Venture into Destiny – Part 5: Black Gardens on Red Planets

If you’re positively bewildered by the madness you’re spotting here and would like some additional context, a link to earlier parts in the series can be found at the end of the article.

With all the sidequests that I could possibly do finally being completed, I leapt into the next chunk of story I could bite into. Next up was visiting the fabled Red Planet: Mars. Apparently this is where the gate to the “Black Garden” is, at least according to my friendly little Dinkle-bot. With Vex being on Venus and Fallen being pretty much everywhere, a question comes into mind. Who is on Mars?

Apparently the nefarious Cabel (whoever they are) have locked down communications so I can’t ride my scooter around their planet. So rather than asking nicely, it’s off to break into their facilities. The entire time running was spent with me asking myself “Why couldn’t we just ask? Maybe they’d understand since they hate the Vex too?”

That all too often Destiny is spent shooting first and then later wondering if diplomacy was a possible option. It was then that I saw who the Cabel were:

Destiny, Activision

Destiny, Activision

Oohhh, boy.

I mean being struck by inspiration is one thing but they look hilariously similar to Fifth Element to me. The head-shape and the particularly bulky body armour look almost identical to the Mondoshawans. At first I was chuckling at the mental image of Games Workshop being furious at the similarity with space marines (complete with Trophy: Bane of the Emperor for killing them), but the Mondoshawan comparison is even closer. Just… Wow. I couldn’t believe it.

Well after breaking in so I could use my bike, diplomatic options fell apart. It was then reasoned I would need to get the gate going by force. To do that I would need to get a “Vex spire” activated, which would provide the energy to the gate. Don’t forget the rule with Destiny: “Don’t think on it too much, it’ll give you a headache.”

Except spires are known, if for nothing else, for their subtly. Perhaps “spire” was a poor word to use? After finding a good vantage point and spotting it, it was off to the spire via the Cabal buildings.

Destiny, Activision

Destiny, Activision

Where I couldn’t loot the guns.

After a bit of experimentation with my bot-companion with faith-affirming phrases like “I have no idea what’s about to happen”, the power-engine machine sprung to life. Needless to say, it also brought in swarms and swarms of Mondoshawans to shoot in the face.

It was then off through the gate to see The Black Garden. A gate that was promised to be packed full of people I’d have to shoot through to get in, but was peculiarly empty. I felt like someone who had arrived at a party 6 hours late, left alone to wonder why everything was so empty and dead. So I gave an empty shrug and passed through into the void.

“Where are we? It’s not on any map of known space and time… Let’s just stumble on!” Dinkle-bot exclaimed. Considering the robotic nature of the Vex, I begun to consider the possibility my companion was hacked. That I was being led into a life-ending trap by an AI friend who had actually long-ago been deleted and replaced.

My lack of ease didn’t let up when I saw deactivated Vex, standing still as moss grew over them. Figuring any moment they’d turn on before surrounding and killing me. Then came the crushing disappointment as some Vex were alive and doing a bad job blending in, indicating tension was still not on the cards in Destiny.

Destiny, Activision

Destiny, Activision

What was on the cards was some beautiful poppy fields I’d never get a chance to experience.

Although there came a barrier in the form of a door. “How do you unlock the door?”

Thanks for asking voice inside my head because it is the same way as always you pillock. Hack the macguffin so it can use the special macguffin lasers to open the macguffin door. Meanwhile fighting waves and waves of not-terminators.

Maybe I sound infuriated, but there’s something calming about Destiny‘s tendency towards wave-based-combat. It is rather simple, although probably mostly helped due to accidentally over-leveling.

So it is less a heart-pounding journey as you crawl desperately through the slog, and more a gleeful casual inoffensive romp. I felt like a child skipping through the fields bare-foot, swinging their stick at the waist-height strands of grass. I should complain about how easy it was, especially for such a dramatic moment, but it honestly felt more pleasantly tranquilizing than anything else.

As the doors grated open, groaning in mechanical pain, I saw the heart of the situation.

Destiny, Activision

Destiny, Activision

No, really.

While its followers put up a resistance, the trouble begun to appear when it started bringing to life the three statues in front of it. Even at my level, they hit like trains and took a lot of shots to fall apart. Until finally, they died. I was ready to tear down The Heart of the Black Garden itself bullet by bullet when it suddenly exploded seemingly content with the combat power I displayed.

Destiny, Activision

Destiny, Activision

It was then time to go home.

The festivities happened while I was away from it all. While the Speaker spoke of safety and sanctuary as The Traveler would reawaken from its slumber, there I was away. I was more curious of the mysterious follower who was lounging in the hanger. I had hoped for answers or at the very least,to know who she is. But no, all I got was her rifle with a vague description about it.

Destiny, Activision

Destiny, Activision

Sadly, it is a rifle that is actually weaker than the one I’m currently using so off it went into the vault to never be used. Thanks for the thought though, Bungie. Sorry to say that you made a sentimental gift worthless before even giving it to me in the first place.

“So, what did you think of Destiny?!”

You may be curious of. Since we’re only 1000 words into a part (I aim for 1.5k to 2k words in each part) and this marks the end of the Destiny’s main campaign, it does seem fitting to give Destiny a dressing down.

The most obvious problem lies within the pacing. Oddly enough, when I picked Destiny to do a ‘Venture Into’ series, I figured it’d be roughly the same length as Borderlands 2. Give or take a bit, it is actually roughly the same length. At most, there may be a 5 hour difference. Other than pacing though it also feels rushed. It feels like a lot has happened, but even more so it’s blown over gently in a hand-waving sort of way.

The main way this shows up is with the enemy types. While the Fallen and Hive hack at my heels with every chance they get, the Vex and Cabal made very few appearances. Cabal had about two or three missions featuring them, with the Vex being somewhat similar. It never allowed for an arc that went into who these species were, the important figures among them or the surmounting of said figures.

Destiny, Activision

Destiny, Activision

So, they’re aggressive as hell? Why do I get the feeling they got that way because we kept turning up to diplomatic meetings with a hail of bullets?

While New Russia, Moon and Venus got a lot of usage and allowed us to explore new angles within the universe, I felt like Mars was under-utilized. It seemed to imply a development scheduling and/or budget problem. I mean from a narrative standpoint it would have been all too easy to put at least a few more missions in surrounding Cabal intentions on Mars and views on Guardians. It definitely feels like story and gameplay content were cut back and I think Mars was primary source of the cuts.

The narrative is also a noticeable issue, although it is an issue I mentioned earlier. Using familiar words does circumnavigate techno-babble, but then it creates confusion with our understanding of how the word relates to the current subject. Additionally, it gives the opportunity to visit a website at a different time for a glossary which is not a good solution as much as it is a plaster on an axe wound (or band-aid if you’re American and won’t think of charity musical collaborations).

Also saying “I could tell you” teases at future content which causes the player to expect said content to be in the game already. I kept desperately wanting to know what the hell people were talking about (and especially who The Stranger is). However the lack of knowledge lies beyond a door with the phrase “I could tell you but…” emblazoned upon it. So now I don’t care.

Speaking of the narrative, a less noticeable problem is characterization. Putting aside the weird realization you don’t see a civilian at all, it seems most of the cast struggles with injecting personality. Most characters never seem to exhibit any real emotion, just a list of “these are things that need to be done”. The closest in the core game was The Queen and her brother who only inspired loathing as they thought being smug and arrogant made them likeable.

Destiny, Activision

Destiny, Activision

There was this moment, which was added after the core game. 

The primary colossal exception was actually Petra and Variks. Petra showed actual excitement about being out and about, even during radio chatter! Variks spoke about who he was and his appreciation to be where he was. Both things not only informed me what was going on, but also breathed some much needed humanity and emotion into something so cold and lifeless. I joke about The House of Wolves feeling like a revenge mission and it did feel that way, but that only made Destiny more relatable. You can kill a threat AND feel glee about getting vengeance on someone who has wronged you.

Even though House of Wolves was actually Destiny’s second expansion, it did indicate improvements with the writing style on what the core game was. At times I were confused (mostly what The Reef War were), but overall they did a good job at conveying what was happening and making it something more than just “saving the world”.

In regards to the gameplay? Eh, it is a mixed bag. It oddly was at its best when it was easy or tricky, as it felt soothing like a hot bath. When it was hard, it felt frustrating as it was difficult with balancing varying health amounts, damage done and swarms of enemies. A difficulty born from number manipulation, which sadly feels lazy. Bosses, rather than being puzzles to solve, were simply bullet sponges who soaked up damage.

Destiny, Activision

Destiny, Activision

If the puzzle solution can boiled down to “MORE DAKKA!”, you’ve made a puzzle for a Warhammer 40k ork. 

I’ve got  some thoughts regarding the guns, but that’ll have to wait. You see, we’re not done with this adventure. When I said Mars was under-utilized, I was intentionally ignoring a blinking dot on my map. A red thing urging me onto the first expansion of Destiny that begins on Mars. That’s right, next week we’re going to continue our Venture into Destiny as we explore the dirt path that is The Taken King.

Until then, good bye!

Past Parts

[Part 1: Unfunny Little Robot] [Part 2: Absolute Lunacy] [Part 3: An Inspiration for Regicide] [Part 4: A Plague On Your Houses]

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