What are the ingredients that make up an expansion? Specifically, for what has been marketed as a competitive and cooperative online shooter with role-playing elements. New content for one thing. New areas to explore, too. And perhaps, an increase in level-cap or new skills to try out. But perhaps the key role for any expansion lies in the word itself. Which is to, you know, expand the game -- grow it in scope -- by taking this one thing and making it look, feel, and play, bigger.
On paper House of Wolves sounds like an expansion, with new content across the board and the sort of quality of life changes you’d expect. But in execution it’s more than a little underwhelming, and strangely presumptuous. And outside of the Prison of Elders content, which is a lot of fun, the paltry House of Wolves only serves to highlight one thing: Destiny is in dire need of an overhaul
First up, as expected, House of Wolves features a set of new story missions to tackle. And these take on the form of getting revenge and tracking down some big bad in order to please the Wolf Queen. Or something. Story has never been Destiny’s strong suit, and you’d probably be hard pressed to find an experienced Guardian who could tell you what the game is all about. Or even what the Guardians are exactly, and why they’re fighting hordes of aliens and robots.
For what it lacks in story though, Destiny more than makes up for with atmosphere and setting. We’re talking locations on war-ravaged corners of Earth, Venus, Mars and the Moon. In terms of grand sci-fi vistas, Destiny features some of the most beautiful locations ever seen in a videogame. Now, the only problem is that these locations have been used and then re-used multiple times across a number of different missions.
In House of Wolves, this sense of déjà vu has never felt so strong. As you find yourself wandering through a particular mission trying to work out what it reminds you of, you suddenly realise that it’s the Archon Priest Strike
map, but in reverse. You’re simply traversing through an area you’ve seen countless times before, but backwards. Re-treading the same maps was a problem with the core game, and now with House of Wolves it feels like self-parody.
Also, you’re not really fighting new enemies in these new missions. You’re simply going toe to toe against hordes of re-skinned Fallen with different name affixes like ‘Wolf Commander’, or some such. It all feels lazy for a number of reasons. First, because Destiny was marketed with expansion content in mind, long before its release. And second, because Destiny is a hugely expensive undertaking for both Activision and developer Bungie.
So is there anywhere new to explore? Sure, some of the missions feature new areas and the new Strike at one point does put you into orbit above the Moon. But for the most part it’s a feeling of ‘been there, done that’. Even the new social area, The Reef -- which is visually stunning -- is completely uninteresting. And devoid of personality. It simply serves as a new place to get the same old bounties, and some new ones that refresh once a week for some reason.
As mentioned the Prison of Elders mode, a new arena-style firefight where a three-person Fireteam can push through different rounds and then take on a boss, is a welcome addition to the game. It further highlights the already established solid mechanics and fun to be had when playing Destiny cooperatively. Plus there’s a huge chest at the end which you can open to get some uncharacteristically decent rewards. The only catch is that to open the chest you need a special key, which as of now are supremely hard to come by with no clear way to obtain them. Outside of farming locations you’ve seen countless times before for hours on end of course.
This plays into the new levelling system which increases the level cap to 34 for no real discernible reason, and requires these things called Etheric Light to upgrade weapons and armour. Like keys these are also hard to come by. On paper a new level cap seems like a no-brainer for an expansion to an RPG and in terms of Destiny it’s great that you can now upgrade any old piece of armour or weapon to the beefier stats of Level 34 -- but it’s never explained why. To take on the hardest level of Prisoner of Elders? Sure, that could be fun. But that’s the type of mode that inherently feels like a diversion, and not something that should be the endgame focal point.
At this point the core design decisions by Bungie need to be carefully considered for any new Destiny content moving forward. The forced artifice and restrictions are starting to annoy. Even the new PvP mode, Trials of Osiris, can only be played on certain days of the week. As a game, Destiny is by no means bad. The core shooting mechanics are quite possibly best in class. It’s a shame then that everything around them fails to reach those same heights.
Destiny Expansion II: House of Wolves is no exception, and seems to be an expansion in name only. If anything, it makes the already overplayed sections of the core game feel smaller. And for a grand sci-fi universe, that’s a bad thing.
Kosta Andreadis remembers a time when in order to get the best out of a console game you had to blow gently into it and whisper sweet nothings like "please work, I’m up to World 8-3, for fudgcicles sake". Situated in Melbourne, Kosta is a freelancer who enjoys playing RPGs, strategy, adventure, and action games. Apart from investing well over 200 hours into The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim he’s also an electronic musician with an album recently released
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