Destiny Analysis Part 4: The story of Pathways into Darkness in reverse

craig mullins pid
This is part four of four to my analysis of Bungie’s Destiny.

Check out Part 1, where I look at visuals, level design, enemy design, etc.; Part 2: where I look at things like story, weapons, and whether it’s worth buying; and Part 3, where I talk about how things were named in Destiny

I made a reddit post about this that is a little more succinct, but doesn’t cover all the same topics.

I believe that the overarching narrative of Destiny is actually an inverted, or reversed, retelling of the story in Pathways into Darkness, one of Bungie’s very first games. Basically, I think that Destiny is the PiD story told from the perspective of the monsters in PiD, and that the heroes in Pathways into Darkness are the villains in Destiny.

If this is true, then this let’s us make some predictions about the future of Destiny’s overarching story, although not about its gameplay or anything like that.

Let me start with what I think is proof of the strong and deliberate connection between the games. Then I’ll move on to the summary of my theory. And then, I’ll move into the details and predictions (none of which are terribly spectacular. so, no hype.).

WHAT, TO ME, PROVES THAT DESTINY IS A RETELLING OF PiD

Very briefly, the plot of Pathways into Darkness revolves around how an ancient, alien “god”, buried beneath a pyramid, is about to wake up and destroy us all, and you need to travel down through a dark pyramid to put it back to sleep. As the “god” slowly wakes, his dreams become more powerful and manifest themselves in the form of bizarre monsters and strange monsters.

lots of monsters

If the story of soldiers descending into a pyramid of monsters to put a powerful alien back to sleep is called Pathways INTO Darkness, then the story of monsters ascending out of a solar system of soldiers to wake up a powerful alien would be called Pathways OUT OF Darkness.

And sure enough, Bungie’s announcement vidoc for Destiny was called “Pathways out of Darkness”. Some Destiny fans made the connection to Bungie’s earlier game, but thought it was just a nod to their past. No one seemed to consider that the title of the vidoc might hint at a real connection between the games.

And why would you? It seems like a throwaway reference.

Around Halloween of last year, players in Destiny were able to get a special, easter egg type item from the vendor Xûr. It was called the Flight of Shadows, and it created a swarm of bats around you every time you respawned. The important part was the flavor text for this item:

“Are you the dream of a sleeping God? Or the nightmare of a dead one?”

Looking at Destiny alone it would seem that the “God” in question would be the Traveler since he “created” or resurrected the player characters.

Of course, the connection to Pathways into Darkness is blatantly obvious. The alien god buried in PiD is both referred to as a “Dreaming God” and a “dead god”, and the point of the game is to put it back to sleep.

For me, the title of the announcement vidoc and flavor text of Flight of Shadows solidifies the fact that Destiny is the PiD story told in reverse, from the monsters’ perspective.

And we’re the monsters. We’re the dreams of the Dreaming God.

This all sets up the following parallels; don’t worry if some things don’t make sense, I’ll explain them further on:

the Traveler = the Dreaming God a.k.a. the W’rkncacnter
the Darkness = the Jjaro
the Guardians (player characters) = the monsters in the pyramid and the sentinels
the Vex, Fallen, Cabal, Hive = the Germans, the Cubans, the Americans, and the “surviving” marine (player character), (and possibly the player character in Marathon: Infinity)
the Solar System = the mysterious pyramid

So, let’s get into details.

A BRIEF SYNOPSIS OF THE STORY IN PATHWAYS INTO DARKNESS

(You probably don’t need to read this part if you don’t want to.)

pathways screen

In Pathways into Darkness, the United States is contacted by an alien race called the Jjaro which warns them that there is an ancient, nightmarishly powerful alien buried underneath the Yucatan peninsula and it is waking up (later it is revealed that it is called the W’rkncacnter). If this “Dreaming God” wakes completely, then it will alter the reality of Earth and destroy humanity. In fact, if you don’t beat the game in the alloted time limit, you get this failure message: “The dreaming god has awakened; you hardly even remember dying.”

So, you play one of the marines who is sent to the Yucatan, and who parachutes down to a mysterious pyramid with the intention of putting the God back to sleep with a nuclear bomb.

The game takes place in a pyramid, and you descend deeper and deeper, fighting monsters that are essentially the dreams of the W’rkncacnter. As you descend further into the darkness, you also descend further into the Dreaming God’s reality. As it rouses from its sleep, its dreams become stronger, resulting in tougher and tougher monsters.

As you travel through the pyramid, you are able to talk to the dead, such as your fellow marines, Cuban treasure hunters, and Nazi soldiers. From these dead corpses you learn a little about their pasts, the pyramid, and about the past expeditions that failed. There’s also the implication that your player character (whose parachute failed) may actually be dead and that you may have been reanimated by the W’rkncacnter itself.

The eons long battle between the Jjaro and the W’rkncacnters is further elaborated in the Marathon series where it’s mentioned that at one point the Jjaro trapped one of the W’rkncacnter inside of a sun, because the Dreaming Gods cannot be killed, only imprisoned.

The gameplay and plot of PiD is actually pretty complex and there’s still a few mysteries that no one’s solved. If you’re actually interested in PiD’s story, etc., then check out the fan page at (which is where I found the Craig Mullins art at the top of the page): http://pid.bungie.org/

Note: The analysis I’m doing is going to be based mostly off of memory of PiD, so I might get a few things wrong, but I think all the core ideas are correct.

THE TRAVELER IS THE DREAMING GOD

destiny traveler

Pid: The Dreaming God was defeated by the Jjaro, and then crashed onto Earth (Yucatan Peninsula) and was buried. It slept for millions of years until finally it begins to wake and summon monsters to guard it.

Destiny: The Traveler was defeated by the Darkness, and then crashed(?) to Earth and “slept” for some lengthy period of time. Now it begins to wake and summon Guardians to fight for it.

Some obvious parallels right there. But there’s more parallels between the Traveler and the Dreaming God.

We know the Traveler was able to alter reality, terraforming planets and advancing human technology by incredible degrees. This ability to alter reality is also present with the Dreaming God. Take a look at this text excerpt from the story introduction in the manual of PiD:

“The heat of impact liquefied the rock around it, which later cooled and encased the dead god’s huge body far below ground. As it began to dream, it wrought unintentional changes in its environment. Locked deep beneath the Earth, strange and unbelievable things faded in and out of reality. Vast caverns and landscapes bubbled to life within the rock, populated by horrible manifestations of the dead god’s dream.”

From this I think it’s safe to conclude that the Traveler and the Dreaming God are analogous.

From this we can make our first two predictions about Destiny’s future narrative:

Prediction #1: Since there are multiple W’rkncacnter in the Pid/Marathon universe, there will be multiple Travelers in the Destiny universe.

Prediction #2: Since in the PiD/Marathon universe we have one confirmed Dreaming God buried on Earth, which is analogous to the Traveler on Earth, and there is a W’rkncacnter trapped within the center of a sun in Marathon, then in Destiny we will find another Traveler trapped in some cosmic structure, like a sun or the event horizon of a black hole.

DESCENDING THROUGH THE PYRAMID vs. ASCENDING THROUGH THE SOLAR SYSTEM

destiny level select

This one is short. It’s maybe a weak parallel, but I think it makes sense.

Visually, the level selection screen is inaccurate to the solar system it portrays.

Earth is on the bottom and everything else is above it. Mars, Venus, and the asteroid belt (the Reef) are all basically the same distance from Earth. Presumably, other locations such as Saturn and Jupiter will be above Mars and Venus. It’s not even the usual way the solar system is represented, which is horizontally. It doesn’t make sense.

I doesn’t make sense UNLESS you think of it as a pyramid. You’re starting at the bottom of the pyramid and moving your way upwards. Just like the monsters in PiD.

It’s not an airtight connection, but I think it’s worth pointing out.

THE GUARDIANS ARE THE MONSTERS (AND SENTINELS)

In PiD, the monsters guard the Dreaming God from anyone descending into the pyramid. The parallel to Destiny’s Guardians guarding the Traveler from anyone descending through the solar system is obvious.

The monsters are also the manifestations of the Dreaming God. They’ve been brought to life by it, similarly to how the Guardians and Ghosts have been brought to life (or reincarnated) by the Traveler.

There’s also the mystery of PiD’s Sentinels. Towards the bottom of the pyramid you’ll encounter these monk looking guys:

sentinel

They prevent you from going forward by blocking your path with a forcefield. You have to kill them to continue. It’s unclear if these monks are actual humans or whether they’re products of the Dreaming God’s mind. Either way, it seems like they’re protecting the God. When you kill them you learn they’re called Sentinels which is a synonym for Guardian.

Throughout the game, there’s also some monsters you fight called Zombies and Ghasts. And they look like this:

zombie

They look like Sentinels who died and then were resurrected to protect the Dreaming God. Again, this is similar to how the Guardians are resurrected to protect the Traveler.

Also, just as the Dreaming God created a variety of monsters to protect itself and had them occupy different levels of the pyramid, in the same way the Traveler created a variety of Guardians to protect itself and had them occupy different levels of the solar system, such as the Exo, the Awoken further out in the Reef, and the Nine (maybe) who occupy space further out near Jupiter and Saturn.

These parallels help us make our next prediction:

Prediction #3: In Destiny, we will encounter new forms of “humans” as we travel “up” through the different “levels” of the solar system. It’s entirely possible that these new races will be playable.

THE PYRAMID EXPEDITIONS HAD DIFFERENT PURPOSES

pid conversation

There’s three expeditions that travel into the pyramid in PiD (four if you consider the player’s journey to be separate from his fallen comrades):

There’s German soldiers who were sent to this pyramid, during WWII, to look for alien weapons that could help Hitler win the war.

There’s Cuban treasure hunters. One of them was a child when some German soldiers passed through his village and told him of a pyramid in the jungles filled with treasure. Now as adults they are searching for the treasure in that pyramid.

There’s the modern (1990s) American Marines who go with a nuclear device to put the Dreaming God back into dormancy.

The player character is technically part of the third expedition, but is a little separate too. He enters the pyramid several hours after becoming separated from his fellow marines who are already dead when the game begins.

So, those are the three groups of dead characters you’ll come into contact with in the pyramid. Both the 1930s German government and 1990s American government were contacted by the Jjaro and informed about the Dreaming God; that is why they sent soldiers there. The Cubans were not sent by the Jjaro.

Since the Traveler is analogous to the Dreaming God, then the Darkness is analogous to the Jjaro, and this brings us to our next prediction:

Prediction #4: Since not all of the expeditions in PiD were warned by the Jjaro, then not all of the enemy factions in Destiny were sent by the Darkness. Some of them were sent (or serve) the Darkness, but some of them have come into conflict with humanity by some other, possibly accidental, means.

And also, a flimsy prediction that I’m not too confident in, but here it is:

Prediction #5: One enemy faction in Destiny is not interested in destroying the Traveler, only in stealing its technology for their own power. One enemy factions wants to destroy the Traveler because if it wakes they are afraid that it will destroy them. One of the enemy factions is just looking for wealth, and learned about the great wealth of humanity from one of the other enemy factions.

My guess as to how this would line up if it’s true:

The Vex or Hive = German soldiers seeking advanced technology and weapons
The ??? = Cuban treasure hunters
The Cabal (advanced military space marines, that want to destroy Earth by crashing a moon into it) = the American Marines who want to destroy the Sleeping God with a nuke
The Fallen (scavengers) = player character (who literally is fallen because his parachute failed, and has to scavenge to survive in the pyramid, but ultimately wants to destroy the Dreaming God)

None of that works very well and this portion of the story probably would’t have a literal connection between the games, but whatever. It’s fun to think about for just a moment.

THE DEAD HUMANS ARE KEPT CONSCIOUS BY THE DREAMING GOD

I’m going off of memory here, so I might be misremembering. Nevertheless, I’m pretty sure that some of the dead in PiD talk about how miserable they are. They’re decomposing and lying in one spot for dozens of years and they hate it. Even though they can’t be hurt they’re tormented by the sight of monsters roaming the pyramid. The Dreaming God is forcing them to remain conscious even though they’re dead.

I remember one of the dead characters asking you to kill the Dreaming God so that they can finally pass on and rest in peace.

Prediction #6: Similarly to the dead characters in PiD, at least one of the enemy factions in Destiny is supposed to be dead, but their race is being kept alive by the Traveler. They are trying to destroy the Traveler so they can escape its control and finally die and rest in peace. Most likely this is either the Hive (for obvious reasons) or the Vex who are hinted at being biological organisms trapped in cybernetic bodies (a kind of undead state, if you ask me), but I’m leaning towards the Hive.

Prediction #6a: I’m leaning towards the Hive for obvious reasons, but here’s some more thoughts. I recall there being lots of references to the Hive hungering for the light and “devouring” the light. I believe one of the missions involves the Hive trying to drain the Travelers light through a fragment of itself. I bet that it will be revealed that the Hive are tortured by their hunger for the light and that they want to destroy it so they can be free from that hunger and finally be at peace.

Prediction #6b: Moving away from the PiD connections and making a leap of logic, I predict that some of the alien enemies in Destiny were normal life forms until the Traveler came through their part of the universe and altered them into what they appear like in the game. Some of the alien factions may have even served the Traveler, the way humans serve him now, until the Traveler abandoned them and left them to their fate. They are trying to either destroy the Traveler out of revenge, or they are just trying to serve and protect the Traveler the way they always were and humans are in their way.

THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE VEX AND MARATHON INFINITY

craig mullins marathon

Most of this discussion has been about PiD and its connection with Destiny’s story. But, Bungie’s Marathon trilogy is also set in the same universe as Pathways into Darkness and features the W’rkncacnter (the Traveler) and the Jjaro (the Darkness).

Most relevant to this theory is the third installment, Marathon: Infinity. The game starts with a W’rkncacnter being released from the sun in which it was imprisoned, and now absolute chaos threatens to rewrite the universe in the W’rkncacnter’s wake. The player character, a cyborg, travels through alternate timelines looking for a timeline in which the W’rkncacnter never is released; he gains this ability presumably through some sort of Jjaro technology (it’s never made clear; it’s a very confusing game narrative). Every time he comes to a timeline where the W’rkncacnter escapes the sun prison, the player character goes back in time, and tries a new timeline.

Marathon’s cyborg, traveling through time trying to rewrite history to save the universe, is obviously analogous to the time traveling Vex cyborgs.

Which leads us to our next prediction:

Prediction #7: The Vex are not trying to destroy the Traveler so much as they are trying to find alternate timelines in which the Traveler never wakes up nor regains its power, and this is in order to protect themselves and possibly the rest of the universe.

There’s a lot of suggestions in the grimoire cards that one of the things the Vex are trying to do is rewrite the universe so that humans no longer exist. It may actually be the case that the Vex don’t care about humanity, and that they’re simply trying to rewrite the universe where the Traveler is gone and that the negation of the Guardians is simply an unavoidable consequence of that act.

THE PLAYER CHARACTER IN PiD MIGHT BE DEAD AND WAS MAYBE RESURRECTED BY THE DREAMING GOD

In Pathways into the Darkneess there are some hints that the player character may actually have died in his parachute failure.

Your parachute fails when you jump over the Yucatan jungle. When you wake up several hours later, your M16 is bent and broken from the fall… but your bones are fine. When you talk to your dead comrades they are all surprised that you’re alive; they all were sure you died.

I think there’s some other hints that you died, such as your lack of memory. Presumably the Dreaming God brought you back to life. Why would it do that if you’re just going to try to put it back to sleep? Who knows, but who else could have resurrected the player character?

Whatever the case, the player being resurrected by the Dreaming God has obvious parallels to the Guardians being resurrected by the Traveler.

There’s two possible predictions I make from this, if the Destiny story is indeed the PiD story told in reverse.

The first is that one of the alien factions died trying to find the Traveler, then the Traveler resurrected them for some reason, and now they’re continuing their mission to destroy it (which kind of is already covered by Prediction #6).

Then, my next prediction is this:

Prediction #8: Like the player character in PiD, the Guardians were resurrected by the Traveler, and have lost their memory, but unlike the player character in PiD, the Guardians don’t remember that they were trying to destroy the thing that resurrected them. The Guardians were originally fighting against the Traveler.

Maybe that doesn’t make sense, but maybe that’s because this is late at night and I’m pretty tired.

PiD MIGHT BE WHAT HAPPENED BEFORE “THE COLLAPSE” IN DESTINY

One of the mysteries in Destiny is what exactly happened before the Collapse and the Fall of the Traveler. What was going on back then?

It’s interesting that the end of PiD sort of matches up with the beginning of Destiny. At the end of PiD, the player successfully arms the nuclear bomb, fights his way out of the pyramid, and then the bomb detonates and puts the Dreaming God back into dormancy for another million years (or some other span of time).

Destiny kind of picks up after this. The Traveler had been attacked and knocked into dormancy for a lengthy span of time. It is just now beginning to wake up again.

I think that if you take what happens in PiD and contextualize it in the Destiny universe that this gives us a rough sketch of what happened right before the Collapse:

Different alien factions try to invade the solar system, but are ultimately defeated at various points. One alien faction, presumed dead, shows up in the solar system and begins successfully defeating every group of humans it encounters. While making its way through the solar system this alien faction collects various artifacts and devices that helps it get past every line of human defenses; it also communicates with the other, defeated alien factions in order to gain information on human tactics, what to expect up ahead, and how to use some of the artifacts and devices it finds. It finally reaches and defeats several waves of human defenders before defeating the Traveler and escaping beyond the borders of our solar system to avoid the consequences of the fall.

SILLY ARBITRARY CONNECTION

Pathways into Darkness is a pretty weird and interesting game. It was a mixture of multiple genres such as RPG, FPS, dungeon crawler, and puzzle/exploration. Kind of how Destiny is a weird mashup of multiple genres.

There were a lot of weird puzzles to solve in the pyramid using a lot of magical items; some of those puzzles were just bonkers. There was also a literal easter egg you could pick up and use to travel directly to the last level of the game. There was a lot of standing on circular runes to make stuff happen, kind of how in Destiny raids you stand on circles to make stuff happen.

So, for no reason, I’m predicting that some of the puzzles in Destiny will be a throw back to some of the puzzles in PiD.

Prediction #9: One raid in Destiny will involve playing a musical instrument, or stopping the aliens from playing a musical instrument which reminds you vaguely of a book you once read as a child.
pidmusicinstrument

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