Destiny: “House of Wolves” Review: A Good Step Forward

Gaming / PlayStation / Xbox

Before I talk about Destiny‘s newest expansion pack, I should give you a bit of background about myself. I just recently bought an Xbox One. I picked up Destiny shortly thereafter and about a month and a half before the second expansion, “House of Wolves”, dropped. After playing it for some time now, here’s my “House of Wolves” review.

My experience with the first expansion, “The Dark Below”, was an experience in being inexperienced with the game. Let me explain. It seems to be with every MMO — and I’ve played a lot of them from World of Warcraft to City of Heroes — the first character I play is a burner. From learning the ins-and-outs of the game to obtaining gear, I typically play the character then move on to a new class, but I digress.

Anyway, my first character was a hunter and during my first month and a half, two weeks of on-and-off play getting to 20, and from there the long and arduous grind to get to 32. I got lucky with a few gear drops and I sat at light level 27 until, well, the new expansion dropped. After a few gear pickups, I shot up to 32 and that’s where I jumped into “House of Wolves”.

PVE and the Story

When you first load up HoW, you’re greeted with a cutline followed by a second small one inviting your character to join the Awoken Queen in the Reef. After a brief quest to explore the new social area (something we’ll get to later) you’re off to explore a new area or two in the familiar areas you’ve frequented in Earth and Venus. Your first quest throws you on a heavy pike — think the normal pike but with added fire power in mines — and pits you against a Fallen Walker.

From there it’s a quest chain that has you seek out a Fallen Kell, Skolas. In the five or six quests you’re travel all over seeking out Skolas, **SPOILERS** ultimately catching the Fallen Kell. Right from the get-go you’re given a brand new special weapon, a rapid fire sidearm designed to deal with the Fallen and their abilities. Afterward, quests rewards range from gems that give you 5,000 glimmer to a variety of banners.

Sidearm

The new sidearm special weapon adds rapid fire and packs a punch with perks for taking out Fallen.

Finishing the storyline also nets you a treasure key to use at the end of the Prison of Elders, the new PvE endgame content, and you’ve guessed it, unlocks the actual Prison itself. Unlike “The Dark Below”, there is no new raid. All the end PvE gear and content comes from progressively harder Prison runs — starting at 28, progressing to 32, 34 and culminating at level 35 — and PVP.

I should mention, that 32 is no longer the highest level to achieve and your new goal is 34 based off a light level of 168. The new gear you get from engrams, Vanguard marks and PoE drops are designed to get you into the end game content and each of the second expansion legendary gear drops (head, arms, chest and feet) are set at giving 36 light points each putting you right at 32 and ready to jump into the harder content.

HoWgear

New gear puts you at light level 32 quickly.

The Prison of Elders itself, is a wave based strike where you and two others are pitted against the four main baddies in the game; the Fallen, Hive, Vex and Cabal. You face three waves of each with each wave getting a bit harder. As if that weren’t enough, in the later rounds you’re required to dismantle mines (stand in a circle and wait for them to disappear), destroy mines or prevent a certain bad guy from getting to a certain point on the map.

After the four rounds, you take on a boss. If you clear all the objectives and survive, you get a chance at opening treasure from the treasure room, where that key comes in handy. When you get into the treasure room, you’re greeted with two small chests and a large one. You can open the two smaller chests no problem but need that key for the big chest. My first through on three different toons netted me an exotic and two legendaries weapons for each character. Subsequent openings of the large chest usually netted me a legendary weapon or strange coins.

PVP: The Trials of Osiris

For PvE, that’s about the gist of it. You get some new weekly bounties seeking out Fallen Wolves, and everything described above. PvP is another story entirely. For those who like to go head-to-head against other players, the new Trials of Osiris allows you and your two best fire team buddies to go up against another team of three in an elimination style match up.

The kicker is, you don’t respawn on your own and your teammates have to revive you. Should you and your teammates get eliminated, that’s it. It’s over. However those who win will be rewarded with some of the best gear in the game. You can buy favors to increase the odds of competing better. For people who love PVP, the Trials add a bit of an finality to the game, increasing the pucker factor for one, and adding importance to teamwork and strategy.

It’s safe to say that the new expansion adds a wealth of new content. There were some who were a bit miffed by the lack of new raid content, but the new strike does add a bit of variety to the game. The new gear is designed to get people into the end content quickly. However, that’s where you replace one grind for another.

In the level 32-35 Prison of Elders, you have a chance of getting an Armor Core, Weapon Core or Etheric Light. The first two are tokens that give you the end level gear with +42 light. Etheric Light is the new token, if you will, that can be used to push each piece of gear to +42 light, but it’s not limited to new gear.

You can use Etheric Light to upgrade your older legendaries to the current level. This is good news for those of you disheartened by the fact that hours of raiding and grinding could be thrown out with a whole new level of gear. Bungie seems to understand this and having the ability to upgrade gear and weapons to keep it current is a wonderful addition that any MMO could take a look at doing.

EthericLight

Etheric light is the new upgrade resource in House of Wolves.

Here’s where it gets a bit more frustrating. If you’re a casual gamer who relies strictly on matchmaking, you’ll be sitting comfortable at 32.5. An exotic piece (you only still get one piece of armor and one weapon exotic) will come with 42 light or allow you to easily upgrade it to that without the need for Etheric Light plus the +36 light legendary armor pieces. But that’s where you’re going to sit until you make friends or they add matchmaking at later levels.

SitandWait

Casual gamers who only use matchmaking will be doing a lot of this in their quest for level 34.

The game does well at adding a bit of new content but can be done in a couple of hours prior to it going back to the usual grind of daily bounties, weekly bounties and earning Vanguard marks. I should also mention that the new expansion doesn’t add new areas and you’re going through the same areas as before albeit, in a different direction. You’ll find while it does make for a change of scenery of sorts, it doesn’t add much to the experience.

The grind itself is also one that causes a bit of frustration. Exotics aside, you’re still needing 5 to 6 etheric light to upgrade your gear. Plus, even with the ability to upgrade your gear, Looking For Group groups still want people with certain weapons, Gjallarhorn being that weapon.

And don’t forget the Vestian Outpost, “House of Wolves”’ new social area. It acts as your home away from home giving you the same options of interaction as you would have at the tower, short of “The Dark Below” content. You can still get bounties, decrypt items, use the vault and collect mail. But that’s about it. You’re still limited to the same four emotes and for being a social area, you’re not really doing much socializing.

Outpost

Vestian Outpost is the new social area for “House of Wolves.”

Is it worth it?

Now comes the elephant in the room, is the expansion worth the $20 you’re going to drop on it? The long and short of it is and yes and no. If you’re a diehard Destiny player then new content and new light levels are worth it just for being ready to go for The Taken King. Also, there’s a perk that if you hit light level 30 before it releases, Bungie will give you a sparrow, shader and year-one emblem. So, for the completionist in you, it may be worth it to buy beforehand and get to light level 30 (depending on how you play and your luck with drops, something that can happen in a single weekend).

However, with The Taken King coming out in September and the Collector’s Edition coming out with the game and two previous expansions — on top of the new one — it might not be worth it for the casual gamer. I say this because $80 right now gets you Destiny plus the two expansions while the upcoming $80 Collector’s Edition nets you the base game, all three expansions plus a wealth of other stuff. For those who haven’t played or dove in yet, September is when you should dive into the game because the game’s old and new content will have more bang for your buck.

The “House of Wolves” is a good step forward in that it offers players a way to jump into the new content without the long arduous grind before hand. It shows that Bungie has been listening to what players want and have been requesting. That said, $20 is a lot of dough to drop on a few more hours of content and the grind — as with any MMO — is still there, it just doesn’t feel as bad as it once did, and to me, that’s a huge positive step in the right direction.

***We reviewed a retail copy of Destiny: “House of Wolves” DLC which was purchased by the reviewer

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