Three months in, and Destiny 2 has just got bigger, with the Curse of Osiris expansion. The first of two currently announced add-ons, the second of which will concern mysterious supercomputer Rasputin, Curse of Osiris takes us to Mercury, to explore the Vex time-travel network in an attempt to stop another Very Bad Thing from happening, and rescue a long-lost Vanguard hero in the process.
Destiny 2: Curse of Osiris very clearly knows the weight of the long-teased story elements it plays with; namely the return of the titular, most powerful of all Warlocks, long-since exiled for controversial teachings. This is, not to over-hype things, probably the most significant introduction yet of a major Destiny background lore element into the main, present-day story. Ikora Rey’s opening monologue drips with promise of new beginnings, change, and rewritten rules.
But then, over the course of its three to four-hour running time, Curse of Osiris’ narrative campaign somehow dodges every opportunity to deal with or change anything of note. And that’s not the only source of slight deflation.
Shiny, not always entirely happy
It’s a beautiful campaign, make no mistake about that. Springboarding off the vanilla game’s arresting upgrade in visual richness, Curse of Osiris’s bold, atmospheric Mercury-of-many-time-periods is possibly the most exciting area yet seen in Destiny 2. And at times, it’s also one of the most surprising.
And the campaign makes great use of it. It repeatedly flips between the three versions of Mercury: the current Vex-controlled one; the bleak, dead-sun future where the Vex have wiped out the influence of Light and Darkness; and the colour-soaked ancient Mercury.
Every plot-demanded jump through the DLC’s central time portal has the capacity to throw up something new. Physically as well as visually, actually, given the inclusion of the much-vaunted Infinite Forest location. Touted as Mercury’s randomly-generated, replayable area, this modular connective tissue between more concrete gameplay areas at the start and end of certain missions is put together on the fly. A random architectural module (from a set pool of pre-existing blocks) is attached each time a doorway is activated, and populated with a random enemy species.
It’s a nice, economically-minded idea, but one hampered by its inaccessibility outside of set Story and Adventure missions. Alas, that also makes it a neat metaphor for the campaign’s main structural issue, because while both the story’s start and end points, with their dramatically charged and rather striking set-pieces, are relatively strong, the connective middle section in which we trek around recycled, pre-existing areas from the original Destiny 2 campaign with a reimagined excuse is rather forgettable.
This would be much less of an issue if Curse of Osiris’s story crafted a real sense of journey through its, ahem, journey, but ultimately things feel slight. Too many objectives are thinly disguised fetch-questing. The tale is made of barely dressed MacGuffins that exist solely to justify breaks away from the main story’s location. And that main story – for all of its weight built of three years of Destiny lore, for all of the vague, apocalyptic connotations draped around it – rarely feels like it’s about anything. There’s a generic ‘dark future’ to avert, but it remains little more than that. A potential threat, rather than anything meaningful, tangible, or particularly well sketched. And never, at any point is a curse actually mentioned.
Osiris himself, alas, is disappointing too. Presented – much like the campaign overall – as enigmatic and visually impressive but slightly lacking in terms of substance, he’s confusingly portrayed as both an all-powerful manipulator of the space-time continuum and a princess in need of rescue. In truth his long-teased introduction to Destiny’s narrative is a glancing blow rather than a megaton. Despite the fact he’s got a whole DLC expansion named after him, he’s ultimately set up as little more than another voice-in-the-ear during Adventure missions. That status isn’t at all helped by the strange decision to turn Brother Vance into a pitiable Osiris fanboy, played for cynical laughs. There’s almost a sense of Destiny 2 trying to retcon its much-famed lore into no big deal at all.
As for those Adventure side-stories, which kick in the instant the campaign is over, they’re the fuel of the new, long-term grind for the expansion’s new Lost Prophecy gear. Complete all three, and you’ll unlock Heroic versions of the same missions with rather welcome difficulty and gameplay modifiers. Complete one of those, and you’ll get a Lost Prophecy Verse, which will require the accrual of 10 of a new collectible to ‘charge’. Complete that task – by grinding Public Events, chest openings, Crucible matches, or other activities depending on the item – and you’ll gain access to Vance’s Forge, and one of the new weapons. Rinse and repeat for all 11.
Here though, is where we get into the tricky, second half of appraising any Destiny expansion: the balance of repetition vs. reward. Because the fundamental purpose of every Destiny add-on, once its story is over, is to provide fuel to refresh long-term play and provide nourishing form and purpose to the endless quest for more loot. As for how well Osiris compares to its original Destiny predecessors in this respect? It’s currently too soon for anything but a big, fat question mark.
The immediate concern with using these three Adventures as the foundation for the whole Lost Prophecy system is, as you’ve probably guessed, that there are only three of them. And while each makes significant use of the Infinite Forest, that doesn’t ease the issue so much as exacerbate it, leading to an overarching saminess despite some great, unique visual and systemic ideas on show elsewhere. Despite its introduction as a source of variety, after a day I am already slightly tired of the Infinite Forest.
Playing the long game
Heroic Adventure and Lost Prophecy completion come with a similar, progress-slowing system to Rise of Iron’s ‘One Iron Lord Artifact per week’ rule, which might lessen the feeling of repetition slightly, and the required materials can be picked up anywhere in the game – thankfully, given the core Mercury map’s rather diminutive size – but the scope does feel more like a stop-gap than a revolution. Ultimately the life injected by Curse of Osiris will also depend on the quality of new gear it introduces to the sandbox, and right now the jury is still out on both Lost Prophecy weapons, and the new Legendaries and Exotics to be acquired elsewhere.
Curse of Osiris also adds a couple of new Strikes to the playlist (both pulled from the expansion’s campaign), three new Crucible maps, and a new section of the Leviathan Raid. I’ve yet to test out the PvP and Raid elements, but impressions will be updated in due course. The Mercury destination also contains a new, set-piece Public Event known as Crossroads (which is of significant scale, playing like a brief, lightweight Raid encounter), and the expected (but small) array of hidden Lost Sectors and chests.
It’s worth noting though, that the freely explorable section of Mercury’s landmass is greatly reduced from its full scope. Much like the Infinite Forest, large swathes of the planet’s countryside are locked down except when accessed via Story missions and Adventures, leading to a somewhat restrictive, claustrophobic vibe. That might change in the future – one or two areas, for instance, feel primed for adaptation as Sparrow Racing League tracks, or a currently non-existent Horde mode – but as is always the case with new Destiny content, we’re just going to have to wait and see.