The music of Destiny – pt. 1

I want this to be a love letter* to one of my favourite games of all time (well, two of them, technically) – Destiny, by Bungie.

A friend shared the early pre-release trailer with me since we’d been playing a lot of Halo together (the franchise that made Bungie famous; they made Halo 1-3, Reach and ODST)

Recently, Mr Noodles and I went to a wonderful London Video Game Orchestra concert to see our friend play cello and catch up with folks. It was an epic-sounding and lovely evening. The orchestra’s conductor made a big point of wanting the Classical Music Scene to take video game scores more seriously, because there’s so much fantastic stuff out there.

My friend asked what else I’d like to hear from games. Music in games is very important to me so this is definitely something I’ll be thinking more about. I’ve got playlists with soundtracks of games I haven’t even played based on other people’s recommendations…

Obviously (to some), Destiny has been part of my life for several years now and the music is partly responsible.

I’ve made this playlist to bring together some of the outstanding tracks – feel free to add your fave, if you also play, or just listen! I hope you enjoy the playlist and/or this post; it’s not and nor is it meant to be a nuanced musical critique, just sharing something I love. [*Looks like it’ll be multiple parts actually! Here’s 2]

I’ve been meaning to write about the game for ages; it’s been… 8years?! now since we started out. We have a clan with some wonderful people in it (including Mr Noodles); we’ve had meet-ups across continents, life’s happened, we helped each other through the worst of a pandemic – I’m excited to see how this 10-year project wraps up, if a little apprehensive to begin to move on from that part of our lives.

As a start, I’ll focus on the tunes.

I think the first track (Journey), from early in Destiny 2, gives a good overview of the kind of musical themes that can be found in the game, as well as reflecting the Destiny story arc itself; humanity’s expansion, fall, and rebuilding.

I adore the solemn cello and violin, the choir, the bells and drums as it builds. In the game, we’ve seen our home destroyed in an invasion and many people die, we almost die, and we have to escape in order to start over, following on from the events of the first game. We keep going.

Beyond Light was a huge expansion that Bungie brought to Destiny 2 in 2020 (on my birthday, even!) that began to upend the world of our Guardians (the characters we play) by questioning what had previously been a fairly typical good vs evil story. Is there actually more nuance than we’ve made room for? Do we even know what our purpose is, and can we reckon with our mistakes?

With this expansion came some incredible environments like the icy, atmospheric moon of Europa. Unbelievable detail in red-flecked ice, hidden by intermittent and impenetrable snow storms, with Jupiter looming in the sky above**, whorling and beautiful. The track brings in themes of ‘the darkness’, that assumed-evil, with the kind of battle brass we’re used to. We had a new fight to begin.

I included The Last Array because it was one of the best missions from the base game, Destiny, in which you had to hold off waves and waves of enemies while a huge satellite array rose up out of a facility in a part of rusty Old Russia called the Cosmodrome. Some of our great colony ships launched out into the system from here in (I think) the mid-late 21st century.

The military drums carry us throughout. Tension in the brass’ riffs. The strings with the sense of urgency.

Following Traveler’s Promise, I’ve added End of Line. Traveler’s Promise is much more dreamy – it’s about the big entity that’s at once essentially the main character (apart from the player/s) and yet, almost always, in the background. But we still really don’t know quite what its deal is (it never speaks). I like this track particularly in the context of everything that’s being revealed now, late in D2.

End of Line is definitely one of my top tracks from Destiny in its first incarnation; another waves-of-enemies encounter in the Cosmodrome (that was harder than the boss) in this up-to-3-players strike level – playing as we try to get from A to B, waiting for our floating computer companion (Ghost) to break us through a barrier. There’s not much more to it than that.

Every time this track played, I had to hum along to it, it’s one of the rockier tracks from the early seasons and always got the stress levels up, especially if we kept dying to one of the trickier waves of enemies!

The Hunted is a brilliant piece from a raid (6-person activity made up of several encounters in which you usually have to work together as a team to progress) in the second game, which accompanies a close-quarters fight that’s alternately sneaky-sneaky while guided by half the team, versus QUICK KILL IT, KILL IT!!! You can hear that urgency as the choir ramps up; at the end either you’ve succeeded, or you’re dead. Try again.

It stands out for a lot of people, I think (especially from 3 minutes in).

Deep Stone Lullaby is one of the most famous tracks in the community, from a 6-player activity in D2; everyone adored this piece on Beyond Light’s release, partly because of the way in which it was introduced: as you step out onto the outside of a space station, for the very first spacewalk in the game.

According to Bungie themselves in a raid-along, it’s supposed to symbolise going to sleep for the last time and waking up as an Exo (a robot with human personality) with your memory mostly wiped.

Here’s a video of a team (not ours) doing the encounter, which is a jumpy puzzle (as we call them) rather than a fight, where you have to use your character’s movement to traverse the area. The background to the environment is just incredible, and it was certainly an unforgettable moment the first time we went through it together. 

Couldn’t do a best tracks without putting in the sounds that got us started; the original Destiny theme, which played the first time you loaded up the game (and at intervals if you were idling your ship in orbit around one of the planetary destinations).

Not much to say about it other than that tune bringing up a lot of feelings attached to memories, exploring with friends, trying to ignore my life situation at the time (which was less than ideal) and getting to grips with the first online multiplayer game I’d ever encountered.

The eerie voice track really captures the wonder of starting out, quite confused, as essentially a space-zombie, resurrected out of nowhere amongst a pile of rusty cars by a hovering, sentient, mechanical paper fortune teller with the voice of Peter Dinklage. Having no memories of our old life. Acclimatising to this strange future and a suite of new powers, traveling out to moons and planets we’d never set foot on before. A lot of promise, with time to stop and admire the beauty of the vistas created for us by the studio.

Back to Destiny 1 for The Shadow Thief, theme for a boss we encounter multiple times over the years, a member of the alien race called the Eliksni (or more rudely by Earth people, ‘The Fallen’). There’s a joke about (sexist) gatekeepers that goes “Oh, so you’re a Destiny fan? Name 3 bosses” … “Taniks.”

He’s a mercenary, a hunter, and he just wants our heads for his trophy shelf…

The leitmotif in this track forms part of the main Destiny theme, and reappears in certain parts of Destiny 2; it’s lodged in all the veteran players’ minds, but not everyone remembers why!

… Compared to the might of the biggest boss of the first game, Oryx, whom Last Stand is written for. We face him in the Taken King expansion for Destiny 1.

He’s untold millennia old. Began as Aurash, a female Krill, part of an alien race eking out a meagre existence in the middle of a gas giant on tiny islands of a boiling sea, who later became known as the Hive. But in making a deal with incredibly powerful beings deep in their ocean, in exchange for endless blood sacrifice, he became a king. The Hive moved out across the universe, destroying entire races as they went. Each new genocide is just their next payment to their masters and they think nothing of it.

We had to kill him, as we killed his son, Crota, earlier in the game.

On to the final major expansion released for Destiny 1, Rise of Iron. In it we learn of a terrible plague, a technology gone wrong, which killed many Guardians in the past, friends of a character we often interact with although until this point his motivations and especially his past had been obscure.

The Iron Lords were the first to use the power we are given by the Traveler, the “Light” for good; before them, people had abused it, as people tend to do with power. The Iron Lords realised humanity needed defenders, later the Guardians, and Rise is the story of their end. The epic brass of the theme plays ever time there’s a player-versus-event called the Iron Banner, held periodically to honour the Lords and practice battle skills. It’s a great song, as so much of the soundtrack (honestly it’s hard to find an exception) is.

Siege Dancers is based on the main theme of another of the alien races in the game, the Cabal, and is specifically for a boss (3 bosses in one, technically) from the first game. The “Cabal Stomp” is a fun piece of music that’s very recognisable and appropriate to the huge, unrelenting space rhinos (who have no word for ‘retreat’) that are the Cabal.

These bosses, however, were psions, generally much smaller members of the species who specialise in psychic warfare, long-rage weaponry and tactics over, well, stomping. So this track is a little more… delicate.

Ah, Forsaken. You can’t talk to long-term Destiny players too much about this expansion, because it makes them sad. We lost a friend and we don’t want to talk about it.

But what a brilliant space-western soundtrack this is. Manipulation, fate, murder, intrigue, villainy and wonder – the revealing of a pocket dimension called the Dreaming City, both beautiful and terrible, and the corrupted magical being within it. We start to get closer to the cause of all these seemingly unconnected events, but still so far from it. Angry, out for revenge.

“Once heard, it can never be unheard” – turned out, Oryx’s sister, a Hive goddess of cunning, has a magic song. An evil magic song. We didn’t know that at the time. Shadowkeep, also known as The Moon’s Still Haunted- the Hive are in our moon, and we need to find out what they’re up to, because it’s never anything good. That’s why this track is unsettling, disturbing even.

I should probabably stop there, I doubt anyone’s going to read all these, but you never know! If you did, thanks, and I hope you enjoyed the tracks.

All rights with Bungie and their composers (listed for each track).

**Noodlemaz’s Titan Guardian on Europa, moon of Jupiter, doing the moping emote (pushing an empty swing back and forth as raindrops fall) – I called this screenshot ‘Drops of Jupiter’ and thought that was very clever.

One thought on “The music of Destiny – pt. 1

  1. Pingback: The music of Destiny – pt. 2 – Purely a figment of your imagination

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