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Down into The Dark Below: Your guide to Destiny’s first DLC expansion

Destiny got a whole lot bigger on December 9 with the release of The Dark Below, the first downloadable content expansion for Bungie’s latest game. The game’s unique, quasi-massively multiplayer design lends itself well to add-on content, but with a few unusual twists and quirks that stem from the fact that The Dark Below content is sealed off for anyone that doesn’t purchase the DLC.

Related: Destiny review

That means there’s a new raid, new PvP maps for Crucible, and a new Strike that players of the vanilla game can’t access, but there’s also an assortment of gear and new systems that are specific to The Dark Below as well. We’re here to help you navigate the new DLC so you can better take advantage of its exclusive features and delve deeper into Destiny‘s massive, ever-expanding endgame.

The end(game) is nigh

First off, unless you’re into Crucible there’s just not a whole lot to The Dark Below for players lower than level 20. The first of the DLC’s three story missions start with a recommended level of 24, so you’ll need to be well into Destiny‘s endgame before you can really tackle most of the new stuff. That’s fine, of course, but it’s something to be aware of before leaping in.

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In terms of playable content, there are the three story missions (plus a fourth pseudo-story mission that can’t be repeated), the new Will of Crota Strike (level 24 minimum), and the new Crota’s End raid (level 28 minimum). On the Crucible side, there are three new maps in all: Pantheon, Skyshock, and The Cauldron. There’s also an assortment of new gear, which we cover in more detail below.

Related: Destiny: The Dark Below DLC review

The PlayStation 4 also gets a bonus Strike (The Undying Mind) and some extra gear.

Grinding it out to level 30

While Destiny has a sizable core following, there are plenty of you out there that come to The Dark Below with a level 28 (or lower) character. Maybe you haven’t been able to participate in the daily grind as much, or find people to hit the raid, Weekly, and Nightfall with every week. Whatever the reason, don’t be frustrated. The Dark Below lays out a clear path to hitting level 30 that doesn’t necessitate participating in the raids (though that certainly helps).

Both the Crucible and Vanguard Quartermaster vendors in the Tower have updated inventories following the DLC launch. Players that don’t have The Dark Below still see the same old stuff, but DLC owners have new gear to buy. This is particularly noteworthy when it comes to armor, since the legendary armor pieces that you can buy in the Tower now top out at a Light rating of 33 (compared to the previous 30).

An extra three points per gear slot might not seem like much, but if you max out the upgrades on each of the four slots — helmet, chestpiece, gauntlets, and boots — that brings your total Light rating up to 132, which is just at the cutoff for level 31. If you’ve got an Exotic armor piece, make sure to check with Xur for an upgrade on Friday/Saturday, or just buy a new, post-upgrade Exotic armor. The Light levels on Dark Below Exotic armor max out at 36, and you need one — plus one piece of Crota’s End raid gear in each of the other armor slots (they also max out at 36 Light) — to eventually get to level 32.

It’s best to plan early and get/upgrade a post-DLC Exotic as soon as you can. You can always buy four new legendaries from the Tower, but you’ll eventually need to replace them with raid gear if you want to get to level 32. And since buying all that gear comes at the cost of 300-plus marks and one Crucible/Vanguard commendation for each piece, there’s not much point in buying them all.

There are also other ways to get high-level gear, such as the Iron Banner event (accessible to all players) and the DLC’s non-repeatable fourth story mission (covered below).

Meet Eris Morn

Eris Morn is a new quest-giver in the Tower, found just outside the hallway leading to the Speaker’s chambers. She’s the one you visit to get The Dark Below‘s story missions, but that’s not the only reason she’s a point of interest. Eris also hands out bounties that refresh daily, and completing them earns you Crota’s Bane reputation with her. It works the same as Crucible/Vanguard ranks do at the bounty board, though Crota’s Bane rankings unlock items for purchase from Eris.

dark below destiny eris

She doesn’t sell any gear; just shaders and emblems. She does, however, sell a handful of unique items. Ammo packs for special (green) and heavy (purple) weapons cost Black Wax Idols, two and five, respectively, which often drop from Hive majors and bosses. She also sells a Runed Core and an Embalming Core, both of which relate to upgrades for DLC-specific gear.

The Runed Core is used to unlock the final set of upgrades for Murmur, a legendary pulse rifle that you get from Eris as a reward for completing the three story missions. The Embalming Core, on the other hand, evolves the Husk of the Pit auto rifle — a rare random drop from defeated Blade of Crota Knights — into Eidolon Ally, a legendary auto rifle.

Lastly, Eris also allows players to swap Radiant Energy for Radiant Shards, and vice versa, for a price. The new Radiant crafting materials are exclusive to The Dark Below, and they’re specifically used to purchase the top-level armor and weapon upgrades for gear earned only in the Crota’s End raid.

One path to success

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s take a look at how you, a Dark Below newcomer, can chart the smartest, most resources-efficient path through the new stuff. We’re assuming here that you’re deep in Destiny‘s endgame, at least far enough to be level 24, but preferably closer to 28. In truth, level 29/30 is the ideal place to be in when starting out, at least in terms of managing your time and not having to double-down on certain activities.

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Eris should be your first stop, before you even start spending marks on any of the new gear even (if you have to buy something to level up, just avoid getting the gauntlets).

Get Eris’ first story mission. Do that. Then the next one. Then the third one. Tackle them all on the level 30 difficulty if you can handle it, as these carry bonus XP and Ascendant materials rewards. You can always get those rewards on a subsequent attempt, but they’re only awarded the first time you beat each mission on level 30.

Related: Your guide to surviving Destiny‘s Vault of Glass raid

Once you knock out all three story missions, you get the nifty legendary fusion rifle Murmur, which allows you to switch back and forth between doing Arc and Solar damage from the weapon’s upgrade screen. You also get the Urn of Sacrifice mission, a multi-step challenge that, once completed, culminates in a non-repeatable wave defense mission. Finish that, preferably with a friend or two at your side (it’s challenging), and you get a legendary gauntlet that maxes out at a 33 Light level. That’s why we suggested skipping a gauntlets purchase at the outset.

Make sure to tackle the Eris Morn bounties every day. These bounties, plus her missions (your first time through), are your only route to upping your Crota’s Bane reputation rank, and you definitely want to grab both the Runed Core and Embalming Core at rank three.

Destiny - Crota's End 2

That’s about all. Once you’ve finished the three story missions, it’s best to just keep with the bounties. In addition to improving your Crota’s Bane rep, they’re also yet another major source of daily XP, which is essential for leveling up your high-end gear.

All of this is in the name of prepping yourself for the Crota’s End raid, which is best tackled by as many level 31s as you can gather together. Just don’t forget about the Vault of Glass, especially once you hit level 30. Playing the Vault on hard has a chance of getting you some very handy endgame gear, including the Vex Mythoclast. The Vault is also much more manageable on hard at level 30 than Crota’s End is on normal at level 30.

We’ll cover Crota’s End in a separate guide very soon.