At the end of Fortnite Season 10 in October 2019, a cataclysmic event destroyed the game's entire universe. Despite some flashy effects and the soft reboot that launched a few days later, players were left scratching their heads in confusion. What did it all mean? Beyond an excuse to reveal a new map, it didn't mean anything at all.
Destiny 2 developer Bungie executed something similar Monday night during a live event just before the launch of a new major update called Beyond Light. And while it didn't destroy the world, it did shake up the very foundation of the Destiny narrative in some big ways. What Bungie pulled off is far more compelling than anything Fortnite has ever done with its story — that's because it actually made sense.
When gamers talk about highbrow terms like ludonarrative dissonance, we're talking about how well a game's core mechanics reinforce various aspects of the story. Destiny has always low-key thrived at maintaining internal logic between how and why things happen within the game. Player Guardians can die and be resurrected an endless number of times because they're endowed with the Light power of the long-dormant Traveler, a vast moon-sized alien orb that sacrificed itself to save the Earth centuries prior to the game's events.
Since the first Destiny's release in September 2014, the Traveler has floated inert and broken above the Last City on Earth, but on Monday night, it woke up. For anyone even remotely invested in Destiny's lore, this is a huge and momentous occasion.
Game Director Luke Smith had teased a "small event" would happen Monday evening, and while it was modest compared to a black hole swallowing all of existence, it was one of the most impactful things to ever happen in Destiny.
Here's a full look at the 8-minute event:
Parts of the Traveler glowed as the techno-organic orb of weirdness and Light seemingly repaired itself. The cryptic Eris Morn said it was "drawing power"
"It is reforming ... healing its wounds," she said. "This will not be the end. It will be an escalation."
Then the Darkness seemed to swallow Io, Titan, Mars, Mercury, and Leviathan as the Traveler's Light shined out to cover Earth, the Moon, and Venus. Back in June, Bungie announced a new "Content Vault" concept where old locations from the first Destiny might be cycled back into active rotation while others are shelved.
Similar to how Epic Games "vaults" weapons and other items to retune them over time, Bungie is taking the same approach to entire areas and activities. It's a brilliant way to keep a somewhat bloated game's file size down while keeping the core gameplay loops interesting for players. Which is exactly what Destiny 2 needs. The fact that this huge plot twist is also being done for story reasons feels like a stroke of brilliance.
Destiny's monolithic lore can fill up entire books, but a June 2020 quote from General Manager Mark Noseworthy in the Beyond Light reveal trailer summarizes it well. Guardians are about to "discover the true nature of the Light and the Dark ... not just walk the thin line between."
Guardians get their powers through their Ghosts, little robots imbued with a fraction of the Traveler's Light. But the true nature of the Traveler has remained a mystery. While it's always been the literal and figurative beacon of Light in this universe, we know even less about the enigmatic Darkness that permeates the universe and powers some of the nastiest creatures in existence.
But we do know that there's a delicate balance between these two forces. If the Traveler powers up in any way, then the Darkness will rise up in equal measure. So the stakes are starting to feel borderline apocalyptic.
Despite what thinly drawn seasonal themes might imply in Fortnite, it's the video game equivalent of cotton candy when it comes to story: colorful, sweet, addicting, and it literally evaporates if you scrutinize it too closely or put a single droplet of water on it.
You can't even say there's any dissonance when there's this level of utter disconnect. By the time anybody has any time to analyze or scrutinize, Fortnite is already pushing you towards the next big thing.
Before "The End" event that destroyed Fortnite's universe, time was broken by a series of events reaching as far back as the game's earliest seasons. So someone launched a rocket into the sky to open a rift in space-time that teleported a meteor so it crashed into a vortex that was created when a giant cat robot harnessed the power of a pocket dimension to punch a big lizard. We don't really know how to why any of this happened, or what motivated any of the parties involved.
Because despite the intense battle royale action, Fortnite is an inconsistent universe with zero consequences. And it sort of feels like Destiny's universe has only just now woken up.
Destiny 2: Beyond Light is now available.