Destiny has proven to be one of the most polarizing video games of the current generation of consoles, both critically and in terms of its popularity with the gaming public. Whereas some lauded its slick shooting mechanics, brilliant PvP options and lush visuals, others were quick to shower criticism on its repetitive mission structure and lacklustre narrative, something which pales in comparison to the likes of Halo. Still, with over 20 million players amassed since its launch in September 2014, there’s no denying that Bungie’s shared-world shooter has notched up some impressive numbers and the public have taken to it. This past week has seen the launch of the second expansion, House of Wolves, bringing with it a fresh set of missions, weapons, armor and other goodies to tuck into. But is it worth the hefty asking price? Read on for our impressions.
While the previous DLC, The Dark Below, focused on the subterranean race known as the Hive, House of Wolves concentrates on a group of disgraced Fallen who have betrayed the Awoken Queen, who resides on the Reef. Out of all the characters in Destiny, the Awoken are perhaps the most interesting, both aesthetically and from a plot point of view, although there’s still not an awful lot of narrative to tuck into here. The Queen’s emissary and her loyal Fallen sidekick, Variks, make up the lion’s share of new dialogue, although again Peter Dinklage as Ghost is conspicuous by his absence. At this point however, you probably aren’t playing Destiny for its story, most of which you get from the Grimoire Cards online, rather than lengthy in-game exposition.
Right off the bat, the Reef is introduced as a new social space, a mini-hub where Guardians can pick up new quests, as well as visiting Xur (when he shows up) and the Cryptarch. There’s also a couple of new Dead Ghosts to pick up if you fancy it. The missions themselves—five in total—are pretty solid, and typically see you hunting down Fallen boss Skolas and his companions across Earth and Venus. Firefights are challenging and frantic, with some pretty tough Fallen Captains and Vanguards forcing you into some strategic battles; I found myself employing every tool in the book, and had a blast taking down dozens of Fallen troops. The highlights of each mission are undoubtedly the bosses, which are far more challenging this time around than The Dark Below.
As with Destiny overall, the game is fun solo, but infinitely more enjoyable with a couple of mates. While most of the quests have you retreading old ground—you’ll venture everywhere from the Cosmodrome to the Vault of Glass—there’s a couple of new areas to explore, which keeps things feeling fresh. Not that you’ll notice much anyway, as you’ll be having too much fun weaving in and out of cover, popping a round into a Fallen foe’s head to worry about where you’re fighting. Still, a few more new locations would have been nice, and as with the previous DLC, you can blast through the new missions in a couple of hours; I beat the missions with a fellow PSU team member in a single night.
Fortunately, House of Wolves makes up for these minor shortcomings with a heap of other events to tuck into. Aside from heaps of new armor and weapons to get your mitts on, there’s the utterly brilliant Prison of Elders; a wave-based co-op mode that sees you pitted against Destiny’s various baddies. There’s four battles in total, each one comprised of three waves that increase in difficulty as you progress. PoE comes in three flavors: Levels 28, 32, 34 and 35, each one providing some rare loot upon completion. While the first one has matchmaking, the others require a fireteam, although it’s not hard to see why; beating this mode is no mean feat, and requires some vigilant teamwork on your part. For me, this is one of House of Wolves’ most enjoyable additions, and there’s immense satisfaction taking down each wave of foes, which rank as some of Destiny’s most challenging firefights yet.
It’s not just about mowing down waves of enemies either. Occasionally, there will be objectives that pop up that require your immediate attention, such as shooting or dismantling mines within a time limit. Failure to do so results in an instant death for the entire team. This not only keeps things from getting stale, but really ties into the strategic element of teamplay, and I found it incredibly rewarding to coordinate with my buddies to take down the mines while dispatching enemies from all angles. The rewards are bloody brilliant; you’ll access a treasure room upon completion, where you’ll nab all sorts of rare loot including Motes of Light, Legendary Weapons and Armor, plus heaps more.
The best part? You don’t need to grind hours through a single strike for multiple Radiant Shards etc to upgrade your equipment; one Etheric Light will ‘ascend’ your gear, and while you’ll still need to complete the harder PoE missions to acquire them, it’s a far cry from the awful system Bungie had in place for Crota’s End, which required seven bloody shards just to upgrade one single attribute of your armor/weapon. Even better is the chance to ascend Exotic gear with an Exotic Shard and some basic materials and Glimmer.
While PSU hasn’t had the chance to give Trials of Osiris a spin yet, the Crucible has some interesting new maps to try out. I favored the Earth-based Widow’s Court, a beautiful map featured a destroyed church as its centrepiece. It’s both aesthetically pleasing and interesting to play on, as you weave in and out of the dilapidated buildings, which house plenty of choke points and sniping spots. The others are pretty solid too, although not quite as enticing to look at; Venus’s assortment of uninspired colours make for a pretty dull experience, and feels pretty similar to other areas set on the Vex homeworld.
From my impressions, House of Wolves a solid slice of DLC and a definite step in the right direction. It improves upon The Dark Below in just about every conceivable avenue, and is definitely a worthwhile purchase for any Destin aficionado. However, those who have yet to be swayed by Bungie’s shared-world shooter or are merely a casual player are unlikely to find much here to convince them to part with their cash. If Bungie carries on like this for further expansion, however, then Destiny’s future is looking pretty rosy to say the least.