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Review | Destiny Expansion II: House of Wolves

by on June 8, 2015
 

Bungie finally releases its second expansion pack for the hit online, first-person shooter gaming experience Destiny, with House of Wolves. At the time of the massively successful launch of Destiny in September 2014, it was confirmed that there would be two expansion packs for the game. One was The Dark Below, where players faced the Hive menace and the malevolent leader Crota; and the other announced expansion was House of Wolves, which would focus on battles against the Fallen. Following the game’s initial launch, many critics were quite unhappy with the lack of content offered by Destiny. thereof. However, House of Wolves is finally here. Combining the experiences of the different expansions together provides a much better and fuller indication of the Destiny experience as a whole. Destiny is still not without its flaws, but House of Wolves does make Destiny an increasingly more fun, well-rounded gameplay experience.

House of Wolves picks up on the thread from the main game when the main Guardian visits the Reef. The Queen of the Reef and the Awoken, who is now officially named as Mara Sov, helped the Guardian in his/her quest to journey into the Black Garden to destroy the Heart of Darkness. In exchange, Queen Mara Sov would call on the Guardians of the City at some point in case she needs a favor. Well, the Queen needs help because the Fall House of Wolves that she had acquired in her ascension to the throne has rebelled. The Reef is now open to the Guardians of the Tower, and an alliance is formed to strike back at the House of Wolves. The Guardians now have access to the Reef and its many secrets, weapons and treasures.

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After playing through tons of Destiny Strikes, Raids, Crucible sessions and Weekly Heroics, Destiny can at times become a little monotonous. Thankfully, I believe Bungie did a good job of breaking up some of the monotony with the new additions to the House of Wolves expansion. For starters, House of Wolves introduces a new social space for players with the Reef, which is complete with its own cast of characters and vendors; similar to the Tower in the City. The two best new characters of the entire expansion are Petra Venj, one of Queen Mara Sov’s agents and guards, and Variks, a Fallen Vandal who has opted to remain loyal to the Queen and the Awoken. Petra Venj guides the Guardians through the new story missions for House of Wolves, and Variks offers support and translations for the missions. He is a Fallen who actually speaks English.

The new story missions are actually a lot of fun and have strong sense of pacing. The narration by Variks and Petra Venj is vibrant, humorous and enjoyable. It is not as bland as Eris Morn’s storytelling for The Dark Below. I agree with many critics who have said that Destiny was previously lacking some of these elements. This franchise is essentially an epic space opera. It should embrace those elements. A space opera does not have to be gravely serious and dry 100 percent of the time. Space operas can also be fun and whimsical. Look at Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy. The running commentary of Variks and Petra Venj definitely livens up the new story missions, which have a focused goal. The Guardians have formed a new alliance with the Awoken. This alliance is banding together to put down a Fallen uprising, which includes an actual visit to the Vault of Glass. In one mission, the Guardians actually have to prevent the House of Wolves from laying Siege to the Vault of Glass and acquiring its secrets. That was not a mission I was expecting. The incorporation of a space from one of the game’s Raids in a story mission was a pleasant surprise.

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The story missions and the new strikes also offer a change of pace. Guardians now have to watch out for booby traps. There are mines embedded in the ground, some new enemy types and new Fallen Shank drones that have sniper and machine guns. During the missions, the Fallen enemies will drop a bazooka type weapon that players can utilize for a limited amount of time, which does a great job of clearing rooms. During the new story campaigns, a new weapon type is introduced called the sidearm. I love the sidearm. Basically, Sidearms pack quite a punch and fire shots in rapid succession. Of course, there are also new weapons and gear Guardians can acquire as they progress through the House of Wolves.

One of the other innovative new features to the House of Wolves expansion is The Prison of Elders. The Prison of Elders is a new cooperative activity that basically serves as the substitute for Raid missions in House of Wolves. The Prison of Elders is how Guardians who are currently at level 32 will increase to the new player level cap of 34. It is basically a new battle arena where a Guardian fireteam has to fight off several waves of enemies in five stages and climaxes with a boss fight. Currently, several different Prison of Elders missions are available. After players beat the first level 28 mission, there are additional missions with higher degrees of difficulty. Players must beat these missions to get access to the Treasure Room, aka Queen Mara Sov’s Crystal Barrows. These new treasure chests will help players get new gear and weapons from Variks, so players can ascend the Destiny ranks.

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The Prison of Elders missions are a nice change of pace. After beating the level 28 mission, I took part in a level 32 mission with my Titan Guardian who is at level 32. The mission was fine; but the boss fight has its own set of challenges, similar to the Raid missions.it is very important to have a good fireteam, with everyone on the same page, to beat these higher level missions. However, the rewards are nice. At first, I was upset when I heard that House of Wolves would not have any type of Raid mission as originally planned. However, after playing through The Prison of Elders missions several times, I believe the missions are a suitable substitute and provide a pretty strong challenge. The gear drops have been decent so far, but this is one of the issues where only time will tell. Loot drops are one of the biggest issues with the game, especially for Raid missions. I hope The Prison of Elders is not as problematic with the loot drops. In defense of the new feature, after playing through the level 28 and level 32 missions once, I was able to quickly ascend to level 33.

In terms of leveling up gear, I like that players now have the option to level up older Legendary and Exotic weapons up to the highest level. However, I am not crazy about the fact that it is harder to acquire the materials to level up the Legendary weapons and gear. To level up the Exotic weapons and armor, players only need to use one Exotic shard, which can be easier to acquire. This is especially the case if you have been hoarding shards from Xur like me. Finally, as a big fan of Destiny’s Crucible gameplay, I like the style of the three-versus-three elimination matches from the new Trials of Osiris event. Trials of Osiris is the new Crucible event for House of Wolves.

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If you are a fan of Destiny, House of Wolves definitely has a considerable amount to offer in terms of added gameplay, fun and value to the overall Destiny experience. Now, there is a strong case for the argument that perhaps Destiny should have had all of this gameplay initially at launch. However, Bungie is gradually building up the gameplay and universe of Destiny. While the story problems and flaws have not yet been addressed, House of Wolves is a step in the right direction. House of Wolves did provide some interesting plot developments and reveals. I hope Bungie continues on that path with further additions to the world of Destiny.

Final Score: 4.0 out of 5

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