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A journey to meet a Vanguard legend in an expansion that somehow makes Destiny 2 feel smaller
I’m grinding away on Mercury, the new destination planet in Destiny 2’ s recent Curse Of Osiris expansion. I’m hammering public events, and seeking out chests during the downtime between them, in order to farm Radiolarian Culture. You see, I’m working toward earning the next of the expansion’s signature Forge weapons. They’re distinct, Vex-themed weapons, and demand a whole bunch of resource materials to craft. There are ten of them, they’re only available from Brother Vance on Mercury, and attaining them makes up the bulk of the endgame in Curse Of Osiris.
This process is not new to me. I’ve been exploring patrol spaces and grinding mats since the early, bad old days of the original Destiny, when the economies were all out of whack, and reloading a gun required 30 Spinmetal and an Ascendant Shard (okay, this isn’t completely true, but at times it felt like it). By farming events and collecting random crap I’ve completed many an Exotic questline, upgraded an arsenal of bizarre, wonderful guns to nigh planet-cracking power, and fashioned more than a couple of cool Christmas presents along the way. But now, for the first time in nearly three and a half years, I’m wondering just why I’m doing any of this.
It’s the realization of the Forge weapons’ disappointing nature that finally pushes me over the edge. Because, one or two stand-out exceptions aside, none of them are particularly special at all, except in terms of their (admittedly fantastic) aesthetic design. That cool-looking sub machine gun? Not as good as the Antiope-D I’ve been using for months. That awesome-looking scout rifle? Not as good as the Nameless Midnight I’ve had since week two. And so it continues. It’s a bad situation in isolation, made worse by the secondary realization that it doesn’t exist in isolation at all. Because
Curse Of Osiris, rather than being the refreshing reignition that Destiny 2 somewhat troublingly needed just three month into its life, actually rather crystalizes and compounds all of the problems the game still has.
That increasingly worn content selection? There’s a neat metaphor for that in the expansion’s weak, three-hour story, padded as it is with return visits to pre-existing locations, and never-ending, uneventful re-runs through the Endless Forest, Osiris’ new, randomly-generated combat area, which book-ends nearly every mission and Strike in the add-on. The Forest is a neat idea, a Matrix-style Vex simulation of abstract, platforming- driven architecture, and randomized enemies, but after a few runs it becomes desperately samey. It initially gives all of Osiris’ story-driven material a fresh, otherworldly feel, but within an evening I’m sighing with the monotony of it, and every player I’m matched with in Strike playlists is simply sprinting through to get it over with.
Squandered potential? That one is summed up nicely by the Mercury overworld—which is roughly the size of a big PvP map and contains very little to do—and the Endless Forest itself, which has vast scope as an endgame challenge area, à la The Archon’s Forge or Prison of Elders, but is used as no such thing. Mercury has long been a special place in Destiny lore. Its Lighthouse was the near-
mythical reward for the best of the best Trials of Osiris players. It was the base of Osiris’ clandestine operations after exile from the Tower, the place from which it was hinted (for years) that the genius heretic would one day return, to shake things right up when the time was right. Now, with the Traveler awake, the Vanguard looking for new direction, and the Speaker’s lies revealed, the stage was set for a seismic shudder. But for some reason, Osiris has been re-written as just some weird old crank, Vance is now an awkward fanboy, played for cynical laughs, and none of it seems to mean much at all.
As for Destiny 2’ s decidedly watered down, static, and comparatively unexciting sandbox of gear, progression systems, and minimized role-playing elements in comparison to those of its predecessor, you can feel that everywhere in Curse Of Osiris. From the meaningless reward of the pedestrian Forge Weapons, to the influx of recycled—but depressingly downgraded—Exotics from the first game, to the near total lack of meaningful new activities, Destiny
2’ s attainable gear (and the means it presents to attain it) delivers little in the way of long-term compulsion.
“The ever-passionate Destiny community is somehow both bored and furious”
Clearly, Destiny 2 is in trouble right now. It took a while for the changes to really kick in, amid the highs of the launch game’s barnstorming, almost Halo- standard narrative campaign, the refreshed, more tactical Crucible, and the never-better, ceaseless joy of Destiny’s core, moment-tomoment gameplay. But now, as we trek ahead into the long-term game, where role-playing intrigue, cool, game-changing gear perks, creative character builds, and long searches for (literally) legendary, well-hidden guns should pick up the baton, it’s becoming clear that the sequel’s simplification has stripped away too much, leaving little exciting endgame aspiration of any sort of depth. The ever-passionate Destiny community is somehow both bored and furious. But it isn’t without hope. After a tad too long without comment, Bungie has responded. No doubt prompted by the boiling-point dissent over Christmas, the studio has dropped a vast list of pledged, incoming improvements, from vault space, to weapon design, to PvP match-making, to endgame activity offerings. The proposed changes sound good. The proposed changes sound like the game Destiny 2 should have been in the first place, actually.
They’re not going to drop overnight, mind. Bungie’s roll-out schedule runs from late January to the fall. But it feels like we might be turning a corner. The extremely picky Destiny subreddit is tentatively showing signs of excitement, after months resembling a maudlin support group. Bungie’s Christopher Barrett, now taking charge of things as the live team steps up, has been as talkative and reassuring over the last few days as the studio overall has in weeks. He’s saying all the right things, and he’s doing so with passion. Things have been rough in Destiny 2, but it’s always darkest before the dawn (or perhaps during the Dawning). Be brave, Guardians. The best might very well still be ahead.
above You can find out more about Bungie’s future plans for Destiny 2 on page 12. below Holy crap, a giant metal bird is eating that guy! Oh no, sorry, it’s just a hat. False alarm, guys.