Thoughts, musings, ideas and occasionally short rants on the past, present and future of electronics entertainment
Sunday, October 16, 2016
I'm kind of surprised that there still aren't any novels set in the lore-rich universe of Destiny. It strikes me as being especially odd considering how many Halo novels there are now. We are talking about the exact same developer for both games here, Bungie Studios. I've heard some people claim that the grimoire cards are a substitute for the lack of any books, but to be honest those little snippets of background information feel like excerpts from a much larger story (one that is never communicated during the actual game). It's an unfortunate situation because the limited plot and characters developments in Destiny leave much to be desired. The entire thing is akin to a junk food snack, something to play when you have a hankering for a blend of FPS and RPG. For me the question at launch and continuing to this day is, where's the meat? Despite being out for over two years now, there isn't a whole lot for players to sink their teeth into. Sure the shooting is highly polished, but it comes across as rather pointless when the only motivation for doing so is some vague, mystical mumbo-jumbo. It's especially aggravating when one considers the setting, which is ripe for storytelling. The concept of a fully colonized solar system provides an excellent foundation for all kinds of epic sagas and high adventure, and yet Bungie continues to squander the opportunity to do so. Perhaps there is a reason for it though, one that goes beyond the realm of video games. There's a recently completed trio of novels out now that basically tackles the same setting as Destiny except way better.
The "Red Rising" trilogy by Pierce Brown takes place in a distant future wherein humanity has become highly stratified. So much so, each cast has a particular color associated with them to show where they stand in the social hierarchy. At the top are the "Golds." Roughly equivalent to royal families, they believe themselves to be the pinnacle of human development (both mentally and physically). Directly under them are "Silvers" and "Coppers," who deal with the economics and bureaucracy of running an interplanetary empire. Further down are a variety of specialized roles, such as the "Blues" (who handle space travel), "Yellows" (that apply medicine), and "Grays" (a combination law enforcement and armed forces). Elite troops are referred to as "Obsidians," although they do not lead others. Only gold can occupy the command structure that makes up fleets and armies, and this is where the uniqueness of the setting comes to the forefront.
Borrowing a page (or several dozen) from Dune, the author makes a point of demonstrating how technology has been bent and molded to suit the structure of society. Case in point, spaceships only ever have one bridge (command center) because gold philosophy demands that all power be focused on them. The best personal armor and armaments are reserved for gold use only. Highly destructive weaponry is forbidden because it diminishes the importance of gold fighting prowess. When two rival Golds face-off it more often than not takes the form of a duel. Ship-to-ship combat revolves around boarding operations because capturing one of these pricey vessels brings far more prestige than simple destruction. Additionally, the victor has a prize to impress his peers with and thus enhance his or her standing within the social elite. Sure a lot of Grays and Obsidians might perish in the process, but by gold logic they are nothing more than expendable assets anyway. On top of that, lower ranking colors are obligated to transfer loyalty in the event that their commanding gold is deposed. In this Darwinian command structure, the ideal is the "iron gold," an ruthlessly determined individual who does not shy away from adversity or waver in the face of a challenge. Golds who seek pleasure and indulgence over temperance and self-discipline are labeled "pixies," while those deemed of inferior disposition are called "bronzies." In order to hold the reins of power a gold must attend the academy on Mars. Without going into spoiler territory, let me just say it's a school that asks a lot of its students. Those lucky few who graduate with honors become "peerless scarred" and are given important posts in political and military spheres. Of course, all this becomes subject to change when a small group of individuals decide they want to bring down they system from the inside.
Red Rising isn't exactly the same as Destiny, but it's suited to the medium in which it was created (literature, instead of video games). That said, there are a lot of aspects to the setting that wouldn't be out of place in a first, or third-person shooter. For example, there are energy guns ("burners"), super-swords ("razors"), stealth devices ("ghost cloaks"), and regenerating health ("Aegis shields"). Generally speaking, the nomenclature is much better than Destiny as well, with names and terms borrowed from Greco-Roman history. The various planets and moons of our solar system are also depicted correctly with respect to gravity (might sound like a nit-pick, but it's something that always stick with me). Red Rising also has an easily relatable conflict, none of this nebulous light versus dark. It's a class struggle along the length and width of a social pyramid in which everyone below the tippe top is miserable, doubly so for all the folks at the very bottom. Oh...I almost forgot to mention that there are no robots in the setting for the simple reason that Golds want to dominate everyone else. They have no desire for mindless automatons. Instead the prefer to demonstrate their self-imposed superiority by forcing others to obey them out of fear and envy...and that's ultimately why the Reds, the bottom most cast, are fated to rise up against their oppressors.