Destiny 2 is different from the original Destiny in some ways and similar in others, but one thing obviously didn’t change by putting a numbered sequel out into the world. This is a game that has a way of creating two problems even as it solves one, and the four year history of the franchise is one of constant conflict — and occasional cooperation — between developer and community. The game is in a tough spot right now: players were already less than happy with what they saw as an accelerated endgame that left them with too little to do too quickly, and recent revelations concerning intentionally stifled progress that appeared to be in service of microtransactions haven’t helped anything. Player activity appears to have gone down significantly since launch, and many of the top-tier activities lack the sort of breadth or joy that we saw towards the end of the original Destiny. Which is to say: this is the Destiny we know and love to hate, a complicated mass of interlocking systems that often feel alternately exhilarating and exhausting. But that could be all about to change…or not.
Next week, Destiny 2 gets its first major punctuation mark in the form of Curse of Osiris, the first major content drop since launch save the Raid. Historically, Curse of Osiris has a comically low bar to clear: Destiny’s first expansion came with a Raid and a Strike but not much else, vastly overcomplicating an already headache-inducing loot system while it was at it. The Dark Below is not a well-remembered expansion by any means, and so Bungie at the very least appears poised to beat that. But the pressure here goes past that: Curse of Osiris should handily be able to re-engage the player base with a new raft of content, but the real trick will be whether or not Curse of Osiris is able to keep those returning players around for the grind once they run out of story content.
On a basic level, Curse of Osiris looks generous. We have the usual level cap increase, as well as the usual suite of new weapons and armor for the collectors out there. There will be new story missions, new strikes, new weapons quests — much of what we’ve come to expect, even if story content will now be held to the higher standard of Destiny 2. We’re also getting some broader content, however. Curse of Osiris will come with a new Patrol Zone called “The Infinite Forest,” folding in some of the Vex’s time-traveling capabilities to give us different versions of the space in different times, hopefully allowing for a little more variability than usual. The Infinite Forest also comes with a new Social Space in the form of the Lighthouse, previously off-limits to anyone who didn’t go flawless in the original Destiny’s Trials of Osiris. We’re also getting a “Raid Lair” which is meant to add in new challenges to the Leviathan Raid meant to provide some endgame-level activities that don’t take as long as the full Raid.
The Infinite Forest and the Raid Lair will be where this content is really judged: the variability here points to an effort to extend the endgame with activities that feel consistently engaging in a way that running the same Nightfall strikes over and over again doesn’t always (as a side note, timed Nightfall strikes are basically the reason I have a hard time keeping up with this game). Bungie has been clear that we’re not getting procedural generation ala Diablo 3, but it does seem to be pointing towards challenges that aren’t quite as static as what we see in the game now. That could be huge: if the Infinite Forest really does feel different depending on what I’m doing in it, I might be much more likely to show up week after week to see what it’s up to. The Raid Lair, too, sounds interesting: Raids are some of my favorite things to do in this game, but Leviathan too often feels like a tedious job. Something a little quicker and a little less ponderous could be a welcome improvement, and overall I like the idea of spending more time in Calus’ lavishly appointed palace.
We’ll see how successful it can be. Extending the endgame is about two things: first, Bungie has to provide content that feels consistently satisfying and entertaining as the hours stretch into weeks and months. Second, and just as importantly, we need to have an in-game economy that makes these activities feel consistently rewarding. The second is a real balancing act — we can’t feel like the entire game is a thankless grind, but we need to also to feel driven to play for rewards even once we’ve already been playing for a month. Many felt that Destiny 2’s launch economy leaned too hard into the accessibility side of things, doling out top-level rewards at a rate that made the endgame feel a little flat. Expect tweaks here, even if they’re not evident right at the outset. Curse of Osiris has been in development since before these issues became apparent, but it still represents an opporunity to shuffle things around.
Destiny has been here before. The initial release brought with it a wave of complaints that were barely addressed with the first expansion, and it wasn’t until The Taken King that the game turned around what were largely seen to be flagging fortunes. We’ll have to wait to see if the community has this same kind of patience this time around, however. Destiny 2 is an infinitely better version of the game than the original Destiny was at launch, but players have higher expectations this time around, and it stings to lose some of those quality of life improvements Destiny had incorporated by Rise of Iron. The thought of starting over again and waiting for the game to re-orient itself once more is sort of exhausting.
I don’t doubt that Curse of Osiris will provide me with a week or two of traditional Destiny fun, which you could argue is worth the purchase price alone. But the community has spoken, and the community wants a game that stretches itself out more effectively than Destiny 2 does right now. Curse of Osiris represents the first major opportunity to make changes, and people are going to want improvements. If the game winds up with some of the same problems it does now, player bleed might get to be a big problem for a game meant to last for years.
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