There’s something about Destiny’s ping-pong ball from space that gives me the heebie-jeebies. It may sound like I’m putting on a tin foil hat by saying so, but something doesn’t add up about the Traveler. What’s more, veteran developer Bungie (whose résumé includes Halo one through three) have spent the last two years convincing players that our greatest ally is sugar, spice and everything nice. In a nutshell, it’s too good to be true.
A godlike being with immeasurable power, the Traveler’s spent eons bestowing knowledge and prosperity upon any race it encounters. Earth was just the latest in a long line of hosts. Unfortunately for us, an ancient enemy named ‘the Darkness’ pursued it here and proceeded to beat the snot out of humanity. The Traveler went on to save our bacon at the expense of its own life. As a result of this thoroughly noble sacrifice, players have been putting it back together since Destiny launched in 2014.
A theory that’s been kicking around since then would suggest we’ve got the wrong end of the stick, however. There’s a surprising amount of evidence to suggest that the Traveler isn’t what it makes itself out to be. In fact, we’ve got reason to believe it and the Darkness may be one and the same.
This is an intriguing prospect (if a bit over-dramatic). Doing away with assumptions about the Traveler’s benevolence wouldn’t just napalm everything we’ve learnt up to this point; it’d reinvigorate the game’s story by virtue of being unexpected. Though enjoyable, Destiny’s plot has been a straightforward example of archetypes until now. Performing a heel-turn such as this would catapult it out of clichéd territory and into something else entirely.
Eagle-eyed gamers with a nose for conspiracy have unearthed convincing proof. For a start, some have noted that the Fallen – those four-armed scavengers who wander Russia and the moon – call us ‘the Darkness’ when approached. Secondly, one pointed out that our classes bear traditionally villainous names. Titans were bad news in Greek mythology, Warlocks tend to rely on dark magic and Hunters need no explanation (you can check out the full write-up on Kotaku).
More presciently, we’re an army of the undead. I mean, come on. Every player character (or ‘Guardian’) is a long-dead individual raised to protect humanity. They have no memory of what came before and now serve the Traveler blindly. If this reminds anyone else of Night of the Living Dead, you’re not alone.
In a clever and unexpectedly Biblical move, Bungie may also be drawing inspiration from more than fantasy. As observed by Reddit user MrFlibblesVeryCross, the name Lucifer can be translated as ‘Bringer of Light’ or ‘the Morning Star’. Moreover, the devil is usually portrayed as a being who tempts us by offering great wealth. This sounds familiar.
Unfortunately for Lucifer’s victims, such pleasantries hide something much less palatable. I’m not suggesting the Traveler is Satan, but it’s an interesting comparison nonetheless. As MrFlibbles notes, maybe the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was making us think we were the good guys.
With this in mind, perhaps the fall of humanity was self inflicted. What if it got kick-started when we learned of the Traveler’s duplicity? The game suggests that Rasputin – an age-old super-computer tasked with protecting us – shut itself down due to facing a no-win situation. This would make sense if the Traveler turned against us. Its technology was deeply integrated into our society by then, giving the enemy access to every facet of our culture.
That would explain the robotic race of Exos, too. All we know about their past is that they were forged to fight an unknown war. Could they have been commisioned to battle the Traveler itself? That would explain the necessity for a creation so dangerous.
To summarise, it’s very believable scaremongering. This conspiracy isn’t foolproof though. The theory’s Achille’s Heel are snippets of in-game lore. Rasputin went offline because it detected something approaching ‘outside the solar system’, while the monstrous Hive have records of the Traveler assisting other races before ours. This would suggest that it and the Darkness are two separate entities, supported by a character’s comments about the Traveler having a ‘dark twin’. While you could explain it away with misdirection on Bungie’s part (we’re told the Traveler ran off just prior to and returned during our hour of need, leaving this hypothesis intact), I’ve got an alternative. What if the Traveler was a vanguard for the Darkness? It’d infiltrate our society and ensure its development along a pre-determined route. Then it’d call in backup. That’s the road Mass Effect settled on with its villainous Reapers. I can see the same trick working for Destiny.
Because a ‘the Traveler’s evil’ twist is simply too juicy to pass up. Challenging everything we’ve come to know since launch is a masterstroke. It pumps new life into the narrative by distorting what we always took for granted. Furthermore, it echoes Bioshock’s ‘would you kindly’ revelation. You don’t see it coming, but once the penny drops you won’t notice anything else.
All the setup that’s been left hanging since 2014 puts a final nail in this coffin. We’re told how Osiris (whose disciples run a hard-as-nails multiplayer competition) was banished for asking too many questions about the Traveler. Similarly, a spy network called The Hidden have been toiling away in the shadows for reasons unknown – but it’s related to Osiris. I’m willing to bet they’re unraveling the truth.
Adding fuel to this fire is the fact that three-eyed Eris Morn is counted amongst the Hidden’s number. The Queen of what are essentially space elves suggested she and Eris were working toward some common, mysterious goal during The Taken King expansion.
And while we’re on the subject of the loopy Ms. Morn, she’s not the only sketchy Guardian out there. Something’s clearly up with the Speaker, designated mouthpiece of the Traveler and voiced by Bill Nighy. When he’s not muttering creepy promises he’s insisting we go out and murder every alien in sight. There’s no explanation given for this killing spree; we’re just supposed to take it at face value that these creatures deserve to be wiped out. Although they give as good as they get, we’re being asked to commit genocide one minion at a time.
There’s also the rumour of cut storylines, of course. Shortly after the game launched, reports surfaced about a demo version of Destiny that revealed the Traveler’s evil much sooner. The game’s final stage – dubbed the Black Garden – would have probably taken place within the Traveler itself. There are still traces of this plot out in the ether if you’ve got time to find them; trailers exist where you can see familiar faces in very different roles. This includes the elf-queen’s brother, a man who once helped players fight the Traveler before he was repurposed in the end product.
To wrap up, you can see why Bungie would change its mind on the speed of this reveal. Ignore the fact that there are a good eight years of Destiny yet to come. It’s too intriguing a story to rush through. Because something unpleasant is clearly on its way, no matter the Traveler’s role; all we can do now is wait for the other foot to drop.