Review: Destiny: The Dark Below

Posted 12 December 2014 by Chris Carter

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Having basically played the new Destiny expansion The Dark Below nonstop since launch, I’ve experienced everything it has to offer. That in itself is an issue, because although I have played more than the average person, to exhaust the content this early isn’t a good sign.

While Destiny feels just as great as ever, perhaps even more-so due to the design of a few mechanics herein, I can’t help but feel underwhelmed just like I did back in September.

Destiny: The Dark Below (PS3, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox 360, Xbox One)
Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Activision 
Released: December 9, 2014
MSRP: $19.99 (Season Pass $34.99)

At this point I’ve played the new Strike multiple times (two weekly heroics and two Nightfalls), and I’m happy with how it holds up in the normal rotation. It’s nice to see the Hive represented, and although the first half is a re-used zone from Earth, I happen to like that area, and it works well with the Strike format.

I also like that the boss, Omnigul, fits right into the new theme and is worked directly into the story. Although more or less a super Wizard, it still fits better than most other Strike bosses. As I stated previously, the new PS4 exclusive Strike is useless, short, and I likely will never play it again by choice; it also will never appear as a weekly event since Xbox owners can’t access it (though it will show up in the Roc playlist). So much for all that boasting by Sony.

I spent an entire afternoon with PVP in the new temporary DLC playlist, and I’m happy with the maps overall. Cauldron still holds up as my top pick, and possibly my favorite map in general. I love the underground aesthetic, as it reminds me of Bungie’s Halo glory days. Pantheon’s design holds up as well with its long hallways, and is perfect for shotgun and sniper enthusiasts alike. It also pairs perfectly with my new 4th Horseman Exotic shotgun. Skywatch is a mixed bag because it can still come up on lower-count playlists, and it’s absolutely terrible when it’s not populated. It should have been smaller, or Bungie should have upped the total player count in PVP.

The entire gear meta has changed, and it’s a bit easier to follow now. To get level 31 you’ll need to have every piece of gear at +33, or one Raid/Exotic piece at +36 and all but one piece at +33. To reach the new level cap of 32, you have to have everything at +36. Simple. You can buy +33 gear from vendors if you have the marks, which allows most players to work their way towards 30 and beyond even if they’re just starting out.

Bungie claims that armor drops have been improved in the new raid, and I can corroborate anecdotally. My Warlock had his chest drop, and my Titan got his gauntlets and chest. With a combination of a new Xur Exotic upgrade, raid gear, and Vanguard marks, I now have two level 31 characters. Of course, your mileage my vary. But even though you may get said top-end gear, the grind is real because of new Radiant Materials and the new rank-four reputation Eris materials. You’ll need 21 Radiant Shards per piece to upgrade to level 32, and currently I only have two.

You can’t get them anywhere but the raid currently, so until Bungie updates the game to unlock them in other ways, you’ll have to grind out the raid at least once per week to hope for a portion of a raid piece upgrade. Still, I like this new system more than the old one because it rewards you more often and then forces you to work for it on your own time, which is much better than the sparing drops Bungie had in the Vault of Glass.

Exotics can also be upgraded at Xur, which is a terrible process as expected. For starters, you have to hope your item is on Xur’s RNG table. I got lucky with my Warlock, and I’m level 31 as of today. A lot of my friends weren’t so lucky, and because of the mark cap, they cannot possibly get to level 31 unless they earn a piece of gear by luck through an Engram. It’s a weird system.

Why didn’t Bungie just allow you to upgrade any Exotic you want, but make the process extremely difficult to do? Say, from a set of rotating Exotic bounties that will take several days? That way the questlines would still be engaging, it would be something different, and everyone could work towards upgrading their favorite items eventually instead of relying on RNG. That’s Bungie for you, though.

In terms of the pack’s art design, I’ve actually gotten used to the green-tinted aesthetic of The Dark Below. It’s themed well, and I never thought I’d like the Hive this much. I also hope Dinklebot never comes back. I really wish there was more though, because although the DLC does have a lot of tender love and care, it doesn’t have enough to justify the asking price.

Again, playing all of this content, underwhelming or not, was consistently fun throughout. I still love jump canceling my Warlock hover to get into a perfect position, and everything from aiming down your sights to hip-firing just feels great. Like I’ve said in the past, it’s jarring to go to any other shooter after playing Destiny. It also must be said that the launch went off without a hitch. The bulk of the content was downloaded a week before, so when I logged on at 5AM EST to play, it instantly loaded and I was playing the DLC. For around 10 minutes I thought it was glitched.

Alas, The Dark Below needed more to truly sell itself to most of the fanbase. Four Strikes, not two, would have been about right. Crota’s End is fun, but I feel like it was shorter than Vault of Glass, and it was a bit easier to pick up. I’m not too sure on the longevity of this raid either unless Bungie has something special up its sleeve for January’s hard mode.

For now, there’s an easy test to judge whether or not you should pick up The Dark Below: did you play Destiny from launch all the way up until the first expansion? If so, you’ll want to get it as soon as possible. If your enthusiasm has faltered over the past few months and you never really got into the first raid, you can wait or pick up the Season Pass at a later date after more incremental improvements have been made.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]



Slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy them a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.

About The Author
Chris Carter
Managing Editor - Chris has been enjoying Destructoid avidly since 2008. He finally decided to take the next step in January of 2009 blogging on the site. Now, he's staff!
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