Destiny 2's first DLC is great fan service, but can't be expected to fix the endgame single-handed

The Curse of Osiris is in an impossible position. Destiny 2's first expansion is billed, correctly, as an injection of new story missions and gear to collect, with the added hook of an additional planetary destination, Mercury, to explore. The glassy architecture and sun-fried vistas provide the perfect backdrop to discover the truth behind the disappearance of Osiris, the most powerful warlock in Destiny lore, who was previously banished because, well, evil robot reasons. 

So, what's the problem? The issue is one of expectations. As Tom noted in his review, Destiny 2 houses around 100 hours of primo space shooting before you start bouncing off the sides. It's around that point it becomes clear that the endgame grind is actually nothing of the sort. Most players will have hit the level cap and collected, if not every piece of gear, then certainly enough of the relevant weapons that chasing for any stragglers feels irrelevant. (If you're still somehow struggling, our guides will help.)

Couple that with a certain amount of player dissatisfaction with the way key systems work—weapon modding is underwhelming, loot tokens rely too heavily on RNG—and the pressure on Osiris to fix all perceived wrongs with Destiny 2 starts to look unbearable, particularly given that the DLC was in development before its parent game shipped leaving little time for the developers to respond to feedback. For that, we'll need to wait to see if the Live Team can make good on its shopping list of quality of life improvements. Some of those should arrive as part of the balance patch that's set to accompany the launch of Destiny 2's second 'Season', which will hit some time before Curse of Osiris lands on 5 December.

It's unreasonable to think a DLC released just over a month from the PC launch is going to be the silver bullet that solves everything.

I offer all this as context, and to acknowledge that there are broad issues with the way Destiny 2's endgame (or lack thereof) works right now. However it's unreasonable to think a DLC released just over a month from the PC launch is going to be the silver bullet that solves everything. For the rest of this piece I'll be focusing purely on Curse of Osiris' campaign, which I played on PS4 at Bungie's office last week. You can check out console gameplay of the first mission below, with commentary from me. I've kept things as spoiler-free as possible throughout, and will also be desperately trying not to break an NDA so complicated that a space sphinx may well have written it.

Curse of Osiris begins a few months after the events of the Red War from the main game. Ikora Rey, the warlock vanguard, summons your guardian to the tower to reveal that her network of 'Hidden' spies have found Osiris' ghost along with strange reports emanating from Mercury. Osiris is the dude dressed like a bird in the trailer, and had been thought lost forever to the Vex gate network. For those who haven't drunk deep of the lore Kool-Aid, the Vex are a machine race (though they do have goopy liquid brains) who are able to manipulate space, time, and almost certainly the lottery numbers. 

For players like me whose first experience of raiding was the Vex-themed Vault of Glass from Destiny 1, they are also the coolest bad guys, in no small part thanks to the ominous synth soundtrack that accompanies their arrival.

Bringing vexy back

So for fans you've got a pretty much perfect soup of subject matter. Mercury is a startling looking playspace thanks to the vast sun dominating the sky and the Egyptian-flavored architecture, which meshes beautifully with the clash of future tech and collapsed culture that Bungie's art team has always done so well. Telling the discrete story of a simple but powerful threat—Vex from every timeline are converging to Vexify all versions of the future, the consequences of which we're shown by Osiris in a cool a flash forward in which the Sun is dead—alongside fleshing out one of the game's most intriguing characters is a good fit for the small expansion format, and as ever the action itself isn't in doubt.

*BLEEP...BLOOP...TIME IS A FLAT CIRCLE...BLEEP*

In terms campaign length, I saw eight missions, two of which are substantial enough that they're going to be added to the Strike pool, and you can reasonably expect to play through it in a solid session. I sense some fans may find the duplication of the story missions as strikes disappointing, so I asked project lead Sam Jones about it. "If you remember the director map from Destiny 1, we had strikes featured as part of the destination as a discrete standalone activity," he said, "and it complimented the overall story for a given destination. What we're doing is akin to that. It's not exactly the same, but it's a natural evolution." 

It's true that for The Taken King, the Sunless Cell and Shield Brothers strikes were woven into the main story. Jones added: "We also feel like our strike activities are some of our most expensive, most well-produced content. Not everyone gets to play that that much, so we want to put [these strikes] front-and-center to try and make sure more people can access that content and see it as a part of the mainstream campaign."

What comes after Osiris

Curse of Osiris is the first of two DLC expansions included in the Destiny 2 season pass. The second, which is currently unnamed, will arrive sometime next spring. We know that it will revolve around the Warminds (a network of vast supercomputers intended to protect the solar system), and internet sleuths have deduced that the character in the art may be Ana Bray, a legendary hunter gunslinger who has never been shown in-game. 

Of that campaign, there's nothing that I can point to and say Destiny has never done this before. It's waves of enemies, some light puzzling, and bosses with varying attack patterns, but all wrapped up in the buttery gunplay, gorgeous art design, and fizzy pyrotechnic effects that keeps fans playing long after they've left other shooters behind. As for actual new mechanics, there is one mission that very gently introduces some Sparrow jumps (ie speeder bikes), and some even lighter randomisation to the way you encounter enemies. 

This randomisation happens in the Infinite Forest area on Mercury, which is a 'reality engine' that simulates endless worlds, created by the Vex in order to better understand their opponents. Enemies in the Forest draw from all of Destiny's antagonists, do very real damage, and may appear in different orders and locations with each playthrough. Essentially imagine small encounters, which are the 'trees', being snapped together like Lego to get a sense of it.

The Infinite Forest is a nice, and very Vexy touch, if not exactly Spelunky goes sci-fi. Chances are unless you run the campaign several times you won't notice it too much. It should be noted, however, that not all of the campaign takes place on Mercury. You'll also revisit other destinations from Destiny 2, such as the Pyramidion on Io, and jump around in time, as you track down what happened to the awol warlock.

Ghost 2

What binds this whistlestop campaign together, other than the quality of the gunplay, is the interest created by the new characters and their performances. Meeting Osiris doesn't disappoint—he's just the right amounts of inscrutable and arrogant, without being annoying. Lore nerds will also be delighted to learn that the campaign explains how Osiris is able to be in multiple places at once, though I won't spoil that here. It's just a shame not to spend any real time fighting alongside him.

The Vex use a network of gates to traverse space and time. Suck it, Uber.

You do spend a significant amount of time in combat with Sagira, his ghost, who [very mild spoiler incoming] hijacks your own ghost early in the story. She's voiced playfully by Homeland's Morena Baccarin, without ever slipping into the full on banterfest that sometimes made Nolan North's performance tiresome. I found there's something satisfying about the notion that every Guardian has a bespoke ghost with its own foibles and sense of humor, so I'd like to see Bungie play with the idea more in future.

The item description on The Colony includes the line: "We’ve made some messed up things in the past…"

Over the course of the campaign we also get to meet Brother Vance, a disciple of Osiris who it turns out has never actually met the man, but isn't about to let that stop him going full Scientologists-in-space in service of him. He acts as the vendor on Mercury, based in a new version of the Lighthouse from Destiny 1, which was previously only open to the best PvP players. I'm honor-bound not to get deep into the specifics of the new loot in Curse of Osiris, but let me give you a few highlights I picked up during the campaign:

  1. From the Vanguard I received a new 450 RPM autorifle with the 'Kill Clip' perk on it that might be nasty enough to replace my Uriel's Gift, especially in PvE.
  2. Those weathered looking guns are 'destination weapons' (see image below) which will be earned from subquests after the Curse of Osiris campaign has been completed. They're absolutely gorgeous and perfectly capture the lost in time vibe.
  3. I did manage to snag one exotic during my playthrough, a Veist grenade launcher called The Colony which you can briefly see here. It uses insectoid robot grenades, which scurry around looking for a target if you miss your initial shot. Which, it being a grenade launcher, you often will. Still, I have to say I grinned every time I fired it. The reload animation even has a frame of hesitation in it, which is either because the clip is magnetic, or your guardian is unsure about handling living 'nades. Either way it looks sweet. 

Bespoke guns and armor will be earned by completing subquests on Mercury once you've vanquished the Vex.

Deliciously, the item description on The Colony includes the line: "We’ve made some messed up things in the past…" Curse of Osiris itself is definitely not messed up. What it is, is more Destiny 2. Which, depending on how you currently feel about the base game, will either be a cool drink of  water in an especially salty desert, or just another reason to grouse about unwanted console hand-me-downs in our comments section. 

Without being able to speak freely about the rest of the new stuff in the expansion, I can't give an overall endorsement of Osiris as a package yet, or how much there will be to do once you hit the new level cap of 335 power. I'm particularly interested to learn more about the new 'Raid Lair', which will place additional encounters, including a different final boss, into the huge world-eating Leviathan spaceship. From what was revealed on Bungie's stream today, it sounds like the new Lair will be a quicker but no less brutal experience. And the good news is it will come with a new loot pool. Another Lair will also be added with the second expansion in spring, and to be honest this is more than I was expecting when Bungie cryptically referred to new raid content. 

Returning to the Curse of Osiris campaign, what I can say today is that these missions flesh out the universe nicely and shed light on some of its most interesting corners. Which, as expectations for small expansions go, seems more than reasonable to me.