A Tale of Two Galaxies: Storytelling in Metroid Prime and Destiny

destiny, a tale of two galaxies, metroid, storytelling
I’d read that.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of energy tanks, it was the age of engrams. It was the epoch of space pirates, it was the epoch of moon wizards. It was the season of, well, you get the point.

Though Metroid Prime and Destiny are fundamentally different games, they share an eerie number of similarities. Both star bounty hunters traveling through the cosmos, feature stunning environments and detailed character designs, and function as predominantly first-person shooters in which your character continually upgrades weapons and equipment.

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Hi, I’m Samus Aran. I won’t talk again until Metroid: Other M.

Also, both employ a minimalist approach to storytelling… just one more effectively than the other.

Though the over-arching plot of each game is fairly inconsequential, the ways in which the stories of Metroid Prime and Destiny unfold are notably different. In Metroid Prime, you play as Samus Aran, renowned bounty hunter and heroic protagonist. From the moment your spaceship touches down on Tallon IV, your objective is clear: stop the space pirates and save the planet because you’re the only one who can. A few cutscenes highlight important story events and encounters throughout the game, but the narrative is never obtrusive because, quite simply, there’s no reason for it to be. Metroid Prime’s story is straightforward and never pretends to be more significant than it is. Which bring me to…

Destiny, Crucible. ps4, sony, storytelling
Seriously, guys, which one of you is the important one?

...Destiny’s story, which is told through a combination of scattered cutscenes, pre-mission monologues, and in-game observations from your A.I. companion. Yes, the story is bland and poorly written, but it’s the pretense of an epic scope, rather than the actual plot, that detracts from the overall experience. From the time Peter Dinklage wakes you, Destiny fools you into believing you’re important, that you’re part of some grand universe you can’t yet fathom. This grand universe, however, plays virtually no part on your journey. And you’re not important, as evidenced by the hundreds of other players you’ll see doing exactly what you’re doing. If you can’t save the world, some other guardian quite obviously will. Pretending otherwise is frustrating.

Furthermore, why should anyone care about a story if it’s not important enough to be included in the actual game? Almost all of Destiny’s lore is explained through Grimoire cards (unlockable rewards for completing various tasks) which, inexplicably, are only accessible via Bungie’s website or the Destiny app. Generally, if something’s not important enough to be in the game, it’s not important enough for the player to care about.

In contrast, Metroid Prime’s lore is unearthed through environmental storytelling; players can scan objects and enemies to discover interesting tidbits about the Metroid universe, resulting in a more immersive and layered experience. By default, you’re more likely to be invested in Metroid Prime’s world because there’s actually something tangible in which to be invested.

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I won't read that.

To be fair, Destiny is fun to play. I wouldn’t have spent hours blasting through hordes of aliens, aimlessly cruising around on my Sparrow, or embarrassing myself in the Crucible if I thought otherwise. Somewhere, lost within all those gorgeous celestial backdrops, a great story waits to be told. At the moment, unfortunately, Destiny’s narrative is a needlessly unfocused mess trapped by its own self-grandeur. If Bungie truly wants its fledgling series’ story to be taken seriously, future writing efforts must be less convoluted and haphazard. In the words of the galaxy’s wisest inhabitant, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

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What did you think of Destiny's story? Should future Metroid games be more plot-driven? Is narrative in games important to you? Please let us know in the comments!
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