The release of Destiny: The Taken King has represented one of the most dramatic turnarounds in public perception of a game I can remember. Those that mocked it for the duration of year one have been knocked into an admittance that Taken King has fixed the majority of people’s issues. A compelling story, characters, and a revamped game design have been introduced that serve as a fine jumping off point for this game’s second year.
“This, I think, is an example of what Bungie does really well; come up with a really good idea, and then totally not execute on it the first time around. We sit on it, hone it, refine it, and BAM, next game? Realize it to its fullest potential.” – Joseph Staten, former lead writer/cinematic director of Destiny, on the development of Halo 2.
Which means there’s only one question; what exactly does come next for this legendary title?
To help answer that question, for a moment, imagine that you are an elite soldier. You’ve been dropped in on a near suicidal mission with a very specific goal. A goal that, if accomplished, could save the human race. But the drop went wrong. You’re all alone. You’ve been separated from your squad. The world is mostly quiet, trickling with small sounds. If everyone else is gone, that means the enemy has already surrounded you. And they are bigger, stronger, and faster than you can ever dream to be. You don’t know how long you’ve been out. A few hours? Longer? Who knows? But the world hasn’t ended yet. Which means there’s still a chance you could pull this off.
You’re alone, yeah. But somebody has to descend into the dark. Give the rest of mankind a chance. You probably think I’m describing Halo 3: ODST, developer Bungie’s beloved interlude game in the Halo series. I’m not.
I’m describing Pathways into Darkness, Bungie’s original first-person shooter. It came out in 1993 and was Bungie’s first financial success, paving the way for Marathon, Myth, Oni, Halo, and Destiny.
Pathways’ similarities to Halo 3: ODST don’t end at premise. Both tell their stories via flashbacks with ODST doing so via playable missions in New Mombasa, Pathways by speaking with the dead in the ancient temple the entire game takes place in. Both involve a benevolent alien with a warning of the coming destruction of Earth. Both have incredibly bizarre hidden backstories. Halo 3: ODST is a modern revisiting of some of Bungie’s earliest shooter ideas – the old-school feeling rainy New Mombasa has doesn’t just come from the pistol evoking Halo: Combat Evolved. It is Pathways reborn.
I bring this up because of the ideology Staten mentions in that quote from the Halo 2 developer commentary, included in the Legendary Edition of Halo 3 alongside another for the revamped Combat Evolved. Those commentaries give a wealth of information about the development process of the Halo series, how plans for one game would shift to another. ODST indicates that Staten’s philosophy on Bungie’s development method isn’t just constrained to inter-series plot elements. It indicates that Bungie has an interest in outright remaking their old games in modern garb.
You know, like how Destiny is a remake of Bungie’s 1990s fantasy real-time strategy series Myth.
Full disclosure: this was not my original idea. Two Redditors, Takarias and eem5, made the original connections almost a year ago, before any expansions were released. Their investigations reveal a number of similarities; Myth resides in a universe where Light and Dark rule the universe in cycles, and the end of one cycle is signaled by the arrival of The Leveler, bringing both Light and Darkness in a collapse. Humanity has united in one surviving city, called Madrigal, defended by The Nine. Madrigal is under attack by The Fallen Lords, armies under the banner of Balor an his dark armies.
Stop me if any of that sounds familiar. Madrigal is The Last City, The Leveler is The Traveler. Darkness and Light as physical forces. The names Fallen and The Nine recycle and are put to similar use. And if you dig into the Grimoire, the only story in the Destiny universe before Taken King, there’s plenty of evidence that The Traveler is a perhaps a true neutral force. To such an extent, actually, that the Warmind named Rasputin that keeps showing up is revealed to have fired on the Traveler to keep it from abandoning Earth during it’s collapse.
The original Reddit posts make some interesting theories from these connections. In Myth, The Fallen Lords, The Nine are the commanders of Madrigal and come across The Head, a literal severed head that claims to be able to lead The Nine to victory against Balor. It is, of course, lying to them – leading to the fall of Madrigal .
The Reddit posts allege that The Head could be seen as the Myth incarnation of The Speaker – casting this enigmatic leader as a traitor working for the Darkness. Worth noting in the posts is the possible overlap that in Myth, the plan was for the armies of Madrigal to flee across the sea, and that in Destiny there is an equivalent place to flee across the “sea” to, the Reef, as hinted at in pre-release screenshots. This was a wild guess – one that came spectacularly true. The Reef becoming a second Tower for the Guardians, with almost all the same functions, in expansion two, House of Wolves.
Those posts also predate the knowledge of The Taken King, but accurately predicted the introduction of the Taken by reintroducing old pieces of Destiny concept art indicating a “Fifth Race” alongside the Fallen, Vex, Cabal, and Hive. Their ships in this concept art are eerily similar to the hard geometries of the Dreadnaught and Oryx’s fleet. The Taken’s method of gaining armies, by literally binding them to Oryx, is bang-on to Balor’s method of gathering his armies.
There is also the minor bit of information not covered in these posts – that, much like Myth, Destiny was once a swords-and-sorcery fantasy game. A literal revisiting of Myth’s territory.
So, let’s presume then this is more than coincidence and mad ramblings by tired writers. And since predictions made before a single expansion released were accurate a year later, is it possible that with current knowledge we can predict the future of Destiny’s story?
Let’s examine an event near the beginning of Myth: The Fallen Lords; Shiver, a formerly beautiful creature mutated by darkness and one of Balor’s generals, is killed in a “dream duel.” This fits excellently with killing Crota in The Dark Below, heading into Crota’s dream universe to kill him with The Hive being the also-ran, originally beautiful creatures that were corrupted by the Darkness itself. Thus making the Hive and the Taken the closest look we’ve gotten of the Darkness.
There is also the Tain, a magical artifact that contains a world outside of time, where Myth’s Legion (the protagonists) become trapped later in the game. There is evidence that the Vex are from a similar place out of time, and that the famous Stranger is an agent from this place (the description of the gun she gives you implies it should not exist yet). In Myth, the Tain is destroyed by the Legion, sending Soulblighter – one of the generals for Balor and controller of the Tain – running. Guardians did something similar at the end of Destiny’s main story, destroying the heart of the Black Garden and halting, for a time, the Vex onslaught.
These events occur loosely at the quarter and halfway points in Myth’s storyline, and set up very interesting events going forward.
The killing of Shiver in the dream is what convinces The Nine to launch a full offensive at the advice of The Head, searching for an object called the Total Codex with the knowledge of events to come – this offensive is, on the whole, a disaster. As Destiny’s The Nine still reside in the shadows, is it possible that our actions against Crota and then Oryx in The Taken King could finally draw The Nine out into aiding mankind and into large scale war against the forces of Darkness. One that ultimately costs us the City as it does in Myth?
Then, there is the matter of The Deceiver and the Trow, a Fallen Lord and one of the many races assimilated by Balor. The Deceiver, who relies on a magical scepter for power, is constantly at odds with the rest of the Lords and the Trow, once builders of giant iron citadels, are simple slaves. In Myth II: Soulblighter, the Legion allies itself with these former enemies to fight Soulblighter and new enemies of the darkness.
Throughout these expansions, the Grimoire unlocks show sympathy for the Fallen and Cabal. We have Fallen allies in House of Wolves, and Fallen rely on scepter-like Servitors to stay alive. We more or less come to the aid of the Cabal in The Taken King’s opening mission, and they have iron citadels all over Mars. They both war with the other races. The Fallen are depicted as having their home destroyed by the Traveler, a race once blessed by the light as we were, and reduced to wandering the stars. The Grimoire tells us that the Cabal are running from some unknown enemy.
Is it possible that the course of Destiny could contain an alliance with these two races against greater evils? If leaked documents hold up, the next expansion will bring Guardians back against the Vex, much like Soulblighter returned at the end of Myth and in Myth II. The fourth will involve the Cabal, the first time we see narrative focus turned to them.
And then there is still that hovering mystery of Rasputin and the potentially devious motives of the Traveler hinted at in the Grimoire. There’s Destiny’s equivalent of The Nine still waiting out there with a Total Codex to find and a war to fall into. There are people displaced from time, waiting to return. There’s The Head, the liar waiting in the mist – The Speaker, or someone new?
A great deal of Destiny’s future lies in vague mysteries of Myth and legend. This is a lot of speculation, a great deal of guesswork. It is possible that none of this could come to pass, and Bungie charts a new path unbound by old stories.
But if The Taken King has proven anything, it is that Staten’s adage about Bungie is more true than ever. The second time around is where Bungie knocks it out of the park. And if all this Myth is true? Then the stars are very bright indeed.