There's been an argument raging in Destiny 2 lore communities for years, ever since Bungie revealed the Witness—the big bad that's been working behind the scenes throughout the game's Light and Darkness saga—at the end of The Witch Queen campaign. The question, fiercely debated, is this: Is the Witness the same entity as the Winnower, the cosmic force described back in the Shadowkeep expansion lore book Unveiling?
OK, yes, let me back up. Unveiling was arguably the first major attempt by Bungie to lay out the stakes of the Destiny 2 universe's broader cosmology—the start of a path that leads directly to the conflict of the game's next expansion, The Final Shape. It describes two entities from before time, a Gardener and a Winnower, who played a game that caused an argument that led to the creation of the universe. The Gardener it describes is clearly the Traveler, the big orb that is the source of Guardians' power. Arguably it follows, then, that The Witness is the Winnower.
Except: the cutscene that appeared two weeks ago finally gives us the origin story of the Witness. It's actually the amalgamation of the first species that the Traveler uplifted. So… case closed, right? The Witness isn't the Winnower. So why are the loreheads still getting angry at each other?
For one thing, Unveiling was seemingly written by the Witness, delivered to us via the Black Fleet it controls. For another, the argument has moved in a different direction and led to a new question: If the Witness isn't the Winnower, does the Winnower even exist? Some argue that there is another entity behind the Witness that is the true Winnower. Some will tell you that, no, having a super-secret extra final boss would be lame—obviously the Witness isn't the Winnower, it's just creating self-insert fanfic about its desired place in the universe. And others argue that Unveiling itself should be discarded, because Bungie has simply retconned the entire story and the origin of the Witness itself.
Bungie commented on the confusion in a recent roundtable Q&A that I attended. Naturally, the studio's representatives didn't offer any actual answers, but they did at least show that they're aware of the confusion and contradictions.
"Welcome to the problem that all Bible scholars have trying to figure out—what may or may not have happened and lining that up to actual historical events," says senior narrative designer Robert Brookes. "Unveiling is a parable. It is effectively a religious text. And how much of that is propaganda, how much of that is myth, how much of that is fact is deeply unclear in the nature of the text."
Brookes notes that, when Unveiling first dropped, players did take it as the literal gospel truth. "Players believed it to be 100% fact: there was a literal garden, there was a literal Gardener, there was a literal Winnower. And now it's starting to become clear that those may not actually be just concrete ideas, but metaphors or things that are far less concrete and clear. And as we get closer into The Final Shape, more answers on that will start coming up. And The Final Shape, of course, will have a lot of answers about the nature of those conflicts."
Brookes refused to offer any more hints on how this will all resolve. Except for this: "The contradictory nature has always kind of been intentional. Whatever the Witness says, maybe don't trust it."