Destiny 2: Curse of Osiris review
Destiny 2: Curse of Osiris makes me wonder if this series really is cursed to repeat its mistakes. The first expansion for Bungie’s loot shooter sequel smacks so tartly of The Dark Below, the original Destiny’s own first and very worst expansion, that I want to tear my hair out at the unpleasant symmetry. The studio has had three years to learn how to do better. It has not.
The problems start with the DLC’s namesake. Osiris is a tremendously important figure in Destiny lore. There was a multiplayer mode named after him in the first game and everything. Once the most powerful Guardian--one of the super-beings players embody in Destiny--Osiris was exiled for asking “dangerous” questions about Earth’s pseudo-religious, space magic doctrine. He’s a rich vein to tap into Destiny’s fascinating background lore that never really surfaced in the first game, and it was all but bulldozed out of Destiny 2.
Osiris is on-screen for all of three minutes in this eponymous expansion. It’s just long enough for the revered and feared antihero to pat you on the head for saving the galaxy, just like nearly every speaking character in Destiny does after you blow up some mute, supposedly world-ending boss. Then Osiris bounces into a time portal, or something, without ever so much as mentioning what “blasphemy” was so bad that it got him banished to fight robots for a few hundred years.
Curse of Osiris deals out this stipend of story over a handful of single-player-friendly missions. Some of these are actually pretty good, bordering on the best single-player content of Destiny 2. But most of it is bad.
The low points can be traced back to the “Infinite Forest.” This semi-random zone, found on the newly playable planet of Mercury, is theoretically just what Destiny 2 needs. Bungie is clearly still having a helluva time generating stuff to do in its supposedly endlessly repeatable shooter. So bite-sized missions with a touch of randomness seem like a solid panacea.
In practice, though, the Infinite Forest might just be the most half-baked addition to any dollop of Destiny content yet. It might as well not even be random, for one. All that really changes are the composition of enemies and some floating platforms to cross between opening doors. You don’t even always have to fight the enemies, except for the few times when one of the doors is locked.
Each trip to the Infinite Forest revolves around these strings of mindless encounters and jumping for far too long. Then there’s one of a handful of mini-boss fights. What’s worse, the slightly shifting dungeon is tied into Destiny 2’s bolted-on “Adventure” system. As a result, it’s clunky to enter (you can’t just walk into its giant glowing entrance portal on Mercury without diverting to an NPC first) and the rewards are basically nil (besides unlocking an arcane and grind-y crafting system). That is basically all there is to know about the Infinite Forest--except for the all-encompassing ennui that comes with thinking about what could have been.
Sadly, the Infinite Forest chews up a lot of Curse of Osiris’s half-an-afternoon runtime. The bright spots of the story campaign, like a boss fight that has you catapulting yourself across an arena to dunk electric orbs, are dragged down by the chaff. That’s when a mission doesn’t recycle some area from the main game, of course. One of the “new” story missions is vanilla Destiny 2’s Pyramidion strike, beat-by-beat, except with the bosses stripped out.
Speaking of patrol zones, let’s talk about how bad Mercury is. The newly explorable area is maybe a quarter to one-third the size of Earth and Destiny 2’s other open areas. It sports just one public event, just one Lost Sector, and a handful of the same micro-missions, Patrols, that every other zone already has. And like The Taken King expansion’s Dreadnaught in the first game, you can’t tool around on your Sparrow hover-bike.
The Dreadnaught at least made up for that travel limitation with its layout. The crusty, cramped ship packed its nooks and crannies with secrets and unique activities that led to exclusive gear or bits of lore. Mercury is just hollow, unless its secrets are so well-hidden that I haven’t even seen a hint of them.
What’s even more disappointing is that Curse of Osiris shows snippets of potential here, as well. The Infinite Forest and bits of the story allow you to travel to Mercury in two alternate timelines. There’s the planet’s verdant past, full of golden grass, pink trees, and wide-open fields unlike almost anything else in Destiny. There’s also a possible future, where the time-traveling Vex robots have darkened our sun and fully converted our solar system into a massive machine. You get hectic glimpses of them in Mercury’s public event, behind all the gunfire and explosions, but I’d rather freely explore these unique areas.
Closing out the expansion are three new PVP maps, two new strikes, and a new bite-sized raid. Kind of.
PC and Xbox players only get two competitive maps, with the third being a timed PlayStation exclusive (which is nothing new for Destiny). The strike situation is a bit stranger, in that these “new” dungeons are actually just two of the story missions repurposed as cooperative activities. To be clear: these aren’t just the same zones from the campaign being played through in reverse with new enemies and bosses, as the original Destiny did once or twice. These are literally the same single-player missions bumped up as strikes--right down to sharing the same mission names.
Then there’s Eater of Worlds, Destiny 2’s first “raid lair.” This is a new room bolted onto the modular Leviathan, the base game’s existing raid, and takes a group of six players 30-60 minutes to beat. I’m all for the idea of more reasonably timed endgame content. It’s tough enough to congregate six players, on the same platform, at the appropriate level, without matchmaking. Getting them together to play Destiny 2’s hardest content for eight hours is wizardry. But the slim, single bit of endgame content is pretty disheartening when Curse of Osiris already has so little to sink your teeth into.
When The Dark Below expansion hit the first Destiny, it was so thin that it accentuated that game’s lack of content to keep players coming back. Three years later, the same thing is happening again--at the same not-so-low price of $20. The difference is that this time, Bungie can’t use inexperience as an excuse. This time it’s just the latest link in a disappointing pattern. This time I have to tell myself, if I’m going to keep investing my free time in Destiny 2, this might really be all there is and all there ever will be.