playing the game in order to find out exactly why they should care about it.