Personally, I am a rather hardcore Destiny player. But in the public at large, despite the pre-release hype, reaction to Bungie’s MMOFPSRPG has been mixed at best. The excellent gameplay elements and shooting mechanics are held back by repetitive game design and marred by lackluster story and writing. When you have Peter Dinklage and Nathan Fillion in your voice cast, it doesn’t take much creative savvy to realize that any fault in the storytelling does not lie with the actors. However, even with these flaws, Destiny has maintained a respectable momentum, and Bungie seems to be hoping to continue their modest success with expansions to extend the game’s lifespan. The first of their expansions, The Dark Below, promises extra story missions, strikes, and raids for a rather audacious asking price.
What can one buy with $20? A decent meal or two. Two movie tickets. A number of downloadable titles on any of the online stores for currently existing platforms. Whatever one buys with that money, it would be a better investment than The Dark Below. For $20, Destiny players get four story missions, two new strikes (one if you’re on Xbox One), one new raid, and three new Crucible maps for multiplayer. Bungie also allows others to see who gleefully wastes their money by giving buyers of The Dark Below a unique Sparrow that uses the same coloring scheme as Optimus Prime from the Transformers movies — a poor replacement for expectations that this new expansion might have some new environments to explore. Instead, almost all the new content reuses assets from the base game, cobbled together to look like new locations. Even the story is dialed in, with just some simple voiceovers, none of which involve any of the important characters in the game, like Ghost or even the player character.
What’s most galling about all this is the fact that the release of The Dark Below invalidated all the equipment players had built up in preparation for the new content. While in the original base game players were limited to equipment that could boost their character to level 30 (which can take weeks, if not months, to fully upgrade), soon after the release of The Dark Below, vendors started selling equipment that, when fully upgraded (which also requires an inhuman amount of time), took players to level 31, the level needed to tackle the new raid and expect success. While this sounds like a small matter, if one plays Destiny for any length of time, he or she will realize that a single level could mean the difference between success and failure in Destiny’s raids. The purpose of this pointless equipment upgrade is plain: Bungie knew the content in The Dark Below was barely sufficient for its $20 price tag, so instead of lowering the price or including more content, they opted to artificially extend the amount of time it took to get to the meat of the content for veteran players.
I must reiterate at this point that I started playing Destiny after the implementation of the new equipment, so since I did not have to toil for weeks to get fully upgraded equipment only to have it invalidated almost immediately, I was able to get through most of the content from The Dark Below within an afternoon. The new raid is somewhat interesting, but the story missions are uninspired, the new strikes don’t do anything to break away from the formula of previous strikes, and the new maps only matter if you play PVP (I don’t). The bottom line is that The Dark Below punishes Destiny’s most fervent supporters while demanding from them double the price that would be fair for the amount of content. The invalidation of veteran players’ progress and dearth of content for The Dark Below would make me very reticent to purchase the House of Wolves expansion if I didn’t already have the Expansion Pass for Destiny. I will say this, however: House of Wolves is slated for release sometime in the first half of 2015, and Bungie will need every single one of the days between now and then to create an expansion that convinces me that they are not wasting my, or my readers’, time.
Get on it, Bungie.