Symbolism in Destiny
In concept, Destiny is very similar to Star Wars—the king of space fantasy. The conflict centers around a giant floating orb. Light and Dark are real entities that shape the conflict. There’s Space Empires, Space Magic, and Space Wizards. But in execution, Destiny is vastly different from Star Wars. Points are awarded to Bungie for creativity, but for Destiny to mature, it must become more like Star Wars.
In the wake of Destiny’s launch, the most desired adjustment was a more grounded, character focused story. The focus on obscure mythology--framed between vague symbolism of the various planets and races resulted in a shallow experience—failed to hold players’ attention. Failure to create an immersive universe remains Destiny’s most prominent shortcoming.
There are many issues that Destiny needs to address, but foremost among them is a key element of Star Wars: symbolism. The game already possesses artist nods to deep lore, but it rarely means anything. It rarely expands past practical history. It’s barely lore. What Destiny has is “extended backstory.” Overwatch—a multiplayer only game—has deeper background lore in its prequel comics. What Destiny’s lore is missing is a background conflict that manifests symbolism in a physical form. In Star Wars, the Force is an equalizing force that brings depth to characters’ actions, reactions and situations. Disturbances in the force are disturbances for characters, caused by opposing characters. Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the dark side of the force is direct result of his fear of death consuming him. His redemption is through his acceptance of depth. Luke Skywalker, the protagonist, can grapple with the universe.
The story of Dredgen Yor and Shin Malphur is so captivating because it accomplishes what Destiny missed: Manifesting the fall of Light and Dark by first demonstrating its practical interaction within the universe, before defining the universe by it. The overarching conflict is centered around the Traveler and the Forces of the Darkness, so the tale tells us about Rezzyl Azzir’s experimentation with the Light. He tests its bounds. As an agent of the Light, he channels it as a tool to raise him from the dead—to the extent of using his death as a lethal tactic. He pushes further, investigating the Darkness on the Moon, discovering the actual agents of the Darkness—a Hive Wizard. She curses him, and he begins his transformation into Dredgen Yor.
The character moves from the Light to the Dark, and his actions reflect this change. He begins, as a noble Guardian rescuing civilians, exploring the Moon through curiosity, into experimentation with the powers of the Darkness until final returning to his homeland, killing civilians for his own gratification. His story ends when Shin Malphur—a boy who was blessed, rather than reborn by the Light, kills him in the name of justice. This story is effective because it tells the story about the world of Destiny. Future installments in lore are compelling because these characters tell us how this world will react to us.
We’re Guardians, exploring worlds that were seized from us and worlds that were never our own. Symbolism, and the effective use of it through compelling storytelling, brings it to life in ways the player never will. We log into Destiny to create our own legend. But as Greek mythology proved in its great wars, waged by monstrous gods: the most heroic legends are the ones that sit within mythic worlds.