#BroThoughts: Destiny’s “The Dark Below” expansion

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I spent the better part of last night plowing through the new expansion for Destiny, “The Dark Below.” Your Bro has spent way too much time repelling the darkness (or whatever it is you do in that game) so needless to say I was substantially hyped for the expansion’s release. Since I couldn’t get the whole clan together to tackle the raid the second it was released, I opted to play through the new story missions and the new strike (Disclaimer: I’m playing on #Xbone so I don’t have any of those new PlayStation #Exclusive levels). I’m here to give you the #BroThoughts on “The Dark Below” and how I believe it’s going to play into the future of Destiny.

The most notable difference between the main story and “The Dark Below” is, in each of the story missions, you no longer have the much-loathed (or loved, I guess) Dinklebot in your ear. He’s been replaced by Eris Morn, the sole survivor of an attack on Crota. I know what you’re thinking: how can you know who she is? Although I’ll pretend to be no expert in the lore of Destiny, the storytelling in “The Dark Below” is much easier to follow. Whereas Guardians have become accustomed to the “I-don’t-have- time-to-tell-you-why-I-don’t-have-time” approach of the main storyline, Eris provides a single, liner quest-line that’s straightforward and easy to follow. I doubt I’m the only person who realized, 200+ hours into the game, that Rasputin is kind of a satellite…or something. Nevertheless, having Eris’ story constantly unfolding in your ear is a welcome change of pace to the “storytelling” in Destiny. It also provides a legitimate reason as to why you’re going after Crota, and builds an innate sense of dread regarding the inevitable encounter.

Like many of my Destiny­-faithful brethren, I’m addicted to this particular game due to the tight controls and constant quest for better gear. While many have bemoaned the resetting of exotics and introduction of higher-level gear into the world, I see it as a natural progression. That being said, while it was extremely annoying to receive another Apotheosis Veil for my warlock from the Weekly Nightfall Strike after receiving it last week (still holding out for Icebreaker or Gjallarhorn), the fact that the base stats of the new helmet match the maxed-out states of my previous one reiterate that I’ll be able to stay competitive while undertaking any new challenges. While I’m not enamored with the idea of Crucible or Vanguard Commendations at the moment, I’m trying to knock out as many bounties every day as my schedule allows so this shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Needless to say I’m anxious to jump in the new raid to see what gear I’ll be able to acquire, although I’ve the nagging suspicion I’ll end up having to rank up to 31 or 32 via the Iron Banner again.

The introduction of multiple currencies is bound to be frustrating for many a Destiny player, and I’m curious to see how this system works. I’m without any new raid-gear at the moment, but if I complete the raid, receive multiple types of gear but no radiant materials, will I be able to level up? Doesn’t seem like it as Eris is able to convert radiant shards to energy and vice versa, not manufacture them. My gut-reaction is the introduction of multiple currencies is a way to inhibit progression, although I vehemently believe Bungie would not implement such a system willingly and knowingly, given the steady stream of improvements they’ve provided. While I still believe the once highly-coveted Motes of Light are now essentially useless (and here’s to hoping there’s a way for us to use them to eventually purchase new gear, perhaps interchangeably with Strange Coins or any of the other much more useful currencies), I’m hopeful the new purchase/upgrade system will yield dividends as we continue to #BecomeLegend. Only time will tell.

Now that I’ve touched on the gameplay tweaks instituted at the Tower, let’s get down to business and discuss the story missions/strike and bounties. These are the core of the Destiny experience and will determine the overall quality of “The Dark Below”, save for the new raid. Eris’ has her own bounties so you can increase your rep with her, similar to the Queen’s Wrath event which took place ages ago. The principle difference between the two is the Queen’s “Kill Orders” were no different from the regular vanguard bounties-you merely had to take out a specific character from a story mission. Eris’ target missions occur at specific locales, which for me last night were three different locations on the Cosmodrome. It never occurred to me how little attention I pay to the names of the areas I venture to until forced to recall the precise location of the Lunar Complex.

Back to the task at hand-these target bounties took place during patrols, meaning I was able to complete multiple Vanguard/Eris bounties at once. While I was still venturing around the same (old Russia) area, not being forced to operate within the confines of a story mission I’ve played through roughly 257 times over the past few months was a subtle yet welcome change, and I look forward to seeing if the bounties continue to be more of the same (as is always the case with the Iron Banner) or slightly modified. While Eris’ stock isn’t the most alluring, I’ve a feeling I’ll be doing my best to complete her bounties.

I think all of those who’ve played Destiny would agree the Vault of Glass is easily the most entertaining and rewarding experience the game has to offer. It’s a shame the puzzle-centric and ever-changing gameplay required for it wasn’t scattered throughout the whole of the Destiny experience, but that’s a different discussion for a different day. While the story missions included in “The Dark Below” maintain a format similar to those included with the main game, there are some slight modifiers which ramp up the difficulty. During one particularly memorable mission, one of your primary targets introduces an effect which prohibits you from using your double jump. Considering this took place at a time when I could’ve really used it, I was forced to alter my play-style on the fly and adapt. Forcing the player to adapt to an ever-changing set of circumstances was the primary strength of the Vault of Glass, and while there were only minor occurrences of this littered throughout the new story missions, it made them all the more enticing.

The new strike involves you taking down a wizard who is protected by an Arc-shield. Fortunately, those I was playing with possess Praedyth’s Timepiece. The wizard sporadically pops up and sends legions of Thralls, Acolytes and Knights toward the player. During all instances of “The Dark Below” ,but especially in the strike, I found myself feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of enemies attacking my fireteam, but it’s of note I never felt incapable of dealing with the threats they posed. Bungie’s struck a delicate balance with this mechanic: while the new challenges are undoubtedly difficult, I never felt as if I could not complete them even though I’m only a level 30. Remember the good ol’ days when 30 was the end-all-be-all? Those were the days.  I’m told this sense of being overwhelmed is amplified in the new raid, and I can’t wait to find out for myself when we try to take Crota down this weekend.

I could write all day about “The Dark Below” offering a limited amount of content, as I was able to plow through the story missions and strike in just a couple hours-some of which can no doubt be attributed to the difficulty of the Nightfall strike. I’ve never been a hardcore PvP player, although I do find myself playing furiously whenever the Iron Banner playlist is live, so I’ve opted to give my initial thoughts on “The Dark Below” on only the Vanguard-oriented content. If I notice anything substantial from the raid or the new crucible maps I’ll be sure to hit you with the #BroThoughts. Here’s hoping the trek to 32 doesn’t take too long, Guardians. See you in the Crucible.

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