Destiny 2 is here, kicking off a new chapter of Activision’s wildly popular shared-world shooter. A lot has happened in the universe of Destiny since the original game launched, including expansions, large and small, which add to the story, and countless tweaks to the form and function of the game’s fundamental elements. So much has happened, in fact, that a reminder might be in order for anyone wondering what’s going on in Destiny these days.
The latest expansion, Beyond Light, is actually the eleventh chapter in the Destiny saga, depending on how you count. Developer Bungie released Destiny in September 2014, followed by four major expansions: The Dark Below, House of Wolves, The Taken King, and Rise of Iron. Destiny 2 kicked off the series’ second arc a few years back and has already seen a few expansions to progress the storyline even further.
The Destiny series has taken some flak over the years regarding the accessibility (or rather, inaccessibility) of its deep, layered mythology. Much of the first game’s detailed lore was stashed outside of the game in the “Grimoire,” a website players could access if they wanted to dig into the game’s mythology.
Though Destiny 2 has rectified this issue, the series story is a long, winding tale set in a massive universe. Even within the game itself, a lot has happened: Whether you started playing on day one or plan to pick up the adventure for the first with Destiny 2, chances are you could use a refresher course on the world of Destiny if you are planning to jump back in.
The story so far
A long, long time ago, humanity encountered a mysterious alien entity known as the Traveler. A tremendous, floating sphere, the Traveler helped humanity usher in its Golden Age, sharing the knowledge that let humans explore the galaxy, colonize far-off planets, and develop the sort of technology that let us evolve rapidly as a species.
All good things come to an end, though, and the Traveler was eventually followed by its enemy, the equally mysterious and entirely destructive entity known as the Darkness. Things went bad quickly, and after the Traveler seemingly sacrificed itself to drive off the Darkness, there was precious little left of the human species. Various alien races began to move in for the kill, colonizing former human settlements and making humanity’s continued existence uncertain at best. Everyone refers to the end of the Golden Age as “the Collapse.”
Fortunately (for humanity), the Traveler had taken one last action before expending its energies. After fending off the Darkness, the Traveler dispersed its life force – referred to as “Light” – in the form of small, seemingly sentient “ghosts” that sought out the greatest, deceased defenders of humanity and reanimated them as “Guardians.”
They were tasked with protecting humanity and the remains of the Traveler. The base of operations for Guardians is “the City,” the last remaining stronghold for humanity, located somewhere on Earth in the shadow of the Traveler, which is now a floating, lifeless sphere. the Traveler apparently isn’t dead, but has been dormant for centuries.
In the initial Destiny storyline, players – in the role of Guardians – fought to re-establish humanity’s foothold on key outposts on Earth and other planets, while investigating rumors of new alien races and the possibility of yet another threat from the Darkness. Over the course of that first story arc, the Guardians battle the alien armies of the Fallen, the Hive, and the Cabal, while dealing with the android-like Vex, recovering a piece of the Traveler, and extinguishing an entity with ties to the Darkness.
Along with their own solo adventures, Guardians joined forces to explore the Vault of Glass, the game’s first team-based “raid” activity, which eventually pits them against a massive, time-manipulating Vex leader named Atheon. This raid on the Vex stronghold was the culmination of the game’s first chapter, which also featured the introduction of a mysterious stranger who seemed to know more about the future than she was letting on.
But wait, there’s more…
In the game’s first expansion, The Dark Below, the Guardians investigated the re-emergence of Crota, a powerful “Hive Prince” summoned from another dimension.
You learn of the Hive’s plot to bring Crota into this world from Eris Morn, a former Guardian who is the only survivor of an earlier, failed mission to stop the Hive’s ritual. Your actions in the original game indirectly resulted in Eris being freed from the Hive’s underground lair on the moon, and despite being horrifically affected by her experience both mentally and physically, she serves as the resident expert on the Hive.
Over the course of The Dark Below, your Guardian thwarts the Hive’s attempts to bring Crota into this dimension, culminating in the Crota’s End raid, which has you descend into the depths of the Hive’s lair with a team of fellow Guardians on a mission to eliminate the threat posed by Crota. After a climactic battle, your team destroys Crota using his own sword against him.
In House of Wolves, the second expansion to the Destiny universe, the Guardians quell a rebellion staged by a group of Fallen who had previously served Queen Mara Sov of the Awoken. The Awoken are a species of blue-skinned human descendants whose genetics were altered during The Traveler’s battle with The Darkness generations ago, and now live in a far corner of the galaxy known as The Reef.
The rebellion is led by Skolas, the leader of the Fallen sect known as the “House of Wolves,” who attempts to use Vex technology to create an army composed of his most powerful allies from various timelines. Your Guardian eventually thwarts Skolas’ plan, and hands him over to the Awoken Queen to imprison in the fortified “Prison of Elders.” Things don’t stay quiet for long, though, and Skolas begins to build an army within the prison. Your Guardian is then tasked with going into the prison with a three-person team to put a permanent end to Skolas.
So what about that Taken King guy?
Remember Crota? Well, it turns out the Hive Prince has a father – and he wasn’t happy about the Guardians killing his son.
The third expansion, The Taken King, introduced a new major threat to the world of Destiny: the Hive’s god-king Oryx. It also introduced an entirely new species of alien known as The Taken. The storyline has your Guardian investigating the return of Oryx, who travels through the universe in a massive ship known as The Dreadnaught. He commands the Taken, an army composed of twisted versions of creatures from our dimension, tainted by his influence and given strange new powers.
After a failed attack on the Dreadnaught by the Awoken — an attack that costs them the lives of both Queen Mara Sov and her brother, Prince Uldren Sov — the Guardians are forced to contend with the threat posed by Oryx and his army.
In order to face this terrible new threat, your Guardian embarks on a quest to unlock new powers that give you an edge in your battle against Oryx and his minions. Equipped with these new powers — the solar-based Sunbreaker class for Titans, the arc-based Stormcaller class for Warlocks, and the void-based Nightstalker class for Hunters — you take the battle to Oryx himself on his Dreadnaught, where you manage to not only infiltrate his lair, but seemingly kill him.
You soon discovered that getting rid of Oryx isn’t that easy, however, and your Guardian is forced to head back to the Dreadnaught in another six-person team to take down Oryx once and for all in the King’s Fall raid. The raid culminates with your team blasting the Hive’s god-king into deep space, bringing an end (you hope) to the reign of Oryx.
Fighting off a techno-plague
In Rise of Iron, the final expansion for Destiny, your Guardian discovers that sinister things were afoot on Earth while you were busy saving the galaxy from Oryx.
Back on Earth, one of the groups of Fallen called the House of Devils managed to stumble upon a dangerous technology locked away years earlier. That tech is called SIVA, and it’s referred to in the game as a “techno-plague.” It’s essentially nanomachines, a swarm of microscopic robots that can affect matter at the molecular level.
When they aren’t trying to kill you, the Fallen worship technology and use it to modify themselves, so SIVA is a bad mix with these guys. They go crazy with the stuff, modifying their bodies and releasing it on Earth, where SIVA even starts to reshape parts of the landscape. Years earlier, some of the earliest Guardians revived by the Traveler went rogue and tried to subjugate what remained of the world. The Iron Lords, a group of powerful but flawed Guardians who predated the Vanguard, banned together to fight them.
When SIVA was unleashed soon after the Collapse, the Iron Lords banded together to stop it. They weren’t able to destroy the stuff, so they sealed it away underground. Lord Saladin, the Iron Lord who runs the Iron Banner multiplayer event, was the only one to escape the battle alive. He created the Iron Banner tournament to prepare a new generation of Guardians to fight SIVA in case it ever got free again.
To stop SIVA, the Guardians travel to the Plaguelands on Earth and fight their way into the storage facility where SIVA was originally sealed. After fighting the corpses of three other Iron Lords reanimated by the virus, players destroy the SIVA tomb, taking the rest of the virus with it. That stops any new SIVA from leaking out or being manufactured, and Saladin declares that the victorious Guardians will serve as the first of a new generation of Iron Lords.
The story concludes with the “Wrath of the Machine” raid, in which players have track down the SIVA-modified mastermind behind the whole debacle, a Fallen named Aksis. Using SIVA, Aksis has turned himself into a huge cyborg with spider legs.. Taking out Aksis finally ends the SIVA threat.
Destiny 2 aka The Red War
Destiny 2 kicks off a new conflict with the least prominent of the darkness’ factions, the Cabal. At the game’s outset, a new Cabal army led by the villainous emperor, Dominus Ghaul, invades the Last City on Earth. As the Guardians and Vanguard work on evacuating civilians, Ghaul reveals his true goal — he attacks the Traveler with a giant ship that creates some kind of energy barrier around it.
This effectively cuts off the Traveler’s Light from the rest of the solar system. Suddenly, Guardians can’t be resurrected from the dead. Without the Light, the Guardians lose their advantage: Ghaul’s army, known as “the Red Legion,” overwhelms them and takes the City. The player and his or her Ghost only barely survive, and manage to slip out of the Cabal-occupied City and into the wilds surrounding it.
While the Guardians are scattered and dying across the solar system, Ghaul captures the Speaker for the Traveler and tortures him to find out more about the Traveler, so he might earn its favor. Ghaul’s main goal is to get the Traveler’s Light, the blessing that makes Guardians immortal and gives them their various superpowers, and use it himself.
Out in the wilds of Earth, the player stumbles across a group of survivors, led by a woman named Hawthorne, who fled the city and are holed up in the woods near the Shard of the Traveler. The piece broke off centuries ago when the Darkness first attacked the Traveler during the Collapse. As players wander through the woods hoping to survive, they see a vision from the Traveler that directs them to the Shard. It turns out there’s still some of the Traveler’s Light in the Shard, and touching it restores the Light to the player. Suddenly, you’re the only immortal Guardian in the system, and it’s up to you to save the day.
Through the course of Destiny 2, the player reconnects with the Guardians’ leaders, Zavala, Cayde-6, and Ikora, all of whom are trying to figure out how to defeat Ghaul in their own way. Upon seeing that a Guardian has regained their light, the Vanguard trio agrees to reunite and devises a plan to retake the City.
While the player is running around bringing them together, they also discover that Ghaul has an insurance policy — a sun-killing superweapon called “the Almighty” that can destroy the entire solar system. As it turns out, if the Cabal can’t manage to conquer a place, they annihilate it.
The player heads to the Almighty and shuts down the weapon, taking away Ghaul’s ability to fire it if he loses the Last City. That serves as a signal for Zavala, Ikora, and Cayde, along with Hawthorne and the rest of the Guardians they’ve gathered, to attack the City.
The battle goes well for a while, but when the player gets back to Earth to join the fight, they find that the Vanguard leaders have been hurt and can’t go on to take down Ghaul. Using Cayde’s Vex teleporter, the player zaps over onto Ghaul’s command ship to defeat him once and for all.
By this point, Ghaul has tortured the Speaker to death and managed to use technology to access the Traveler’s Light. He’s got a whole inferiority complex about not having been chosen on his merits to receive the Traveler’s gift, and he throws all that anger at the player, trying to kill them with their own superpowers.
The player manages to defeat Ghaul, and he zaps himself with so much Light that he becomes what seems like a giant immortal Light monster. But that causes the Traveler, which has been dormant for centuries after pushing back the Darkness way back during the Collapse, to suddenly wake up. It blasts Ghaul, annihilating him, and returns Light to the Guardians across the solar system.
We don’t know yet what the reawakening of the Traveler is going to mean for Destiny, but it’s definitely a big deal. There’s also a post-credits scene in Destiny 2 that suggests a new threat is on its way; a group of black ships waiting dormant outside of the galaxy that are reawakened by the Traveler’s massive surge of energy.
Meanwhile, on Mercury
The story doesn’t end when players take down the Cabal and defeat Dominus Ghaul. There’s the “Leviathan” raid, in which players encounter former Cabal emperor Calus, whom Ghaul sent into exile. Exploring Calus’ ship/palace reveals quite a bit of the information about the Cabal’s history and suggests there is more going on with the aliens than just what happens in the main story.
And then there’s what is happening on Mercury.
The first expansion for Destiny 2, dubbed Curse of Osiris, takes players to Mercury, a planet that was previously off-limits in Destiny, for the most part. At some point before the first Destiny, the planet was taken over by the time-traveling Vex and converted into a machine world. This is the hivemind’s general M.O. — We’ve seen it try the same thing on Venus in Destiny, and seen what happens when it succeeds on Nessus in Destiny 2.
While the Vanguard fought the Cabal in Destiny 2‘s main campaign, the Vex have been up to something. Dominus Ghaul’s Red Legion struck major blows against the Vex on Mars, driving it out of strongholds the Cabal has struggled with for years. But with Ghaul’s death, the Vex has been able to regroup.
Ok, here’s where things get weird: The Vex has a big, scary talent — time travel. The hivemind sends its forces back in time to manipulate timelines constantly, and can create spaces that exist outside of time, like the Vault of Glass.
At the outset of Curse of Osiris, Ikora discovers that the Vex are amassing an army from multiple timelines, pulling robots from both the past and the future in a bid to take over the solar system.
That information comes from Ikora’s former mentor, Osiris, a figure who looms large in Destiny’s lore. (You may him from the “Trials of Osiris” multiplayer event, which is put on by his followers). Players had never actually met Osiris — Until now.
Osiris is a legendary Guardian who used to serve in the Vanguard — the military commanders that protect the Last City. (You know them as your quest-givers: Cayde-6, Ikora, and Zavala). In his time, Osiris wasn’t just a warrior and commander, he was also a scholar.
Like other members of the Warlock class, he studied the Traveler, its Light, and “the Darkness,” which ostensibly seems to be the name for all the aliens that want to conquer and destroy the Traveler and the worlds it protects. Osiris wanted to know as much about the Darkness as he could find and used his Vanguard posting to divert resources to find out about things like the Hive, their god Oryx, and the Vex.
Over time, Osiris became increasingly obsessed with these ideas. Eventually, his studies undermined the safety of the City, and the Speaker for the Traveler exiled him. Though his studies drove him close to madness, we learned over the course of the series that Osiris’ research-and-intelligence-gathering outfit was right.
He predicted Oryx’s coming long before it actually happened, and warned that the Vex would be a huge danger if left unchecked. The Guardians who realized this, and agreed his Osiris’ priorities, known as the Cult of Osiris, put on the “Trials,” and try to gather other Guardians to work with the exiled leader.
Turns out, Osiris had been investigating a Vex simulation construct known as the Infinite Forest on Mercury, which the time-traveling robots used to test all kinds of futures. He headed into the Infinite Forest to try to stop Panoptes, the Vex mind that ran the place and was using it to direct Vex strategies by simulating all possible timelines.
Cornered by the Vex, Osiris sent his ghost, Sagira, out of the Infinite Forest to contact the Vanguard Ikora for help in defeating Panoptes. At the end of Curse of Osiris, The Guardian teams up with the exiled Osiris and destroys Panoptes, preventing the Vex from creating a future in which their victory was assured.
The Warmind exposed
Destiny 2‘s upcoming expansion, Warmind, tells an entirely separate story, one that surfaces a lot of lore from the series’ apocalyptic history. Back during the Golden Age, the corporation known as Clovis Bray helped colonize the solar system and created many powerful technologies. The company was responsible for the skyscraper known as the Dust Palace on Mars and helped build the city of Freehold.
Its researchers were also responsible for SIVA, thanks to some unethical science. They also helped build the Warminds, the big defense supercomputers that protected the solar system prior to The Collapse. Bray built the Warminds in a facility called Futurescape on Mars, located in a region known as the Hella Basin.
It seems that the facility might even house the core of the powerful Warmind Rasputin, which Guardians have interacted with a few times before, according to some new Grimoire card-type entries published on Bungie.com.
Not much is known about Bray in the present era, but at least one member of the Bray family, Anastasia, became a Guardian. She fought at Twilight Gap, a massive battle on Earth in which the armies of the Fallen nearly overtook the Last City before disappearing. It turns out Ana did something Guardians aren’t supposed to do: She looked into her past, from before her first death. Upon learning her identity, she went to Mars to find out more about herself and Clovis Bray.
In addition to whatever secrets she uncovered, Ana has found a Hive army hidden in Mars’ polar ice cap. It turns out that the Moon was not the first place that humanity encountered the Hive. The Hive attacked Mars at some point, apparently led by their worm god, Xol, and one of the sons of Oryx, Nokris. There’s not much information about Nokris — he was a Hive god that was cast out by Oryx and his ilk. Apparently, they were all frozen in the ice on Mars … in a region known as the Hella Basin.
As always, the Guardians prevail over Xol and Nokris, saving Rasputin in the process. The always enigmatic Rasputin returns the favor vowing to once again protect the galaxy, though judging by the following expansions, it doesn’t seem like he does a very good job at that task.
In Forsaken, things get personal. The story begins with you and Cayde-6 traveling to the Reef to help Petra Venj stop a massive prison break. It turns out that a group of undead Fallen locked in the Prison of Elders have formed a new race called the Scorn, and someone decided to let them out. While searching for the culprit, Cayde-6 is tragically killed by a moody new villain, Uldren Sov.
Uldren Sov an Awoken prince who’s looking for his dead sister, who happens to be the Reef’s Queen Mara Sov. Uldren believes his sister is still alive and communicating with him. His plan to save her? Open a secret Awoken gateway that she claims to be trapped in.
To aid in his mission, Uldren enlists the help of Fikrul The Fanatic, a Fallen high priest and his group of Scorned Barons. Deadset on avenging Cayde-6, you set out to kill each Baron until you reach Uldren.
In classic Destiny fashion, things get a little strange here. Uldren Sov opens the gateway only to find that his sister has not been communicating with him. Instead, he had been manipulated by the Voice of Riven, a giant Taken space dragon, who swallows Uldren. Whoops.
The player kills the Voice of Riven, releasing Uldren from his clutches. Uldren’s freedom is ultimately short-lived as you decide to kill him with Cayde’s own gun, successfully avenging your fallen friend.
To The Moon
The Shadowkeep expansion takes the story back to the Moon, which returns from the first Destiny games. Since you’ve last seen it, the Hive have constructed a giant tower on the Moon called The Scarlet Keep, which has caused some sort of disturbance that you’re sent to investigate.
As it turns out, the disturbance is actually coming from Destiny 1 fan-favorite Eris Morn, who asks you to come find her. While searching for Eris under the Moon’s surface, you discover a giant black pyramid, which has ominously appeared throughout Destiny 2’s story. However, you are unable to enter and instead greeted by three “Nightmare” versions of familiar villains like Crota.
Luckily, Eris teleports you to safety and explains what’s going on. The pyramid is essentially a major source of Darkness, which has allowed local Hive to control the Nightmares you encountered earlier. Nightmares are exactly what they sound like; your past fears resurrected by the Darkness.
That’s where the Scarlet Keep comes in. The structure was built by Hashladûn, daughter of the slain Crota, as a way to harness the pyramid’s Darkness and avenge her father’s death.
In order to enter the Pyramid, you set out to construct a specific set of armor that will allow you to bypass its barrier. After killing Nightmare versions of old foes like Omnigul to gain their essences, it’s off to the Scarlet Keep where you kill Hashladûn and obtain a map to a special Hive artifact.
After recovering the artifact and constructing all the armor, you finally gain access to the pyramid where you fight Nightmare versions of Crota, Ghaul, and Fikrul. The prize at the end of the pyramid? A mysterious artifact, which causes you to have a vision in which you’re confronted by your doppelganger and an army of floating pyramids atop Destiny 1’s Black Garden. Your double waxes poetic, telling you that he is your “salvation.”
Eris Morn and Ikora Rey interpret this as a sign that the Darkness is poised to bring about a catastrophic event on par with the solar system’s first collapse. Those fears are quickly pushed to the side, however, when an army of Vex invade and resurrect the Undying Mind, a giant robot who threatens to destroy the Traveler.
Going Beyond Light
Picking up on story threads left last season, Beyond Light follows up on the Darkness pyramid ships that appeared. They have been causing entire planets to vanish, but to make matters worse, the Fallen have been united under a new Kell named Eramis, who has been granted immense power from the Darkness. She grants this power to all the Fallen under her, creating a strong threat to the Light. Variks, once a follower of Eramis, has realized the dangers she poses and lends his aid to us in stopping her.
However, even with all the strength we have, the Darkness is too much to overcome. That’s when the Exo Stranger makes an interesting proposition. What if you wield the powers of the Darkness against it? She teaches you the ways of controlling the Darkness, granting us a new Stasis power, and reveals that she is actually from a separate timeline where Guardians had adopted the power of the Darkness and were subsequently corrupted by it. She has come to our timeline to prevent that from happening again.
Thanks to the new abilities the Darkness provides, you are able to start eliminating high-ranking members of Eramis’ army. Many friends are concerned about how the Darkness will affect you as it becomes more powerful, but it is the only weapon you have against the Fallen at this point.
Pushed into a corner, Eramis decides to open a portal on Europa to the Vex, and nearly succeeds. You are able to close the portal before too many escape, thwarting her plans. It is at this point you learn the history of Eramis and the Fallen. She is determined to destroy the Traveler after the Light abandoned the Fallen, which were beforehand known as the Eliksni. Once the Light left them, their entire race descended into what we know them as now. Her ultimate goal is to fully eliminate the Light and start a new age of Darkness.
In your final confrontation with Eramis, even the Darkness abandons her. Before you can finish her off, she becomes frozen in Stasis. We are told that she is not dead, however, and that she will somehow return in the future. For now, however, we don’t know how or in what form that will be.