Venture into Destiny – The Epilogue of Our Journey Together

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

As The Tower becomes more and more a distant sight from the spaceship and the people now looking like mites on a dog’s back, I can’t help but reflect on the journey that has passed us. It took us 13 parts to get here. So perhaps we should reflect on the big picture of what has passed us by in the form of a review of all of Destiny. Naturally, I assume you’ve been reading up to this point, so I’ll be speeding through some areas.

And what better place to start than the gunplay on show? You can honestly tell this was built with consoles in mind, from the ground-up. The level of aim-assist and reliance on stats is to a level where accuracy isn’t the only thing that matters, but is rather another factor in determining who lives and who dies.

While this sounds like a snide dig at Destiny, the reality is, I honestly do appreciate this decision. I tend to find that a lot of shooters are designed for keyboard and mouse setups–with the focus being on accuracy–and end up feeling unresponsive on traditional controllers. Others may be designed for controllers, which on keyboard and mouse will feel rough as rocks and expect you to only point your gun in the right direction. So the decision to design around controllers and keep it on console is something I’m grateful for.

However, this comes with a problem I’ve mentioned before. You see, shooters for controllers need to be a little slack on accuracy demands compared to keyboard and mouse setups. Things like aim-assist can only take a game so far before you have to concede that pin-point, long-range accuracy isn’t going to happen on a console. So what do you do design-wise? You encourage offensive gameplay.

Borderlands 2, 2K Games

Borderlands 2, 2K Games

“Offensive”, in this case, not meaning the same thing as “antagonistic”.

You give players large amounts of agility (even if you are bogged down by your sub-class stats), you give them the ability to displace enemies from cover via grenades and you give them special sub-class abilities that require medium to short range to execute well. You also discourage long range combat via enemies dropping the main source of ammo, small doses of cover and relatively weak armor.

Now, this storming behavior would be fine and usually is enjoyable, but the game has this dreadful tendency to keep shoving you into defense missions. The only saving grace is usually defense missions require a fight for survival, rather than keeping a person or piece of equipment from being disrupted, so it still plays in your ability to move often and quickly.

Although while we’re on the subject of the collection of systems in play, there is something to be said about the low complexity-to-depth ratio going on. While your equipment does matter in terms of armor and fire-power (as well as some upgrade perks), the main meat of customization comes from your sub-class. This is where your recovery/armor/agility stats and tweaks to your sub-class abilities come from. Even then, all you need to do is switch things around based on the column to suit your needs.

In addition to this angle, the three-weapon system is basic enough for players to work out at a glance. Not only in terms of power level (as the heavy weapon is the most potent and the primary weapon the weakest), but also ammunition commonness (i.e. heavy ammo drops least, then special then primary).

Destiny, Activision

Destiny, Activision

Although despite special weapons usually being the most potent in power and use, swords make for a hard time to justify using besides the thrill of charging into a fire-fight with a long-sword.

There is just one tripping point: Light level compared to upgrade level. As previously discussed in the series, the more you use a weapon the more upgrades you unlock. This ends up rewarding dedication. However, it is at odds with the engram system (where you get access to new gear via engram-decryption depending on your light level), that rewards you for equipping the latest gear. In the end, you are left with two sets of equipment: The one you’re dedicated to in the field (as engram drops aren’t depended on light level), and ones you equip prior to decrypting the engram. This system ends up complicating the inventory management system needlessly due to conflicting demands.

All this gameplay is layered on top of a narrative that is honestly just boring. There are flashes of interest, like Petra (from her having a personality, to her having a personal motivation to under-take a task), but overall it seems to go absolutely nowhere. Antagonists come and antagonists go but the cast of characters who I’m unfortunately familiar with are no different, other than Petra who’s desperate to hunt for her queen.

Not even an all-cast of voice actors, including Nathan Fillion, Nolan North and Keith James Ferguson (voice actor behind Overwatch’s Reaper), could summon characterization from writing that ranges from dull to aggravating (e.g. hearing Bill Nighy’s “I could tell you…” speech makes for a particularly frustrating moment due to how little the main plot tells you of what is going on).

However, Nolan North as The Ghost makes for a note-worthy form of patience-testing. No fault to North, as the delivery works to the director’s intention, but his lines often serve as flow-breaking reminders that he exists. It is constantly bizarre to have a tense dramatic moment rudely interrupted by your sentient robot pal trying to give comedy a shot and failing every time. Once or twice it came off as being afraid to let the game have a tense dramatic moment or to let the gravity rest on the player on its own. I joked at the beginning of this Let’s Play he came off as Claptrap 2.0, and by the end of it the forced-humor is so bad as to genuinely possibly be Claptrap 2.0 without the self-awareness.

Destiny, Activision

Destiny, Activision

Yeah, thanks for rubbing it in. 

Although we can’t talk about the writing without talking about how particularly bad the base game’s exposition delivery was. It was always teasing away at you, and then refusing to tell you a word. Always stringing you along with promise of information it would never grant. Fortunately the content they added later avoided this issue by always remembering to fill you in what’s what. That said, I’m still not particularly sure why diplomatic conversation can not exist between The Tower and The Cabal, via a “enemy of my enemy” sort of deal, or what soured that situation in the first place. At this point though, I’m not sure I’d expect a satisfactory answer.

I suppose my greatest boredom comes from how absolutely no twists occur. I am flabbergasted how Bungie was able to make a plot that takes north of 30 hours to play through, and not a single plot twist. I thought Eris Morn was going to betray everyone at the end of the Fallen King, I hope she would as to give some life to the writing, and yet nothing at all.

Going back to the characterization, it is though the cast are two dimensional characters who serve a very particular purpose and never exceed beyond it. Each one never having an independent thought that exceeds beyond each character’s station; even the character you play as lacks any sentient thought at all. Petra is the closest thing to a decent human character in the entire cast. All this flat writing just leaves me feeling so disconnected and not even remotely invested in the narrative with nothing big, dramatic or personal taking place at all.

I guess my frustration with my own character is made particular worse as the campaign is rather linear. Not necessarily in an architectural sense, but rather in a problem-solving or conversation sense. I simply do not understand what was stopping Bungie from allowing you to express your character and/or solving a situation as you wish. Then again, I confess as I muse on my frustration of wishing I could play Destiny as me rather than ride along the railroad tracks I keep thinking on how Star Wars: The Old Republic pulled that off. Maybe it is unfair to ask for a conversation system that had repercussions, but it would have definitely been nice to not simply obediently followed as commanded all the way through.

Destiny Activision

Destiny Activision

Like the option to tell the royal siblings to go choke on shotgun mouthwash would have been appreciated.

Before I launch into the review conclusion, I would like to give some credit for the seasonal events. I believe it would have been easy to rip-off existing seasonal events, given it a Destiny twist and pack up for the day. Instead, the events feel meaningful and like they were crafted carefully. This is especially with note to the racing mini-game I got to experience, which was personally incredibly well-designed (especially the boost-gate system that functioned as a very nice catch-up mechanic). My only grumble is some content was pretty much mostly locked off to non-paying customers, and even then it was a random chance if you got the particular item you wanted. Still, I really enjoyed the Christmas and Halloween events that happened.

If I had to score Destiny, overall, it would be a 6.5/10. There are a lot of good ideas mulling about, especially in the gameplay department, but there are signs they weren’t thought entirely through. Credit has to be given for the experimentation on hand. However, where Destiny is hit the hardest is its writing department. It is clear that it was meant to be this big significant tale, and yet there has been no sign of any excellent writing besides Petra, whose writing is simply good at best. The rest of the cast and all the plot simply ranges from tediously boring to inoffensively okay. I honestly could have done with more personal moments in this adventure, from either the cast or even my own character, to show there are still sentient humans in this universe rather than just automatons reacting to danger with precision violence.

What with Destiny 2 being billed for this year, the main area they’ll need to really work harder with is the writing. Most of the gameplay is pretty good, with only minor tweaks required to get heavy praise from me, but it is the narrative and characterization it is let down by the most. Although according to itechpost, it seems like they will be producing small scale narrative projects in the sequel. While that says nothing of the already released content, it sounds like they’ll be taking a World of Warcraft styled evolving narrative. To me, it suggests the story will have a more significant role this time around and therefore hopefully be more enjoyable than the two-dimensional story found in Destiny.

With that overview review out the way, well, how about some fun facts? To get all the content needed for this series, it took 44 hours which is significantly shorter than Borderlands 2’s 79 hours (although, in Borderlands 2’s case, I had to complete the campaign a second time). That said, screenshot wise this series contained more: 1,570 screenshots compared to 1,413 screenshots. Although part of that was due to the PS4’s tendency to automatically take screenshots every time I got a trophy. Then again, the PS4 has a bit of a delay between pressing the screenshot button and it recording, and has the bizarre habit of screenshots including the screenshot icon if it happens to be on-screen at the time. So perhaps I would have gotten more pictures if I was recording on PC? Who knows?

Destiny, Activision

Destiny, Activision

One of many screenshots that I wish weren’t ruined by the nefarious screenshot icon.

So here we finally are at the end of our travels. It seems fitting to answer the burning question I proposed at the beginning of this mad journey into space: Is Destiny fitting of the sordid soiled reputation it holds based on my own experiences? Well, yes and no. There is no getting away from the writing, which even by AAA standards is so safe I want to employ it as my home security. The original campaign’s writing is just sloppy, unfulfilling and weak. Meanwhile the additions ranged from naff to having a flitting relationship with engaging.

That being said, mechanically Destiny was pretty good. It felt simplistic while still holding some strategy to builds. It also allowed for me to remain attached to weapons I loved through the upgrade system. The offensive styled gameplay is a double-edged sword, making attacking feel focused and enjoyable while defending a general awkward out-of-place feeling pain. Boss battles ranged from the horrid “high-health high-damage” style of lazy difficulty, to neat puzzles to unravel (e.g. fighting in the dark).

So does it deserve its reputation as badly written? Definitely. However, calling it bad or even mediocre in its current state seems a bit harsh. It doesn’t deserve any ‘Game of the Year’ awards, but I wouldn’t pelt rotten tomatoes at it in the street. It took risks which I commend it for, but in the end it rides the “OK” train as hard as it can, primarily due to the areas it failed to push the envelope (i.e. writing).

So then the question gets raised: What now for me? Well, first I’m going to take a long sleep. Trying to pump out a part most weeks for the past few months has been pretty grueling, especially next to my other journalism duties. Right now I have no plans for a season 3, as I confess writing this series has taken a lot out of me.

You can maybe tell the difference between the start and the end, as I can’t even bring myself to throw out exaggerations, quips or jokes at this point. I finished this series as I felt my audience, including you, deserve to see an end to this. However, for the past few parts my mood as admittedly soured greatly from the stress of writing this. So rather than promising a season 3 straight away, like ‘Venture into Borderlands’ finished with me promising another season, I’d rather sit on it for a while. To maybe stew on the possibility and think on a title I’d love to examine next. As it is a lot of work to play and write analysis up, so I have to be invested greatly in doing so.

Destiny, Activision

Destiny, Activision

Which damn, the tedium of some of the boss fights nearly broke me.

So is this so long to the ‘Venture Into’ series? Oh no, not at all. I love this series too much to forever say bye to, as I greatly enjoy digging my fingers deep into games to see what makes them tick. It is just going on a hiatus. It could take 3 months, 6 months, or maybe even a year. I want to hunt for the perfect title to really examine greatly, rather than make this a thing I do to a schedule. After all, I think you all deserve for me to do it right rather than to just do it to a schedule.

Beyond that, well, I still hope I can dig more into video content and more into collaborative pieces. I’m also considering perhaps doing shorter series, where a game has a few parts of analysis that interest me rather than doing an entire journey with it. Something that may stay punchy without me burning out and ending like this. Which I am sorry about.

Anyway, I’d still like to thank everyone for joining me on this ‘Venture into Destiny’. It’s been a hell of a road, and who knows I may return to it with some DLC or even for the sequel. For now though, well, we’ve explored all we can and now it’s time to rest for a while. Perhaps until a season 3 or a mini-series of some kind. Until that point: thank you and good night!

Destiny, Activision

Destiny, Activision


Past parts

[Part 1: Unfunny Little Robot] [Part 2: Absolute Lunacy] [Part 3: An Inspiration for Regicide] [Part 4: A Plague On Your Houses] [Part 5: Black Gardens on Red Planets]

[Part 6: A Wolf Amongst the Taken] [Part 7: Venturing Onwards as Sif] [Part 8: Taken for a Violent Walk] [Part 9: Let Us Light The Way] [Part 10: Step Lightly and Carry a Large Gun] [Part 11: Racing for a Victory Bathed in Iron] [Part 12: The Legendary Boom-Tube] [Part 13: Goodbye Space Cowboy]

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