Destiny 2: Presage is Bungie at Their Best

02/25/2021 - 11:30 | By: Tyler Chancey
Developer
Bungie
Publisher
Bungie
Release Date
September 6, 2017
Series
Destiny
Multiplayer modes
Co Op, Local, MMO, Online, Online Features
Purchase (Some links may be affiliated)
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There is No Light Here

For those of you who haven't been sticking to Destiny 2 recently, Bungie dropped a bombshell recently with their latest exotic weapon quest: Presage. Generally speaking, a new quest for a new weapon isn't exactly novel for this action MMO—it's one of the reasons players keep coming back. But Presage managed to seriously engage its audience and get people talking by doing something unexpected for such a fast-paced series: it slowed down.

To understand the importance of this quest, we have to compare them to other quests of its kind. Going back to 2018 at the launch of the Forsaken expansion, players stumbled upon a hidden quest simply titled The Whisper. It wasn't marketed at all by Bungie, you had to jump through specific hoops in order to access it, and the quest itself was not just a reskinned location. One year later, a similar mission was discovered called Zero Hour.

These missions earned both serious ire and excitement by the fanbase. This is because the exotic weapons rewarded for completion were some of the most powerful and sought after at the time, but because both missions were extremely punishing gauntlets. Not only were they packed with endgame-level enemy encounters, but both missions contained extremely complex platforming and key-hunting challenges, all while on a strict time limit.

A look at a data screen with four flashing red arrows
To those who went through this, just two words: Screw TR3-VR.

In a way, the missions highlighted a “tell, don't show” issue Destiny 2 had with some of its storytelling. For the longest time, anything resembling worldbuilding or storytelling in this game was done secondhand. The world's narrative was continued either through text found in Lore entries or by named characters doing things in the margins, effectively working around the players' antics in the world. On paper, both of these missions are about uncovering something important, but in practice the missions amounted to spectacular obstacle courses with a shiny weapon at the finish line. Worse still, the absurdity of these obstacle courses' trial-and-error level design combined with the time limit felt almost backhanded, like the players had to catch up to the plot rather than have them push it forward.

 
 

But Destiny 2 has been playing by a different set of rules recently. The players' actions were being recognized more by both the main cast and the game's universe as a whole. Engagement has been happening on a more communal level where cooperation and collaboration has become more important than individual skill and merit; a fact made most explicit in live events such as the destruction of the Almighty and the Corridors of Time puzzle.

Enter Presage, which has more in common with Alien and Event Horizon than Destiny 2. As our official guide on the mission can attest, it honestly feels like you are exploring an abandoned Cabal ship in the aftermath of something gone terribly wrong. You have no time limit, but you genuinely feel isolated, with the sounds of distant screams rattling the hallways and whispers of the dead in your ear.

An abandoned lab covered in growths and corpses
What in the world were the Cabal up to? The answers are somehow worse.

Better still, this foreboding atmosphere is given time to settle. Two-thirds of this entire mission is all about figuring out how to get from room to room, either by cutting power to certain objects or pulling levers. There are enemy encounters peppered throughout, but they are framed more like prolonged jumpscares than an action setpiece. The finale with the Locus of Communion practically spells this out this by having the boss be the sci-fi equivalent of a monster in the basement.

What really helps elevate this quest to a genuine masterstroke is that it encourages you on multiple levels to continue exploring the location. Returning to the ship after your first clear allows you to find collectible items and scan points of interest to help piece together the mystery of what exactly happened. There are even hidden compartments with loot if you're clever enough to get certain doors open. Furthermore, this puzzlebox level design reinforces the idea that the players are the center of the story. The game is not subtle about expressing how much uncharted territory is being explored in this mission, but all named characters involved are helping you, not the other way around.

Finally, the mission isn't just an esoteric hidden goodie, but continues to give context and nuance to the focus of the current season: the Cabal. The horror elements and existential themes even carry sinister ramifications for the fate of the several planets that were wiped off the map at the beginning of Beyond Light and will undoubtedly play a part in things going forward.

Commander Zavala speaking to the player while handing them a rifle
Even Zavala knows you'll return to the ship out of curiosity.

Players are still combing over the Presage quest, marveled and fascinated by the secrets it holds while taking in a bold genre exercise on behalf of Bungie. It's an experiment that succeeds with flying colors not just as a fun level with a great reward, but it has garnered great discussion and involvement by the community as a whole. This is the new standard for which missions like these will be judged in Destiny 2, and it is one high bar to clear.

 

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Staff Writer

Born in 1990, Tyler Chancey's earliest memories were of an NES controller in his hands, and with it a passion that continued into his adulthood. He's written for multiple sites, has podcasted, and has continued to shape and encourage new talent to greater heights.