While we’re just over 24 hours into the next expanse to the Destiny universe, playing through The Dark Below shows that Bungie is moving in the right direction, even if the title still isn’t what we expected from the studio at launch. With a significant improvement to the looting systems, farming methods, and variety, Destiny is back on track as the top shooter available.
Whether you love or hate Destiny, one thing is clear – Destiny was not what we expected to find at launch from a Bungie produced title. With the latest expansion however, The Dark Below, we can now enjoy the title thanks to a few significant improvements in game play outside of the end-game raid. Most notably, your adventures in Destiny won’t go wasted if you’re the kind of player who loves shooting in PvE [Player Versus Environment] situations. Playing out the story in Destiny with The Dark Below means more, as enemy drop rates have increased your chances of getting equipment out of their dead bodies. Given that Destiny allows you a higher chance of Rare and Legendary quality items based on your level, we haven’t seen a better drop chance for Legendary items at the highest level [30+], but when you can expect more loot in general you have a better chance per hour of getting a purple since the expansion. In direct competition with this idea, Bungie is taking the farming aspects away from “loot runs” by removing traditional loots from treasure chests across all worlds. While you may still run into some loots such as space ship designs, or your lucky chest that contains a few blues and 10+ of the local materials, this moves your game more in line with what Bungie has been changing since day one. They want to reward you for your missions, not monotonous running in circles. You shouldn’t be shooting into caves, opening chests, or anything except for destroying the forces of darkness.
Further, Bungie has changed up your vendors to reflect this change in approach. You may have noticed that every vendor in Destiny is now selling gears that are better than the Hard Mode raid gears we were picking up since September. Anyone who had enough Vanguard Marks or Crucible Marks could purchase items at every vendor in the tower until the launch of The Dark Below. Staying focused to the idea that we should be grinding the forces of darkness into dust, Bungie is now locking down chest and helmet gears with a new Commendation token. Each time you level your Vanguard or Crucible reputation you’ll be earning a respective Commendation token. By tacking this token to your hard work, Bungie is adding focus to playing the game rather than simply grinding one activity until you’re leveled to the max. Luckily, playing the story missions isn’t as stale as it once was anymore.
With added variety in the DLC content, The Dark Below doesn’t use all the same methods for whipping your way through story missions or its all new Strike mission(s). Upon discovery of the all-new NPC in the Tower, Eris will waste little time sending your squad out on a new and fantastic story – giving you all you need in story without an insufferable cut scene that we can’t skip. While The Dark Below won’t offer you a weeks worth of story to play through, the first and most notable thing about content within is the lack of your Ghost chatting away. Eris will walk you through each of your missions, and this variety in narrative is FANTASTIC! While we’ve got nothing against Peter Dinklage and his fantastic work, variety is the spice of life, and not listening to his voice exclusively is a change of pace that we can get behind. Being sent on a random Strike mission where his voice isn’t included, or a mission where his Ghost isn’t working a door for three waves shows that Bungie is picking up what we don’t like about Destiny and is working to fix these issues.
While trading systems still haven’t been implemented in Destiny, upgrading your items have gotten quite a bit easier to relieve some demand. Users can now purchase basic world materials such as Spinmetal and Relic Iron form vendors in exchange for Vanguard and Crucible marks. This will help expand the use of both Crucible and Vanguard tasks for those interested in power leveling their equipment. I myself had over 100 excess Vanguard marks which I used to level up my gloves and boots, circumventing the need to grind out a Moon walk just to pick up basic mats.
Where raiding is concerned, expect a continuation of the fantastic ride you’ve come to know. Raiding is still the best piece of content in Destiny due to its high level of difficulty, so do not underestimate the entry-level combat in The Dark Below. Many of you will likely have forgotten how steep a task it was in your first raid within the Destiny universe – way back when you were a fragile level 26, struggling to take down your first Praetorian. That feeling is back, even at level 30 with the latest raid as you take on sword wielding Knights and seemingly endless waves of Thrall. What once seemed like the fodder of level 13 players is now the most prominent force in Destiny and require a fun mixture of Arc and Solar weapons to properly combat. Look back into the Hard Mode Vault of Glass for a decent primary weapon that kills with fire in the Vex Mythoclast. This weapon is the only weapon in Destiny that isn’t a Dark Below item with over 300 damage.
Speaking of old items, everything you have will be replaced but your Exotics will hold the same name. If you’re desperately in love with a particular Exotic weapon or piece of Exotic armor you have, all of these items have a higher light or damage level replacement of the same name. Completing the weekly Nightfall strike will give you your highest chance of earning an Exotic before Xur makes his way back to the Tower, but when he comes you’ll find up to 36 light on a new armor piece [6 light higher than your old model]. With all the same benefits otherwise, these new models will need to be upgraded in the same way your outdated items were, though they require an Exotic Shard for the last upgrade. For those who have old exotics which will be replaced, this isn’t too daunting of a task – just break down your old model each time you replace your Exotics and you’ll be set for that new upgrade. In combination with your new Vanguard/Crucible arms and legs, an exotic armor piece could give you a three piece method to reaching level 31 in The Dark Below. While a helmet and standard chest piece can earn you the same level, ultimately you purchased The Dark Below for new content, and the best new items and content are found in the Moon’s new raid. Get out there and fight back the darkness, Guardian. Your money will be well spent in doing so.