Just about every week brings something new to Destiny 2, whether it’s story beats, new activities, or interesting new combinations of elements that let players devastate each other in the Crucible. Iron Banter is our weekly look at what’s going on in the world of Destiny and a rundown of what’s drawing our attention across the solar system.
We’re officially in the full run-up to Destiny 2’s next expansion, Lightfall, now that Bungie has announced a showcase that seems very likley to drop a bunch of details about the game’s next chapter. Each year, Bungie develops videos that give a look at gameplay and new mechanics, provide a sense of what new guns are coming to the game, show the expansion’s setting, detail any other changes, and, somewhat crucially, explain where the story is headed in the next year. And when it comes to story, speculation is rampant about how 2023’s Lightfall could upend the Destiny universe.
I’ve speculated about the deal with Lightfall in the past–I’m guessing it’s the Empire Strikes Back portion of the current story as Bungie works to bring its “Light and Darkness Saga” to a close in The Final Shape, the expansion after Lightfall. But I think the placement of the showcase could also be a clue about what might be in store for Destiny 2 in its upcoming season, and the events that are set to lead us into the obviously spooky story alluded to by the Lightfall title.
First, a little background. Lately, Bungie has been holding its cards close to the vest when it comes to story, and that seems in large part due to the fact that seasonal story beats are much more meaningful to Destiny 2’s overall tale than they have been in the past. Especially since the launch of the Beyond Light expansion and the run-up to The Witch Queen, the story told in the seasons has been essential viewing for the much larger and more visible expansions. Savathun’s plan to take hold of the Light, the power previously reserved for Guardians, in the most recent expansion was set up extensively in seasonal storytelling.
Osiris creeping in Season of the Splicer was one of many major story beats leading to The Witch Queen.
Last time we had an expansion showcase, it dropped on the same day as the start of a new season–the Season of the Lost. Bungie provided a whole bunch of details about The Witch Queen at that time, which included a lot of information about the Hive god Savathun and her overall plan. We knew at the start of Season of the Lost that Savathun would successfully gain the Light, which was something of a spoiler for the story that was unfolding in the game at the time. We knew something about how the events we were experiencing each week were going to ultimately play out.
However, placing the showcase on the same day as the start of the season was essential for a big reveal that happened right at the start of Season of the Lost: the fact that Savathun had been impersonating Osiris and had infiltrated the Vanguard for almost an entire year. That was a huge moment in Season of the Lost, and, arguably, one that could have been undercut if info about The Witch Queen had been available before the start of the season.
With the placement of the last showcase as background, consider the placement of the next showcase. It drops on the same day as the start of Season 18, August 23, and while that could just be a fortuitous placement and otherwise no reason to read into things, I’m going to go ahead and read into things. The showcase happening on the same day as the launch of Season 18 could easily mean the same thing it meant for Season of the Lost: a big story twist that could be spoiled if the showcase happened earlier.
The Lightfall name suggests that something drastic and horrible is set to happen next season, and speculation has covered everything from the destruction of the Traveler, to the replacement of humanity by the Hive as the Light’s designated heroes, to the Witness conquering Earth and the Guardians fleeing into space to avoid utter annihilation. Something so massive feels like it needs a proper lead-up, much like Savathun had, to prime the story and hit players with the maximum possible impact. So a powerful, painful story twist in Season 18–with more to come in Season 19–would make a lot of sense.
And I gotta say, I really think we’re building toward the death of Commander Zavala out here.
Zavala is not doing great right now.
I’m not sure it’s something that’ll happen as early as next season, but the seeds are definitely being planted for the loss of the Vanguard’s leader and the most essential defender of humanity. Zavala has been utterly devastated by the events of the last couple of years. The loss of Cayde-6 was a major blow, and he’s weathered increasingly brutal emotional tolls: his near-assassination by the psions and the lies of various characters surrounding Crow’s identity in Season of the Chosen, Lakshmi’s demagoguery in Season of the Splicer, and Savathun-as-Osiris’s betrayal in Season of the Lost. More than that, though, Zavala has been absolutely wrecked by the Traveler’s apparent silence as things have gotten worse and worse. When Savathun was gifted the Light, it didn’t just shake his personal foundation, it cracked that foundation.
Season of the Haunted has leaned hard into how much Zavala has sacrificed and lost, how heavy the burden of command weighs on him, and how much he’s been hurt as his core beliefs have been shaken. He said himself that he feels old and tired. Zavala is in bad shape right now, even with Caiatl’s support.
The loss of Zavala would be a suitably monumental change to Destiny 2, especially if it happens sooner rather than later–say, in Season 18. Zavala’s death would throw the Last City into disarray, because there is, in a very real sense, no one up to the task of replacing him. The story of The Witch Queen and the lore surrounding it does a very good job of humanizing Ikora Rey, the Warlock Vanguard commander and Zavala’s second-in-command, while also depicting how much she struggles with her leadership role. It’ll be a personal struggle for her if she were forced to step in Zavala’s shoes at such a key moment, when the stakes are so high, and it’s not difficult to see how much the loss of Zavala would also ravage Ikora personally.
From a story standpoint, this sounds like an excellent setup for the Light to fall in Lightfall. With the Vanguard and the City thrown into turmoil by Zavala’s loss, the time would be ripe for a lot of players to make their moves. Calus and his loyalist forces from Season of the Risen are still out there; the Hive forces led by Immaru, Savathun’s Ghost, are undoubtedly hatching new plans; the other Hive god, Xivu Arath, is out on the periphery somewhere, waiting to strike; and there still may be dissident forces within the City itself that would see an opportunity to grab power, if one were to arise. This might be the absolute worst time possible to lose the Vanguard commander, which is an excellent reason for Zavala to die from a story perspective.
The characterization of Ikora we saw in The Witch Queen suggests she’d have a very hard time stepping into the role of Vanguard commander–which is why it’d make for great storytelling if she was forced to do so.
Of course, we’re just spitballing here, but I do think we can expect something major from Season 18, and not just because the showcase date seems specifically designed to avoid spoilers. One of the best things Bungie has ever done with Destiny 2 was the long-term story it told that culminated in the final arrival of Savathun, and it’s very obvious that the developer has learned a lot about what an excellent opportunity live-game storytelling provides. We need a similarly long runway for Lightfall as we saw ahead of The Witch Queen. With about six months until the expansion arrives, it’s time for things to start falling apart.
Plus, we had the Spoiler Alert sidearm show up again ahead of The Witch Queen, and Bungie said that weapon was the herald of someone’s death. Personally, I don’t think they meant Savathun herself–that’s too easy, too obvious, and too cheeky. We’re still owed a major death to fulfill the Spoiler Alert prophecy, and it really seems like Zavala is teed up and ready.
Speculate away about the story and the Lightfall showcase in the comments below.