Who is really the bad guy in Destiny?
[Warning: here there be spoilers.]
We have all expressed our discontentment with Bungie over its lackluster story by now. For those who haven't played Destiny yet, the story can be summarized in a few sentences: the enemy (a.k.a 'Darkness') is bad, and we (the 'Guardians') are good. We kill bad things, and life goes on.
Before jumping into Destiny a year ago, I remember talking to a few friends of mine who'd been playing it for a few weeks. I couldn't believe they were already done with the story mode and how much they hated it.
I mean c'mon, how could they have given us such a lackluster story with their track record?!
Fast forward a year later, and I am now a veteran Destiny player, grinding away at the raids and crucibles and just having fun with it. The storyline still irks me, but I've pushed it to the back of my mind.
Until I happened to be doing a quest on the moon.
I got close to a fallen dreg. I never knew they were even capable of speech before this, but one of them exclaimed 'It's the darkness!' before opening fire on me.
Wait a minute, what? I'm the darkness?
Before anyone gets on my case about this, I already did some internet research and know this is a topic that's been discussed a lot. In fact, interest was sparked by a redditor who heard the same lines I did from a fallen dreg.
Prior to this, I honestly didn't bother with any story elements of the game, even ignoring most of them. But ever since I heard that line with my own ears, I've been digging around quite a bit and found a lot more things that just might make this theory more believable.
Let's start with the obvious one. The 'Traveler', a big white spherical object hovering above the last city. The city that we, as Guardians, are tasked with protecting. And by extension, we must protect the Traveler as well.
We do everything in the name of the Traveler. By now the Guardians have murdered countless alien forces over and over again - all for the sake of protecting the Traveler and getting it healed (The Traveler is supposedly dormant now, having sacrificed itself to save the last of humanity during the event known as 'The Collapse'.)
From the moment you wake as a Guardian, you have little to no explanation as to why you were awoken by your ghost. Yet you don't seem to have many questions either. Your Guardian seems already inclined to carry out the Traveler's will, taking orders from the 'Speaker'.
In short, you never question why you're doing what you're doing, and the Speaker is quite content never having to explain. Common sense dictates that if anything was raised from the dead and told to take up arms and fight in a war, chances are it would have a lot of questions and probably some existential crises.
But you? The Guardian? Oh no. You're supposedly content with never getting answers and bowing your head to the 'superior authority'.
So what happens if someone does question the Guardian's true purpose? Or if they try to understand this mysterious 'darkness'?
Someone did. And it drove him to the brink of madness - with the added bonus of being exiled from the city.
Osiris is an old warlock and former Vanguard who was exiled from the city for asking a few questions and being interested in areas that did not sit too well with the Speaker.
Osiris was described as mighty warrior, except that he was 'mis-incarnated as a human by an inept ghost' (according to his Grimoire card). In other words, he became a Guardian.
The Speaker describes Osiris as a man who does not have much patience for confusion, but he sees potential in him, prompting him to take Osiris on as an apprentice.
However, it was not to be.
"That was when I took you under my wing. I saw our future in you. But your curiosity was voracious— How much of a Guardian's personality and memories were true? How much had been fabricated by their Ghost? Did Guardians share particular personality traits— a willingness to yield to authority, a tendency to do anything anyone asked for the promise of uncertain reward, a blind knight-errant mentality? Had the Traveler manufactured all of you as living weapons?"
- Osiris Grimoire card
The Speaker goes on to say that he found those questions divisive and disloyal.
Osiris pretty much asks the same questions we would love to have the answers to. Did Guardians indeed have a willingess to yield to authority in their former lives? Is that why our Guardians are so apathetic to this war they're fighting?
Stop and consider this for a moment:
We as Guardians carried out all the tasks given to us. We do all of them for that next piece of armor, or weapon, or something else. We never know what we might end up getting do we?
Let's recall the other question: did the Traveler manufacture the Guardians as living weapons?
Looking back at all the enemies I've killed in game without any questions asked, all the different tools I have at my disposal as a Guardian, I'm inclined to agree.
If the Speaker and the Traveler did not have anything to hide, why couldn't he just answer these questions and sate Osiris's curiosity? Instead of punishing him and exiling him from the city in an effort to stop his ideas from spreading, why not explain everything and clear the air?
The Disiciples of Osiris
It seems the Speaker's attempts to silence Osiris weren't entirely succesful. He somehow worked out a deal with the Queen of the Reef, allowing him to set up a front for his disciples and seek out more Guardians who are interested in his cause - even if it is unsure whether Osiris himself is still alive or not.
It also seems like they only seek out the best that Guardians have to offer. The Trials of Osiris is a testament to this - it is by far the most demanding PvP mode in Destiny.
And maybe it's a necessity. A Guardian looking to ask the same questions Osiris did, or try to walk the same path he did, needs to prove themselves first.
Toland the Shattered
Toland is another warlock who, just like Osiris, had a morbid curiosity about the enigmatic darkness that he was supposed to fight.
Most Guardians should be familiar with his 'work'
Toland was described as having an almost 'perverse' obsession with learning all there is to know about the Hive and the darkness. He was even said to have been able to commune with the darkness at one point, leading him to make predictions about the return of Crota and others - predictions that were dismissed in the past as the ramblings of a mad man because of his exile from the tower.
These mistakes lead to the deaths of an untold number of Guardians as his prediction came to pass.
Toland was part of Eris Morn's fireteam, which attempted to take the moon back from the hive. As we know, her attempt failed, and she was the only one to make it out. Unfortunately, that means Toland is probably dead by the hand of Crota and the Hive. Yet Guardians whisper his name in awe around the tower, far away from the Speaker.
This only serves to raise more questions. Why was he exiled? Just like Osiris, his curiosity only lead to his banishment.
It is worth noting that unlike Osiris, Toland never questioned a Guardian's true purpose or anything that may seem contradictory to the Traveler. He merely wanted to understand what they were fighting. That's a common tactic in war, is it not? To know the enemy?
What could the darkness have told him that warranted his banishment? A banishment that ultimately lead to a tragedy, costing the tower one of their greatest assets in the war against the Hive?
What is the darkness? I've been a Guardian for a long time now and I still cannot answer this question. Is it the Vex? The Fallen? The Cabal? The Hive? Or is it a whole other entity, hiding behind the shadows and pulling the strings?
And why did that fallen dreg call me the darkness when all this time I thought I was fighting it? Does that mean all the alien races we've been fighting are only shooting at us because they believe we are the 'darkness'?
And we aren't the only ones with reason to question what side we're on.
"At the end of the path grew a flower in the shape of a Ghost. I reached out to pluck it and it cut me with a thorn. I bled and the blood was Light.
The Ghost said to me: You are a dead thing made by a dead power in the shape of the dead. All you will ever do is kill. You do not belong here. This is a place of life.
The Traveler is life, I said. You are a creature of Darkness. You seek to deceive me.
But I looked behind me, down the long slope where the blossoms tumbled in the warm wind and the great trees wept sap like blood or wine, and I felt doubt.
When my Ghost raised me from the sea there was a thorn-cut in my left hand and it has not healed since."
- Legends and Mysteries: The Black Garden Grimoire Card
The above words were spoken by someone who calls themselves 'Pujari', detailing what they'd seen in their vision.
Most of this vision rings true. Didn't we start our lives as Guardians by being raised from the dead by our ghost? From that point on, all we know are the endless battles and the streams of enemies that we riddle with bullets.
It suddenly seems kind of fair for the aliens we fight to see us as some sort of malevolent force.
The warmind Rasputin, the last of its kind.
Rasputin was originally an asset - a protector of the Golden Age colonies until the Collapse, when it was believed to have fought alongside the other warminds and fallen.
It is now known that Rasputin is still out there somewhere. However, it has remained unresponsive to the tower's attempts to reach it.
One would begin to believe Rasputin does not want to be found by what it once fought to protect.
In Rasputin's Grimoire card it says:
"We cannot characterize Rasputin’s strategic objectives and capabilities, cannot define its physical or computational architecture, cannot ascertain its disposition with regard to the City, and cannot be sure it retains memory of events before the Collapse...
...perhaps Rasputin’s objectives have changed, transformed by some vital information it obtained during those dark days."
Rasputin's objectives certainly had changed. But what made it shy away from the city and the Vanguard?
Another entry, this time by a Cayde-6, proves to be extremely interesting:
"Good question, she says—hang on, let me do my Ikora voice. As you know, Cayde, Rasputin pretty much ran the Golden Age, especially all the secret military business. Rasputin had antimatter-powered death rays and a hundred thousand satellites and nearly as much brainpower as me. Rasputin fought the Collapse. It knows things we need"
-Ghost Fragment: Rasputin Grimoire Card
That's what Ikora told Cayde-6. She even mentions that Rasputin pretty much ran the Golden Age, along with all the 'secret military business'.
So this begs the question; If Rasputin fought the Collapse with everything it had at its disposal, at the peak of the Golden Age, when the city and the Traveler were at their strongest point...how in the world did they all end up losing?
Unless (and I'm taking a shot in the dark here), Rasputin was the Collapse.
Rasputin found something out, something to do with the Traveler that made it believe the Traveler was a threat to the colonies it was tasked with protecting - prompting it to turn on its fellow warminds and the Traveler.
It's plausible. Rasputin clearly had a lot of resources, including the fact that it was supposed to be a 'defense system'. Perhaps it caught the Traveler by surprise when it launched its attack.
This could explain why Rasputin remains so elusive and mysterious. The Vanguard and we, the Guardians, are doing all we can to heal the Traveler and protect it from harm. Our goals just might be different.
And who knows? Perhaps Rasputin might find the saying 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' appealing in the future. The Psion Flayers meddling around Rasputin's mind certainly don't help things.
The Missing Link
So how could the Traveler even be evil? After all it had given humanity, it shouldn't mean any harm.
To understand this, we must look at the Darkness again. Different theories have been proposed by former Guardians and others alike, but none resonate as well as Saint-14's:
...the Darkness was an invading armada, an alien force of incredible - but tangible - power. Some adherents believe that this armada sprang from species rejected or discarded by the Traveler for their sins."
- The Darkness - Grimoire Card
Look no further than the Fallen.
The Fallen are believed to be the remnants of a once great civilization, with their complex house system and advanced weaponry. They're said to be searching for long lost artifacts from their Golden Age.
They encountered the Traveler, or 'the Great Machine', before 'the whirlwind', an event or an entity which ultimately caused their version of the Collapse and reduced their once great civilization to the pirates and scavengers they are now.
Was it the Traveler that caused this? Is that what is not written in history? Did the Traveler usher in a Golden Age for the Fallen with some sinister purpose in mind? It could explain why they're so intent on capturing the Traveler.
Maybe the humans were the next target for the Traveler in the grand scheme of things, but something caught up to it and forced it to go on the defensive, creating the Guardians to protect it from all of the enemies it had made.
"Now, your flight is rapid, your vast mind infected with such dread and toxic doubt that you find yourself afraid of the simple act of thought.
And it is your children you must turn to now, in time of need."
- Ghost Fragment: The Traveler Grimoire Card
The Future of Destiny's Story
There are so many more theories out there. You need only look. I myself was surprised at how many people were discussing these things and how many different theories there are. My take on it is just another addition to what's already floating out there.
I want to believe that the reason why Destiny's story is so bland and uninformative is because it's Bungie's intent.
Who knows - maybe they wanted us to play on and see the story unfold solely through the eyes of our characters, purposefully keeping us in the dark, since that's what the Traveler intended.
Maybe they want us to keep asking these questions and delve into the lore that is not readily accessible. It truly could bring a whole other meaning to the quote that comes with this game: Forge your own Destiny.
Perhaps sometime later we'll have a choice between fighting the Traveler or aligning ourselves with the Queen or Osiris...or even the Fallen.
That would be a really cool twist, and one that I believe is more than possible in the near or distant future (Destiny is a game with a 10-year plan, after all).
But at the same time, I can't help feeling like the fanmade theories might all just end up being wishful thinking and that we'll carry on with a subpar story that will only ever be as exciting as getting Atheon's Epilogue dropped for the 6th time in a row at the Vault of Glass.
Do you have a theory of your own? What do you believe the story is going to throw at us next? Let me know in the comments!
[Much of the information used in this article was found at the Grimoire card database.]