It seems like you can't go a single day without seeing someone criticise Destiny. Bungie's shooter has been nothing if not divisive, but for all its flaws, many still enjoy scouring the same missions and maps in the hopes of buffing up their Guardian. If you're one of these players, then it goes without saying that this expansion is built for you.
To actually call it an expansion, however, conjures expectations that The Dark Below simply doesn't live up to. The amount of new content on offer is meagre at best, and attempting to sell it on the same level as what we've come to expect from numerous RPG titles' expansions is obscene. In truth, this is more of a map pack that throws in a handful of missions and tweaks existing bits and pieces.
Even if you haven't put the money down for the add-on, you'll still be able to find its main character, Eris, at the Tower. Without the DLC, she'll still offer bounties, but with it, she'll hand out a series of objectives that act as new story missions. These tasks are of an endgame variety, and if you're playing alone, present more of a challenge than most of the original game.
Chocked full of enemies and action, the three story quests are fun while they last, but the necessity to be a high level means that most players will probably blitz through them in under an hour. Although the structure of these tasks is nothing new or particularly exciting, it's a testament to Destiny's fantastic gunplay that you can still enjoy yourself while holding off waves of foes for the millionth time.
It's a shame, then, that the missions largely take place in locations that you'll have already explored. The first sees you work backwards through an area in Old Russia, for example, but at least the other objectives show off some new spaces, even if they're relatively small and not all that interesting. Sadly, this is really where you'll start questioning just how much effort was put into the release. At times, there's a definite sense that Bungie has done as little as possible, and, much like the original game, stretched out an already thin layer of content to a ridiculous degree.
Once the story missions are over, there are a few smaller bounties to undertake which lead up to the DLC's Strike, which sees you taking on Omnigul – a Hive witch who acts as the narrative's villain throughout the previously mentioned quests. Having a set adversary definitely helps tie proceedings together, especially when Eris is feeding you context via radio, and in that sense, the developer's succeeded in crafting a better plot with The Dark Below. That said, it's still pretentious sci-fi fluff that you'll likely forget seconds after the primary foe disintegrates with one last screech.
Fortunately, the Strike is probably the DLC's best asset. Featuring loads of enemies and some truly chaotic skirmishes, it's one of the best paced co-op activities in the game, and the aforementioned final fight with Omnigul showcases how good Destiny can be when you and two friends are holding off a seemingly infinite stream of baddies, popping off super abilities, and spraying bullets at anything that moves.
Meanwhile, the PlayStation exclusive Strike isn't quite as enjoyable, but like its Hive-based counterpart, it loves throwing hordes of adversaries your way. In this one, you'll be tearing through whole platoons of Vex, which means plenty of weird robotic sounds and crazy visual effects. It's another decent addition to the base release – given that there are only six repetitive Strikes to begin with – but again, it's hard to shake the feeling that this is content that's been slapped together. Old locations, old enemies, and even re-skinned bosses are the order of the day.
Likewise, the new Crucible maps are generally what we've come to expect, although their designs are a little less vertical. It shouldn't take long for seasoned players to get to grips with the new arenas, and there are definitely opportunities for some team-based havoc on the likes of Skywatch, which is a rather open map that's perfect for hectic pike battles. In contrast, Pantheon and The Cauldron provide a slew of choke points and winding corridors, and tend to host matches where reaction times and shotguns are key. If anything, the competitive offering continues to be a reliable source of fun, and the fresh maps mount up as more evidence that the studio still has a flair for creating engaging multiplayer spaces.
If you're really into Destiny, though, the chances are that you'll be attempting the download's six player Raid. The title's second available endgame objective can be just as brutal as the first, as you and your allies try to work out reliable strategies, but by and large, this is more of the same, except instead of shooting Vex, you'll be blasting Hive. Like the rest of the DLC, there are some enjoyable shootouts and a few intense moments that hardcore players will no doubt adore, but don't expect anything out of the ordinary.
It's a good job, then, that The Dark Below's range of new equipment is up to scratch. Nicely designed and sporting some great passive abilities, the pool of new gear is bound to light up the face of anyone who's sunk a good amount of time into Destiny. That said, the DLC fumbles when it comes to reworking a few upgrade systems.
For example, the need to purchase better versions of your exotic weapons and armour and then upgrade them all over again is nothing short of a joke – especially if you've already spent an eternity boosting them to their maximum power in the first place. To make matters worse, Cryptarch engrams – rewards for successfully completing Strike playlists – can now only be obtained by tackling the level 26 playlist which is exclusive to those who have purchased The Dark Below, meaning that regular players are essentially being punished for not buying the DLC.
Which brings us nicely to the 'expansion's' price point. For how much new content is actually on offer here, £20/$20 is almost robbery. For anyone who still plays Destiny day in, day out, grinding for rare materials and the best gear that glimmer can buy, this DLC is unsurprisingly for you – and only you. But if you have gripes with Bungie's creation, we dare say that The Dark Below will do little else other than amplify your scorn.
On a fundamental level, The Dark Below fails to justify its expensive price point for anyone who isn't a hardcore Destiny fan. While the story missions are enjoyable and the Strikes are some of the best, there just isn't enough new content here to reinvigorate Bungie's project for more than a few hours at most.