Destiny-dark-belowIt has become a sad state of affairs when the best thing about Destiny’s The Dark Below expansion is the lack of Peter Dinklage.

Destiny was to be one of, if not THE biggest game of 2014, but technical issues have been the least of the game’s problems. The launch was rocky, but this year has seen enough troubled launches that it is but a small detail. Bigger issues not only exist, but persist within the game. Unfortunately, the game’s first expansion and accompanying changes have not only failed to fix those issues, but have, in some chases, exacerbated them.

One of the first things The Dark Below did was to raise the level cap from 30 to 32 for players. However, Bungie made a somewhat ill-fated decision to take that as an opportunity to raise the difficulty upon the weekly Heroic and Nightfall strikes by two levels as well. This stands to reason in that you as a player will be two levels stronger, therefore your enemies should be as well; so that balanced is maintained. The problem with this is that Bungie took to institute this change a day before the expansion’s release, a time at which the best a player could be is equal to the new level 30 of the weekly events. Many players were not even at level 30 when the change was made, thus making their disadvantage even greater.

destiny-tdb-invectiveAlong with changes to the level cap came changes to weapons. At first this sounds exciting, but further details would render this to be another point of frustration. The Exotic weapons that players came to covet are now less powerful than the new lower level legendary weapons added. Quick to respond though, Bungie made clear that these Exotics could be upgraded to be more powerful. These upgrades do come with a heavy price, as it will cost you an Exotic Shard, glimmer, and force the player to complete the upgrade process on the weapon all over again; including all the materials needed to do so.

Speaking of materials, Destiny has become bloated with items of currency. The shear number of things that you have to either earn or spend is absurd. With the expanded content, the list of these currencies expanded as well. Just take a look at the known currencies at this time:

  • XP
  • Glimmer
  • Motes of Light
  • Strange Coins
  • Spinmetal
  • Helium
  • Spirit Blooms
  • Relic Iron
  • Weapon Parts
  • Hadronic Essence
  • Plasteel Plating
  • Sapphire Wire
  • Ascendant Energy
  • Ascendant Shards
  • Exotic Shards
  • Crucible Reputation
  • Crucible Commendations
  • Crucible Marks
  • Vanguard Reputation
  • Vanguard Commendations
  • Vanguard Marks
  • Iron Banner Reputation
  • Radiant Energy
  • Radiant Shards
  • Crota’s Bane
  • Runed Shards

destiny-tdb-armorIf the weapon changes were not enough, armor for your character has become an equal state of confusion. The announced level 32 first came into question when the hard mode raid was announced to be a level 33 event. It becomes more questionable when the legendary gear you can now buy is listed as level 33. If you are still holding on to that Exotic armor like it was your favorite blanket from childhood, you best be prepared to take it through the same upgrade process we discussed for the weapons earlier because it is now less effective than the new armor you can buy. What makes this really a slap in the face for hardcore players is that their once boss Raid Gear can now be out classed simply be purchasing better gear.

The quest to purchase the newer, better gear is not as simple as one would hope; as the expansion has also changed this. Not only will you need Vanguard or Crucible Marks to purchase from your respective representative, you will also need a corresponding commendation. How do you get commendations? You’ll have to play events like strikes or Crucible matches to earn them for each. Part of the problem with this is that there is still a weekly limit on how many marks each character can earn.

Take the new chest armor as an example. You’ll need 120 marks and one commendation. Even if you have the marks in your character’s bank, you need to earn the reputation points to get the necessary commendation. Reputation and ranks earned previous to the expansion have no benefit. If your bank was empty it would take you over a week, simply because you cannot earn enough marks in a week to buy the gear. Then after you buy the gear you will have to keep playing in order to upgrade the gear from its base properties to the max properties you wanted it for.

This would be somewhat acceptable if the core content of The Dark Below itself were worthwhile. The added story missions are merely a side story to that of the original game. The most unfortunate part is that Bungie made no noticeable effort to improve their poor, if not absent, story telling given that at the end of the story missions little more is known than before you started. To add insult to injury, the first mission is not even replayable–much like the introductory mission of the original game. The sum total of the story missions can be completed in well less than an hour. The new strike is of the caliber of all the original strikes – fine but low replay value.

The overall value of The Dark Below is tenuous at best. Those that purchased the editions of Destiny that included the season pass should go ahead and play it since they already own it. Those that do not own the season pass need to consider how committed they are to the universe that is Destiny. Casual players may just want to skip this, as it seems to beg for the commitment that the hardcore and dedicated are willing to implore upon it. Players on the Xbox platforms need to take an extra consideration into the fact that they will be missing out on yet another strike mission exclusive to the PlayStation platforms, at least until some time next year.

The Dark Below should have been the grandest opportunity that Bungie had to correct the issues that plagued Destiny. Instead they used it as a tool to twist money from those that are loyal and irritate those already frustrated.

The fervor and excitement I once played this game with has now been replaced by lament and melancholy. Note that I did not speak of the new raid in the text above as I have not played it. I will be continuing to play this game but not with anything near the enthusiasm that I used to. Playing this game less will allow me to get back to other things – that will be a positive.

Bio Card Paul

Paul Novak is a self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing in the west side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet. Found here at What’s Your Tag? and on the Twitter @dudewantshisrug. Game on with Team XBRO!

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16 comments

  1. If anything, your in-depth write up has made me want to play Destiny even less. I’ve been throwing around the idea of rebuying it now that the server instability is improved, but fuuuuck that.

      1. Most MMO’s are fairly simple in terms of upgrades and stuff like that. The problem is Bungie is new in this area and it seems like they don’t know what they’re doing.

      2. They’ve made several attempts to patch and fix it but every time they do it seems that they install more problems or flaws. It would be advisable for them to take a good hard look at MMO systems that are already in place and working before making more changes to theirs.

  2. I actually wrote a piece on why I was leaving the Destiny universe and your review echoes my sentiments. Bungie took an “interesting” approach the loot system and made it worse. The update feels like a slap in the face for the hard work and hours you put into the game before the DLC. I was one of those people who bought the season pass thinking the expansion would matches the promises made but it wasn’t. Now with them talking about a sequel…I’m thinking the second expansion will be like this as they begin to create a new game and start with a clean slate.

    1. They’ve already stated characters will carry over to the sequel but they have not said how. The next expansion is likely to do the same as this one in that it does nothing but perpetuate the need to grind. Grind to get better gear then grind to upgrade it. Lather, rinse, repeat.

      1. The issue with the grind is that they continue to pile on top of the grind. Before the update my vanguard rank was 3 and the world was mine. After the update i might as well have a rank of 0. If they fix the issues ill jump back on, but it really doesnt matter what i do because they have my money…and thats what i hate the most about the situation. I can no longer let my wallet do the talking

      2. They have my money but i have actively told people not to buy the expansion. I can’t get my money or time back but I can help save someelse’s. The rewards system has been an issue since launch and it has yet to be corrected. If players have to grind that is fine but they should be reasonably rewarded.

  3. If you have never played an MMO, then this new piece of content was worth it only for the Raid itself. I have never had an experience than I had trying to figure out most of the Raid blindly. It took us hours to do the bridge segment, but we did it without looking anything up.

    The only reason I really enjoy Destiny at this point is PvP and Raids. I have a buddy with 3 level 31 characters and over 600 hours and he still loves it. It is an addicting experience and I hope that someday, a real story will show itself!

    1. Unfortunately The Dark Below does not show much hope for a better story. Bungie held it up and said that this was their best effort to tell a story. The Dark Below story was still thin and short thus not much if any of an improvement.

      I’m glad people still enjoy the game but I also understand why people have stopped playing.

      I haven’t gotten to play the new raid yet, hopefully soon.

      1. I saw instances of story I like from the new expansion. Nothing eye opening, nothing to really defend bungie, but hopefully we get something better in Destiny 2 hah

      2. They had a great opportunity to show that they are capable of great story telling equal to their past games. I will say that The Dark Below was a better told story but on the total sense of the Destiny universe it did not offer much. Bungie seems content on putting the majority of thia game’s lore into the Grimoire cards associated to the game. Too bad that the vast majority will never take to the non-game channels to see this material and see the work that so many have put into it.

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