The Dark Below came out a week and a half ago, and you may be wondering why our review is just coming out now. It takes a lot longer than a day or two to really explore The Dark Below and find out if its content is full enough to warrant being a must-have add on to Bungie’s archetypal shooter/MMO hybrid. Unlike other console DLC, this expansion fundamentally changes the core game and spreads its tendrils across the existing experience, as opposed to just adding a chunk of added campaign content.
The Dark Below is accessible once your character is at level 20, and the campaign missions don’t take that long. There’s a total of three new missions that appear on the map, though there are quest-based bounties that the new character, Eris, will give to you after you’re done with the map missions. There are two new Strikes (at least for PlayStation players) and a new Raid to enjoy as well. Among this content there are new weapons, armor, shaders, and materials to earn, as well as the ability to get to level 32. While two additional levels may not seem like a lot, it will add well over 20 hours per character to achieve this lofty position. All of these missions are based on the sad story of Eris being the sole survivor of a Raid group attempting to destroy a Hive god named Crota, which basically means it’s now your job to go finish the task for her while she enjoys the retired Guardian life as a merchant and quest giver.
Hours on the Clock
Destiny has stolen a lot of my life, or rather, I’ve given a lot of my life to Destiny. Over a week’s worth of total time to be exact, and that’s just on one of my three characters. For the core players of Destiny, getting The Dark Below goes without saying. For people like me, this is essential content that continues to add tons of hours to the clock as my Raid team and I grind through three characters worth of upgrades and loot drops. This isn’t for everyone though, and it’s hard to honestly say that it adds a ton to the experience in a way that will convince anybody who has left Destiny to come back to the fold.
The main campaign content is over in a couple of hours, which is actually on par with a lot of other game’s campaign add-ons. Add to this getting new armor and gear, the story leading into the Strikes and the new Raid, and the seamless integration of The Dark Below into the existing Destiny universe, and it’s hard to say just how much time The Dark Below really adds to the experience. By my best scientific estimate? I would have to say a lot. I’ve personally put in a few hours a night since it’s release and still come nowhere close to experiencing all it has to give me. The Raid is intensely enjoyable, if not a tad short, and the new Strikes offer up quite a bit of a challenge for players, and I plan on repeatedly playing these to obtain the loot I need to take on the Raid’s hard mode when it unlocks next year. There are also three new Crucible arenas for players to compete in, and most of them are well designed levels that effectively make the combat flow.
If the core game didn’t win you over, then The Dark Below may not have you coming back for more. It does have many recycled areas, simply ending in a few rooms behind previously closed doors, and there are no truly new enemy types on the battlefield. The grind is still there, as well as the random nature of loot drops and rewards, but so is the amazing social aspect, which is what has won me over about Destiny from the beginning. Playing with friends is rewarding and fun, as you beat the Raid and compare loot drops, or get home from work to find that your buddy has finally reached level 31.
Filling in the Holes
The problem that I have with The Dark Below is how it has crippled the core game for players that don’t yet have it. In addition to feeling like an expansion, it feels like a needed update to keep the main game from feeling full of holes. Missions and Strikes from the new content are now added into the daily and weekly mission rotation, meaning that there are some days and weeks that players could miss out on getting to play those and subsequently get the rewards. This cripples players who have not yet sprung for The Dark Below. There was also a system put in place to help new players achieve level 31 by buying armor with Vanguard marks, but this feels like a bit of a slap in the face to players who have been braving the existing challenges for the past three months just to hit level 30. However, we had fun doing it, right? I personally wouldn’t trade that time leveling even if I had known there was a simpler method coming down the pipe.
Is it worth it? That’s hard to say. For the ultimate Destiny experience, yes, you will need The Dark Below. You may find more of the same content, with some palette swapped enemies and similar bounties to what we traditionally had access to, but the new content allows Destiny to continue to surprise us. I put a ton of time into Destiny, and The Dark Below is just extending that clock even more for me, though I can see how it will bring on a ton of complaints from many players for at least some of its facets. The divide between those that love Destiny and those that hate it is growing with the release of The Dark Below, but I personally can’t wait to see how these additions allow the game to continue to evolve and expand until the next expansion release.
The Dark Below review code provided by publisher. For more information on scoring, see our Review Policy here.