Last week, Bungie’s first weekly stream building up to the release of the Curse of Osiris expansion for Destiny 2 focused on the story elements, after which I gave my spoiler-free impressions of the campaign. This week’s stream, which you can watch in full above, took a look at Mercury. It's the new sun-blasted destination in the DLC, which will feature the usual gamut of public events, adventure side quests and a lost sector—everything we’ve come accustomed to from Destiny 2's planetary patrol zones.
However, judging by the reaction so far, it seems like much of the player base is more interested in hearing about what quality of life improvements from this shopping list are going to be made by the live team in time for the start of season 2, the advent of which will happen around the time Curse of Osiris launches (likely just before).
We didn't see or hear about whether the token system for loot will be tweaked, how weapon mods might be improved, or any other systemic changes in today's stream, and until we do it's fair to assume that the audience is going to remain skeptical about being drip-fed the expansion’s new features without knowing how the base game is set to change. Nonetheless, let’s go over the new stuff, because from what I've played plenty of it is going to be fun, if not Traveller-shatteringly different to what we've seen from Destiny 2 so far.
I had a chance to goof around on Mercury a couple of weeks ago as a guest at Bungie HQ, from which I captured a bunch of footage. Sadly that got corrupted, so the person playing in the video below is actually from the studio. Which is good news, given that they managed to explore the new Lost Sector, which you can see around the 1'40" mark in the video below.
Note that I said Lost Sector singular. There’s only one. In fact, the area of Mercury that’s available to freely explore—ie the space in which you pick up patrols, plus Bro Vance’s bachelor pad—is smaller than Titan. Which would be pretty bad news, but for the fact that lurking beyond that big triangular vex doorway is the Infinite Forest—a different kind of zone to anything we’ve seen in Destiny 2 before.
Like many players, I had assumed the Infinite Forest to be some kind of procedurally-generated horde mode activity. It’s not, although it does borrow some procedural trappings without being anywhere near as random. You’ll first encounter the Forest during the campaign, where it plays a key part in several missions. After that, you’ll access it via the Adventure side quests which are picked up in the usual way—ie from beacons—on Mercury. Unfortunately Bungie wouldn’t tell me how many of these there are, but we did learn on stream that there will be Heroic difficulty versions, with special modifiers and correspondingly powerful rewards. It's not clear if Heroic modifiers are coming to the base game adventures too, but I wouldn't bet on it. Not yet at least.
As for the Forest itself, each trip through it will see you traverse a series of platforms suspended in mid-air, populated by enemies drawn from the four races in the game, and these platforms are snapped together like Lego pieces to give the illusion that there are, if not quite infinite, certainly a lot of possible paths. How replayable these Adventures actually are will likely depend on the quality of the rewards. Almost nobody I play with bothers doing the Adventures currently, despite them being fun, because the loot is so sub-par, and like it or not that's what fundamentally drives player activity in a grind game.
For the Forest I would have liked to see Bungie go all-in on something actually procedural, or better yet enabled players to create and share their own paths. That kind of user-generated idea is probably a little ambitious for an expansion so early in Destiny 2’s life cycle, but ultimately Bungie's designers relaxing their grip a little might be a good thing.
The Adventure shown on stream was called "The Up and Up", and climaxed with what was described as an "end cap" area, where the fireteam left the Forest and found themselves in a larger area, now located in a dark future where the sun has burned out and the Vex rule. It sounded like these end caps can also take you to the past, or present, (I visited the past in the campaign, but am sworn to secrecy on it), which is explained because the Infinite Forest is designed to enable the Vex to explore the consequences of endless timelines.
A different kind of forge mode...
On the subject of rewards, we also learned a little more about how to snag those sweet busted-up looking guns that have featured in much of the promotional material. The reason they look old timey, as explained by art director Dave Matthews, is that these are the guns which Osiris smuggled out of the Last City when he was banished way back when. In the intervening years they've been upgraded with jury-rigged Vex tech. These look great and you’re going to want to get them.
Doing so involves a few steps, first of which is acquiring a 'verse' from Brother Vance, the disciple of Osiris who serves as the vendor on Mercury. We were told there are 11 in total, each corresponding to a unique new weapon, and from the look of his inventory he’ll be offering three verses per week, much like Ikora does with her meditations. With verse in hand, you must collect specific materials, which are earned by completing specific activities—in the example given this meant successfully finishing a public event and doing a couple of strikes.
Once you've got that stuff, it’s back to Vance’s bedroom to forge the weapon at his big ol’ forging machine. Hopefully there will be a suitably thematic exotic for completing the full set. It’s grindy, but given that many of us have been complaining about a lack of incentivised activities (which is a fancy way of saying grind), I’m really looking forward to this.
You’ll also be able to see whether one of the new Public Events is happening from the vantage point of Vance’s window (I told you Mercury is small). Bungie boasts the Vex Crossroads is its biggest and most complex public event so far, and though I only managed to catch the end of one during my session, all the boost jumping and orb dunking seemed like good, hectic fun. You can see how it plays out starting from 6'23" in the gameplay video.
The event is also billed by Bungie as the most rewarding, because you’ll open two chests for completing the Heroic version. Unfortunately, on stream the players only pulled a couple of tokens and a blue-rarity item out, awkwardly underlining the issues with endgame rewards as they stand.
There’s one more stream to go before the December 5 release of Curse of Osiris. That stream will focus on the loot players can earn in the expansion, including new exotics and the 'Raid Lair' armor, which you can watch on November 28 at 11 am PST/2 pm PST. Due to Thanksgiving, Bungie's weekly blog update has also been brought forward to tomorrow.
I wouldn’t hold my breath in expectation of getting any balance patch info in there, but hopefully the studio is listening and can incorporate some of the live team's work into next week’s stream. Otherwise they can probably expect more reactions like this, from Destiny streamer Gothalion, who seems less than delighted that Vance's forge will still spit out weapons with fixed perk rolls. Amen, brother.