I love Destiny, but I have to laugh at how it relies on pompous nonsense to artificially create a sense of wonder and history. Or in simpler terms: Bungie gives things silly names to make them sound important.
House Of Wolves goes one step further by using flowery wordplay to create the illusion of meaningful content. The Prison Of Elders, Trials Of Osiris, Vestian Outpost and Skolas The Kell Of Wolves may all sound like incredible value for just £19.99, but in reality you're getting an arena horde mode, a weekend-only multiplayer event, tiny new social hub and a villain you'll only pursue for a few short recycled missions.
Indeed, most of the real 'content' comes courtesy of a few multiplayer maps, the aforementioned arena, a single new strike and the recent patch v1.20 (which is free for all, of course). So it's a good thing that House Of Wolves is so much fun, then.
The Queen is betrayed. Her pet Wolves have turned against their mistress and she is not happy. Throwing open The Reef to Guardians, she puts out an open call to arms for all those willing to pursue and break the Fallen traitors.
On the trail of the House Of Wolves and their deluded Kell, who've launched an offensive against the other Fallen clans in an attempt to unite them under one unassailable banner, you'll race across the solar system to make Skolas pay for his crimes and answer to the Queen over a couple of hours. In fairness, House Of Wolves' story is much deeper and more engaging than we've seen from anything in Destiny so far, bringing a feeling of real urgency thanks in part to some excellent voice acting. Thankfully Dinklage has been canned in favour of two much more interesting and expressive operators (perrhaps Bungie took our advice and fired Destiny's VO director).
It's fun because Destiny is fun, but sadly the 'campaign' doesn't bring anything new to the table beyond a brief spin in a mine-equipped Pike at the very start. You'll trudge through the same environments you've seen countless times, sometimes in reverse and even just playing a Venus Patrol at one point. Bungie had six months to create, but decided to pillage and recycle instead. For £19.99. At least you'll get a fun secondary sidearm for your trouble, the Vestian Dynasty, which excels at pinning down Fallen captains.
The new Strike is rather enjoyable, mind. Your quarry taunts you throughout the stage, taking persistent damage, making for a more memorable experience than most. I look forward to it cropping up as a weekly Heroic.
So what of the Reef? Much has been made of Destiny's "new social space" and sadly it's a major letdown. Despite its gorgeous purple backdrop and the initial excitement of exploring something new, it's also a tiny and empty rectangle with a couple of new NPC vendors and a whole load of missed potential. Thankfully, though, it's just a convenient hub. The new Queen's Bounty vendor adds new enemies into the world that can be fun to hunt down, plus a new Fallen NPC peddles high-level gear at the cost of running the gamut in the Prison Of Elders.
Ah yes, the Prison Of Elders. Once you've blasted through the story you'll gain access to several flavours of horde mode, which I'm delighted to report is House Of Wolves' crown jewel. You and two friends take on increasingly difficult themed waves of enemies, unpredictable sub-missions and tough modifiers, forced to coordinate closely under fire in order emerge victorious. Unlike the Raids, which are all about tiresome cheesing and tedious rote learning, Prison Of Elders encourages you to think on the fly and will push you to the limits on the harder difficulties (thanks in part to some seriously tough bosses). Survive long enough and you'll hotfoot to a glorious treasure chamber that routinely dishes out engrams, exotics and Cores that can be traded with Reef vendors for their weekly deals.
It's brilliant, but Prison Of Elders does have a few problems. Its glorious reward room may offer you exotics, unique legendaries and fantastic gear, but by the same token the biggest chest can only be opened with a key that you'll need to grind for. And you'll only be guaranteed the best loot once a week. Worse, though, is the fact that Prison Of Elders only supports matchmaking up to level 28, which is an incredibly annoying omission that's further aggravated by a total lack of 6-player content. A real shame for those who've been grinding away at the raids and formed close-knit teams of six in the process.
The way loot is handled also brings a new lease of life to Destiny. All Legendary gear (or above) can now be ascended to the maximum-possible attack, defence and light levels possible with a new item, Etheric Light, which you can win in the Prison of Elders, Nightfall strikes and other events. It's a great system that lets you use your favourite weapons rather than relying on Raid Gear, and there are plenty of new guns and armour sets to play with too, not to mention a newly-increased level cap of 34. However, since these changes were actually implemented by patch v.1.20, not the DLC, I can't give House Of Wolves much credit.
What I can give it credit for are the new multiplayer maps, which consist of PlayStation Exclusive map Timekeeper (which I can't test, seeing as I'm playing on Xbox One) alongside three more options. Two of them are excellent. Widow's Court is the highlight, an old Earth level with a pleasing mix of tight quarters and long sightlines broken up by cover that's an absolute blast. It's also nice to see more of Earth and how the war against the Darkness ravaged it. Thieves' Den is nearly as good, set within a volcano and providing some unique visuals. Sadly Black Shield feels very similar to the Martian maps in terms of visuals and layout, despite being set on Phobos, but is great fun in Control due to a central capture point being very difficult to defend.
House Of Wolves also brings the new Trials Of Osiris event to Destiny. Every weekend you can team up with two other players, then rack up massively boosted rewards so long as you can keep up a winning streak. It's a fun system that makes matches more tense, but not exactly a game-changer. Again, the lack of new 6-player content sticks out like a sore thumb, not to mention matchmade 6-player events to help form new alliances.
There's no denying that House Of Wolves refreshes and revitalises Destiny, especially when combined with the v.1.20 patch, but there's also no denying that it released far too late and costs far too much. A few years ago people complained that Halo 3: ODST was too expensive despite containing a full campaign and beefy replayable gametype. Now the Destiny season pass costs £39.99 despite adding a premium of content that, frankly, the game should have really contained at launch and was almost certainly held back by eight months.
Destiny is still enjoyable and addictive. House Of Wolves makes it even better. But for £19.99 -- despite the US version costing $19.99 -- it's a rip-off fit for a Queen. Even if I can't stop playing Destiny, I can't recommend buying the latest expansion in good conscience when you could have more fun with any number of full games at the same price.
- Interesting new story and characters, while it lasts
- Decent Crucible maps, some fun new events
- Prison Of Elders is enjoyable and and rewarding (and compliments the latest title update)
- Short, forgettable and recycled story missions; The Reef is disappointing
- Very little genuine new content, shocking value at £19.99 in the UK
- Desperately needs more matchmade and 6-player events
The Short Version: House Of Wolves revitalises the Destiny experience. Prison Of Elders proves to be more than a match for a raid, while the new Crucible maps are a blast. The latest title update also brings several much-needed improvements to the way loot is handled.
Sadly, House Of Wolves presents horrible value at £19.99 or as part of a season pass that costs as much as a retail game. Once again Destiny sells the illusion of meaningful content for a Queen's ransom.
5 – AVERAGE: Average games are exactly that. Neither good nor bad, some clever ideas have probably been marred by patchy execution, or strong mechanics let down by a lack of scope, new ideas or ambition. Often reserved for the completely unremarkable, the realm of the apathetic, you'll also find games here whose good and bad qualities basically cancel one another out.