I've come to love Destiny over these last few months. Despite being crushingly disappointed at launch, I gradually realised that it's a great social experience that fits around your real life and gaming commitments, perfect for a strike here and a daily story mission there followed by a quick blast in the Crucible. Sure, the so-called "Raids" are hilariously repetitive, but Destiny's fun is evergreen and mechanically exceptional.
However, there's no denying that it's crying out for extra content. Which is where House Of Wolves comes in.
A far cry from The Dark Below, which used its Raid as an excuse to flog a pathetic amount of stuff at a breathtaking price point, House Of Wolves is much meatier and rides the crest of a major update. A new social space, new questline, new horde mode, new gear, level cap increase and three/four new Crucible maps certainly seems to be a generous offering, so I double-jumped right in as soon as it launched.
I've had a blast as always, but unfortunately what seems to be a huge wodge of content is far less substantial than it first appears. As is so often the case with Destiny, the emperor has no clothes. Or the Kell has no combat regalia to be more precise.
The Reef is open, Guardians, meaning that a new social space is yours to explore. Upon arrival you'll find several new NPCs and vendors, from a Queen's Wrath questgiver to a new Fallen ally (more on him later), new Cryptarch and a PvP vendor who presides over the Trials Of Osiris. You'll scurry around like a kid at Disney Land, rushing about and interacting with everything and everyone, before suddenly screeching to a halt and asking "hang on, did we really wait half a year for this?!"
It's tiny and geometrically simplistic despite its deep colour palette, basically just a gantry and little else. At least The Reef is conveniently laid out with everything you need within a short walk, including a vault and bounty bot.
Still, the Reef is just a hub, which quickly propels you into the new questline. 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. The 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 (Dinklage has been sidelined in favour of a much more expressive companion).
There are some frenetic encounters against Walkers and massed Fallen troops to sink your teeth into. Sadly House Of Wolves' "campaign" is also rather short and you'll traipse through plenty of familiar ground -- including what appears to be some pre-existing maps played in reverse. Fun while it lasts, but it doesn't last long. You'll also be able to play a new Strike, which I freely admit I haven't had time to test yet.
The new gear is rather tasty. It didn't take long for me to earn some new kit, all of which is already maximised up to the highest possible defence, damage and light without any need for further enhancement. Equipping a new pair of boots and gloves instantly kicked my light level up a notch, too. You can now find and grind for items that instantly max out any pre-existing gear to the highest levels, making them competitive, which is an absolute godsend for those who enjoy using Legendaries with great randomised perks or want to visually express themselves beyond raid gear.
You'll also receive a new secondary weapon during the questline -- The Vestian Dynasty -- which acts as Destiny's first proper sidearm. Always spawning with ammunition in the clip (even if you swap to it halfway through a Crucible match), it's manoeuvrable and versatile in tight quarters, capable of disabling or locking down Fallen captains as a nifty side-effect. A nice little sweetener to be sure.
So what else is new? Once you've blasted through the story you'll gain access to the Prison Of Elders, which is House Of Wolves' crown jewel. Acting as a horde mode, you and two friends (there's only matchmaking up to level 28) take on arenas full of increasingly tough foes and difficult modifiers, battling to survive and working closely together in order to pull through. Unlike the Raids, which are all about rote learning, Prison Of Elders encourages you to think on the fly and coordinate in unpredictable conditions, providing a fantastic change of pace. Frankly, I don't need a new raid!
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. Though it's a shame that no new six-player content is included, a crying omission, Prison Of Elders seems to be a great fit for Destiny. We'll have to wait and see whether the fun lasts beyond the next few weeks.
As a huge fan of the Crucible, I was most excited about the three new maps (since I'm playing on Xbox One I can't access the PlayStation-exclusive Timekeeper map until Autumn 2015). They're a solid addition to the Crucible lineup. 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 regardless of gametype. Thieves' Den is nearly as good, set within a volcano and providing some unique visuals. Sadly Black Shield feels very similar to the the Martian maps in terms of visuals and layout, despite being well-designed as per usual.
The Trials Of Osiris begin on May 22nd, which aims to bring a new competitive edge to Destiny's PvP. Teams of three will fight in gruelling tournaments, earning boosted rewards so long as they can rack up unbroken wins. It's a nice idea, but once again, the lack of six-player content is aggravating seeing as many Destiny players already Raid with a team of five trusted mates. Naturally I'll test out the trials before even thinking about a review.
House Of Wolves seems perfect for dedicated Destiny players desperate for something else to do beyond Raids and Nightfall events, then, but like The Emperor's New Clothes, it peddles the illusion of content without delivering an awful lot. The new update and vendor refresh make it feel bigger than it really is, the lack of six-player content feels like a missed opportunity and the new features do rather strike me as things the base game should have offered at launch.
But. But. I'm still having a whale of a time. The Prison Of Elders is fantastic fun, the new maps and gear are keeping me glued to the screen, while the numerous additions in patch 1.20 make Destiny well worth returning to.
£19.99, though. It's going to be an interesting review.
Until then, I'd invite you to tell us about your experiences with House Of Wolves in the comments! You can check out our cheap PlayStation + deals guide and Xbox Live account deals guide for cheap credit if you want to buy it.