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.
Season of Plunder isn’t the first time Bungie has brought some swashbuckling into Destiny 2, and true to form, the pirate-themed season has its hull filled with pirate-themed puns. In the season’s first mission, you recruit a pirate crew from the Forsaken expansion’s crime lord quest-giver, the Spider, who you can call on in missions to help you face the Pirate Lords you’re tasked with sending to Davy Jones’s Interstellar Locker throughout the season.
Early in the season, though, there was something about these alien pirates I couldn’t stop puzzling over, and it turned out to be more irritating than a peg leg covered in splinters. It was my crew’s names, each clearly a riff on some privateer parlance. Each of the pirates you recruit is an Eliksni character, an alien race whose members tend to have names that end with sounds like “siks” or “raaks”. Thus, the crew who joins you on your missions consists of the venerable space sailors Flotsiks, Jetsiks, Ransiks, and Halsiks.
The jokes behind some of these names are pretty obvious. Flotsiks and Jetsiks are a play on the term “flotsam and jetsam,” a ship’s booty lost overboard at sea. My immediate assumption for Ransiks was that it was a play on “ransacks,” although others I consulted suggested “ransom” would keep better with the pattern established by flotsam and jetsam. Both are unwholesome activities buccaneers were known to engage in. It all makes sense.
But then we come to Halsiks, and…nothing. I wracked my brain and consulted pirate-minded friends who spend a lot of their time reading history and/or playing Sea of Thieves, but nothing bobbed to the surface. I checked dictionaries for words starting with “hal,” but there, too, I ran aground. I felt mired in fog as I struggled to solve Bungie’s riddle of the infamous Halsiks.
Finally, I’d had enough. During a recent interview with Destiny 2 director Joe Blackburn and general manager Dan McAuliffe, I seized the opportunity to wrest the answer straight from the source. Joe and Bungie communications director Carlos Ascencio were, unfortunately, just as adrift as I was. They pledged to rally the Destiny 2 writing team and return with the solution to my vexation. In the meantime, we discussed the Lightfall expansion’s tone and mood, and its many venerable inspirations.
Later, a message arrived in the electronic post; Carlos had spoken with Destiny 2’s writers. He knew the truth of Halsiks’ identity.
As it turns out, Halsiks was tough to figure out because the name wasn’t a reference to some seafaring turn of the tongue; it’s a reference to an actual pirate. Halsiks is a play on Halsey, the surname of privateer John Halsey. Bungie’s writers described Halsey as a “good guy pirate” who operated as a privateer during the War of Spanish Succession in the early 1700s.
If you’re not familiar, privateers were pirates who worked for the government–in Halsey’s case, he received what’s called a “Letter of Marque” authorizing him to raid Spanish ships on behalf of the British empire. A lot of famous pirates during this time started the same way, engaging in legal piracy in the Atlantic as part of their governments’ war efforts. And, like many pirates, when Halsey’s letter of marque expired in 1705, it didn’t mean he gave up the life of raiding ships and stealing their cargo. Instead, he continued a life of piracy without the legal sanction. Halsey spent the next few years pirating near Madagascar and in the Indian Ocean, before he died in 1708 after his flotilla was ravaged by a hurricane and he succumbed to a fever.
In the 1728 book “A General History of the Pyrates,” author Captain Charles Johnson wrote this of Halsey:
“He was brave in his Person, courteous to all his Prisoners, lived beloved, and died regretted by his own People. His Grave was made in a garden of watermelons, and fenced in with Palisades to prevent his being rooted up by wild Hogs.”
Nice guy, apparently, for a brigand, making him a good candidate for Bungie to draw from when naming its crew. The studio also confirmed another aspect of the riddle: Ransiks is, in fact, meant to be a play on “ransacks,” though Carlos said the writing team also liked the alternative interpretation of “ransom.” And personally, I think we should go with ransom for Ransiks–there is a boss players face during the Ketchcrash missions called Ransaaks, and that’s just a better take on the pun.
These are by no means the only pirate puns in Season of Plunder, although none are nearly as much of a mystery as Halsiks. Along with Ransaaks, there are the Ketchcrash bosses Aye-I (not Aye-1, but Aye-“i”) and Skiffiks, and in addition to Halsiks, you can recruit a servitor called SCUR-V to your crew, along with a handful of melee fighters known as Skiffblades. Halsiks stands apart, however–it seems to be the only name specifically referencing a real pirate, which raises the question of whether Halsiks might have a larger part to play this season than just helping snipe people on the bow of a ketch during our boarding actions.
Though it wasn’t that lengthy a voyage, the adventure of uncovering the truth behind Halsiks, and the brigand flavor of Season of Plunder overall, has me seeking out more pirate history to uncover, specifically about John Halsey. I’m also hoping we’ll find more pirate puns than just those we’ve seen so far throughout the season. Halsiks, Flotsiks, Jetsiks, and Ransiks are pretty fun, but honestly, none is quite so good as Destiny 2’s ultimate pirate pun. It’s one that didn’t appear in Season of Plunder, but much earlier–back in the Goonies-inspired, buried treasure-themed Grasp of Avarice dungeon.
Like the other puns, this one was the name of a Fallen enemy, an unassuming but annoyingly accurate sniper shank who distressed many a treasure-seeker as they neared the X on the map. I’m talking, of course, about R-M80. Read it out loud.
As we’re looking toward the horizon of the rest of Season of Plunder, the Destiny 2 GameSpot crew is also turning our eyes to the past. September marks the fifth anniversary of the release of Destiny 2, and that’s got us thinking about all the ways the game has changed, evolved, and grown over the years. Stay tuned for plenty of content aimed at Destiny 2’s anniversary and the voyage we’ve all taken with it during the past five years.
In the meantime, feel free to drop your best pirate puns in the comments, speculate on the future story of Season of Plunder, rant or rave about King’s Fall, or leave interesting facts about John Halsey and any other buccaneers who capture your fancy.
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