The Witch Queen, Year 5, and killer Ghosts: Chatting Destiny 2 with Bungie
We attended a roundtable interview where we got to talk with the Destiny developer about the inspiration and theme behind this year of content.
We're into the third week of Destiny 2: The Witch Queen now, meaning many players have experienced the expansion's story, begun to unravel the events of Season of the Risen, and have attempted or completed the new raid, Vow of the Disciple. With so much new content available in-game, I recently had the chance to attend a roundtable interview with a few members of the development team at Bungie, where we got to learn about the inspiration behind Year 5, what the next year of content will bring, and even one of Destiny 2's more recent yet great conundrums: did Fynch the Ghost kill his Guardian? But before we get to that important revelation, let's start with the theme of Year 5 and how that differs from Year 4.
Speaking about this very topic, narrative director at Bungie, Adam Grantham stated, "we look at the themes for the earlier releases often as the catalyst that surfaces that good thing actually. In some ways, you can look back at Beyond Light and the year of seasons that followed it as the theme being about division, where Guardians are now using Darkness and there's division about whether that's ok? You look at Crow coming in, and there's division about how we should treat Crow and should we accept him, will people accept him? There's division about how we should view Caiatl's assault and some people having a very aggressive response to Caiatl."
"We view this year as a theme of truth. We see these revelations coming out of The Witch Queen, and I think you should expect a lot of that to be a catalyst for further revelations coming for further characters and our relationship to other factions and stuff like that. When you have something that's as earth-shattering as what gets revealed in The Witch Queen, what does that drive characters to discover about themselves as they are in this kind of freefall in response to these revelations and what new truths are revealed and where does that take the story and how characters relate to each other."
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With this year's theme being "truth", the question of whether the seasonal plan for Year 5 will resemble the thematic narrative that was delivered in Year 4 was posed, with Grantham also having some thoughts to share on that as well.
"If you look at last year's seasons, we had a lot of positive reaction to what we had built last year, and I think we did a good job of building momentum towards The Witch Queen even though we were able to kind of hop around and tell different stories," said Grantham. "In the end you see how the stories are thematically connected, even though one is focussing on Caiatl and one is focused on Mithrax and this and that, and these sort of themes run through."
"I think we're going to continue to build on that type of success that we've had in the past and explore new twists we can pull on that model. When we look at the roadmap now to The Final Shape, we are definitely focused on building momentum and kind of driving towards this dramatic conclusion of the Light and Darkness Saga. And when you see something that feels like that's a piece being placed, and you know it's going to be relevant later, you might be right and you should pay attention to that, because the choices we're making right now, the things you see showing up in the story in-game, those are there for a reason."
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Years ago, a short while after Destiny 1 debuted, Bungie delivered the first expansion for the series, The Taken King, a post-launch addition that saw Guardians heading into the Hive lord Oryx's Throne World to execute the impactful character. Now, many years later, The Witch Queen has arrived and asked Guardians to eliminate Savathûn, Oryx's sister. I asked Bungie about whether that means they have plans in place to bring the final sibling of this family to the live game, and whether that means we'll be seeing Xivu Arath in Destiny anytime soon.
Grantham replied, "Xivu Arath is alive, so you know. She's out there," with senior narrative lead Guillaume Colomb adding, "it really comes into that idea of what's out there that feels like it needs a conclusion, and we're going to bring everything back to that Final Shape. Not everything is probably going to be resolved by then, but we want to keep some mysteries alive, so I don't know whether Xivu Arath is going to be a part of that because between The Taken King and The Witch Queen there was many years, but we definitely try to see what makes the most sense for the overall narrative of Destiny 2, when it's to be addressed, and what would be the biggest impact for the players."
To this end, the question of whether we'll get to see more about the storyline of Saint-14 and Osiris in Year 5 was brought up, especially after the latter was kidnapped by Savathûn. Grantham told us, "I don't want to spoil anything on this, but I'll just say, yes."
One challenge that Destiny 2 is staring down the barrel of more and more each year is its ability to alienate and become more difficult for newer players to get into due to the years of lore that make up and serve as the basis of the storyline and narrative for the game. The question of how Bungie is aiming to handle this was posed, with Colomb explaining a little about its mindset to overcoming this challenge.
"We're getting better and better every year, and we're thinking more and more about new players. I don't think it's right in the place we would like to be right now, but we do have some effort going in that direction. Destiny is always very difficult because there is a lot of lore, and we're trying to get that balance, and I'm sure for someone who's never heard about Destiny it feels pretty difficult to come on board, but the only thing I would say is that we do think about it and I think we're going to get better and better at being more welcoming to new players."
To this end, and on the topic of lore, the crucial question that we've all been pondering was asked: did Fynch the Hive ghost kill his Hive Guardian? The Bungie developers gave us a very intriguing answer with Colomb starting by saying, "he was conflicted," with Grantham adding, "we don't say that he killed him, but we definitely say that he has not rezzed him."
To add further fuel to the fire, project lead Blake Battle then questioned whether a Ghost has ever killed anything in Destiny lore, with Grantham answering after some thought, "if you check out the lore for The Presage mission [the Exotic mission that became available in Season of the Chosen and was vaulted at the start of Year 5], the Ghost has some shady dealings with his Guardian in that, and that stuff is actually pretty relevant. There's a lot in there that I'd recommend people check out if they are thinking about the future."
Needless to say, Grantham's answer does suggest that lethal Ghosts may be in Destiny's future to some degree. We'll have to see if this will be the case down the line, when Bungie lifts the curtain on the rest of the seasons in Year 5 and also on the next major expansion, Lightfall, which is planned to drop in 2023.