Destiny 2 has finally arrived, and with it there are a horde of players who are thinking of getting into the series for the first time. If you're one of them, and you're wondering if you'll be missing out by not knowing the story of the original Destiny, the answer is... it's complicated.
The story of the original Destiny is an absolute mess, since the entire thing was rewritten a year before the game's release. Elements are introduced that are never explained or referenced again, and the climax of the story is the most limp, unimaginative thing I've seen in a video game in a very long time. However, this terrible story is built on a very solid foundation of lore, which you'll want to be familiar with before diving into Destiny 2. As a result, the development team made the interesting decision to simply throw away some of the worse plot points of Destiny rather than try and reconcile them.
So what do you need to know, and what do you need to forget? Read on to find out.
Everything in the universe of Destiny centers around the Traveler. Some decades or centuries in the future, humans set foot on Mars for the first time, which is where they found a giant white sphere, a sort of mystical machine god known as the Traveler. The light the Traveler provided brought humanity into the Golden Age; knowledge and technology grew by leaps and bounds, human lifespan tripled, and our species boarded ships and colonized planets all around the galaxy. Unfortunately, this age came to an end with the arrival of the Traveler's ancient enemy, the Darkness.
What is the Darkness? Well, this is one of the hastily-written ideas from the original Destiny that never really got fleshed out. At this point, it's effectively been abandoned. All you need to know is that it's a mysterious force that heavily injured the Traveler and nearly drove humanity to extinction, in an event known as the Collapse. Humans eventually retreated back to Earth, gathering in the Last City, protected by the gigantic Wall that surrounds it. The Traveler, now dormant and damaged, hangs over the city, providing the last bit of help it can.
As the Traveler went dormant, it granted humanity its Light so that they may defend themselves. This Light led to the creation of Ghosts: small, sentient AI that find people, alive or dead, and grant them their Light to turn them into Guardians. These are the ones that have the power to defend the Last City from the foes that threaten it, and they gather at the Tower to socialize and plan their next moves. There are many Guardians in existence, but your character in particular is one of the best - just like everyone else playing the game. Don't worry about it too much.
Your Ghost, aptly named "Ghost", is your lifeline in this game. He provides you with your map, teleports you from one place to another, lets you communicate with NPCs, scans for lore pieces and more. Most importantly, he heals you and brings you back to life whenever you fall, letting you defy death indefinitely to defend the city. The character was originally voiced by Peter Dinklage of Game of Thrones fame, but since that actor wasn't available enough to support sequels and expansions, his voice was completely retconned and replaced with that of Nolan North, of Uncharted fame.
Your character, in particular, was found by Ghost just a few short years ago; you were someone who had died a very long time ago, but you were revived with Ghost's Light to become a Guardian. Because this is a video game, you proved to be an exceptionally skilled Guardian, defeating foe after foe that threatened humanity. The Vanguard now hold you in very high regard.
Your Guardian is supported by a number of characters, but the most important people to know are the three-person Vanguard. Commander Zavala, a no-nonsense Titan from the race of Awoken, is the leader of the group, mostly keeping a level head but inclined to take action sooner rather than later. Cayde-6, a mechanical Exo Hunter, is the game's comic relief, always trying to deflate serious situations when he's not getting himself into trouble; the excellent voice work of Nathan Fillion really brings this character to life. Lastly, Ikora Rey, a human Warlock, is very thoughtful and methodical, treating the Traveler with a sort of religious reverence. These three strategize and plan the actions of all the Guardians protecting Earth.
There are a number of other characters who appeared in the original game, especially as new expansions came along and needed characters to star in them, but few of them have any prominent roles in the new game's story. The standout character would be Amanda Holliday, the shipwright from the original game. She's an excellent pilot and mechanic, and she'll be there to give you a hand whenever you need a ride. Lastly, there is the mysterious Xûr, an agent of the equally-mysterious Nine, who will randomly appear somewhere in the game world to sell rare and valuable items. If you couldn't tell, he's very mysterious.
Another element worth exploring are the Warminds. These are powerful and complex supercomputers that formerly operated a massive defense system across the planets. After the Collapse, most of them became inoperative, but one named Rasputin still remains on Earth, reactivated by your actions. There are implications hidden deep in the Grimoire (Destiny's arcane collection of lore that you unlock in-game, but can only read on the web) that Rasputin is somehow responsible for the near-extinction of the human race, but who knows if it's true, or if Bungie hasn't thrown the concept out.
There are a number of alien races that you'll have to fight off throughout the course of the game. The Fallen are akin to space pirates; they're an insect-like race that scavenge planets across the solar system for resources. They have an interesting relationship with technology, almost to the point of worshiping it, though they aren't above stealing and using it for their own purposes, as seen in previous expansions.
The Hive are an aggressive and ruthless race, trying to consume and expand as far as they possible can throughout the universe as their prime directive. These creatures are doused in mysticism, using strange forces almost akin to magic, with a heavy dose of religion as well. They worship and pay tribute to their god, Oryx, and his son Crota, both of whom have conquered countless worlds; the expansions of the original game bring you face-to-face with both.
The Vex are a race of sentient but highly powerful machines, wanting to expand across the universe and mechanize everything in their way. These creatures were the main antagonists of the original game, where you had to travel across the planets of the solar system in order to destroy the Black Garden, another half-baked plot item that Bungie would be smart to forget; the less said about this absurd plot, the better. However, the game's original Vault of Glass raid is one of the greatest gaming experiences of this decade, showing more of the Vex's powers, including their ability to travel through time.
The Cabal are a mighty, militaristic race of aliens that destroy anything in their way. Normally, if you leave them alone, they will leave you alone; if you have something they want, though, they will destroy entire planets in order to get at it. The forces here in the solar system represent just a small part of a mighty Cabal empire deep in space. In the main story of Destiny 2, you're going to go head-to-head against a powerful arm of the Cabal known as the Red Legion, led by the mighty Dominus Ghaul.
The Taken King
In the third expansion of the original game, a fifth race was introduced: the Taken. This race is made of Fallen, Hive, Vex and Cabal, all taken and corrupted by the Blight. Creatures taken by the Blight lose their wills, serving only their master and expertly conquering everything they come across. Their bodies and powers are corrupted, giving them bizarre new abilities, such as being able to teleport or clone themselves.
All of these creatures are controlled by Oryx, the Hive god that is also known as the Taken King. Destiny's first expansion, The Dark Below, had you battling and destroying his son Crota, and the third expansion brought Oryx to the solar system for an ultimately unsuccessful revenge, parking his enormous Dreadnaught ship in the rings of Saturn. If you have some spare time, take a look online at the Book of Sorrows from the Destiny Grimoire. These lore pieces tell the origin story of Oryx, Crota and the Hive, and is a frankly fascinating piece of science fiction, with writing leaps and bounds above anything seen in the game.
The game's final expansion, Rise of Iron, revealed a powerful mechanical threat known as SIVA. This red nanomachine technology was intended for good purposes, but its self-replicating and corrupting nature soon threatened everything, and forced the powerful Iron Lords to sacrifice themselves in order to seal it away. The Fallen eventually found it and used it to modify themselves, worshiping it as they did other technology, but you were able to seal it away again and stop more of it from being produced, making yourself a new Iron Lord.
The above should give you enough knowledge to go into Destiny 2 and have a decent idea of what is going on, and what everyone is talking about. Thankfully, the sequel boasts a far more interesting story and many exciting moments that will have you seeing it through to the end. Stay tuned to GeekNifty for our upcoming Destiny 2 review, after we get a chance to play through the new raid.