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Forged Destiny is a bad story, but not a bad fanfic in a usual sense. Let me elaborate.
When a fanfiction is called bad, it means that it is absolutely horrible by the standards of any other media. It means that the story is full of errors, unfinished, immature or several of the above. It means that only people looking for a specific thing, like their favorite pairing or an unusual story concept, would find it worth their time.
Forged Destiny has none of the above-mentioned problems. It contains almost no grammar or spelling errors, the author doesn't show obvious hatred nor favoritism towards any character and it actually looks like a fairly good adventure story for the first two arcs. But the Romantic Plot Tumor, flat characters, annoying characters, informed flaws, inconsistent themes, unsatisfying conclusions and numerous contradictions soon begin to pile up, resulting in a story that is not only unengaging but downright frustrating at times.
The author is clearly talented and puts a lot of effort into his works. A story of that lenght and writing quality could be published as a novel, or even a series of novels. But they would be mediocre novels at best. And with all the characters being vastly different from their original counterparts, there is little reason for RWBY fans to find it particularly endearing. At the end of the day, I would recommend doing something else with your time than reading it.
Yeah, I find it hard to disagree, and I myself have added quite a few notes onto this TV Tropes pages regarding the progressively falling apart narrative, and I'm mostly following the story just to see where it ends at this point. I think it's a combination of the First Person storytelling for the bulk of the narrative, the author needing to put out the story once every week, the scale of the story and the fact that it's meant to be more of an epic compared to the heavier amounts of comedy/crack/smaller scale stories that the author has put out before and after, and the fact that the story doesn't have the RWBY canon to act as a crutch that's causing the story to fall apart.
The First Person bit does help to make the scope more intimate and allow more depth into a single character's thoughts, but it also means that other characters are only going to be seen when Jaune associates with them, which greatly limits our ability to see their development or interactions. This in itself isn't always a bad thing, as Harry Potter (most of the time) has shown, but in this case, it oftentimes means that developments for the other characters feel nonexistent or out of left field (ala the revelations of the Hunters' levels in recent chapters), and it also means some of their actions can be easily misinterpreted or lack proper context behind said actions, and thus they can seem far more one dimensional.
Having to put the story out once per week is a good thing discipline-wise, since it means he has to make his story as good as possible and be as concise about things in as little time as possible. But in this case, I think it's become a huge drawback, since having to juggle multiple other stories like White Sheep, Relic, and others on top of his job probably means he doesn't have enough time to go over any inconsistencies, forgotten plot points, story and character flaws and such, and I suspect his beta probably has to either rush or only looks over some flaws/only the flaws in context of the current chapter as opposed to how it fits within the whole story in order to make the deadline.
I haven't really read the other stories in his repertoire outside of White Sheep, Professor Arc, One Good Deed, and a few of the shorter fics, but if there's one area I notice consistently in the few I have read, it's that these stories tend to be on a much smaller scale and/or tend to be crack/comedy fics, which I think hasn't translated well to an epic like Forged Destiny. Said stories don't need to worry about background, lore, worldbuilding, and consistency with the above mentioned to nearly the same degree as a relatively original take on the verse since they're ultimately character pieces or crack comedies which depend on the RWBY canon, and absurd situations are more often the norm for said stories since it's more about making us laugh at the situation because of how dumb people can be made out to be. Forged Destiny wants to be more serious, but the traits that work for crack comedies don't really translate very well to a serious Fantasy Epic in this case since absurd situations and asspulls that can be laughed at in crack comedies are MUCH harder to overlook when you're trying to get us to take it and the world seriously, especially if there isn't a damn good explanation for it. It also especially shows in the inconsistent worldbuilding, since the author isn't trying to poke fun at existing problems in the canon or just shoring up with his own interpretations, but instead having to craft a new world from wholesale cloth with fragments of RWBY thrown in, which can be considerably more difficult.
This ties into my point that the story doesn't have the benefit of RWBY canon to act as a foundation. As you've noted, the characters differ quite a bit from their canon counterparts, and while I disagree with the notion that it means we can't care as much anymore, it DOES mean that the author has to spend more time establishing these characters again and how the differences would affect their ways of thinking and such. Except this doesn't really happen since the First Person Perspective keeps us from really being able to see their development except only when Jaune is there to see it.
This is why I remember a point made by one of the author's critics (I think it was in the Author's forums on Fanfiction.net) about how people claiming this could be an original story is wrong, because that kind of statement assumes the world and characters could stand on their own. But it kinda doesn't or isn't able to do that, because the lack of developed characters with few exceptions implies that the author seems to expect us to already know these characters based on how they act in the RWBY canon, while also acting as if they're basically original characters (at least that was how I remember that argument, correct me if I'm misremembering). It can't really be a good story on it's own because it's still too dependent on the canon to fill in the gaps, even as it tries to be it's own thing which results in the filling being much more haphazardous and less seamless than the author's other works.
Also, and I kinda hate to admit it, but I do go about the author's forums quite a bit in my spare time, and I kinda can't help but notice it's been a bit of an echo chamber, especially since certain critics seem to have gone vamoose from there, so I kinda get the feeling they're enabling a lot of the author's worse writing habits because no one is willing to notice the progressively worsening problems, or anyone who does is either given progressively weird justifications for it or just getting shut down by the people who don't see an issue. While I'll admit said critics could be abrasive at times, they weren't exactly WRONG about the problems mentioned and they noticed the issues long before the current Books.
All of this of course doesn't factor in the contradictory themes and such, but I think I've made my point as best as I can. There's probably more that I've missed, but yeah.
EDIT: Mildly amused that my response is longer than the review.
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