Although Destiny is the top selling new video game franchise of the year, Bungie’s sci-fi epic received flack from gamers around the world expecting a more open-world experience. Prior to launch, Bungie and Activision announced plans for the first two expansions to the game, the first being The Dark Below. At a premium price point, the expansion can be purchased separately for $19.99 or in the Expansion Pass to shave a few dollars off overall. Seeing how the addictive cooperative experience has set its fangs deep within me the same way Diablo III took over my life for months on end, I anticipated the thought of new story missions, weapons and the challenge of a new 6-player raid.
Besides the current Vault of Glass raid (watch us take down Atheon) and various competitive PvP game types in the Crucible, Destinyis arguably short in terms of content. Although the replay value is high due to the allure of new exotic weapons and raid gear, everything is left to luck and he can certainly be a pain in the ass. I, along with other members of the SelectButton team, have vanquished Atheon from the Vault of Glass numerous times, but I never received a single piece of raid armor. The Dark Below wipes the slate clean with the inclusion of two additional levels and new vendor gear that will outperform current raid gear.
The Dark Below drew people in starving for content with the tease of a new challenge, Crota’s End, along with (more importantly) improved smarter loot drops. Getting the same item multiple times in the same attempt at a raid leaves a sour taste in anyone’s mouth, especially with the lack of player to player trading. The three new Crucible maps are only playable on two special playlists – Clash and Rumble at the moment. Control variations of the maps will be available at a later date. With Control being the most popular mode, not having the new maps available at launch was a poor decision. Not to mention there are no non-vehicular versions of some current maps that can be added to the small Control playlist.
Logging into Destiny only an hour after the launch of the expansion, I had no connection problems or lag during my entire play session. The new Hive focused story missions tie together nicely with the missions leading up to the cooperative Strike, The Will of Crota, and eventually into the raid to face Crota himself. The narrative in Destiny felt incomplete and lacking, with only a handful of story based sequences throughout the entire game. The new missions carry on the same trend, with Eris Morn providing a brief introduction while you make your way to each mission. Two of the three story missions can be replayed, while the first new quest you pick up will disappear from the map after completion. While they are labeled as story missions, they are actually bounties that take up a slot on your normal bounty list. Eris also has a handful of bounties to complete in order to gain reputation to purchase new emblems and more.
Without question, the highlight for the expansion is the new raid – although it was beaten in less than 24 hours. Bungie has adjusted the way loot has been handled, and more importantly the requirements for leveling up raid gear. Instead of using the Ascendant Shards, which are used for many items, the new raid gear can only be leveled up using drops that are unique to the raid. If you never got the chance to reach level 30 to access the raid, you can purchase new vendor gear (with light 33) that allows you to reach level 31.
Anyone that didn’t purchase the expansion realized they are now locked out of certain content. When the Weekly and Nightfall missions feature The Dark Below missions, non-purchasers won’t be able to complete either the Weekly or Nightfall. While Bungie could have done it differently, it appears Bungie will be pushing for a high conversion percentage. Speaking of modified content, the Strike playlist will only feature engrams for rewards when playing the Expansion playlist.
As it was in the original release of Destiny, The Dark Below features timed exclusives that can only be found on PlayStation consoles (until Fall 2015). The Undying Mind strike takes players further into The Black Garden to face a timeless Vex Hydra. The strike is a tad on the lengthy side and features multiple spots where you face incoming waves of Vex. The final showdown against the Undying Mind (the third Hydra boss in the game) features three force fields. The 4th Horseman, an exotic shotgun, is the other PlayStation exclusive. This four barreled shotgun can quickly eat away at foes, if you are lucky enough to have it drop.
Although a certain other Activision series has no problem releasing a multiplayer map pack at a high price point, the premium price of The Dark Below would be acceptable if it wasn’t thin on content.
Note: The Destiny: The Dark Below review was written based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game.