The first thing you hear aboard the Glykon when you finally make your way inside is a low, frightening growl. As you’re creeping through a ventilation duct to find a way into the derelict spaceship’s structure, it’s impossible to pin down where the sounds of scratching, breathing, and heavy footsteps are coming from. It isn’t long before you discover the bodies and the wreckage. There’s no one aboard. Something awful happened here. Whispers emanate from the walls, and shadows move in the corners, and slowly you realize that everyone is dead, but you are not alone.
Investigating the Glykon is Destiny 2’s latest mission, Presage, and it’s a standout moment in the game. I spent more than an hour wandering the ship when I discovered it, finding my way through its twisting hallways and infrastructure, listening to the sounds of something alive creeping around in the dark. The level evokes the likes of horror sci-fi such as Alien, Dead Space, or Event Horizon, sending you into the bowels of a dead ship with only your gun and your flashlight as comfort, without a clear sense of what you’ll find–or what it might do to you.
Missions with a unique tonal shift like Presage only come along every once in a while, and they’re among the best things that developer Bungie makes for Destiny 2. Unlike the rest of the game right now, Presage places you into a full-on horror story for a short stint. It throws puzzles and obstacles in your way with little or no explanation of how you might make your way through them and trusts you to figure it out. It demands you explore and understand its space, rather than just sending you from gunfight to gunfight–huge portions of the mission contain no enemies at all. And it throws in some very cool ideas that I’ll try not to spoil, with one fun section taking after an iconic Star Wars moment and another that, if you squint, could have been ripped from Halo 2.
Destiny has always excelled at putting players in satisfying shooting battles, but it’s in missions like Presage that it feels like Bungie is really stretching its legs and showing what it’s capable of. There are a few big fights in Presage, but it’s everything else that makes the mission so interesting, with its focus squarely on puzzles and exploration. There are plenty of inventive moments that require you to fully understand an area to figure out how to open a door or break through a vent. Finding your way into the ship to start with, for instance, is an exercise in observing the space around you and uncovering a hidden path that requires a little creative thinking. Bungie constantly designs environmental puzzles that put players to the test with their platforming, and when they’re at their best, traversing the spaces of Destiny 2 is as fun as fighting in them.
Destiny 2 lately has been getting better and better about telling its story, drawing from its lore, and expanding on its world and characters in ways that make them more impactful. Presage feels like it’s brimming with important story beats that haven’t been fully uncovered yet. How the ship and its crew met their fate is an open question–what killed them and why are two others.
The whole thing ties into the lore of the former Cabal emperor, Calus, one of Destiny 2’s more nuanced villainous characters, as well as the current seasonal story arc concerning Caiatl, the new empress and Calus’s daughter. It recalls elements of the Crown of Sorrows raid and the Season of the Drifter from more than two years ago, making both relevant again. It rewards you for paying attention to Destiny 2’s story, and it encourages you to go learn more about the world; the more you know about all these different elements, the more interesting and weirder the story of the Glykon becomes.
What I like most about Presage, though, is that it’s full of secrets. The best moments in Destiny, bar none, are the discovery of secret tidbits hidden within the game. Presage itself is something of a secret–to unlock it, you need to play a specific mission this week , opening a door that has been closed for six years and revealing a new area. Inside the ship itself are clues that imply there’s more to the mission than what we’ve already seen–as you learn more about the ship, you can unlock additional pieces of story and hidden caches.
Digging through and finding what’s hidden in missions like Presage are some of the greatest experiences that Destiny 2 has to offer. It’s moments like these when we see the community around the game at its finest, it’s reminiscent of when thousands came together to solve the puzzle of the Corridors of Time. They’re opportunities for Bungie to make its game feel massive and nuanced, where your investment in the game is respected and rewarded, and where Bungie is at its most creative and inventive.
It’s been tough to be a Destiny fan lately. Some changes, like the removal of some planetary destinations and “gunsetting,” in which older weapons and armor have been rendered obsolete, have turned off a lot of players. Though I might have complaints about losing my favorite gear to old age or the lack of story context for my friends first stepping into the world, it’s missions like Presage (and the extremely cool gun you get from it, Dead Man’s Tale) that keep me playing.
I like Destiny’s enormous universe and the strange, fascinating stories it can tell. I like that one mission can be focused on comedy, and another can be a straight-up haunted house. I like that there’s always something new to uncover. And I like that I’m eventually going to find out what happened on a derelict ship drifting through the solar system, shoot a bunch of aliens with a cool new gun, and see a little more of Bungie’s massive world come into sharper focus.