Destiny has been a controversial game since its release in September of last year due in large part to the enormous amount of marketing and broad reaching claims from Bungie and Activision about what the game would be like. The reality is that there is almost no way a game could have lived up to the advertisements and marketing that plastered television, Youtube, Twitch, gaming sites, and other places leading up to its release. Fans of previous Bungie titles expected Destiny to contain an epic story that spanned across the galaxy.
While Destiny had all the makings for a wonderful tale, the original release contained a story that was uninteresting, needlessly vague, and completely forgettable. Only upon digging into the lore fragments called Grimiore cards found on the companion app or bungie.net was an intelligible and deep story implicated.
If there is one area that “House of Wolves” succeeds, it is telling a brief but compelling story that I was able to understand and have an interest in seeing completed.
What are you buying?
Purchasing “House of Wolves” will get you access to: 3 new Exotic armor pieces per class, 5 new Exotic weapons, one Exotic sparrow, five different story missions, a new strike, the new wave based 3 player Co-Op event Prison of Elders, 4 new PvP maps, and access to the new competitive PvP timed event Trials of Osiris.
There is no new raid in the DLC…
That is all. There is no new raid in the DLC and if you primarily play Destiny for raid content, this will not be the expansion for you. There is a lot of other content tied to the DLC including new legendary weapons and armor, a new social space in the Reef, new bounties from the Queen’s Emissary, and the ability to ascend your exotic and legendary gear to reach the new levelcap of 34, but all of this content is accessible whether you purchase the DLC or not.
There is some narrative in Destiny now
While the first expansion, the Dark Below, succeeded more than the retail release of Destiny at telling a story through bits of well voiced narration, the purpose of the player’s actions throughout the story missions continued to be vague and ultimately fruitless as Crota manages to evade player attempts to stop his reincarnation until the raid is completed to do so.
“House of Wolves” tells the much more easily understood story of the Awoken Queen seeking revenge on Skolas, a Fallen Captain and former ally of the queen who rebels against her, killing many of the people she rules over in the process. The player hunts Skolas and his House of Wolves as they attempt to gain control of other Fallen houses and technology, killing those that stand in their way. The purpose of these missions was clear and easily understandable, shying away from the vague ritualistic motivations of races like the Hive and Vex. Skolas’ intentions are clear and and it is easy to see the danger in a singular Fallen army at the disposal of a power hungry warlord bent on destroying all that oppose him.
The Prison of Elders makes a lot of narrative sense and is also mentioned during one of the original 6 strikes in the game. There is less leaning on lore in “House of Wolves” than any earlier content in the game.
I Want to Go to Prison
The Prison of Elders is essentially the cooperative endgame content in the expansion that replaced a raid. Bungie has stated that it was designed to fun, challenging, and replayable. Admittedly I haven’t yet spent as much time in the Prison of Elders as I would like, but I can say it is enjoyable and in my opinion, a much needed change to endgame content that Destiny has lacked up to this point.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Destiny’s raids. I honestly think that they are some of the most enjoyable and rewarding shooter experiences available today and recommend that everyone who plays Destiny go through the Vault of Glass at least once. Raids aren’t perfect though, especially for people who do not have large friend lists with many high level players waiting anxiously to spend an hour or more in a highly organized cooperative environment. The Prison of Elders demands teamwork and organization much like the raids; they are also completed by teams of three rather than six and have matchmaking available in the easiest setting.
These teams of three will enter arenas and fight waves of different types of enemies in four different areas. Each arena is themed around a different race of enemies and you will only face one enemy type at a time. Every arena after the first will feature modifiers that will increase player melee damage, increase damage on certain weapon types, slow player energy generation, etc. Later arenas will also feature objectives which must be dealt with immediately such as destroying mines, dismantling mines by standing in what is essentially a capture point from control, or destroying a certain enemy before it reaches a specific area of the map. These objectives require immediate attention and have a dramatic impact on the flow of each round. After completing four rounds, you enter a previous arena and face a miniboss encounter while wave after wave of enemies spawn to kill you. Every time you enter the Prison of Elders you will enter arenas in a different order, enjoy a different set of modifiers, and encounter a different miniboss (aside from Prison of Elder level 35 which always features Skolas as the miniboss fight). I do not know if these small differences in each trip to the Prison of Elders will be enough to keep it fresh, exciting and engaging for as long as earlier Raids were, but I do think that giving players a different type of activity is a good idea.
When a run through the Prison of Elders is completed, players are allowed into the Queen’s treasure room beneath the arenas and can open two chests filled with glimmer and upgrade materials. A large chest will sometimes drop exotic and legendary items if the player has a treasure key which drops randomly from chests after completing the new bounties for “House of Wolves”, turning in bounties to Petra in the Reef, or sometimes from the smaller chests in the Treasure Room. There is no limit to the number of times a player can open the large chest for a chance to get the best gear, but the chest can only be opened once per run through the Prison. That means players will be able to farm keys and open the chest as many times as they please.
I found Prison of Elders to be fun and challenging. Quite challenging actually. It often feels overwhelming on higher difficulties as wave after wave of enemies throw themselves at you, trying to halt your progress on do or die objectives. Rewards are often hard earned, and finding two other partners is quite a bit easier than finding five. There are encounters with incredibly annoying bullet sponge enemies, but the amount of teamwork required is so much higher than the story mode strikes, which also end in a boss encounter, that this does feel like endgame worthy content. Finishing a run through on anything above level 28 is a relief and I was surprised by how intense the game mode is.
I was surprised by how intense the [Prison of Elders] game mode is.
The Prison of Elders is not without its frustrations though. Certain arenas paired with unhelpful modifiers as well as several miniboss encounters are painfully difficult. A single run can stall out during these times with certain encounters taking an hour or more. There is currently not a method of exiting the Prison of Elders and returning later to the point you left from. I had one playthrough where we had no choice but to abandon over one hour worth of playtime because we could not clear a room. This was punishing and does nothing to make me want to return to the game mode.
Trials of Osiris
Fans of competitive multiplayer will gain access to what is easily the most cut throat mode in the timed event: Trials of Osiris. Teams of three enter the Trials in a single spawn game of deathmatch. Team mates can revive each other, but when one team dies, the other wins a round. The first team to win 5 rounds wins the match. Lose 3 matches, and you must use a new currency called a Trials Passage to regain entrance. Teams that perform well on a single Trials Passage will earn Egyptian themed armor and weapons. Trials of Osiris features the gear and level discrepancies found in the Iron Banner as well, meaning that higher level players will take and give more damage.
This mode is hardcore, and will give fans of Destiny PvP something totally new and interesting to play. There is no matchmaking, so you will need to have two people to enter the Trials with. The Trials of Osiris runs from Fridays to Tuesdays at which time the event is reset.
Full disclosure, I did not get the chance to play Trials of Osiris myself during its first runs. I am not a fan of Destiny’s PvP crucible at all, so I do not know if my opinion on it would be of interest to most. It seems that it was quite popular in its first unveiling, and I am happy that fans of PvP in Destiny now have access to a compelling and exciting event to earn max level gear.
Design Changes from the Dark Below
Gear changes implemented in the Dark Below were punishing to the most dedicated players, forcing them to reset the stats on their favorite exotics to be able to raise them to new armor and damage levels. “House of Wolves” has completely changed the way that items are upgraded. Now, any Exotic or Legendary item can be upgraded to max damage, light, or defense levels by using exotic shards for exotic items, or etheric light for legendary items. This means players will have much more choice in what type of armor and weaponry they use as anything can now be brought up to level cap status. This helps to ensure that raid gear from either of the earlier raids remains relevant and gives players more reason to enter raids that drop level 30 and 32 level items.
What’s more is new legendary weapons purchased through a tower vendor can be reforged for motes of light, weapon parts, and glimmer, letting players change the perks on the weapon and gamble for a roll that they desire. Many players have asked Bungie for the ability to do this and I am happy to see it implemented in this way.
The Speaker now allows players to exchange different resources for others which will end the problem of getting ascendent shards when you need energy and vice versa. Drop rates for legendary and exotic items in the crucible has been increased as well, giving players more reason to spend time fighting fellow Destiny players.
Another small but meaningful change is that much of the new gear released with “House of Wolves” look much more unique than earlier items. I always found items in the Dark Below drab and boring with the prevalence of browns and gritty design. “House of Wolves” items feature much more color and even vendor weapons feature some design changes that really set them apart from older weapons, a change we didn’t see with the Dark Below.
These changes are small, but have a large impact on the ease with which players will earn the best gear and reach the new level cap of 34, and the diversity of options for players at the game’s new level cap. Bungie seems to have taken a lot of feedback from fans for this expansion and these changes are welcome.
This expansion has had a large impact on Destiny overall. As with the Dark Below, players will be able to experience many of the benefits whether they purchase the expansion or not. Changes to game mechanics are easily some of the most important aspects in “House of Wolves” and they will be enjoyed by anyone who plays Destiny.
The story missions are enjoyable and easily featured some of the most interesting writing in Destiny to this point. However, it continued to rely heavily on retracing areas of the map covered in earlier missions and ending sometimes in new areas made specifically for the DLC. I was able to complete every story mission and the new strike in under 2 hours, so if you are looking for more narrative experience than that, I cannot recommend purchasing “House of Wolves.” It seems that if you already enjoy Destiny and want more of it, you will probably enjoy “House of Wolves.” If you are hoping for an expansion to change the experience of Destiny into something that you will enjoy, I doubt that this will do it. Also, “House of Wolves” costs $20. That’s ⅓ of the retail price of Destiny and I wouldn’t say that you are expanding the base content of the game by ⅓ with this expansion.
Whether you decide to buy “House of Wolves” or not, this is likely a good time to return to Destiny if you were one of the many who stopped playing during the five month content gap after the Dark Below. The player base is revitalized, and Bungie has made so many quality of life changes that certain aspects of the game feel new. I am enjoying playing Destiny more today than I have for months.
I feel “House of Wolves” is a step in the right direction for Destiny, but I don’t feel that it will stand up to the biggest obstacle the game faces: the avarous demand for content from a highly dedicated fanbase. Though it is more polished than the Dark Below, there is really no more content and that is what players want the most.
For details on release dates and other related info, head to Destiny’s game page.
** When is it worth the price? — In lieu of review scores, we opt to give our opinion on whether the game is worthy of it’s release day price, or if you should wait for a patch or a sale. **
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