Need a recap of the Destiny story and mythology before playing Destiny 2? YouTube broadcaster My Name Is Byf has put together an an extensive breakdown of the series' timeline, biggest events, and lore.
If you don't have an hour and a half to spare, the highlights are below. But the whole thing is really worth watching if you have any interest in the games. Whether you played the first one and still wonder what the heck was going on, or you just want to jump on the Destiny 2 train with no prior experience... A dive into Bungie's extensive mythology is in order.
All dates listed are (very) approximate.
The Golden Age
2014: A massive, white orb entered our solar system, headed for Earth. It stopped at several of our neighboring planets, terraforming them so that they became habitable for humans. This orb, which humans dubbed "the Traveler," was believed to be sentient. It was clearly benevolent as well, but everything about it was — and still is — a mystery. Who or what made it? Why did it come to Earth? Why did it help us? These mysteries are at the core of the Destiny saga.
2060s: The Traveler arrived at Earth, ushering in a Golden Age for humanity. The Traveler gave us a giant upgrade, our technology and understanding of science growing exponentially. It was such a leap forward that we were able to skip centuries ahead of our natural development. Lifespans tripled, and humans spread to Mars, Venus, Mercury, Earth's moon, and even Jupiter.
2400s: Several hundred years into the Golden Age, an enemy of the Traveler called the Darkness invaded our solar system. The über-powerful Darkness — a kind of living, expanding biomatter that kills, destroys, or defiles everything it touches — brought about "the Collapse," the official end of the Golden Age and very nearly the extinction of mankind. Only the power of the Traveler was able to drive back the Darkness and save the remnants of humanity, but the Traveler had to sacrifice itself in the process.
The Dark Age
A Dark Age began as humans were scattered and lost across the surface of the Earth, and the colonies on Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Mercury were snuffed out.
As it went dormant, the Traveler passed on some of its power to individuals who would come to be known as Guardians. In Destiny and Destiny 2, you play as one of these Guardians. These noble soldiers possess unique powers, drawing upon the Traveler's power, called "Light." (Think: the Force, if it originated from a single source.)
Guardians are, believe it or not, made up of more than just humans. Human beings are just one of the three species that make up the Guardians. There's also the Awoken, a species descended from humans who who tried to escape to deep space during the Collapse. A shockwave hit them, destroying their fleet and inexplicably changing them into elf-like, aloof beings with blue/gray skin. They established their own monarchical society in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, calling it "the Reef."
Then there are the EXOs, highly advanced, human-like androids. Their origins are almost as mysterious as the Awoken, but it's known that they were built during the Golden Age, probably to fight alien robots called the Vex, who'd been discovered on Venus. During the Collapse, the Traveler imbued EXOs with sentience, personalities, and for lack of a better word, life. That's one version of the EXOs' origin, anyway. Another story suggests that every EXO is a Golden Age human who transferred his or her consciousness into a machine in an attempt to live forever.
It was the Guardians who gathered and led what remained of mankind, while various alien races — all nefarious and possibly under some degree of the Darkness' influence — converged on our solar system and began plundering, destroying, and trying to discover the Traveler's secrets. The bug-like Hive set up shop mostly on the moon, digging deep tunnels and building temples underground. The Vex had already claimed a large portion of Venus centuries ago and soon annexed Mercury, turning it into a massive machine computer. The burly warriors of a savage military force called the Cabal seized most of Mars. The Fallen, a group of vicious scavenger pirates, spread out across all of these worlds.
2450s: The last of humanity discovered the dormant Traveler, finding it floating above land that used to be part of Russia. Everyone converged there beneath the Traveler's protection and built the Last City, a walled structure and our one remaining safe haven. For more than 200 years, Guardians protected the City from continued attempts by the various alien races to destroy it and gain control of the Traveler.
2715: Destiny begins and you (a new Guardian) are a dead human, EXO, or Awoken, reanimated by the Traveler's Light. Indoctrinated into the "Vanguard," the command structure that oversees the Guardians, you're whisked away to the Tower, the headquarters of the Vanguard and the only home Guardians have. Every Guardian's spaceship docks at the Tower for maintenance and repairs, after which the Guardian flies off to another location on Earth or one of the other planets in the solar system, where alien baddies (and tons of in-game loot) await.
Guardians fall into one of three classes: Hunters, Warlocks, or Titans. Each class has unique strengths, varying subclasses, and a representative among the Vanguard leadership.
The storyline of the first game was spotty and confusing, a ramshackle mess that was thrown together without much care or concern. It involved your Guardian learning the ropes, visiting each of the game's worlds, and trying to find a way to help the Traveler heal by destroying a Vex stronghold called the Black Garden. The end of this forgettable story was thankfully only the beginning of Destiny.
The Dark Below
Bungie began to correct its narrative issues with DLC expansions that introduced new characters and stories, while continuing the overall saga.
Eris Morn is a former Guardian who arrives at the Tower after centuries trapped in Hive tunnels of the moon, warning the Vanguard that a powerful Hive prince named Crota is on the rise. Guardians are sent on a series of missions to systematically take out Crota's generals before turning to the big guy himself. His death cry would echo across the universe, awakening an even worse enemy.