[Review] Destiny: House of Wolves Expansion

Posted by | May 22, 2015 | Reviews | 2 Comments

Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
We played on: Xbox One

Destiny—an extremely popular online shooter—is a game with an interesting set of problems.

When it was announced in early 2013, fans of developer Bungie’s work on the Halo series immediately got excited.  I was one of those fans. “This is incredible!” we said. “Destiny will have the gameplay and plot of a Halo game with the group content and replayability of an MMO!”

Perhaps inevitably, many of us were disappointed. Bungie failed to meet the expectations of their fans—but in intriguing ways. The gameplay and visuals were amazing. Almost everything else was shockingly bad. The science-fiction plot was uninteresting and a little bit confusing. Most of the group content was extremely repetitive. The good parts were effectively inaccessible to most players. The replay factor was limited by inconsistent, unsatisfying character progression. And worst of all, when players complained about these glaring and seemingly fixable issues, Bungie ignored us. Or so we thought.

What Destiny House of Wolves Is

The House of Wolves expansion has proven Bungie was listening. (An earlier expansion, The Dark Below, mostly disappointed fans. House of Wolves is the second expansion.) With House of Wolves, Bungie has finally fixed most of the largest issues with Destiny. There are new story elements, areas, and gameplay options, too.

Players can buy an expansion pass for $34.99. That entitles them to all the Destiny expansions. (There is another expansion planned for the fall.) Or they can buy the House of Wolves expansion for $19.99.

The Destiny House of Wolves Story

House of Wolves’ story isn’t terribly interesting, but at least it’s not confusing. It continues the familiar science-fiction plot elements that are the basis for the main Destiny game. Humans in the far future are fighting for their survival against various alien races and robots. In the House of Wolves expansion, a faction of aliens previously loyal to humans turns against them. So the Queen of the Reef (the leader of humans surviving in an asteroid belt near Earth), rallies human forces to hunt down the traitors.

The fights in the game are mostly humans vs. aliens. There is no red blood or graphic gore. Thus the game and its expansions are rated T for Teen.

New Destiny House of Wolves Content & Gameplay

As in most MMOs, Destiny has PvE (player vs. environment) and PvP (player vs. player) gameplay. In House of Wolves, PvE play is made significantly more interesting by the addition of a new three-player activity. Teams of three players are matched up to play in a new area, Prison of Elders. This mode is basically like Gears of War‘s Horde mode or Halo: Reach‘s Firefight. You fight randomly generated waves of enemies. The fights increase in difficulty the more waves you complete. Sometimes special objectives spice things up a little.

I haven’t put as many hours into it as I have into Destiny’s monotonous and repetitive Strikes (three-player story missions). But I’m a lot more excited about doing more Prison of Elders than I ever was about Strikes. The gameplay in Prison of Elders seems slightly more varied. You don’t have to listen to the same plot points over and over.

Another reason for my enthusiasm is that Bungie finally managed to fix Destiny’s broken character-progression system. Now, solo players have more options. Before, solo players were stuck with doing daily story missions for upgrade materials and then grinding Strikes hoping for entirely-too-random rewards. Grinding in Destiny was a time-consuming and frustrating process. But with this expansion, you will never have to grind for Ascendant materials to upgrade your gear. Newly acquired armor starts off at the highest possible Light level. Older armor can be “Ascended” to its highest possible Light level. This happens with materials that are awarded only from weekly activities like the Nightfall strike.

A big part of Destiny—and something that kept players playing—was the constant effort to obtain better gear (grinding). Now random rewards are significantly more common than they once were. Even grinding Strikes doesn’t feel like a complete waste of time.

Prison of Elders even consistently rewards players who complete it with Exotic weapons. Players may want to grind Prison of Elders for gear. However, they’ll want to take a break after every successful run to go kill House of Wolves event bosses on Patrol mode. This really helps break up the monotony. And it gives players reasons to go out and do a variety of activities (even after they’re done completing bounties for reputation rewards).

Destiny house of wolves gear

New gear available for the new expansion.

Overall, it just got a lot easier and more fun to acquire cool things for your Destiny character. This means it’s easier for your average Destiny player to prepare for the Vault of Glass and Crota’s End six-person Raids. These Raids could add even more variety to the PvE experience. But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Personally, with these changes, I won’t be too upset if my Destiny character goes to his space-grave without ever setting foot inside another Raid.

The Takeaway

Destiny is a rare thing—a T-rated online shooter. For that reason, and because the game is visually pretty and fun, a lot of kids play it. The story is still mediocre in the House of Wolves expansion. Yet it is an improvement. Some players argue about whether the expansion is worth the $19.99 price tag. But if you’re already playing Destiny (alone or with friends), I believe House of Wolves is well worth it.

Chris Jaech

About Chris Jaech

Chris Jaech is a voice-over actor and writer. His voice-over work is featured in HER Interactive's video game Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy. He lives in Seattle.