Destiny: The Dark Below – there’s no excuse for the paywall on weeklies

By Brenna Hillier, Wednesday, 10 December 2014 01:02 GMT

Destiny expansion The Dark Below has erected a paywall in front of content players had been enjoying since launch.

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Destiny is not a traditional MMO, but it’s not a straight forward multiplayer shooter, either. It occupies some sort of weird new middle ground where few have dared to tread before, and Bungie is feeling its way to victory, experimenting and evolving as it seeks to define what may be a whole new category of games in the making. Mistakes will happen.

That said, there’s really no excuse for the paywall first expansion The Dark Below has erected between players and content they’ve had access to since launch.

Here’s the thing: this week’s Weekly Heroic and Nightfall strike is The Will of Crota, the new co-op mission included in The Dark Below.

Those who haven’t bought the expansion can’t play The Will of Crota, and that’s fine. It really is. That’s what expansions do; add new content you have to buy into. No biggie. The problem is that there is no non-expansion Weekly Heroic or Nightfall option for those who haven’t bought in. You either buy the expansion, or you can’t complete these challenges.

For many players, their reason to log into Destiny has just vanished. That Bungie hasn’t implemented an alternative rotation for those who haven’t bought the expansion baffles me.

If you’re not familiar with Destiny, you might not see why this is important. Basically, the Weekly Heroic, along with the Nightfall and the Raid, are the backbone of many advanced players’ engagement with Destiny. Some may log in every day to complete the Daily Heroic mission, but almost everyone who is still playing the game wants to do a Raid run and knock over the Nightfall and Weekly Heroic every single week.

These activities constitute Destiny’s “end game”, I guess; they’re the highest difficulty challenges available. They’re also the best way to earn high-level rewards. They are, for many players and especially those not keen on PvP, pretty much the entire Destiny experience.

And now they’re gone. The Raid is still available, of course, but that requires five friends and a huge time commitment; the Nightfall and Weekly Heroic are much easier to organise a group for, and you can even solo them. For many players, their reason to log into Destiny has just vanished.

That Bungie hasn’t implemented an alternative rotation for those who haven’t bought the expansion baffles me. I don’t want to be cynical, and I don’t want to believe it’s deliberately designed to push players into purchasing the add-on, but it’s hard to put myself in the shoes of a player who hasn’t bought The Dark Below and not feel a bit betrayed.

It’s particularly confusing because in other ways Bungie has done a really good job of making sure the Expansion’s launch benefits everyone – even those who haven’t purchased it.

It’s particularly confusing because in other ways Bungie has done a really good job of making sure the Expansion’s launch benefits everyone – even those who haven’t purchased it. Vendors now sell gear up to level 32, meaning everyone, even those who don’t raid, can work towards hitting the new level cap. You’ll even be able to upgrade your Exotics to match the new tier of gear.

But why would you bother if you’re not going to have anywhere to use your newfound power? Even the new higher difficulty strike playlist, which finally gives players a chance to ramp up strike difficulty to match their progress, is exclusive to those who’ve bought the expansion – and you can no longer earn high level engrams from the next highest difficulty strike playlist.

If you haven’t bought the Dark Below, and you work your way to level 32, you’re doing it just for the hell of it – not in order to enjoy increased difficulty Nightfalls, Weekly Heroics and strike playlists.

If you haven’t bought The Dark Below, you can no longer participate in Destiny the way you’ve been participating in it since launch day, in fact. Your game has just gone down in value, arguably.

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Heroics have also been made more difficult, meaning Guardians below level 30 are locked out – but it’s now possible to acquire cap-level gear outside of Raids, so it’s not a permanent block. Nevertheless, this made me laugh.

Let’s bring our tempers into check a moment. It’s very likely that next week’s Heroics will once more be content accessible to everyone, because Bungie’s not insane (I hope). Indeed, it’s already indicated to Polygon that paywall-locked Heroics will only feature periodically.

So this is probably just a bump in the road; something to be endured for one week only before business as normal resumes. Nevertheless, temporary as it is, this is a situation Bungie should have foreseen and prevented so easily that I have to admit I’m very disappointed in the developer.

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