Destiny 2‘s Season of the Haunted lives as much as its identify. Set largely in a brand new location, the Derelict Leviathan, the season has given the sport a particular, sci-fi-horror ambiance as a part of each its gameplay and its story. What gamers skilled aboard the Leviathan is an even bigger, extra concerned model of what Bungie first created in one in every of its easiest ranges. The Exotic mission Presage despatched gamers to a ghost ship and instructed a narrative of insanity and murder–and now we have seen what it prophesied.
The concepts that will turn out to be Presage and, later, Season of the Haunted have been born when Bungie was determining what story it wished to inform with an Exotic mission in 2021’s Season of the Chosen. The staff had been throwing across the concept of revisiting the idea of Nightmares–manifestations of reminiscences and trauma, first launched within the Shadowkeep enlargement, that coalesce into highly effective enemies gamers truly should combat.
During a bunch interview close to the beginning of the season that included a number of Bungie builders who labored on Season of the Haunted, senior narrative designer Robert Brookes defined that because the writing staff was riffing on doable concepts, one derived from a selected horror film broke unfastened.
“Back after we have been concepting Season of the Chosen, there was an Exotic mission, and the thought was for a derelict ship, only a ghost ship, a ship that was misplaced,” Brookes stated. “And we began tossing round concepts. At one level, I used to be writing down my notes and somebody talked about Nightmares, it may need been [senior narrative designer Nikko Stevens]. He was like, ‘What if the ship’s actually haunted,’ and I used to be beginning to write it down, and I am going down this rabbit gap, like ‘Nightmares, Calus, Calus’s trauma, Calus’s trauma with Nightmares, oh my god, Event Horizon!’ And I simply held the pocket book up and I’m like, ‘Who has seen Event Horizon? We want to do this with this ship.’ Nikko took that and made Presage and simply this lovely, horrible mess.”
Event Horizon is a 1997 sci-fi horror movie directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil) and staring Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix) and Sam Neill (Jurassic Park). Set in a future full of area journey, it facilities on Fishburne and his crew, a rescue staff despatched to analyze a derelict ship referred to as the Event Horizon. Neill performs the scientist who invented the Event Horizon’s “gravity drive” engine system, which opens a black gap to permit the ship to journey immediately from one level in area to a different. The staff discovers not solely that the Event Horizon’s crew is lacking, however that the ship is seemingly haunted. It quickly turns into obvious that the ship’s enterprise via the black gap took it into one other dimension, which modified the Event Horizon and drove its crew mad.
Players aware of Presage will instantly see the similarities–it takes place on a ship referred to as the Glykon Volatus and is seemingly empty when the participant finds it. The story they uncover there’s about twisted experiments by the exiled Cabal emperor, Calus, and a few of his loyalist forces. Calus wished to commune with the Witness, Destiny’s final villain. Just earlier than the discharge of the Beyond Light enlargement, the Witness used its unusual energy, the Darkness, to make a number of of Destiny 2’s planets disappear, leaving solely void-like anomalies behind. Calus despatched the Glykon into the anomaly left after Mars disappeared, however when the ship emerged, because the builders defined, it got here again mistaken–and so did the folks aboard.
The seeds of the season
The gist of the Event Horizon story made it into Presage, however there wasn’t room within the mission for all of Brookes and Stevens’ concepts. That modified, nevertheless, when builders began engaged on ideas for Season of the Haunted.
“We did not get to do the Nightmares stuff and the Calus stuff that we have been initially spitballing as a result of it was simply an excessive amount of. It was simply too many issues abruptly…” Brookes stated. “That’s been behind each Nikko’s and my thoughts for this complete time between, and as soon as we heard that we have been going to carry again the Leviathan, I instantly lept on [Season of the Hunt creative lead Tom Farnsworth] like a screaming monkey and was like ‘Nightmares!'”
Brookes stated that, as quickly as the thought of the Leviathan was floated, he and Stevens instantly considered the Event Horizon-inspired concepts they’d been taking part in with for Presage.
“Sometimes in sport dev, you’ve got an concept that you simply need to execute on and you may’t fairly get all the way in which there, whether or not or not it’s scope or sources or, you understand, no matter,” Stevens stated. “But you continue to construct one thing great out of what you can make. And all of the leftover scraps that you simply could not totally understand earlier than, we maintain onto these issues like squirrels packing them away in our timber. And ultimately, when there’s a possibility to make use of them–like right here, when Tom got here to us and was like, ‘We’re desirous about perhaps Calus, perhaps the Leviathan, what do you guys suppose?’ Exactly like Robert stated, we instantly leapt on this concept and took all these grains of issues that we weren’t in a position to polish up earlier than and labored them into the Leviathan. So plenty of these concepts carried over, for certain, or have been impressed by issues we might performed beforehand that we now have been in a position to flesh out extra.”
In Event Horizon, the previous traumas of characters manifest as visions and hallucinations whereas aboard the derelict, tormenting and terrifying them. Season of the Haunted goes in a really comparable course, with a number of main characters are pressured to face their very own traumas within the type of Nightmares. When he and Stevens pitched the thought to Farnsworth and the opposite departments engaged on Season of the Hautned, he stated, “Every single one in every of us was a superbly aligned machine. We all knew what we wished and it was the very same factor.”
As Stevens and Brookes famous, the principle concept was that each the Glykon and the Leviathan entered these unusual anomalies and got here again mistaken. Brookes talked about a couple of different motion pictures with the identical kind of vibe that additionally served as inspirations, together with the 1990 motion pictures Flatliners and Jacob’s Ladder. In Flatliners, a bunch of medical college students use their coaching to briefly cease their very own hearts to set off near-death experiences, and rapidly discover themselves haunted by venturing into the world past life. In Jacob’s Ladder, a Vietnam veteran has a near-death expertise in the course of the conflict and finds himself beset by horrific visions within the aftermath.
Playing a horror film
With Presage, Bungie actually tapped right into a horror-movie feeling in Destiny 2. The mission was surprisingly creepy as gamers explored the empty, darkened ship, stumbling into the lifeless our bodies of the crew. That’s a sense that looks like it would be powerful to seize in a first-person shooter by which you play an immortal superhero who wields area magic.
Season of the Haunted hits a few of those self same vibes as nicely, channeling each the texture of Presage and different horror video games. The spooky emotions are principally conveyed within the season’s many Sever missions, which characterize its main story beats. In the primary few of those, gamers confronted an unkillable enemy that chases them round with a pair of axes like a slasher villain. The first time you encounter that enemy, you do not understand you may’t kill it; discovering that it is proof against your assaults results in a determined scramble to flee.
The encounter turns into one thing straight out of a sport like Amnesia: The Dark Descent or Alien: Isolation–your weapons are ineffective and your solely choice is to run. There are a couple of tight locations the place you may cover from the creature, utilizing hidden pathways like vents to provide it the slip. The scenario turns into all of the extra harrowing as a result of it’s good to activate a sequence of management panels within the space so as to open the door that can mean you can escape, requiring you to run for the targets with the monster dogging your heels.
“It’s truly actually arduous to create an expertise that is gonna make gamers really feel worry, as a result of they’re already simply taking part in a sport, so that you sort of should go in opposition to that already,” artwork director Rob Adams stated. “It’s fantasy. They have all these powers, and… you have to pull among the energy away from the participant. But it normally comes right down to making an attempt to create a extra confined area the place the participant seems like, if one thing occurs, they don’t seem to be going to have the ability to get away very simply. Because that is one of many issues that makes you’re feeling secure on a regular basis, is pondering, ‘Oh, I can dash. I can get on my sparrow. I can triple bounce away from one thing. I can do my Super.’ But as quickly because the participant thinks, ‘If one thing occurs, I may not be capable of get away,’ then you’ve got a giant benefit in making them really feel scared.”
“That additionally speaks to what number of of our disciplines have to come back collectively and make you’re feeling scared,” he continued. “We really want audio and we’d like lighting and we’d like our tech design, and the narrative and the artwork and the encounter design. All this stuff, and like 5 different issues I’m forgetting. They’ve all started working collectively on the similar time to do that. And so after we’re in a position to do it efficiently, I feel it really works very well. But it simply takes plenty of of us cooperating actually rigorously to tug it off.”
Honing the scares
Both Presage and the Sever missions really feel like steps ahead for Destiny’s makes use of of horror. But they don’t seem to be the primary, as Farnsworth mentioned–Bungie has created spooky moments previously, going again to the unique Destiny. Moments with the Hive that occurred on the moon typically took benefit of darkness, tight quarters, and screaming monsters to create scares. The Crota’s End raid relied closely on an environment of dread. And there was the slasher film second of the Zero Hour mission, by which gamers dropped right into a maze-like space within the Old Tower and have been chased by a ridiculously quick machine lined in blades referred to as TR3-VR (pronounced “Trevor”) that tore via its tight corridors to seek out them.
“I feel all of it goes again to, like, we’re an influence fantasy–what are the methods by which we are able to sort of pull a few of that energy away from the gamers, and actually constrain what they will do as a Guardian? The disempowerment is de facto the place the worry comes from in our sport,” he stated. “But we have to do it in ways in which gamers nonetheless have an opportunity. So like with TR3-VR, you simply needed to know the sample to have the ability to escape the enormous homicide loss of life crawler that they’d constructed. And I feel in Season of the Haunted, what we’re doing is we’re making an attempt to carry gamers as much as the Power stage [required] to allow them to interact with these actions, however nonetheless have them really feel fairly difficult, sort of a candy spot of problem, and we do not need these moments of disempowerment to take over the whole thing of the exercise; that will most likely be tiring. So we’re simply placing them in focused areas the place we all know we are able to actually help that. Because finally, we wish you to enter Sever, and be capable of use your powers and shoot your weapons and expertise a very cool story. And each infrequently, if you least count on, to interject a bit of little bit of that pressure and horror into the actions.”
Farnsworth stated he thought that even the advertising and marketing is crucial to creating the horror expertise work, since it isn’t what Bungie normally does with the sport. Trailers and even the introductory mission for the season prime the viewers to know the scares are coming and to simply accept that sort of expertise.
“You have to ask folks in to be scared, it’s a must to set folks up for it, to allow them to be a part of it as a participant, which is one other factor that we undoubtedly set a path for,” he stated.
Season of the Haunted ends on August 26, and whereas it put a giant give attention to its spookier facets, it additionally put plenty of time into exploring trauma, tragedy, and psychological well being amongst its characters. We do not but know the place the story of Destiny 2 is headed in Season 18, however with Bungie placing a larger emphasis on character improvement and exploring quite a lot of style trappings, there are plenty of prospects for the way forward for the sport.
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