According to its creators, Destiny is the start of a series that is expected to span a decade of games and content. In storytelling terms though, it's off to a slow start, making the poor decision to hide a lot of vital background in unlockable cards on the Destiny website and companion app and only reluctantly telling its story through dull mission descriptions and vestigial cut-scenes that take hours to trickle into view.
With that in mind - and given that people may play missions out of order anyway - it's probably worth recapping the story of Destiny, both for people who have finished it already and for those who are joining the series at some later date. And, you know, for rubbernecking gamers who don't plan to play it but do fancy glorying in its naivety.
So then, scratched together from briefings, cut-scenes and Grimoire cards, here's what happens in Destiny.
Before we begin, this should be astonishingly obvious, but: SPOILER WARNING!!!
A long time ago, a giant floating sphere called the Traveller pitched up in our solar system, ushering in an era of great prosperity for humanity, known as the Golden Age. The Traveller shared its technology and vast knowledge with the local humans, whose lifespans duly tripled as they spread out across the many planets of the Milky Way.
Alas, this wouldn't last forever. After centuries of good times came the Collapse. An evil force called The Darkness, a great adversary of the Traveller, turned up and started wiping us all out. Decimated by The Darkness, the last vestiges of humankind retreated to Earth, where the Traveller made its last stand, sacrificing itself to save the people who remained. The Traveller is around at the start of Destiny, dark and dormant, but still powerful enough to shelter one last location, The City, in its shadow.
The City has come under repeated attack by alien species over the years, but has always survived. And the Traveller has spawned a race of floating Rubik's Cube fellows called Ghosts, who have begun resurrecting fallen individuals drawn from the ranks of Humans, Exo (robots created during the Golden Age) and Awoken (a race born in the Collapse) to become Guardians. The Ghosts' criteria for selection are elusive, but this is where you come in. As a newly forged Guardian, you join the effort to retake the galaxy in the name of humankind, overcoming malicious alien races as you encounter them, and hopefully breathing life back into the Traveller in the process.
At the beginning of the game, your Ghost (voiced, famously, by Peter Dinklage) resurrects you from an unknown fate in amongst the detritus of Old Russia. All we know about you is you've been dead a long time. After a whirlwind introduction - including meeting the Traveller's advisor, the Speaker - you and your Ghost probe the nearby Cosmodrome, where humanity used to launch its forays into outer space, fending off Fallen enemies who are picking its bones. On one of your sorties, you come face to face with the Hive, a race of demonic enemies who were thought to have been confined to the Moon. You also discover that an old Russian Warmind called Rasputin, an AI built to defend Earth, is still alive and acting with unknown intent.
Off to the Moon you go in search of a lost Guardian who was looking for a way into the Hive Fortress. After locating his corpse and battered Ghost, your Ghost discovers the Hive are raising an army and plan to invade Earth. You quickly set about disrupting their efforts - shutting down a ritual they are using to drain power from the Traveller, destroying a powerful weapon called the Sword of Crota and severing their long-distance communications. It's not clear who they were talking to - your Ghost suggests their "god or king" - but there will be no more communing. Around this time, you are contacted by the Exo Stranger, a mysterious woman who summons you to Venus to face a new enemy.
When you get there, the Exo Stranger introduces you to the Vex, "evil so dark it despises other evil" - a robotic race with a hive mind spread across many galaxies. She is also in contact with someone else by radio, although you don't find out who. She tells you about the Black Garden, a city where the Vex are born, and implores you to find it and rip out its heart. "Only then will your Traveller begin to heal." Your Ghost says you need to speak to the Awoken, who lurk out in the Reef refusing to take sides in the galaxy's wars, but before you and the Exo Stranger can get into this more, she is called away.
Once there, you meet the Queen of the Reef and her oily brother, who tell you that they will help you locate the Black Garden if you bring them the head of a Vex Gate Lord. So it's back to Venus, where you first uncover the Archive, which reveals all sorts of other secrets about the Vex, including the location of something called the Vault of Glass (the subject of the first Destiny Raid), and pathways across the galaxy. After taking an afternoon off to go deal with a Fallen Kell (a sort of boss) called Draxis, who has parked his giant Ketch ship nearby, you confront the Vex Gate Lord, claim its head and return to the Queen, who tells you to take its eye to Meridian Bay on Mars, where it can be used to enter the Black Garden.
Now you're off to the races, or more accurately to Mars, which is in the grip of the Cabal, a military race who stomp around in big exosuits that simulate the heavy gravity of their home planet and make them look a bit like they've just stumbled in from Gears of War. The Cabal have been trying to break the encryption on the Vex Gate with only limited success, but they do control many of the places you need to visit on Mars thanks to their Exclusion Zone, which nobody has ever penetrated. You duly do this, heading to the Garden's Spire, which charges the Gate Lord's eye.
You also go to the Buried City, birthplace of many technological wonders. After fighting your way to its heart, you discover an AI that used to be linked to the Warmind of Mars, but is now controlled by Rasputin. "He's everywhere now," your Ghost says. This is the last we hear of Rasputin in Destiny, but probably only for now. With the Vex now present on Mars, you manage to figure out what they're doing here. "This isn't an invasion," your Ghost reveals. "The Vex are returning home. Something is calling them back to the Black Garden."
This you and they have in common, because it's time to go through the Vex Gate and visit the Black Garden yourself. On the other side, you find yourself in a place "not on any map of known space and time". After several pitched battles, you reach the heart of the Black Garden, which is literally a beating heart suspended in the air like the Eye of Sauron. The Vex appear to be worshipping it. It summons three statue-like enemies - Eschaton, Imminent and Primeval Mind - but they only appear one by one and you take them down. This destroys the heart, returning you to Mars and lifting the shroud of Darkness from the Traveller back on Earth.
Under the shadow of a much brighter-looking Traveller, the Speaker addresses gathered Guardians at The Tower, the game's social hub. "We are what remains of the Light and we will not be stamped out," he says by way of celebration. Over in a nearby hanger, though, you meet the Exo Stranger. "It's a day for pretty speeches and medals," she says. "But we know the real fight takes place out there." She leaves you with a sweet new weapon. "There is so much more, Guardian. I've seen terrible things born out in the Darkness. Every moment brings them closer. All ends are beginnings. Our fight is far from over."
That's it, at least for now. Bungie looks set to continue the story through add-on content in the months to come, not to mention years more of full games, but in the meantime, there's speculating to do. What's going on with Rasputin? Who is directing the Exo Stranger? Why does it take 10 hours before anyone with a face appears in a cut-scene? And is there any credence to the imaginative conspiracy theories about the role of the Guardians? Only time will tell. Paul? Play us out...