'Destiny 2,' Like Too Many Games, Doesn't Know How to End


#1

This piece contains spoilers for Destiny 2's single player campaign.

Something incredibly strange happens at the end of Destiny 2. You’ve just spent the entire game fighting against Dominus Ghaul and his Red Legion for control of The Traveler, a giant magical orb, and its Light that powers the heroes of the Destiny franchise. You’ve been traveling the solar system collecting allies for this final mission, and you’re in the final stages of the plan. There is, of course, a boss fight where you shoot Ghaul in his face for fifteen solid minutes, and it isn’t a very complicated thing. He dies, like all big bad bosses die, and then the weird thing happens.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/a37qw8/destiny-2-ending-gaul

#2

Spoilers in this post are for the end of the story mode in Destiny 2 so if you’ve beat it you are good.

Decent analysis on the whole narrative escalation thing that games, especially sequels seem to get trapped in. For the end of Destiny 2 specifically this piece makes me think that the narrative would have been better if they just flipped the two last story missions where you are stopping the machine that is going to blow up the sun and then fighting Dominus. If they had had you defeat Dominus first without the part where he becomes a glowing giant and then you could have heard that his people were still going to blow up the sun so you have to go stop that, you’d fix some of this insanity. Still this doesn’t fix the whole narrative escalation problem but it does fix one of the weirdest story bits in Destiny 2 as a result of needing to escalate.


#3

I really like the story campaign in Destiny 2. I think it has weight, enjoyable pacing, increasing stakes and good storytelling, too much of which is left un-exploited (there is so much potential for story and character in the conflict between humans and guardians). And, I agree that the ending is … off. From a storytelling perspective, I think we reclaimed the city/tower way too quickly. Players should have spent a long time post-campaign in the wilderness, gradually reclaiming territory from the factions left behind after Gaul’s defeat. [Imagine a strike into the city!]. However I realize that poses a ton of problems for the “getting to the end-game” design, so I understand how Bungie got to where they did. Like @livevil I think flipping the sequence of those final missions would also help.

Weirdly, I also think they need more narrative escalation in the raid. While I really like it from a mechanical and gameplay perspective, it doesn’t have the narrative grandeur of King’s Fall or Wrath.


#4

This was a problem Destiny 1 and every expansion had, too. Always looping back to beginnings.


#5

At the time, I was more immediately disappointed that Dominus’ whole story arc didn’t really seem to have a purpose to it. He spends so much time saying that he isn’t going to take the light by force and then he just does, the player kills him, and the game ends. I think I just laughed off him turning into essentially Jafar from the end of the second Aladdin movie and hadn’t thought about it since.

Like @livevil said, flipping those final missions would help. Alternatively, I think that the fight against Dominus could have been more interesting if you were actually fighting a defeated Dominus rather than a pseudo-god Dominus. There would have been more opportunity to say or do something interesting with his whole philosophy if it felt more personal.


#6

Flipping the last two missions was my first thought, but combining them also would have worked. Having to fight Dominus as you’re trying to escape the exploding Almighty would have been rather fitting.

I actually found the ending incredibly disappointing as well because the player doesn’t even beat Dominus. You finish round 1 and he goes Jafar and then the Traveler finishes him off for you, because you just couldn’t finish it yourself kid. Just letting us boot him off the side of the ship would have been better and it would have been a callback to the start.

The entire story in Destiny 2 was a race instead of a marathon though. When I leveled a second character I was able to get through the entire story again, as I already knew what to do, in two days of playing for a few hours after work. Destiny 2 tried to tell the kind of story that Blizzard would stretch across an entire WoW expansion but they tried to shove that story into the space of a movie or two. I’m not a fan of how Blizzard stretches their stories, but I definitely prefer that to trying to turn a novel into a pamphlet.


#7

Now that would have been a really cool finale.


#8

it’s the ending to the first Aladdin movie. Jafar gets his wish for power but in the process binds himself to the only thing that can stop him… Like, idk, it’s a bit hokey but I doubt it was some cut boss fight or something, it works thematically, his lifelong desire to be assessed by some great power is finally accepted, and it finds him wanting, and he’s destroyed.

it was like, the games entire arc? Ghaul finally gets within arms reach of the acceptance and praise he always wanted and fucks it up by being a jackass and the people of the City have their faith restored that yes, the Traveller can in fact do things.


#9

I actually thought about this. I think the problem is that there wasn’t a real pressing issue with story development…but that’s ort of how games like this get developed. It seems like there is a lot of potential with the destiny world (esp given how enormous any space game could be) but it has a lot of people to please. Casual gamers, hardcore gamers, rpg, fps, etc. It spread it’s wings pretty thin. To me, character development is important and destiny is a fun to play gameplay oriented adventure, so I didn’t expect much lol


#10

Oh wow, I ended up with a very different read on this I guess.

I think my read on it clicked for me not in the moment it happened, but rather after starting a second character, and seeing the intro again, after the ending. It went from “ehh, okay, let’s grind to 305 now.” to “OOOH DAAAAAANG!”

To me, the giant glowing monument to hard work, which lasted 10 seconds was a nod to Ghaul, the runt, who tried hard. It’s a shitty plot arc to say “You can get past hardship, you can do everything in your power, try as hard as you can, but your parent/god/whatever figure just likes other people more, so you are incapable of mattering.” Ghaul had to win. Something. So, Ghaul got to take the power. Twice. We still get our shitty story about perseverance being meaningless if you aren’t special/chosen/etc. but with the asterisk of - Ghaul beat us. At least as far as a game seems willing to let an enemy win without making the player lose, or keep thinking about them, Ghaul won. Ghaul took the light, became immortal. (Then we mortals, fighting over who gets to be immortal, got a solid reminder that we still don’t understand anything. We don’t control anything. Not even the Vex could figure out how to simulate the light. The time-traveling, complete planet terraforming, infinite has no idea.

-Then-

The traveler lights up its own defenses at that point, smashing Ghaul. Utterly. This isn’t a fight, study and worship of this unknown superpower is worthwhile. Which, sucks on a few levels. At first it’s a fairly gentle “Okay, wtf was that all about?” It sucks a bit because it kinda nullifies anything being said about/by Ghaul as a character. What Ghaul is meant to represent or say to or about the world kinda gets lost in what seems like a very dumb “player is right because video games,” way.

- But THEN - (Spoilers about links between post-credits scene and potential future stuff.)

We get the post-scene, which brings us full circle to the first moments of the first cutscene, which describe where the traveler came from.

Those triangle shapes were the symbols used for the un-named enemy the traveler fought/fled/whatever from/with.

Sparking up it’s “nope” rays for Ghaul sparked their attention/life, which made me SO excited for DLC, and where the story could go now.

That, at least for me, kinda changed Ghaul’s downfall into a very critical plot point. Not an ending to the story, but a launching off point for the story of Destiny 2. This is where the MMO starts. Plenty of threats on the table, including possibly the origin of it all, certainly some old friends to explore what’s going on with them in the Taken, the Fallen, Cabal cleanup, etc.

But what that did to Ghaul’s arc for me was - offer a reason which, as far as any non-Lovecraftian universe-bending super power types, Ghaul won. Also, Ghaul was a catalyst for reminding the players that our power is borrowed, and insignificant compared to threats to come.

(I’ve… got a lot of ongoing mixed feelings about this. It has been very interesting reading other takes/reads on this stuff. I seem to be enough in the minority and have enough caveats/asterisks required for my enjoyment of it to know it’s a mess, and will stop for now to save people’s time.)


#11

This is a great take!

I had a similar thought, that the ending sets up so much more that I think will be fantastically exciting. My only hesitation is that while I like this direction, I’m not sure it makes this game as complete as it could/should be? At the same time, in your interpretation what it really does is end on a great narrative cliffhanger. I can be pretty happy with that.

I think your read is also bolstered by the Speaker’s last exchange with Ghaul: Do you think the Traveler talks to me? Geeze, what a good line, that suddenly snaps our view of the Traveler back to this utterly incomprehensible thing.

Something I can’t quite make sense of in the final chapter, is the falling out that Ghaul and his consul have: Don’t they clash over Ghaul’s decision that he must earn the Light, and the consul insisting that, hey, we’ve come this far, so smash it all and take it? I think that’s a deep turning point for Ghaul, but I don’t recall the connecting thread that explains how he actually accomplished that pivot – he kept the Traveler shackled, after all. Or did I miss that? Anyway, I think that part of the story is compatible with his final moments of believing he has finally won his own immortality.

Nah, I’m so glad you posted this! Thanks.


#12

I think this feeds back into Ghaul’s character, as someone who, despite overcoming all shortcomings, overcame everything, continuing to fail because they defined their success not by success, but by acceptance?

The second The Speaker convinced Ghaul that taking it by power was weakness, or a failure, compared to being accepted or chosen, The Speaker won. Because, Ghaul’s greatest flaw is doubt? I think? Or a lack of that acceptance leading to a weird form of doubt, which leads to- It gets kinda complicated in there somewhere, but I really, really love Ghaul as a character. Particularly as an enemy, which most people brush off as a Bane ripoff without depth. (Which sucks, but is very very easy to see.)


#13

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I think FFXIV does a pretty good job of ratcheting down the stakes while still maintaining the tension by shifting between “domains” of threats. The first expansion ended with the player ending a literal thousand year long war by killing the Evil Pope who is trying to Actually Become God, which is tied into a larger meta-story about different dimensions collapsing on each other because the Big Bad Chaos God is trying to revive himself. But the second expansion very successfully pivots to a resistance against imperial occupiers story because it had been cooking in the background for so long than when it finally arrived in the foreground, we as players found it to be a credible and worthy threat. Even if the opponent is much less of an existential threat to the universe, it still felt impactful to be confronting them because the groundwork had been laid for why this struggle matters prior to the expansion, which was then elaborated in the expansion itself.


#14

The Destiny campaign was a fairly generic story, included as a means to give the players a single player experience, even when the game is at it’s best when your freewheeling around the world doing your own thing.

The real Destiny begins only once the campaign ends.