Den of puppies
I am convinced that somewhere, all of the new assets for the Destiny: House of Wolves expansion were lost, forcing Bungie to restart the entire process all over again.
Why else would almost the entire $20 premium DLC be a reskin?
Destiny: House of Wolves (PS3, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox 360, Xbox One)
Released: May 19, 2015
MSRP: $19.99 (Season Pass $34.99)
As I previously discussed, House of Wolves has been a mixed bag so far. Let’s start with the good. Bungie has listened to fans when it comes to smaller quality of life changes. There have been incremental improvements overall like the ability to toggle the volume of the sound and music (thank goodness), fixes like the patch for the heavy ammo bug, and communication has been better since the debacle that came up before the launch of the last DLC.
The loot system in House of Wolves is arguably the best part. It allows players, by way of items called Etheric Light, to upgrade their guns and armor all the way up to the new maximum statline. This includes all of your favorite vanilla Destiny guns like the Fatebringer, and any kind of Legendary armor, including that raid set you kept from Vault of Glass. It’s no glamour system (Etheric Light is hard to get, thus implementing a grind of a sort), but it’s far better than the previous loot mechanics, which forced you to re-level Exotics after having a chance to upgrade them once a week.
Right now, I’m sitting on three max level 34s three days after launch, which, depending on your point of view, is either a good or bad thing — and would be nigh impossible to do with vanilla Destiny or The Dark Below in week one. The problem with this new expansion isn’t mechanics, it’s content, and this “House” is practically vacant.
The story might technically have a few more missions tacked onto it compared to the last add-on, but they’re just as short and painfully recreated from previous assets. There’s lots of bravado with the narrative, and the tie-in with the Queen is pretty cool, but half the missions are direct retreads disguised as DLC. One mission is literally just a Patrol quest. Like, the same exact Patrols on Venus you’ve done a million times, you just need to kill some Vandals for a few minutes. Another is almost a direct slap in the face — as it’s the exact same level as the first mission, just in reverse. As for the Strike, you can’t just put a new hat on the Archon Priest and charge money for it.
Another problem is that all of the old content is more than stale at this point. Most Destiny players have been playing the same old Nightfalls, using the same “cheese spots” for months on end. Where is the variation? Maybe as part of the newest House of Wolves patch we could get remixed bosses for existing Nightfalls to spice things up a bit? I’m not even asking for completely redone levels, just new boss tactics that offer something different instead of bullet sponges. Is it so much to ask that maybe Sepiks Prime glows blue or red instead of purple, and has a new power? The rewards have been remixed, but the actual encounters remain the same. I’m not going to run the same Nightfall for a chance at an Etheric Light.
The worst part is that I’m already drained when it comes to the Prison of Elders, the “endgame” activity that Bungie dressed up and provided in lieu of a raid. I’m sorry guys, this just doesn’t fly. Crota’s End had it’s fair share of hate, and some of it for good reason, but I remember very clearly how awesome it felt to drop into the unknown of that abyss on day one. Running through that totem relay with five other friends, racing into the light with Thralls at my heels, figuring out how to beat the bridge encounter — all of it gave me a sense of wonder, just like the Vault of Glass raid did before it. Prison of Elders has none of that magic. It’s soulless.
As of today, I’ve completed the Prison eleven times in total across all three of my characters. It felt the exact same every time. The setup is as follows: you’ll start off in an airlock, walk into a room (it’s the same four rooms, literally the exact same ones over and over), and either kill enemies, or dismantle mines for three waves — then move onto the next room. The red room will always feature the Cabal, the green room will always feature the Hive, and the two same-looking outdoor purple environments will host the Fallen and Vex.
Sure, you may have to blow up a mine or stand in a circle to destroy it every two to three rounds or so, but ultimately, it’s the same room with the same enemies over and over. All of the bosses so far are even reskins, adding insult to injury. At this point, it’s clear that the name of the game is to clone assets and charge money for it. There’s content, but it feels like a series of checkboxes rather than something meaty.
Take the final boss of the static level 35 Prison of Elders challenge, the highest-level encounter available in the game right now. He’s a reskin of the boss from the story (he is the exact same boss from the story), but now he kills you in approximately one hit because of Solar burn. The arena is a reskin of the same Fallen room that you’ve probably seen 10 times over at this point in the first week. There’s around 50 adds in the room all shooting at you at once. Does this sound familiar? That’s because it’s pretty much every other boss fight in the game.
There are a few nuances like mines (reskinned from the Prison challenges), and a poison debuff that needs to be passed around the party (or cheesed with a Warlock res), but it ultimately ends up being nothing more than “shoot the bullet sponge with the Gjallarhorn because that’s the gun that works in every circumstance.” I’ve completed the level 35 Prison twice (one with the above method and another normally), and simply put, the two previous raids had far more depth to them. I’ve seen hundreds of variations when it comes to strategies for the Gorgon room, the Crota encounter, and the Templar. For 99% of the Prison of Elders, your best tactic is “stand in a corner and shoot.” It’s like the Nightfalls you’ve played 50 times over, but in most cases, even easier, and with less interesting locales and enemies.
Trials of Osiris isn’t much better. Because it’s PVP-oriented though and thus inherently less predictable, it’s not nearly as tiring as playing the same four rooms ad nauseam. It requires a premade group of three, at which point you’ll battle through a gauntlet with no resurrection capabilities (outside of the Warlock) once the entire team is dead. Each “match” is won by the team who wins five rounds first. If you win a specific amount of matches (five is the minimum for anything good, so far I’ve earned up to six wins) without losing three matches, you can earn gear. If you do lose thrice, you’ll have to re-enter the tourney and start all over. It’s cool in theory, but the rewards are fairly shallow and the event only runs from Friday until the reset Tuesday morning each week.
The loot table is basically a direct counterpart to Prison — one gun per week, one armor piece per week, some cosmetic items, and a random mystery box. There’s no real charm to it, you just grind out wins, and you get the gear that the NPC shows you in the Reef. Again, it’s only available to play at certain times, which just feels like an incredibly odd choice. After all, why limit one of your only real pieces of new content to just a few days at a time? Surely Prison of Elders isn’t supposed to last us until the weekend. It’s also important to note that Trials is only running on one map per week. After the fifth round in the same arena, it started to get boring.
It’s a very cool idea that heralds in the first real competitive PVP mode to Destiny, but it needs work.
I used to play Destiny every week with my large group of friends, who would often hang out in PS4 party chat as we ran through the two six-person raids, cycling people in and out. Not only has Bungie made the once massive scope of the game smaller with the two new three-person maximum events, but they’ve also lost the interest of many of my once-fervent comrades. Heck, to add insult to injury, Xur came today and only had old items for sale outside of helmet engrams — I bought 20 of those and didn’t get anything new.
Destiny feels just as smooth as ever as a shooter, but at this point you should wait until after “Year One,” as they are calling it now, to see if Bungie is going to come up with something new. I really hope the rumored “2.0” version of the game has completely new areas and enemies. But at this rate, we may even get a Destiny 2 announcement at E3, which will all but confirm the “beta test” status of the original game.
Bungie took a rooster, slicked its hair back, and dressed it up as a human. House of Wolves is the Chicken Boo of video game DLC.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]