Spoilers for Warmind story and end-game below.
The Warmind expansion for Destiny 2 released yesterday and I played through it the moment work was over. There’s a lot of things to like in that campaign: The main character of the campaign, Ana, is a smart, witty guardian who always seems to see the big picture. She calls you to Mars in an effort to fight the Hive, who are attempting to destroy the AI “warmind” Rasputin—which is apparently the strongest weapon in the solar system and the only thing capable of hurting the Traveler. I’m not 100% sure on that: The storytelling was a bit all over the place and it’s hard to keep up while mid-battle with hordes of Hive. But that’s the gist, of the first part at least!
THEN. THEN… Zavala shows up as you’re finishing the first part of the story—which felt to me like the end of the campaign altogether—and there’s a loud roar. Ghost asks, for lack of better word, “What the fuck was that?” and Zavala responds with, “Rasputin was not the only thing to awaken on Mars.”
OK? Okay, so what was the other thing, Zavala? Any help?
I’m used to not catching all the details and references in Destiny 2. I didn’t play original Destiny. When I picked up Destiny 2, it was mainly because I had enough friends playing through it that I felt I didn’t need to be fully versed in the earlier story, know much about the characters, or be up to speed on the lore. During my initial playthrough of Destiny 2, I didn’t feel like the game expected me to know much about the previous game or its lore. Ghaul’s story was fresh, and despite it being hit or (mostly) miss, it was a story I didn’t feel lost in.
While playing through the first Destiny 2 expansion, Curse of Osiris, I didn’t feel lost so much as bored. Old Mercury was beautiful, the past and future enemy designs were cool, but I didn’t feel invested. Osiris as a main character was lackluster and didn’t hook me, and when I realized how small and limited Mercury was after beating the expansion, it overall just felt like a waste of time. Still, though, I felt excited for Warmind. I wanted it to be good. I wanted it to help get me back on the Destiny 2 bandwagon.
But Warmind is the first time I’ve felt like not knowing my Destiny history made the game almost meaningless. And a big part of that is because of where Warmind puts the most important exposition in the entire game.
A word of advice if you haven’t played through the story and are reading this spoiler-loaded piece: DO NOT SKIP THROUGH THE VENDOR INTERACTION WITH ANA RIGHT AFTER THE LOUD ROAR CUTSCENE. That’s right: The entire explanation (which isn’t much of an explanation) of the final boss in Warmind, is told to you as you’re choosing your reward weapon in a completely normal vendor interaction with Ana. I love auto rifles, so I chose my gun and that was it. Next mission opens up, we’re going after some Hive god named Xol. I was confused through the end of the story.
Here's the cutscene and vendor interaction in question, courtesy of MKIceAndFire on YouTube.
I checked in with some of my clan members to see if I was the only person who felt like part of the story, or potentially an entire mission, was missing, and they all felt the same way. It’s not hard to find people within the Destiny community who feel the same way. Digging into things a bit more, I eventually learned that Rasputin and Xol were both pretty important parts of the Destiny Grimoire, as well as minor parts of the third original Destiny expansion, The Taken King. Trouble is, the Grimoire is gone and has never been a part of my Destiny experience.
The game could have given the player some backstory in a cutscene, be it an extra few lines about Xol, but they chose to put it in what was seemingly a regular vendor exchange. Those scenes usually have some forgettable flavor dialogue that’s mostly filler you can click through. Warmind, as a whole, is fun to play through, and Mars is an incredible planet with loads to explore, but unfortunately this new expansion doesn’t fix the ongoing shoddy storytelling in Destiny 2. In fact, it might be some of the weakest storytelling yet.