Destiny 2 doesn’t release until next week, but at least one Collector’s Edition was delivered early thanks to Amazon Canada. The $250 bundle is filled with art work and lots of different knick-knacks, including a special booklet filled with lore that Reddit user Canadian decided to upload and share with the internet.
Bungie’s shooter MMO isn’t known for its deep and detailed storytelling, but that doesn’t mean fans of the series don’t greedily devour every new piece of backstory as it arrives. The latest dump, which comes via the booklet, is an extended dive into the Cabal, the game’s militaristic faction full of aliens who wear giant space armor and have the tiniest heads. Destiny 1 and its ensuing DLC expanded in detail on series’ three other enemy factions, but the Cabal previously hadn’t gotten that much attention.
Destiny 2 is meant to change that and the Cabal booklet is one place that starts. While a handful of pages and art comparable to an NES game manual might not seem massive by conventional standards, in Destiny terms its like the scene with the old guy near the end of the second Matrix movie. And contrary to the brofest feel of the latest game’s marketing, the post-apocalyptic sci-fi universe Bungie’s been developing has as much in common with Lord of the Rings as Starship Troopers.
Also, I’d say there might be minor spoilers ahead, but honestly who knows if any of this will even make it into the actual game. Bungie has said it’s going to try and incorporate more of its world building directly into the things players do in Destiny 2 rather than confine some of the most interesting story elements to item descriptions and Grimoire cards as was the case in the first game.
There’s a lot to dissect in the booklet, which is written in first person from the perspective of Dominus Calus, the Cabal’s emperor at one time, in the form of a letter. It paints a much more complex picture of the faction and its history in which the Cabal appear to have enjoyed periods of great peace and prosperity in-between bouts of war and conflict. There are parallels to the Roman empire, an obvious real world inspiration for the alien race which was responsible for lots of art and culture in addition to brutal campaigns of military conquest. In the opening portion of the letter, Calus writes,
“But might is not enough - for through all of this struggle, I kept the bonfires lit and the sweet wine flowing. To be emperor, you see, is to be the model of perpetual joy! A good ruler must live the life that everyone craves. For if an emperor cannot be happy, then what hope has anyone?”
From there the former emperor goes on to list everyone whoever betrayed him in an attempt to recruit the intended reader (it’s not exactly clear who that is, although it seems to be the player, i.e. a Guardian) into helping him plot his revenge. Chief among them is Ghaul, the big bad from all the Destiny 2 trailers and the beta who replaced Calus as the Cabal empire’s leader, but the list also includes lots of others, including Calus’ own daughter.
You can read the entire booklet in plain text form at Destinypedia but the bulk of it appears to be laying the groundwork for the new game’s first raid. It would make sense if these “betrayers” as Calus calls them were bosses in different sections of Destiny 2's end game, with ambiguous remarks from his letter like “Umun is afraid of the outside. See that her doom comes from within,” possibly intended as hints as to how to beat them.
Beyond just hinting at the game’s new raid, however, players have taken the contents of the booklet and used them to speculate about whether the Cabal are really bad guys in league with the Darkness or simply bystanders who were involuntarily roped into a larger struggle by forces like the Hive. Toward the end of the booklet, Calus himself waxes philosophical:
“For in my exile I have plumbed the secret places of the cosmos. Even my grand Cabal is only a single tooth in the great jaws of time. The universe is strange beyond reckoning and dangerous beyond courage. I have voyaged beyond the edge of reason, into the dominion of cold screams. I have seen our future written in the ruins of ancient fortress worlds. I have gathered up the moon-sized bones that tumble on the precipice of ancient singularities, and I have tossed them to scry our fate.”
Some of Destiny’s best lore came in the Taken King expansion in a number of unlockable fragments called the Books of Sorrow, and in many ways the Collector’s Edition booklet reads like a followup to that, with some fans interpreting parts of what Calus says as signaling that he’s discovered a secret to defeating the Darkness. Either way it’s perfect fodder for a gaming community known to intensely debate even the most minor details of the game’s extremely meager narrative.