Destiny: The Dark Below PS4 Review

This review is likely going to be a wordy stream of consciousness, so excuse me for that. But before getting on with it, I’ll explain how much time I spent with the core game. That seems important.

I do not have an exact number, but lets say I spent around 50 hours playing Destiny since launch. I know some people who quadrupled that number, and more, but at that point, when I stepped away, I felt like I had seen everything I wanted to see countless times over. Most of my playtime was in the first few weeks, with an extra few hours getting totted on in the weeks that followed. My whole time with the game was as a Hunter, and I played the Bladedancer subclass for 95% of this time. At some point I got a Suros Regime Auto Rifle, and played enough to level that up to max. I also nabbed an exotic helmet too, and a range of other Legendary Gear. Like others, I handed over an obscene amount of engrams to the Cryptarch, and called him words that shall not be transcribed to this review for what he gave me in return. I tried The Raid as well – twice – but it was with a group of random people found on The Tower. Because of that, I failed at the last section when trying to best it – twice. I rarely dropped into the PvP during my stay with the game. The main campaign was where I spent most of my time.

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With DLC installed, my first task upon getting back into the game was to nab some new Legendary boots (which I believe we’re a brand new DLC exclusive item). With my new ‘fly ass kicks’ in tow, I checked to see what I needed to level them up. I probably let out an audible sigh at this point, due to nightmarish flashbacks of trawling YouTube videos for help on a similar leveling up process for another piece of gear a few weeks back. In an effort to brush those negative thoughts aside, I then do what needs to be done to get to the part of the game I enjoy. Shooting aliens.

This paragraph will likely be positive. Hooray. I adore the core gunplay in Destiny (as I have with Bungie’s previous genre efforts for well over a decade), so I was happy to have something different to shoot at after hours of retreads pre-DLC. The first mission is not at all shy about tossing a lot at you out of the gate. All manner of Hive and Fallen spawn and run headfirst at you moments after you land back on Earth. It is not too friendly of a welcome, with dozens of high level enemies to tackle, but the ensuing fight shows Bungie are still masters at producing engaging encounter design. Working my way through the rest of the first mission, I noticed some interesting gameplay ideas were tossed in along the way. I had access to an energy sword to battle with for a while, but that was quickly taken away. Then when fighting a boss, my ability to use my jetpack was disrupted for. None of these alone were groundbreaking changes – but for a mission on Earth (a are I spent countless hours on playing Destiny), it was enough to make me feel I was doing something unique. Mission beat, and I was invited back to The Tower to hand in an item and get one in return. That’s more familiar.

I won’t go into huge detail on the rest of the story missions, but they all share the same idea as the first. They visually look like what you played in the main game (even though some take you to new areas), but little tweaks have been made to differentiate them from the core story missions. The same goes for the new Strikes, slightly rejiggered versions of what was seen before. Everything new on show is very well made, there’s no doubting that. One other thing to note is the Peter Dinklage voiced Ghost is no longer around for the DLC – and instead story is drip fed via a more punctilious sounding female character. Probably not even a change worthy of mention, and apparently not a notable one for me, as his absence only just now occurred to me during the course of writing this review.

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The rest of the game’s systems are as conventional as they used to be. Meaning it will be as easy as ever to fall back into the old routine of finding items and/or engrams, getting them decrypted. Then realizing most of what you receive is not as good as what you already have, so you break that down for parts and Glimmer. This keeps going until you unlock something you actually want to level up. You then put hours of effort into that process (including a trip to Youtube to try and understand the myriad of different items, currencies, and materials available), until you max the item out. This process, in turn, raises your character’s level higher, so you can then partake in harder content – which includes the new Raid. If you beat that you will gain even more new items to struggle to level up, max out, and… and…. the beat goes on.

Upon starting to write this review, I have played about 15 more hours of Destiny with the DLC installed. I am not going to say I have seen absolutely everything there was to see, but at about the halfway point I felt I had once again seen everything I wanted to see. The gunplay on show during the new bits was as fun as I expected it to be – that was never the problem with Destiny. It was the list of things to do evaporating so quickly (meaning replaying content was a necessity), that disheartened me enough to make me want to (for the second time), pull the curtain on my play time with the shooter.

The grind at the core of the game still reminds me of running on a treadmill set to an impossible gradient. There are so many rings and hoops in the way of making progress, that by the time you get halfway done you forget why you started in the first place. Alongside this, for those that choose to struggle on, repeated content comes far too soon, instantly making the game crushingly repetitive. Instead of fixing the problems some players had with the main game, The Dark Below dangerously adds more fuel to the fire for those that continue to question and debate what really is the appeal of a game like this in the first place.

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Looking at pricing concerns for a second, The Dark Below feels awkwardly thin on content for the price of entry. Companies have offered more than this for free in the past – remember Burnout Paradise anyone? And thinking forward, companies should offer more than this for free in the future – if The Witcher 3 developers are not pulling our collective legs. Even compared to other companies charging for DLC efforts presently, Shadow of Mordor had an expansive piece of content released during the same timeframe as The Dark Below’s debut. In comparison, it felt like a fully featured effort, and it was half the price of what we have here. And, if you want to compare this effort to MMOs – a genre that Destiny seemingly wants to associate itself with – Blizzard have, in the past, made more significant changes to World of Warcraft with an incremental update than Bungie have achieved here.

The majority of criticism for Destiny came from the fact that people wanted more stuff to do. So, seeing as The Dark Below gives players more activities to partake in, it will be no doubt be welcomed by some. However if the limited showings of the main game already turned you off playing, the Dark Below does little that would entice you back. It may be cliche to say, but this effort really is only for fans, as it is very much more of the same. If you in anyway voiced displeasure at the core game, nothing on show in the DLC will change that.

Life with Destiny continues to be a vast range of meaningless numbers set up in a small but complex maze that breaks players will to fight before a way out is found. The core gunplay mechanic may be genre leading, but the wrapper that surrounds it continues to be irreparably broken.

5 out of 10