Destiny 2: Shadowkeep features the darkest Destiny lore yet
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The lore of Shadowkeep sees the ruthless efficiency of The time-travelling Vex contrasted against the cruelty of The Hive. All the while, a greater spectre is hanging over the universe. We’ve finally had our first real encounter with The Darkness and it’s clear that it is definitely on its way back to our solar system now, bringing with it the possibility of a new collapse.
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The lore behind the expansion makes the game richer and it lends context to our allies as well as the enemies we face. The full list of stories that one could jump into is huge so I’m just going to cherry-pick a few of my favourite beats that you might have missed. Some of these stories are still being told right before our eyes, so you should jump back in week by week to get the full picture.
Let’s start off by talking about possibly the most important lore to happen in Destiny since the beginning of game one, told through a lore book that’s playing out before our eyes. At the end of Shadowkeep’s campaign we enter the pyramid of The Darkness and find a mysterious statue. From it we claim an artefact that calls out to the Vex of The Black Garden. Upon following the signal of the artefact and completing the raid within The Black Garden we find another of these same statues. From this point onwards, the artefact starts to communicate directly with us, giving us passages every week from a lore book called “Unveiling.”
These transmissions are crucial, because it seems clear that the messages come directly from The Darkness itself. The messages in this book, along with the changes to Destiny’s world in Season of the Undying, are the next step into the story of Destiny. At current the ‘Unveiling’ book is revealing a kind of origin story for The Darkness and The Light—telling a tale that begins before time itself. For a Destiny lore fanatic this is a fascinating piece to dissect but for anyone with even a passing interest in the story it’ll be important to watch this unfold.
Another important aspect of Shadowkeep’s lore—one that gets to the heart of the apparitions haunting the Moon—is that of Eris’ fireteam. Eris had spectres following her around throughout Shadowkeep’s campaign—nightmares of her old fireteam that were conjured by The Darkness to weaken her resolve. We first learned about this fireteam in The Dark Below back in Destiny 1, but Shadowkeep now expands on their story and gives us some truly gruesome details about their deaths.
Eris’ fireteam was the first group to try and assault the Hive God-Knight Crota after the Great Disaster, where the Guardians were squarely defeated by The Hive on The Moon. Eris’ team was created as a means of hopefully killing Crota, but their assault on the Hellmouth did not go to plan. All the members of the fireteam died—in one sense or another—except for Eris. The Darkness now torments Eris with manifestations of her deepest trauma.
Each week, players can help heal those wounds through a quest to help Eris come to terms with her loss. These reveal the horrifying fate of each member of that doomed fireteam. To give you an example, Vell Tarlowe, the Titan of the fireteam and member of the Pilgrim Guard, was beaten back by a horde of Hive thrall, before being murdered by a Hive champion known as Alak-hul, the Darkblade. We actually get the see a recreation of this moment as Vell’s phantom falls to the ground and is cut down by a mighty Hive axe. This all happens right in front of you and Eris, who falls to her knees and cries out “No. No, Vell, not again!” Here Bungie pulls no punches in showing Eris’ pain.
Keep an eye on these quests over the next couple of weeks, and remember that the most powerful moment may be yet still to come. We’ve only got two phantoms left, and we know that Omar Agah’s death in particular is a really grizzly affair.
On a less intense but more mysterious note, you should also try killing some Vex while you’re out in the world. Doing this is going to give you a chance to find pages of the ‘Aspect’ lore book. As lore books go this is unquestionably one of the most mysterious in the whole game. It starts to tell stories about The Vex of The Black Garden, and introduces a series of characters that are stuck within the Vex network.
Fans of The Taken King and The Vault of Glass might remember Praedyth and I’m happy to say that he features prominently in this book. Lore fanatics will be even more delighted to know that it features various copies of the Ishtar Collective team that were released into The Vex network back in the Golden Age. The book isn’t just fascinating because it draws from some characters that are deeply rooted in the lore of The Vex, but also because of what it carefully implies about the purpose of the Ishtar operatives.
There are potential hints that Praedyth was trying to warn us about the coming Darkness by leaving an inscription on the inside of the “No Time To Explain” exotic from back in Destiny 1. The book gives us an account of the nature of The Vex of The Black Garden, as being worshipers of The Darkness, which sets them at odds with the rest of The Vex. Those who’ve read through the book will know that the questions it creates are as fascinating as the ones it answers. It is, above all else, beautifully written.
After you’re done reading up on The Vex in Aspect, I would encourage you to head back to The Moon and start doing some bounties and lost sectors. Doing random activities, or even just opening a stray chest, has a chance of dropping a dead Ghost trace. You can take this to Eris and she’ll use it to pinpoint the location of a dead Ghost. This is great from a collector’s standpoint because it gives more rewards for simple exploration, but for lore fans these particular ghosts are something even more special. After picking up each ghost you’ll see a cloud of light that gives a recording of the last words of that particular ghost and all those nearby.
Some of these recordings are excellent for giving context on The Moon and the characters surrounding it, but if you have more questions, look into the lore tab—each Ghost gives you an account with more detail there. The dead Ghosts in Forsaken demonstrates the evolution of Bungie’s storytelling. These collectibles deepen the story, and more players should know about them.
For particularly exciting stories from these, I’d recommend looking into the First Fireteam’s Ghosts. Eriana and Toland’s Ghosts indicate the sharp division between the two characters’ core beliefs. Sai Mota’s Ghost talks about how hopelessly she’s trying to resurrect her Guardian. Eris Morn’s Ghost recorded the last conversation that she had with Eris. All of these stories help to paint a greater picture of the lost Guardians of Luna and help to show how haunted this place really is.
There are countless other stories that I’d encourage you to experience, such as The Inquisition of The Damned, which tells the tale of three ambitious Hive that undergo a dark sorcery to challenge their superiors, or the patrols where Toland leads you around The Moon and tells you more about its story. There is honestly so much to see at both surface level and in the depths below.
Just remember to check back in to see how the story changes next. All signs seem to indicate that this is just the beginning of a new story that’s going to be unfolding soon, and that the way Shadowkeep improves how Bungie tells Destiny’s story is just the beginning of a greater evolution.