Disappearing Destiny 2 content has been a big source of debate and concern over the past few years, with more and more content being taken out of the live game and put into the Destiny Content Vault. While some of it has been slowly returning, such as the old Exotic missions, most of it is seemingly gone for good. Well, that was until we saw the Pale Heart in Destiny 2 The Final Shape, the new location in the upcoming expansion. As it turns out, the Traveler has been the Destiny Content Vault the whole time, and that’s perfectly fine.
The Pale Heart is the brand-new destination and many were let down to find out that the inside of the Traveler is… full of old locations? That’s right, the Pale Heart destination is like a Greatest Hits album of Destiny locations. In fact, the first glimpses we get of the Pale Heart in The Final Shape reveal trailer are shots of the Cosmodrome and the Destiny 1 rendition of the Tower. It’s great to see these iconic locations again, after all, we have all been asking for the classic Tower to return, haven’t we? What we didn’t expect was for it to return in a brand-new destination, especially one that takes place inside the Traveler itself and concludes a decade-long narrative.
While this news has been met with criticism, calling the Pale Heart a rather uninspired location borrowing already-designed locations from Destiny history, and it is funny to imagine that the Traveler was the DCV all along, it’s also not all that fair criticism once you did a little deeper.
The Pale Heart of the Traveler is the first “linear destination”, as described by Bungie during The Final Shape showcase. Unlike most other locations in the game – including Lightfall’s city of Neomuna – the Pale Heart seemingly escapes the trappings of the typical three zone bubble design. From the sounds of things, it won’t just be three open areas joined by ‘corridors’ to make one big loop. Rather, we’re funneled through the location in a more linear fashion, opening up the doors for intriguing environmental storytelling, the potential of which has been largely overlooked amid the claims of copy and pasting.
With the narrative setup of the Pale Heart being shaped by its inhabitants, the Witness has had the opportunity to carve out portions of the world and twist them ahead of our arrival. However, now that the Guardians are here to shut down this rogue architect – who appears madly in love with brutalism – the Pale Heart is also being shaped by our experience.
As such, the starting point of our expedition against the Witness’ stronghold looks to begin where else than either the Tower or the large wall of the Cosmodrome, both iconic landmarks from Destiny 1. From here, we also see the recognisable architecture of the Last City, grassy plains reminiscent of the EDZ and the Dreaming City, and freezing tundras that could be nods to Europa. We’re not just retreading old ground here though, as the locations are overgrown, decrepit, and lost to time. With the ability to bend reality, these locations are drastically different from their D1 counterparts, while still obviously pulling the old nostalgia strings. The same of which can be said about The Final Shape Exotic weapons, which also feature old favorites with new twists.
Most importantly though, the environment is telling a story on a scale we haven’t seen in Destiny so far. As the Guardian progresses through the Pale Heart towards the Witness’ stronghold looming on the horizon – no doubt carving through hordes of foes with the best Destiny 2 weapons in tow – the environment gets evermore corrupted and twisted. Gone are the comforts of the Tower. Instead, there’s harsh volcanic environments, the very earth dissected into perfectly cut blocks, and the Witness’ twisting, brutalist architecture.
Once you reach the Witness’ patch, any accusations of Bungie relying on re-used assets or having a lack of imagination will quickly vanish. It looks jaw-dropping, building on the incredibly enthralling themes of the Darkness to new heights – infusing the enigmatic and brutalist architecture with more familiar, Earth-like settings based on our Guardian’s past.
Progressing from areas calling back to the beginning of our journey, before breaking new ground for the conclusion to this decade-long saga is certainly an intentional move by Bungie. After all, there’s no better way to weaponize nostalgia against the player than to weave it into a sweeping narrative asking questions of why our Guardian was chosen and the nature of the Traveler. The Final Shape is a conclusion of our journey, as much as it is a celebration.
While the Pale Heart won’t be unleashing the full might of the Destiny Content Vault (the Red War campaign that kickstarted the sequel is still barred from entering the club), it’s good that the Traveler has let loose with a few locations for the finale. Providing there’s a strong narrative to back it up, the return of a handful iconic locations with brand-new coats of paint and a lavish seasoning of context can only be a good thing, even if it does bring back bad memories of the DCV. I’m just left wondering what else the Traveler has tucked inside it? Perhaps we’ll find a Sparrow Racing League course – we can only hope. Otherwise, there’s always the new Destiny 2 Episodes structure to look forward to.