Destiny: The Dark Below shouldn’t be called an expansion pack. Maybe I’m mincing words or looking into something that isn’t there. I mean who really gets to define what an “expansion” truly is. Technically yes, it is “expanding” the game. However something feels wrong about calling The Dark Below an expansion especially when you compare it to its peers.
Admittedly, I have been enjoying what I’ve played so far, as did our very own Ishmael Romero, who wrote a positive review of The Dark Below. Still, four missions, two strikes, three new PvP maps and one raid doesn’t feel enough. It feels like a watered down version of a content update that MMOs put out to keep players busy between “true” expansions.
Sure Bungie says Destiny isn’t a MMO but I’m not buying that. If it looks like an MMO, acts like an MMO and talks like an MMO, then that is what it is. There are cooperative raids, PvPs, grinding out gear, daily and weekly events, a focus on endgame over the story mode, vertical gear progression (read: new stuff replacing old stuff), just to name a few things that Destiny and MMOs have in common. Yes you also happen to shoot enemies from a first person perspective, but Destiny has more in common with Final Fantasy XIV and the Diablo franchise than it does Halo.
Because it has so much in common with MMOs and other raid/dungeon based RPGs (such as Phantasy Star Online), I can’t resist making the comparison. Stack up The Dark Below next to classic expansion packs such as Diablo II: Lord of Destruction, World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade and Final Fantasy XI: Treasure of Aht Urghan and it just doesn’t compare. These expansions added new areas, activities, classes and new ways to experience the game.
What The Dark Below does is add more of the same, and integrates that new content seamlessly into the hardcore player’s routine. You’re still doing the same activities you were doing before, only now you have more strikes and missions in your playlists and some new equipment to collect. All of it is high quality and well done, but there isn’t anything groundbreaking or foundation rocking. You can make a case for the new cooperative raid Crota’s End (just as the Vault of Glass was an excellent change of pace), but one raid just isn’t enough.
The Dark Below, despite being a solid collection of new content, lacks the heart and soul that other expansions from similar games have. The type of players that are going to be in it for the long haul are the ones that love that MMO/RPG style grind. It’s early enough in the lifespan of the franchise that they can get by this time, but future expansions need to be, well, more expansion-like. Players are going to eventually expect new areas, classes and sub-classes in addition to what they got with The Dark Below.
It might be too late to do anything drastic with the second expansion, House of Wolves. But if Bungie really wants the Destiny franchise to last ten-plus years, then they’re going to have to fall in line with the standards that fans of the genre have come to expect when it comes to expansions. And that needs to happen sooner, rather than later.