Destiny 2 is Showing What First One Never Had: Humor, and a Goal

Bungie's marketing campaign for Destiny 2 has been frustratingly slow, but we've recently gotten our first real taste of what's to come with the release of a pair of cinematics: first a teaser, and today, a full trailer. While light on the kinds of gameplay specifics that experienced Guardians must be craving after learning their gear and powers won't make the trip, Bungie is smartly leading with signals that Destiny 2 will have aspects that the first game left wanting. Namely: a lighter tone, a sense of personality, and an identifiable goal.

It doesn't seem to be any coincidence that both the "Last Call" teaser and today's "Rally the Troops" trailer lean heavily on Cayde-6, voiced by Nathan Fillion by way of Captain Hammer. He's ostensibly on the right side of the conflict, but he also happens to be a pompous, smarmy jerk. This puts him in sharp contrast with the rest of the denizens of Destiny, a collection of straight-and-narrow, self-serious do-gooders.

The contrast between the noble, virtuous Guardians and Cayde's personal brand as a selfish, blustery jackass is the entire punchline of the "Rally the Troops" trailer. And it's better for it. 

We all like to play games where we have epic adventures, but that's something we experience ourselves and ideally make through immersive storytelling. Simply explaining a struggle of dire importance doesn't imbue it with extra weight. Judging by the first Destiny, it's just kind of boring. Instead, we want to have a reason to spend time inside a world, and giving us a lighter touch makes it more inviting.

The focus on Cayde pulls double-duty, by giving players someone to attach to. Any game with player-created characters can be difficult to latch onto, and many of Destiny's vanilla-flavored mission-givers had as much personality as a Quest Board. Sometimes less. Cayde is one of the few characters who actually feels like a character, so why not use that to your advantage?

That isn't to say that the trailer is completely lacking in seriousness. But this is actually another strength. The one hint of story we get in these Destiny trailers provides a simple premise with a clear, identifiable villain who defines the goal.

Even those who read enough of Destiny's arcane Web site codex to make heads or tails of what actually happened can acknowledge that it wasn't always clear what you were doing, or why. It had no single through-line. Despite the intriguing premise–civilization has been fought back to a single city–the majority seemed like random planet-hopping to decimate a series of alien races before they did some not particularly well-defined thing, for the purposes of conquering the universe, probably. It was, in the words of Homer Simpson, "just a bunch of stuff that happened."

By contrast, these two trailers in tandem use an economy of storytelling to deliver a clear impetus for the action as well as a goal. The "Last Call" trailer teased that something awful had happened to The City, and the "Rally the Troops" trailer confirmed it. The last remaining bastion of civilization has fallen, led by a new villain named Ghaul. It doesn't spend too long explaining why Ghaul is a threat or why we should care about defeating him. Instead, it simply shows that the City has fallen, and Ghaul is the one responsible, and you can go from there. Presumably, the objective of Destiny 2 will be to find and defeat Ghaul. It's a simple, clear goal that should help string the story points with more connective tissue.

(The trailer also slyly slips a story explanation for why your existing character lost all of their gear. Clever, Bungie.)

While we'll be waiting a while to hear more about what Destiny 2 has in store in terms of classes, gear, and mechanics changes, these two trailers have already gone a long way toward making up for the deficit of the first game. Destiny was always a solid, if grind-heavy, shooter. It's easy enough to put faith that Bungie will continue that strength and give itself more flexibility to build on the online compontents. But these premieres actually assuage my concerns about its ability to address other issues that I wasn't sure it was capable of correcting. That fills me with anticipation much more than if it had led with gameplay set to the same dour, aimless tone.

Plus, it's not as if I'm going to pass up tons of loot.

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