Iron Banter: This Week In Destiny 2 – The Case For Wrath Of The Machine

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Just about every week brings something new to Destiny 2, whether it’s story beats, new activities, or interesting new combinations of elements that let players devastate each other in the Crucible. Iron Banter is our weekly look at what’s going on in the world of Destiny and a rundown of what’s drawing our attention across the solar system.

We’ve only got a couple of weeks left in Destiny 2’s Season of the Haunted, and with the upcoming content season on August 23 comes a new raid. Or rather, we’re getting an old raid, returning from the original Destiny, but reshaped and improved to play in Destiny 2, much like Vault of Glass. We now also have a date for that raid’s release: August 26.

Speculation has been rampant about what that raid will be, and while Bungie released information about the date we can play the raid, it still hasn’t told us what that raid will actually be. There are a few possibilities: Crota’s End, the raid in which players delved into the depths of the moon to defeat the son of the Oryx, the Taken King; King’s Fall, a raid on Oryx’s ship in which we killed the Hive god himself; and Wrath of the Machine, a raid that took place in a section of the Cosmodrome called the Plague Lands.

For a while now, King’s Fall has felt like the probable choice. It stands out as maybe the best raid of the Destiny 1 era, as much for its gameplay as its immense, cinematic sense of scale. Its return would work well with the recent story of The Witch Queen to provide context on the Hive for Destiny 2 players who missed out on the Destiny 1 era–all that Oryx stuff is really important story-wise, and this would be a good opportunity to revisit it (or learn about it for the first time). And it could provide a backdoor means of re-releasing the Dreadnaught, probably the coolest location in Destiny.

The return of Wrath of the Machine has amazing potential to weave together a lot of hanging threads in Destiny 2’s story.

But there’s a better choice for the returning raid, at least in terms of where Destiny 2’s story is going (or where I think it’s going). The returning legacy raid next season should be Wrath of the Machine, and it should open up a whole host of new story developments that would lead right into the Lightfall expansion this winter.

Wrath of the Machine was part of the Rise of Iron expansion, Destiny 1’s last add-on and one which established a lot of fascinating story stuff, but which has largely been sidelined ever since. Rise of Iron told the story of the Iron Lords (of which the Iron Banner’s Lord Saladin is one) from way back in Destiny’s “Dark Age,” the period between the Collapse and the rise of the Last City. Back then, Ghosts flew around resurrecting people and giving them the power of the Traveler’s Light, but they were unorganized. Many of them became warlords, drawing small armies to themselves and marauding around Earth, taking what they wanted and killing as they pleased. Some of the warlords actually protected the people they ruled over, like Lord Shaxx, but they weren’t so much superheroes as immortal tyrants.

The Iron Lords were a group of proto-Guardians who rose in opposition to the warlords. They banded together to fight other Risen (read: immortal folks with Ghosts) and to protect humanity from alien threats, like the Fallen. There were several Iron Lords, but as of now, only two still live. In Rise of Iron, we discover what happened to the rest of them.

Rise of Iron is all about Fallen in the Cosmodrome accidentally uncovering a Golden Age technology called SIVA, coming to worship it, and using it to gain incredible power. SIVA is a red goo made up of nanomachines that was originally created by industrialist Clovis Bray’s corporation. Bray is a big figure in Destiny’s lore–his company also invented the technology that makes Exos, robots into which human brains have been downloaded to give them immortality, as we saw in the Beyond Light expansion. The machines composing SIVA are microscopic and self-replicating, and the idea was that they could use their huge numbers and tiny size to build nearly anything, as part of humanity’s extrasolar colonization efforts. In Rise of Iron, we learned that the Iron Lords discovered SIVA in a Bray bunker, and hoped to use it to aid humanity and rebuild Earth.

SIVA turned out to be much more dangerous than the Iron Lords realized.
SIVA turned out to be much more dangerous than the Iron Lords realized.

When they went into the bunker, however, the Iron Lords were attacked by SIVA under the control of Rasputin, Bray’s powerful artificial intelligence Warmind. SIVA infested the Iron Lords like a virus, killing them, remaking their bodies, and puppeting them. The stuff suddenly represented an existential threat–if SIVA got out, who knew how far it could spread and what it would do to humanity and life on Earth. The Iron Lords sacrificed themselves to seal SIVA in the bunker, with Lord Saladin believing himself to be the only survivor. Thus, he remained on Earth for centuries thereafter, dedicated to keeping an eye on the SIVA situation to make sure the threat never manifested again.

After the Fallen discovered SIVA in Rise of Iron, it did, in fact, sweep through a huge portion of the Cosmodrome. It became your job to destroy the SIVA replication chamber to put an end to its spread and stop the Fallen from using it. Wrath of the Machine was the final step in that process, in which a raid team delved into the Cosmodrome to find the leader of the Fallen, an archon named Aksis who’s been twisted and remade by SIVA, to kill him.

That more or less ended the “SIVA Crisis” at the time, and SIVA has only barely been acknowledged in the game in the aftermath. The Plaguelands area of the Cosmodrome has been under official quarantine by the Vanguard ever since, which is the in-game explanation for why you can’t go there even now, and suggests that SIVA is contained in a single (albeit kinda huge) location.

Still, SIVA has appeared on the periphery in the post-Rise of Iron game world, popping up in story beats and lore from time to time, and in spiffy cosmetic items in the Eververse Store. The biggest acknowledgment of the stuff was in the Zero Hour Exotic mission, released in the Joker’s Wild season after the Forsaken expansion. In Zero Hour, players were directed to return to the Old Tower, which was destroyed in the Red War campaign in vanilla Destiny 2, by Mithrax, the friendly Eliksni captain who would become a main character in Season of the Splicer. Mithrax’s intelligence led players to discover that a group of Fallen under the command of Eramis, the leader who would become the big bad of the Beyond Light expansion, were attempting to break into the Tower’s old vault and steal an incredibly precious item: an old SIVA-infused rifle from Rise of Iron called Outbreak Prime (or in its Destiny 2 incarnation, Outbreak Perfected). Completing the mission thwarted the heist, leaving the SIVA gun in your possession.

The tale of Felwinter dominated Season of the Worthy, and the return of SIVA could make all that backstory extremely important to the current story.
The tale of Felwinter dominated Season of the Worthy, and the return of SIVA could make all that backstory extremely important to the current story.

We also learned some more key information about the whole Iron Lords-SIVA situation in Season of the Worthy, after the Shadowkeep expansion. That season was all about Rasputin, revealing that the Warmind created an Exo frame specifically to live among and learn about humanity. In Destiny’s world, Exos are all human people inside robot bodies, but the Exo Rasputin created was wholly robotic, an infiltrator that could pose as a human and be an agent of the AI for its own ends.

During the Collapse, however, that robot was lost, only to be found and resurrected later by a Ghost. The Exo became known as Felwinter and would later join the Iron Lords, but while Felwinter learned the truth of his origin as a creation of Rasputin, he never revealed that information to his friends. Throughout his life, Felwinter was pursued by Rasputin, who wanted to destroy the Exo rather than lose control of it. Meanwhile, Felwinter spent his life trying to learn about Rasputin and himself. It was Felwinter who discovered the SIVA bunker and led the other Iron Lords to it. In Rise of Iron, it seemed like when the Iron Lords entered the bunker, they triggered Rasputin’s defenses and were killed because the Warmind was protecting the technology and didn’t realize they were actually allies. In Season of the Worthy, however, we learned that Rasputin manipulated Felwinter into uncovering SIVA’s location, knowingly enticing the Iron Lords with the promise of SIVA in order to lure Felwinter into a trap and destroy him. Rasputin murdered Felwinter and the other Iron Lords on purpose. In Season of the Worthy, however, we found out that Rasputin at least feels bad about and regrets it.

Wow, that’s a lot. Okay, with all that backstory in the bank, let’s talk about why Wrath of the Machine makes sense to return to the game now. Specifically, it would provide Bungie with an opportunity to reintroduce SIVA to Destiny 2–something that would work incredibly well with the story as it’s developing toward Lightfall.

The underlying premise of the current story is one of humanity building a coalition of allies from its former enemies. We’ve seen a bunch of this of late: Caiatl, Cabal empress, has become pretty friendly with Zavala and the Vanguard and has inducted Lord Saladin into her service. Mithrax represents the Eliksni House of Light, a group of Fallen refugees living in the Last City, and helped stop Savathun’s attack on the city in Season of the Splicer. And while Savathun was the villain of The Witch Queen expansion, she’s in opposition to the Witness and the enemies of humanity–and it really seems her overall goal is to manipulate us into teaming up with her (if she’s ever resurrected by her Ghost, anyway).

With Caiatl and Mithrax, the coalition against the Darkness is coming together, and there's room for the Vex in the alliance, too.
With Caiatl and Mithrax, the coalition against the Darkness is coming together, and there’s room for the Vex in the alliance, too.

That leaves one mainstream Destiny 2 faction of enemies who have not yet been pulled into the coalition of life forms fighting against the Darkness: the time-traveling, world-reconstructing robots known as the Vex. There have been some light overtures toward an alliance with the Vex becoming a possibility, however, and bringing SIVA back into the game would be a perfect way to make it happen.

The thing about the Vex is that they’re close to unknowable, at least in their current conception. The Vex aren’t actually the plodding robots we fight in the game; they’re the white goo that’s inside them, made up of microbes that have banded together to create a collective intelligence. Their goal is merely their own survival, and to attain it, they remake matter to their specifications. That’s why locations such as Mars and Nessus have whole portions that have been turned into angular constructs of gray stone and bronze; the Vex microbes literally alter matter and overtake whole planets to turn them into Vex machines. It’s not even clear the Vex see or understand the universe as consisting of other intelligent beings or life; they just make robots to zap anything that gets in their way, and they remake matter to help further their survival.

Sound familiar?

The Vex modus operandi of remaking matter at the molecular level sounds exactly like SIVA, and that makes SIVA a perfect foil for the time-traveling microbes. Wrath of the Machine provides an opportunity to bring SIVA back into the Destiny 2 story; it would be an excellent, devastating weapon if it were to, say, fall into the hands of the Witness and its minions. SIVA could threaten all of Earth and the Traveler (a situation that sounds fairly Lightfall-ish). And if SIVA got into the Vex, it would represent a threat to their whole species. SIVA could remake the Vex the way the Vex remake everything else.

The Plaguelands are a pretty good demonstration of the devastating SIVA can bring to an area and the life found there.
The Plaguelands are a pretty good demonstration of the devastating SIVA can bring to an area and the life found there.

If the Vex were to meet a threat that acts just like them, it could potentially change the alien microbes’ perspective pretty significantly, while also presenting them with a pretty good reason not to join up with the Witness. We already know that the Vex have various factions with different beliefs, so schisms in the collective are possible. Some Vex might embrace SIVA, and some might reject it–as they might the Witness–and look for allies that would help them survive. Humanity and its coalition could be those allies.

There are more reasons to think Bungie is driving toward an alliance between humanity and the Vex. My Name is Byf serendipitously just released a Vex video that includes discussion of characters who’ve been “absorbed” into the Vex collective, and who seem ready to provide means by which the human characters could communicate and interact with the Vex. The groundwork is being laid there.

The return of SIVA would be convenient as a threat to the Vex, but more than that, it would be useful to a huge number of dangling plot threads currently in the game. There’s Saladin and all his lingering baggage with SIVA and his dead Iron Lord friends. There’s Rasputin, who was destroyed right at the start of Beyond Light, except for what could be saved by Ana Bray and downloaded into an Exo body–we’re waiting for that Rasputin bot to show up, and the reintroduction of SIVA would be a good time for it (and with Saladin around, he would have a lot to answer for). There’s the big Clovis Bray head that’s just hanging out on Europa, into which the original Clovis Bray’s personality was copied. Bray helped create SIVA and Rasputin, used the power of the Darkness to create Exos, and was seemingly infected by the Vex right before he was downloaded into his new Exo body, so there’s a huge amount of potential conflict there. Clovis could be corrupted by the Vex, or could choose to remain loyal to the Witness and use the power of the Deep Stone Crypt to aid the Darkness, and that’s to say nothing of his connection to those other various Golden Age technologies.

And finally, there’s Osiris, who remains in a coma after being infected and puppeted by Savathun in the lead up to The Witch Queen. Osiris became so obsessed with the Vex that he neglected his duties to the Vanguard and was exiled from the Last City. He spent years infiltrating the Infinite Forest, studying the Vex and fighting them, and he created a whole time travel device. the Sundial, in order to find and rescue Saint-14, who was killed by the Vex in a search for Osiris, before we saved him. Osiris could seemingly wake up at any moment, and a new SIVA crisis that has us trying to work with the desperate Vex would be a perfect time to bring him back into the story. In fact, going on a mission to find a way to wake Osiris up because we need him to talk with the Vex would be a pretty good driver for an upcoming season.

Nobody knows more about the Vex than Osiris; making use of his knowledge would be important, but would he be able to put aside lifetimes of fighting the Vex?
Nobody knows more about the Vex than Osiris; making use of his knowledge would be important, but would he be able to put aside lifetimes of fighting the Vex?

All that to say that SIVA is an element of the game world that’s due for a resurgence, and bringing it back right now fits kind of perfectly into Destiny 2’s story. Its return would make for an excellent pathway toward finalizing the alliance that seems to be the main thrust of the story as we head into Lightfall, it has links to all the major players who are hanging around in the background of the game, and it could provide a major threat to the world that’s established in the story and that doesn’t require Bungie to make up from scratch.

It’s worth noting that, as we’ve seen with Vault of Glass, it’s possible none of this is even a consideration for Bungie. VoG pretty much exists in the game separately from the story; it’s designated as a “Legend” in the Director user interface, and while I was hopeful its return would provide some new Vex story links that Bungie was going to build out, that hasn’t been the case up until now. It’s fully possible that the legacy raid returning next season will also exist outside the sphere of the current story, providing something fun to revisit that has no greater implications. And in that case, we could be looking at any of the raids, with Wrath of the Machine adding no more or less than King’s Fall or Crota’s End.

But honestly, I prefer to hope that Bungie is planning to do more with its legacy raids, if it can, and Wrath of the Machine is just too good an opportunity to pass up. In fact, the reintroduction of SIVA as a means of diving into the Vex story could also provide a ramp to make Vault of Glass more meaningful to the current narrative, too. What if we started working with some Vex and it provided us a means to rescue Praeydeth, the Guardian trapped within the weird cascading time loops of the Vault, for example? Just like the many characters waiting to be used who could be invigorated by the return of SIVA, a focus on the Vex allows Bungie to make a bunch of longstanding lore relevant again.

King’s Fall and Crota’s End are great raids and interesting Destiny 2 history lessons, but barring some other element Bungie hasn’t really provided us yet, they don’t really matter right now. Wrath of the Machine, on the other hand, could be incredibly important. Plus, players have been asking for the return of SIVA for quite a while, so there’s the added bonus of a little fan service to go along with a potentially huge story development. Here’s me hoping Bungie is thinking the same thing I am, and we’re about to see the resurgence of SIVA and all the disastrous consequences that would create.

Of course, I could just be spewing a bunch of nanomachine nonsense. Let me know what you think of my theory–or any theories of your own as to which raid we should be expecting later this month–in the comments below.

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