Opinion – The Infinite Possibilities Of Destiny 2’s Infinite Forest
In my recent review for Curse of Osiris, I praised Bungie’s compelling vision for the Vex Infinite Forest on Mercury. Billed as a massive engine for simulating alternate timelines and realities, the concept further drives home the mystique around the Vex enemies and their inscrutable ways. But that same review noted my disappointment with implementation; the expansion fails to fully capture the potential of the concept. The Infinite Forest is a brilliant way that Bungie could expand the Destiny 2 universe, and I hope the developer returns to the concept to further build it out, even as the studio turns its eye toward subsequent expansions.
For fellow children of the 1980s, I likely don’t need to explain the conceit of the holodeck from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The holographic playspace on-board the Enterprise was the backdrop for some of the stranger and more memorable concepts over the life of the show, and its use carried over into subsequent Star Trek shows and movies. For the writers of the show, the holodeck undoubtedly served a valuable purpose, freeing them from the constraints of a futuristic spaceship, and letting them flirt with other settings, from noir detective tales to Old West shootouts, and free from the limitations imposed by decades of established Star Trek fiction and characters.
In the Infinite Forest, Destiny has a chance to explore its own holodeck – not a centerpiece locale upon which all the subsequent storytelling can be based, but rather, a rich tapestry of potential encounters and narrative, unbound by the limits of established lore.
In Curse of Osiris, the Infinite Forest is manifested as a semi-random collection of interconnected blocks with unexpected collections of enemies, followed by diversions into very specific simulations of Mercury’s past, present, and future. I don’t have any problem with those locales, but one can’t help but feel like it’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Curse of Osiris lets us visit a beautiful vision of Mercury's past, but there's so many other places and times we could visit
Story-wise, we’re told that Osiris and Sagira have uncovered countless simulations across the Vex reality engine – we even hear mention at one point of a simulation of the Hive home world. While the past and future versions of Mercury made for some beautiful scenery, Guardians should have the chance to go much further afield.
How about visiting a version of Earth that’s been overrun by the Hive and Taken, with Oryx’s Dreadnought looming on the horizon? What about a simulation of the past that lets us participate in the fateful Battle of Six Fronts, side-by-side with Osiris as he holds off hordes of Fallen attackers? Perhaps we could visit a version of Mars in which the SIVA infection has spread across the entire solar system. Or maybe we could land in a simulation exploring the immediate aftermath of the Exodus Black’s disastrous crash onto Nessus, and its desperate crew’s fight for survival.
The Infinite Forest doesn’t just need to be a storytelling tool for alternate histories or glimpses into important moments in Destiny history. The simulation concept has broad applicability for cooperative wave-based combat scenarios, not unlike those we saw in the Prison of Elders or Archon’s Forge in the original Destiny. It’s also a place that can support wildly divergent Crucible scenarios; imagine a matchtype set in a Vex simulation without traditional notions of gravity, or a Crucible map that is constantly shifting and reshaping walls, cover points, and corridors as the simulation unfolds.
I’m certain that Bungie has robust plans for subsequent expansions to Destiny 2, and that most of those concepts are likely to veer away from Mercury, the Vex, and the strangeness of the Infinite Forest concept. I’m happy that we can look forward to new adventures on other planets that push forward the core narrative of the Destiny universe. At the same time, it feels like a missed opportunity to not more fully flesh out the weird and wonderful concept of the Infinite Forest. Destiny 2 could use a dose of surprising diversions from expectation, and with the massive reality simulation of the Vex on Mercury, we could have exactly that.