Destiny’s first DLC release, entitled The Dark Below, continues the Guardian’s quest to retake areas of the solar system lost in the Great Collapse, but focuses particularly on Earth’s Moon and the Hive that have infested it. Upon installation, a new NPC, Eris Morn, appears in the tower to offer bounties, items for sale, and access to the story missions. Eris was a member of a six-person fireteam that attempted to assault the Hive within their stronghold on the moon, but only Eris survived to return to Earth and the Tower with information on the Hive’s work to summon Crota. Crota, after whom the new raid is named, is a Hive Knight that demolished allied forces so thoroughly that the Moon was sacrificed to the Hive in an attempt to halt their advances on Earth. As Eris and her fireteam failed, you must take up their charge to stand against the Hive and eliminate Crota before he and his minions assault Earth.
While this DLC has a very straightforward premise, there is little in the way of detail. Crota was mentioned in passing in the original Destiny, but the opportunity to use the DLC as a platform to include story about him and the Hive has been almost entirely overlooked. Eris’ bounties function much like Xander’s; her missions are overwhelmingly boring involving almost no story and large numbers of bullet-soaker enemies, and the Crota’s End raid—once completed—simply ends like the Vault of Glass did: the only thing left to do after Crota dies is to return to orbit. Along with the few additions to the campaign, there are new Hive-themed Crucible maps as well as strikes from the Eris storyline, but even taken in its totality, there is very little to recommend this DLC.
This DLC plays exactly the same as Destiny, and the only notable changes are the new equipment and weapons including the handy fusion rifle Murmur that can swap between Arc or Solar damage. Your potential light level increases to 32, but it may take many, many, raids to find and upgrade the gear required to reach the new pinnacle. This becomes extremely tedious if you play more than one character as you must raid repeatedly to find the equipment necessary for leveling, but then raid enough to also find the materials required to upgrade those armor pieces. Eris sells upgrade materials to lessen the necessity of raiding, but reaching the minimum required level with her as a merchant—level three—in order to purchase those materials from her can be just as tedious as raiding as it involves daily bounties with little excitement. Essentially, everything is a grind, and the rewards aren’t worth it.
In The Dark Below, many of the levels from the original Destiny function as the setting or location for both story missions and strikes included in the DLC. However, the design team did not create many entirely new zones for the Guardian to explore opting rather to add new rooms to old areas. The raid is an exception to this as it is quite stunning, especially the location in which the Guardian fights Crota. If the production team actually does have the ability to create scenery like this, though, then why hasn’t it been done sooner or more often? The only other vista which come close to the complexity and eerie beauty of Crota’s domain is the approach to the Black Garden on Mars in the original story, but even this was simplistic in comparison. Since there is a lack of novelty in terms of level design, exploring is, well, non-existent, and besides a few buffed enemies such as Omnigul and Crota, the enemy design is most basic: take the old models and make them different colors. Destiny was originally advertised for the developer’s ten year plan to continually improve, modify, and add to the game, but if it is going to be nine more years of this mediocrity, then it won’t be worth tagging along for the ride.
After spending far too much time trying to find where The Dark Below catches its stride, I feel hollow for having played the DLC so long and so thoroughly. The Dark Below has so little to offer when treated as a standalone, but it is made so much worse when considered in relation to its foundation. It feels like a patchwork quilt where each piece has potential, but when all the pieces are finally sewed together, you freeze to death since the quilt has holes in it and is made of shoddy material: none of the potentiality became actuality. This means that players seeking a lush world, complex story, enthralling character development, or novel gameplay will be disappointed, and The Dark Below is likely a signifier of what is to come for the franchise as the House of Wolves will fail in the same ways that Destiny and The Dark Below did. Although, players can look forward to seeing how the Fallen appear when their color palettes are altered. Yay…
In my original Destiny review, I had high hopes that the DLCs would function extremely well in terms of relaying story, history, and meaning to playing as each DLC would expand on specifics that the original Destiny structured generally such as who or what is the Traveler, why did these four alien races show up to destroy us, what is the backstory of each of the races, and why weren’t we just decimated outright rather than left to rebuild? These complaints go beyond The Dark Below and Destiny in general so I will be covering them in an external article on nlgo.net entitled “Destiny and Narrative Structure”.
Final Score: 45/100 (F)