Destiny 2: Curse of Osiris DLC review-in-progress, day two: “Mercury feels more claustrophobic and less important every time I go back”

Update, December 7, 2017:

Welcome to the second part of our Destiny 2: Curse of Osiris review diary. While this expansion is nothing like the scale of the original game, it still warrants a prolonged play to properly investigate what it brings to Destiny 2 at large. So we're giving it a little time before attaching a score. If you need to catch up with day one, just click over to the next page. Otherwise, read on for the latest findings. 

I’m a couple of days into Curse of Osiris now and I’m getting rather sick of the Infinite Forest. For all the purported replayablity stemming from its randomly generated nature, it’s repetitive, unexciting, and dominates every bit of substantial new content in the expansion. Ironically, the Forest clearly has some great potential, were used in a more creative way – in fact it could be perfect fuel for exactly the kind of endgame activity types Destiny 2 really needs right now – but its current form is turning Osiris into a bit of a slog. 

The further I get into the expansion, the more I get a nagging sense that this is an add-on made of great environments greatly underused. The Forest itself, with its randomised layouts and enemy placements, is a perfect template for some manner of roguelike, co-op dungeon crawl event. Freed up as an activity in its own right, it would make for a heck of a compulsive, escalating, risk-and-reward combat gauntlet. Throw in some time limits, gameplay modifiers, and intermittent loot drops, and I’d be back every night. As it is – simply sandwiched into the middle of standalone Story, Strike, and Adventure missions – it’s starting to feel like filler, diluting what are often otherwise great pieces of content. 

Sparkling content that cannot shine 

Similarly, there’s a brilliant wave-shooting sequence at the end of one of the Adventures, in an intricately designed, lane-focused arena that feels tailor-made for an evolution of Halo’s Horde-style Firefight mode. And for a few minutes I get exactly that. But then the Adventure is over, and the dream of the long-term, team-based endgame hoot Osiris could have given us goes with it.

Frustratingly, some of the missions in Curse of Osiris do actually represent some of the best level design in Destiny 2, exemplifying brilliant, unique concepts and fantastic set-pieces. They personify exactly the kind of creative step-up that inspired my glowing review of Destiny 2 at release. But committing to any of them unfortunately comes with the sinking acknowledgement of another trawl through the Forest in order to get to the good stuff. Running the new Strikes with random match-ups through the Heroic Playlist last night, I found that already the Forest sections are being unanimously sprinted through rather than engaged with. Rather than the dynamic, surprising, ever-changing challenge they were intended as, they’ve become something more akin to a parkour simulator, where Guardians simply try to get through as fast as possible in order to access the real meat of the activity.

And the Mercury location overall is starting to feel like a great wasted opportunity. With the bulk of its not-insignificant landmass similarly locked behind distinct Story missions and Strikes, what we’re left with by default amounts to a small patch of enemy-strewn ground circling the Lighthouse that local vendor Brother Vance uses as a base. Otherwise containing only Patrol beacons, some chests, a single Lost Sector, and the architecture that hosts the Crossroads Public Event, the place is starting to feel small, barren, and lacking a real reason to visit. It’s currently little more than a place to access Vance, and a launchpad for content that exists elsewhere. Content that’s being half wasted through a lack of true explorability.

I want to properly cut loose in the past and future countryside, exploring on my own time and with my own agenda – as some in-game dialogue actually implies will be possible, but isn’t. I want to do Patrols, Lost Sectors, and Public Events in that verdant, rolling, primary coloured landscape. I want to do all the things that a single-planet expansion arguably should have delivered. But all I can do is watch it all go by as I’m funneled through a standalone Strike, after I churn through the Infinite Forest again. Mercury feels more claustrophobic and less important every time I go back.

Beyond the physical make-up of the expansion, the overarching quality-of-life updates that have hit Destiny 2 alongside Curse of Osiris are having mixed effects. The ability to buy weapon mods and Legendary engrams has had a great, freeing effect on the economy, and finally made Legendary Shards worthwhile. Crucible play – refreshed by Curse of Osiris’ rather nice new maps, which currently enjoy the focus of a dedicated playlist – feels noticeably more rewarding in terms of gear drops too, meaning that the overall Destiny 2 economy has a much healthier sense of life. And the overdue Heroic Strike playlist, with its increased difficulty and rewards, is very welcome, reinvigorating great content that had previously, very quickly, become a meaningless part of the ecosystem. 

But at the same time, raising the level of Prestige Raid content to fit the expansion’s increased cap, and making the Heroic Strike playlist exclusive to Curse of Osiris, has effectively cut non-expansion players loose.

Giving with one hand, taking with the other 

Of course it’s important to ensure that big content remains relevant as the game moves forward. That Raid did need to evolve to remain an active part of the expanded Destiny 2. But surely there’s a better way to do so that by removing it from vanilla players just three months after the game’s launch? And it’s hard to find any way to justify making something as basic as level 270 Strikes (well within the vanilla limit) exclusive to the expansion. Looking at things from a wider view, Curse of Osiris is starting to feel like an expansion that gives its buyers less than it could, while shrinking the Destiny 2 experience for others. And this isn’t a new problem. It happened with the original Destiny in 2015 as well, at which time the communication failing was acknowledged and a pledge to do better delivered.

But at least Curse of Osiris means new loot to get excited about, right? Well of course it does, but so far nothing has massively jumped out at me. So far there have been a couple of new, pleasingly team-focused Exotic armour perks to be had, which speak to the promise of nurtured, high-level co-op I was hoping for last week. And there are a surprising number of reworked Exotics from the original Destiny – though in some cases, they’ve arguably been down-tuned to a less exciting design than in their original form. But otherwise the most exciting new Legendary weapons I’ve had have been slight variants on my favourites from Season One.

I’m not going to do something as ludicrous as judge the whole Season Two sandbox after a day. This stuff is, after all, the core of the long-term game, and as such is a long-term proposition. And of course, Lost Prophecy weapons (and next week’s Masterworks upgrades to Legendary gear) promise a specific path to chase. It’ll just be a while before it becomes completely clear how engaging that those rewards are going to be, in comparison to the lacking available activities through which to earn them.