Back to the Drawing Board: Forsaken’s Mission Structure Doesn’t Quite Deliver

I mean, I see what you were TRYING to do...

I’m a big fan of some of the changes brought forth with Forsaken. Bungie is shaking things up with their most important expansion yet and the game feels better than ever as a result. However, not every experiment has turned in the desired results. I love the idea of the open-ended mission structure on paper. The idea that we can defeat most of the Barons in any order we choose sounds exciting. Instead of making these big, exciting missions with cinematics and proper dramatics, Bungie has opted to make each of these Barons Adventures.
Normally, Adventures are interesting bonus missions on planets that are entirely optional but serve to expand the lore. There are more than a few Adventures worth playing, especially on Nessus (so long as you like FailSafe) but using them as the basis of Forsaken’s campaign feels like a mistake. The structure of Adventures does not lend itself to what should be meaningful story missions. These are the Barons responsible for killing Cayde. There should be something to these, something more than some dialogue and forgettable boss fights.
Okay, that’s not entirely fair. Some of these Barons were funny, others had some interesting mechanics. While I don’t think the idea was to make you like these Barons, I like that they didn’t just feel like throwaway enemies all the time. Most of them, however, most certainly do feel throw away. I couldn’t tell you most of their names, even though their leader names them off in a Strike every time I play it.

More often than not the missions require you to fight the boss a few times as it slowly introduces their niche and crazy abilities. The Rifleman, for example, makes holograms of himself that can fire at you. He shows this a few times in fights where you can’t actually kill him before leading you to a big circular room that just screams boss fight before going full overdose and spawning close to a dozen of the clones. Depending on how good your gear drops have been, this can be an incredibly easy fight, especially if you’re still rocking your Whisper. The clones are easy to kill and it is easy to identify the real one.
Of course, there isn’t a lot of crazy things you can do when the majority of your missions take place in the shared world. Only the boss fights are instanced and other, random players can run into your Barons as they taunt you. There were plenty of times where I stopped to complete a public event or two instead of completing the next phase of the Adventure simply because it seemed more rewarding at the time. If these were missions bookended with brief cinematics reminding us of our mission for vengeance, the fights would have more meaning. Even if they were instanced it would feel more important. Bungie made the decision to make these Adventures but forgot to adapt the structure to the content.

I’m being critical, but the fight with Ghaul, though ultimately anticlimactic, was built up and hyped well through the cinematics that took place after important missions. I can’t imagine it would be hard to make a few extra in-engine cutscenes illustrating the demise of the Barons and showing some of their internal collapse, much as we saw with Ghaul and his mentor. I don’t think it is wrong to expect more from a campaign in the biggest expansion the series has ever seen. That is especially true when the act of killing the Barons clocks in somewhere between 3-4 hours at best. Of course, Destiny is not defined by the length of its campaign, but when you kill Cayde and then don’t deliver on the vengeance you open yourself up to criticism.
By no stretch am I saying this is some kind of disaster. Forsaken has a quality campaign that players will mostly enjoy on their way to 500 gear and endgame content. It does well to get out of its own way and helps players get geared without forcing them to spend too much time in required, linear content. It just could have been so much better with a little more focus on fleshing out the story, the Barons, the mission structure, anything really. A strong start and a strong finale are important and Forsaken delivers that. For most, that will be enough. For me, that was just about enough, I just wish I cared about everything in between.