Destiny, Bungie’s mass-multiplayer online role-playing game first person shooter – or MMORPGFPS for short – experienced varying criticisms following its release in September this year. Whilst the storyline fell flat and most of the voice acting felt phoned-in, the strong, fluid gameplay and simple, intuitive RPG elements proved very addictive and sucked many players into grinding through what were essentially very repetitive and bland missions in order to acquire new armour and upgrades. Whilst the game was not everything we hoped for, Destiny continued to listen to the community’s concerns and gradually bring about changes. It was my personal hope that many of the grievances I had with the game would be rectified by The Dark Below DLC, the first expansion pack for the core game. At times, I thought it came close but ultimately it failed to reach the potential this game has.
The Dark Below storyline introduces itself through a ‘cinematic cutscene’ found in an icon floating near the Tower on the Orbit Navigation screen. In it, a freaky women, Eris Mora, with mysterious black ooze streaking down her face, tells of her ordeal attempting to kill Crota – a Hive go – and her personal tragedy of being the only survivor. She tasks you with finishing her mission; you are our last hope.
As a set-up, this sounds like an okay beginning, but the story does not progress anywhere from here. Instead, you seemingly run around, doing errands, repeating her mistakes and correcting a few others, with far greater ease then she suggests it will be. Each of the new missions follow the formula of the core story missions to the letter. “Go kill this thing. Now go kill this thing;” there certainly isn’t the variety I’d have hoped for.
The only praise I can think to give it is that there is a nice gradual feel of progress. Each story mission gets progressively harder, beginning at 25 and then reaching level 30 by the new Raid. Each task you are set works with the intention of better preparing yourself for your fight with Crota in the new Raid and to a degree, the missions feel to have a bit more purpose and immediate result, working your way towards another Raid, undoubtedly one of the most rewarding missions you’ll experience in Destiny as a whole.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of The Dark Below is it status as nothing more than fan service. Sure, there are more weapons, bounties, armour, mulitplayer maps and a higher level cap, but most of these additions are out of reach of most players yet to make headway into the ‘light levels’. Most of The Dark Below’s most enticing features, such as the new armour, weapons and the Raid, are totally out of reach for most players not so keen on grinding to get to the high enough level where earning these rewards are feasible. For this reason, I would only recommend someone to purchase the DLC if they are an avid player and have at least a level 26 or 27 character and plans to level it up further.
On the whole, the voice acting of Eris is okay, although not varied. The same lines of death and misery about her failed mission are repeated over and over and it becomes more tedious then sinister. Again, this seems more the fault of the script and direction then that of the actual voice actress.
Obviously the new missions in some newer regions of already familiar environments look just as impressive as they did in the core game, but it is worth mentioning the clever UI choices that make it easier to identify the new missions. A simple roman numeral ‘I’ icon denotes anything related to the expansion making it easy to locate all the additional content.
I’d also like to celebrate the darker atmosphere occasionally created in The Dark Below storyline. The Hive are by far my favourite enemies to fight as there is a creepy element to them, reminding me of the Flood from Halo. On occasions, the DLC works to create an eerie and sinister atmosphere, which I wish featured more prominently then it does in both the core game and The Dark Below DLC.
On the whole, the gameplay remains true to what we’ve already experience in Destiny. The Thrall, running zombie-like Hive feature more so then they did in the core game which provides some additional challenge and fast reflexes, especially in the harder difficulties.
Some nice new additions have been included too. The randomly spawning ‘Blades of Crota’ in Patrol missions drop their sword upon death, allowing you to wield the ‘relic’ much as you did in one of the story’s missions. It was nice to see this return as it was one of the standout moments of the core game.
The opening mission of the DLC was by far one of my favourites. The creepy elements returned, as did hordes of Thrall. Progressively harder bosses reflected the dark tone of the story and the final boss of this mission came with a handicap, a ‘dark burden’, that dramatically hindered your movement, making the game suddenly feel much more like a boss battle in a survival horror then the typical arena we’ve come to expect of the game.
These were features largely absent from the rest of the missions with the exception of the Raid, Crota’s End. Much like the core game, the Raid is really where the game shines, a combination of challenging enemies, exploration, navigation and puzzles (initially) that really demands teamwork. Unfortunately, to experience these Raid’s requires a lot of commitment to the game, lots of grinding and generally speaking, lots of cooperative gaming buddies.