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Destiny 2’s story is finally great, but the game hasn’t caught up

Quria deserved more after 6 years

Destiny 2 Expunge mission Delphi Image: Bungie via Polygon

Bungie concluded one of the major plots in Destiny 2: Season of the Splicer on Tuesday. Players dived into the Vex Network and killed Quria, one of Savathun’s most important pawns and the force behind the Endless Night in the Tower.

Over the past year, Bungie has started intertwining Destiny 2’s gameplay and story, giving players a reason to care about upcoming events and plot twists. So the appearance of a major pawn like Quria ups the stakes. But Bungie’s story improvements reveal a new problem: The gameplay doesn’t live up to the story’s expectations.

Quria has been a known villain for years, but instead of going out in a major piece of content like a raid or dungeon, the mission to kill her is a remix of several Season of the Splicer missions I’ve already played. The higher Bungie raises its story stakes, the more important these villains are, and the more meaningful their deaths need to become.

Who is Quria?

Quria is a powerful Vex Mind. She made her first lore appearance way back in 2015, with Destiny’s The Taken King expansion. Oryx, Savathun’s brother and the titular villain of The Taken King, encountered Quria and the Vex when they invaded his Ascendant Realm. Oryx removed the Vex from his sacred realm and took Quria, making her a Taken Vex Mind. Oryx then gave Quria to Savathun as a gift.

Quria has been Savathun’s loyal minion ever since. She’s the one responsible for trapping the Dreaming City in its three-week cycle. And most recently, she created the Endless Night in the Tower. She’s a character that Bungie has been building up for six years, and she’s weaseled her way in and out of several key Destiny moments.

Why should I care?

Oryx in Destiny: The Taken King
Oryx, the one who first took Quria
Image: Bungie

Destiny’s story has been good — or at least interesting — for several years. The problem was that none of the story was in the game. Players who wanted to pay attention to it could read the Book of Sorrow from The Taken King or various other lore pages online. But trying to follow the complete story just by listening to mission dialogue? Impossible.

Over the past three major expansions, Bungie has made it much easier to follow the story, encouraging players like me — those who are interested in the story but often unwilling to look outside of the game for it — to care more. Starting with Forsaken, characters began speaking more to the player and explaining the story, but the storytelling really started to hit its stride in the Shadowkeep expansion back in 2019. Since then, Bungie has gotten better and better at incorporating narrative into Destiny 2, with 2021’s Season of the Chosen and Season of the Splicer being two of the high points.

Most of the improvements come down to more in-game explanations of what’s going on. Characters now offer walls of text and voiceover when they give you quests. Osiris and Saint-14 occupy physical space in the games, and you’re forced to watch their conversation before you can move on; the story is happening in front of you, and you can’t just button through it. When major events happen, the world changes, like when the Almighty crashed into the Tower, or when the Darkness just appeared in the sky. Characters matter, and it’s worth paying attention to cutscenes, since they include payoffs for major story threads.

I’ve known about Quria for a long time, so now I care about defeating her and what that means for the story. But that interest just bit me in the ass.

What about Quria’s demise?

Destiny 2 Quria mission
Quria is a giant Vex Mind covered in two different kinds of shields
Image: Bungie via Polygon

Quria’s boss fight in Tuesday’s Delphi mission is cool and elaborate. But if I die, I’ll just respawn a few seconds later without having to restart. This isn’t a pinnacle activity like a dungeon; it’s a story mission. Quria’s just a cool-looking Vex Hydra at the end of a 15-minute remix of the Expunge missions I’ve been playing all season. She’s a high-stakes character who I killed in a low-stakes mission. Maybe it’s all a simulation, maybe Quria will return, but for now, I’m disappointed.

In the past, I would’ve gotten excited just seeing a character from the game’s “deep lore” appear in game. Bungie has since raised that bar, but now my expectations have been raised, too. The defeat of a big minion like Quria feels like it should come at the end of a significant mission. And when my mission against Quria is 90% stuff I’ve played before, with no challenge, and no exclusive weapons, it doesn’t satisfy.

I’ve loved Destiny since early 2015, and for the first time in my life, the story is one of the things I’m most excited about with the game’s The Witch Queen expansion. But when characters matter, killing them needs to matter. And defeating Quria just felt like ending another seasonal goon.

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