DESTINY – THE DARK BELOW [DLC Review]: Hell or Highwater.
“Abandon all Hope, Ye who Enter Here”
Bungie’s long awaited seasonal DLC Expansion, The Dark Below had fans and critics alike licking their chops in anticipation. Would this save a game that has been plagued by bad press (other than us, lol), bad loot drops, inane glitches, and just an overall poor report card from those who bought the game? Or could The Dark Below simply dig the grave deeper for a title that has polarized about as many consumers as the love/hate over Call of Duty?
Barring the teaser trailer for the game, The Dark Below doesn’t feature a single cinematic for narrative purposes. The only exposition is, once again, delivered via narration during the travel/loading screen; this time through Eris rather than the loved and hated Dinkelbot (who was conspicuous in his silence this go ’round– I wonder if there’s anything to that).
However, and this is a big however, there is still strangely a little more story that can be attained through side quests, which are divvied out by Eris at the tower, and on top of that, these quests tend to be step-by-step and related to each other; not much different from the Exotic Bounty steps from earlier iterations of the game. This gives the player a feeling of progression.
While not overly difficult, these side-quests/bounties are designed to make the player think, and really kind of work for success. The Urn Quests from Eris/Xur specifically come to mind- “what do you mean i have to MELEE attack the exploding Thralls?!?!?”
The main ‘story’ — if one can call it that — is literally three missions long. Anything that is told about the plot is probably already known by the player through the teaser trailer. Basically it goes like this: Eris was a guardian, went to the moon on a raid with five others, ran into Crota and his legions; all of them died but her, she’s been waiting for years for worthy guardians to come and kick Crota back to oblivion, or really bad shit will happen.
While the quantity of missions is very low, the quality is surprisingly high. The DLC features three very fun, well designed, and cool missions, but still, only three. It seems like Bungie did, in fact, listen to fan feedback, as the mission style and design of the levels seems to have improved. While not a huge departure from the original game, the player can feel the dial moving in the right direction for these missions– as they don’t only include the standard hold/defend, horde mode, or again, hold/defend. Some enemies/mini bosses are able to de-buff your guardian, or cast down traps that act as land mines.
Despite the main story being only three missions long and being fairly bereft of anything resembling narrative, I still found it very enjoyable and worth my time. The additions of the side quests and the new main strike are plenty to keep the player going for some time to come. New armors and weapons live up to the hype and the wait. And how’s this for a fan service: While the Raid Gear is still the best you can get, one doesn’t actually HAVE to be fully equipped with the Raid items to be over 30! Regular faction armors carry a Light Level of 33, and Exotics go to 36!
If Crucible wasn’t ever your thing, worry not- you never have to touch it again. What Bungie has done here is provide the player with far more options for leveling your character to the higher echelons, something that was sorely lacking prior to The Dark Below.
This brings us to what most people probably want to hear about: the actual raid itself. Bungie truly has outdone itself here, creating a raid that has many, many layers, and in the early goings, certainly defeat all who attempt to brave the deepest depths of The Hellmouth. Abandoning all hope is all one can do against the staggering might of Crota, and kudos to Bungie for designing this beast of a raid. While not impossible, it takes even far more cooperation and cohesion from your fire team than the Vault of Glass did, and it will induce tears, rage, f-bombs, clan in-fighting, name calling and ton of frustration, but given enough time, you’ll get through it and realize that just like Atheon and The Vault, it’s not so bad after all.
While this expansion probably won’t win anyone back who had given up on the game, it’s more a reward for those of us who have stayed loyal and hopeful that the franchise would improve and that the players were being heard. Plenty of little things that have given the game a refresher will keep us playing for a good, long time to come. The developers are listening, and while of course we can’t expect them to give us everything we want at first, it is a clear indication that with this DLC, Destiny has taken a marked step in the right direction.