It’s been a bumpy road and before I start our Destiny House of Wolves DLC Review, I’m going to look back at the main game.
Destiny launched back in September 2014 and didn’t seem to go far beyond the Beta we’d played. Whilst the core mechanics were as solid as you could wish for, the story was woeful and the content short-lived. Then came the Vault of Glass; a fantastic addition that remains, to this day, as the pinnacle of the Destiny experience. Problem was, it was littered with bugs and had a drop rate that would have tested the patience of Ghandi.
Yet Destiny persisted. We continued to play, testing out patch after patch from the people at Bungie to see whether or not it’d finally be what we’d come to expect from a developer of their reputation.
We were given The Dark Below. At a steep price point, many thought this would be a significant add-on to the original game, and they were mistaken. Whilst it did make efforts to tell a more cohesive story, and the Black Hammer is still one of the greatest weapons you could ever acquire, the grind returned in full, and those artificial walls came up time and time again to prevent you from exhausting its shallow well too quickly. That said, Crota was a fine foe, with more valid reasons to be squaring off against you than Atheon ever had any business doing, and sword-bearing is a joy I’ll never forget, but again, bugs were prominent, and after a month or so, opinions began to sour.
House of Wolves is the second expansion after two disappointing adventures in the Destiny universe, leaving many with their first “true” reservations since launch. This expansion showed promise in a way that The Dark Below did not. It was an attempt to innovate. To shake up the status quo Bungie had put in to place. The expectation of “3 missions, a strike and a raid” went out of the window shortly before launch, because there would be no raid.
That’s right. The only part of the game we’d been praising with little to complain about would not see the light of day in this expansion. Instead, we’d be given a three-man arena trial called “Prison of Elders”. A place we’d heard about, and a place that deserved better treatment than it got in this expansion, but in truth, it turned out pretty well.
That wasn’t all, however. Bungie catered to the PvP crowd this time around with the addition of “Trials of Osiris”. An elimination tournament wherein Guardians would have a scorecard with 10 win slots and 3 loss slots. Win 10 and receive amazing rewards (that were just pretty good, not amazing) and witness an area that held nothing but bragging rights, but lose three games and you’re out. I fully respected the attention given to the Crucible here. The PvP setup has always been made to make everybody feel special even when they performed terribly.
Think of it as the partner that would always love you, even if you weren’t doing so well in the bedroom – that’s the Crucible. Trials of Osiris, however, rewarded the skilled – and the cheaters, of course – for their competitive prowess, and brought with it the most interesting gear of the expansion if you could win. I, sadly, could not. I’m mediocre in the Crucible at best. I’ll have the odd good game, but I’m often mid-table, sometimes fluctuating. Nevertheless, I never begrudged the addition of ToO. It was needed to make Destiny’s PvP element relevant. Unfortunately, those of us that enjoyed PvE content wouldn’t fair as well this time around.
To talk of the positives, I’d have to mention the way the story was conveyed this time around. The Fallen were the first enemies you’d ever seen in Destiny. To have them as the focus was important, and it meant something. Also having been called upon by the Queen was something we could relate to, having been involved with her in one of the better moments throughout the lack-luster main campaign of the base game.
Sadly, her voice isn’t heard often, instead Bungie opted to push new personalities our way, and whilst I’d like to have gotten a brief cameo from the Prince or Queen herself, Petra Venj – one of the Awoken’s best soldiers – and Variks – a Fallen still loyal to Mara Sov (the Queen) – do a good job of getting in to the gritty details whilst making themselves known. Indeed, the banter between them over the communications unit as you progress through the story to hunt down Skolas showed what Destiny had been lacking: character interaction. The world had never really acknowledged that anybody else was there, and now these brand new characters were. It’s a step in the right direction that I hope they embrace strongly in the future.
The Strike this time offered something new. Rather than a bullet-sponge boss, you would chase Taniks the Scarred through a fallen ship, taking down the waves of enemies in your way, leading to a final confrontation at the end. The difference here was that Taniks would lure you in to tight corridors, using his gun’s wide range to wipe Fireteams out. Ultimately, it all ended the same way, but it’s one of the better strikes in the game, and a welcome addition.
Prison of Elders turned out to be a great experience. Offering Level 28, 32, 34 and 35 versions – the final one giving you the chance to take down Skolas himself. That great experience quickly became a chore, however, when we discovered there would be no checkpoint system. Make no mistake; to defeat Skolas legitimately is a difficult fight, and one of the most rewarding ones, combining mechanics we’d never seen before with familiar objectives simultaneously, forcing a real need for communication. This meant that Fireteams would often fail at the final hurdle.
Now, in the Raids, you reach checkpoints that allow you to resume from where you left off last up until the weekly reset. Seems reasonable, right? You could spend hours working your way up Level 35 Prison of Elders, only to find that, if you all disband for the evening, you’d have to do it all again whenever you did it next. This was a ridiculous oversight that Bungie tried to defend with nonsense words that did nothing but disrespect the time of the fans, which was a shame, because Prison of Elders is a genuinely fun experience and deserves to be played.
What players do not deserve is an archaic reset button if they didn’t have the time to complete the time-consuming event. But then comes the day you finally take Skolas down. You’re used to the joy of acquiring something incredible after hard content. At least, somebody in your team would. Except this time, you didn’t. My fireteam in particular had to kill Skolas 4 times before a Legendary elemental primary weapon dropped for one of us, and that turned out to be “ok” by his description. So the Prison experience wasn’t a traditional raid, but that didn’t matter.
It was more than worthy of playing with its myriad of awesome boss fights even before Skolas in the form of Qodron and Valus Trau’ug. That is, until you realised that you were fighting for practically nothing. The gear you’d receive for an event so intense just wasn’t enough to justify another run, and the three exotic weapons available from the Elder Cipher weren’t really worth pursuing. It’s such a shame, but this expansion really did a great service to the story-telling and PvP, but shafted the PvE audience that had high hopes for it.
A brief mention of the new “social space” in the Reef. It’s pointless. I ran a few laps around it and went back to the tower unless I actually physically needed to head to the Reef.
All that said, there were a couple of bits of cool gear added that you could get your hands on otherwise. The Khepri’s Sting Hunter gauntlets allowed stealth even whilst in Gunslinger, and the Celestial Nighthawk helmet, that reduces your Golden Gun to one shot but gives it 6-times the power. I’ve seen it take down Ir Yut in one shot, and it’s glorious. Not only that, but the inclusion of a new item – “Etheric Light” – allows you to bring all weapons up to the new damage rating of 365. This makes your Vault of Glass weapons viable in the brand new content, and whilst I love whopping out my Vision of Confluence again, I can’t help but feel it spells a significant lack of belief in their new gear. It’s both a great move and a cop-out.
So in summary, it’s one step forward, two steps back for Destiny as of late. If things don’t pick up with the next expansion, I fear even my own patience will wane in the face of such a beautiful line-up this holiday season. Until then, I will wallow in my disappointment, thinking fondly of the day I got a Fatebringer way back when.
Note: This Destiny House of Wolves DLC Review was written a week prior to the release of The Taken King. Screenshots captured will reflect characters at Level 34 (the current cap), whilst the views will be written through the vivid recollection I have of the events I’ve done so often throughout the year.
Destiny House of Wolves DLC
Review Format: PS4