Now it’s Personal – Sizing Up Destiny 2: Forsaken’s Uldren and the Death of Cayde-6
I missed the poignant moment when the world learned that Cayde-6 would die. I was shuffling through a fake Japanese garden meant to evoke Ghost of Tsushima in the weirdest press conference I have ever attended. That means I didn’t catch the “shot heard round the Traveler” as Uldren shoots a clearly injured Cayde-6 at point-blank range before casually stepping over his body and walking away. I definitely caught up on what I had missed that night though, and I was as blown away as all of you.
Did they…? Did Bungie really just…? Did they really just kill Cayde-6?
For the next couple of days, speculation was flying about how he could come back, possibly as a rebooted Cayde-7, or maybe there’s something that we don’t fully understand. But no, through multiple interviews–while those leading this project might be cryptic about a lot–they were firm on one thing. Cayde is dead. Dead, dead. He’s gone, and he’s not coming back. There’s no trickery here. This is it. Perhaps Destiny’s most beloved and iconic character will be dying shortly after downloading that update on September 4.
So let’s get to the bastard that killed him–or that will kill him. Time is confusing now. I blame the Vex. When Destiny 2 was first announced, I wrote a lengthy piece on why Ghaul was the villain that the series needed. Ghaul threatened Guardians in ways that we had never been threatened before. Our very Light and power was taken from us, but that was corrected pretty quickly. The threat of Ghaul was actually pretty short lived in practice. In fact, he’s not even part of Destiny 2’s endgame, where the Destiny fans spend all of their time, so Ghaul’s threat fizzled quickly after the conclusion of the story.
With the stakes gone, Light returned, and Ghaul dead, Destiny 2’s narrative didn’t carry the weight that it promised at the outset. The Raid is a giant circus act where we’re performing for a msyterious exiled Cabal emperor. All of our actions that followed have felt largely frivolous. I yearned for the days of impending threats like Oryx, where his presence carried through the experience, threading a line through every activity in Destiny: The Taken King.
Threading The Revenge Plot
Previously just kind of an uptight douchebag, Prince Uldren has skyrocketed to public enemy number one. He killed Cayde, or rather, he will kill Cayde–this is an important distinction that I’ll talk about in a moment. This time, it’s personal. I’m sure there’s a larger threat. Uldren’s betrayal is part of a much larger plot that will unfold over time, but our knowledge of this unforgivable act that starts it all makes everything more personal than any villain’s plot has ever been. Which means that when we do finally get to the larger scheme, we’re still going to be carrying that thread that makes it all intimate to us, no matter how universe-ending the larger plot may be.
Worse yet, we know. We know months ahead of time. It’s the inciting incident, and just seeing Cayde hanging out in the Tower is enough to draw an emotional breath each time I load up the game. T-minus so many days until that carefree Exo Hunter is no longer leaning up against a strut in the hangar. It’s all too long, and yet it never seems long enough.
The opening mission of Forsaken will feature you venturing into the Prison of Elders with Cayde and Petra, and Bungie has set the mission up so that so many moments feel like Cayde’s final ones. But we know they aren’t. It’s a grim knowledge of the future, and each moment has a dark humor to it. Can you push forward in the mission knowing that the conclusion of it bring’s Cayde’s demise? Does that technically make his death my fault? Cayde is still his quippy self until the very end, even throwing a couple of lines Uldren’s way in the face of his certain doom. He wants this to be the way that we remember him in the end (even if the E3 demo’s voice acting didn’t quite sound like Nathan Fillion. Placeholder voice acting, or something else going on here?).
If this sudden and harrowing moment is how Bungie decided to start the story out, I can only imagine the kinds of twists and surprises that are coming in later acts. If the Raid does indeed carry narrative threads from the campaign (more like The Taken King and less like the Destiny 2 base game), then we’re in for a hell of a ride, but it will also all come back to the moment that started it all. That opening mission and watching Cayde-6 die. That moment is a thread that will–or at least it should–carry throughout every experience in Destiny 2: Forsaken.
Big Threats in Small Packages
Uldren may very well be the smallest villain that Destiny has ever had in terms of physical size. He’s a normal humanoid-sized man without obvious powers. I don’t think things will stay that way long term. I can’t very well imagine that the Raid will culminate it what would amount to a 6v1 Crucible match. There’s a much larger threat and a reason for Uldren’s treachery. But the fact that one of the most prominent members of the Vanguard didn’t die to a world-ending power, but a blue man with a gun, make Uldren feel decidedly more threatening than any other big bad before him. Gods have come and ripped portals to other dimensions. Robot hive minds have threatened the very fabric of time. But we always cleaned everything up nicely. Even Ghaul, who was able to take our Light and destroy our home, didn’t manage to do anything that feels this permanent and affecting. Uldren performed–or again, will perform–the abiding and unforgivable act of taking a friend.
Forsaken has to feel personal. It has to. It’s the only way that Bungie can get away with doing another “imminent apocalyptic disaster of the month.” Uldren may have done the most dastardly thing that any villain in the history of Destiny has done, but the sacrifice feels necessary for the meaningful advancement of the story. What’s got bigger stakes than the fate of the universe? The life of a friend. I’ll be sure to thank Uldren for that before putting a bullet into the blue bastard’s forehead. And whatever comes next? This is for Cayde. We’ll miss you buddy.