When Bungie’s Destiny launched way back in 2014, the general consensus of reviewers and players alike was…
- It’s a beautiful, first-person, looter-shooter that delivers clever mechanics alongside fun, enticing gameplay, and
- There isn’t really much of a story to speak of
As time passed, news emerged of the troubled development of the game, with a number of staff changes and shake-ups resulting in the original plot being hacked up and reassembled in a less than satisfying way. The notion that there wasn’t much of a story, however, was erroneous. There was a wealth of lore, just waiting to be plundered. The only trouble was, most players never got to experience it.
For the entirety of the first game, it was possible to explore various environments and find objects which would unlock lore entries, giving a greater insight into what was going on. Unfortunately, at the time, the only way to access these ‘Grimoire’ entries was via the Destiny website or the companion smartphone app. The last thing the majority of gamers wanted to do was go and hunt down these unlocked pieces of lore, so they went largely ignored.
Yet, for those of us who cared, and I mean truly cared, daring to venture beyond the game itself, into the realm of the Grimoire, it demonstrated that what players experienced in-game barely scratched the surface of the cornucopia of creativity that lay behind it. Names and locations that casual players might stumble upon in-game, often without a second thought, suddenly became relevant and took on a new importance.
Bungie addressed this issue in Destiny 2, where it became possible to find and read these Grimoire entries (the new ones, at least) within the game itself. It made a difference, with lots of players, for the first time ever, immersing themselves in what had previously been hidden knowledge. It helped raise Destiny 2 up from merely being a competent sequel to one that felt like it embraced its roleplaying side. Players who had previously been content to shoot every enemy in sight, without necessarily understanding why, finally got some context.
Still, a lot of people dislike reading large bodies of text on a screen. At best, they skim down the entries, trying to parse the salient points, before getting back to that oh-so satisfying gunplay as quickly as possible. This is where Bungie’s Destiny Grimoire Anthologies come into play, taking all this amazing lore and presenting it in book format. There really is no better way to indulge in this abundance of information when away from your console or computer. I was lucky enough to get Volume I for Christmas last year, so when the opportunity to review Volume II: Fallen Kingdoms came along, I jumped at the chance.
The book itself exudes quality, with a faux-leather hardback cover (that doesn’t in any way come across as cheap or tacky) set with gold debossed imagery and lettering. From looks alone, you could display it with pride on any bookshelf and not have it look out of place among your other scholarly tomes (be that the collected works of the Encyclopaedia Britannica or The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia).
The quality doesn’t stop there, with the paper that makes up the pages being of a satisfying weight and thickness. Glorious, if subdued, illustrations are distributed throughout the book and add to the overall experience, giving the associated subject matter a suitably solemn and sombre feel.
Volume II: Fallen Kingdoms, as the name suggests, focuses largely on the insectoid alien race known as the Fallen (or Eliksni, in their own tongue). These are the very first aliens that players get to encounter in game and, appropriately, they are also one of the most interesting. A once proud and noble race, they were the previous recipient of the Traveller’s beneficence. When a great cataclysm befell them, an event they refer to as the Whirlwind, the Traveller abandoned them and eventually made its way to humanity’s solar system, there to elevate humankind to a Golden Age.
Angry and confused by the desertion of the Traveller, which the Eliksni called the Great Machine, their Houses fell to infighting. They became pirates and scavengers, attacking other races and stealing their resources and technologies to survive. Led by their Kells, each House maintained a strict hierarchy, where the strong thrive and the weak are treated with contempt (interesting fact: while Captains and Vandals retain the four upper limbs that all Eliksni have, their lowest ranks, the Dregs, have two of these limbs docked to demonstrate just how lowly they are. If they prove themselves, and rise up through the ranks, they are allowed to re-grow their lost limbs). The Fallen eventually tracked the Traveller down, and when they arrived in our solar system and saw that the Traveller had granted its favours to humankind, they took great pleasure in contributing to humanity’s collapse.
The book does an impressive job of bringing together the Grimoire entries that relate to the Fallen and enlighten the reader to why these are not ‘bad guys’ in a traditional black-and-white sense. If anything, the entries help the reader to develop a certain empathy with the Fallen. When humanity experienced its own downfall, if the Traveller had abandoned them at that point, as it had previously done so with the Eliksni, would they have turned out any differently?
All in all, if you’re a gamer, a lore master or just someone who enjoys an insight into the extraordinary creative process that goes into making a game franchise like Bungie’s Destiny, this book is a must have.
Graham’s copy of Destiny: Grimoire Anthology – Fallen Kingdoms was provided free for review. Is it published by Titan Books in the UK and available in shops since October 15th.
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