Review: Destiny: House of Wolves

May 21, 2015

If you’re even a causal gamer, you’ll know all about Bungie’s massively-multiplayer first-person shooter, Destiny. Moreover, you’ll have already made up your mind about it: either you think it’s a tedious, repetitive grind and you hate it, or you think it’s a tedious, repetitive grind but you find it strangely compelling and you both love and hate it at the same time. I fall into the latter category.

For the unindoctrinated, the goal of Destiny is to repeat a limited number of challenges, most of which are re-set every week, over and over again until you literally wish you were dead. The reward is getting to repeat the same challenges on a harder setting.

It says a lot about just how tightly the game has coiled itself around our brains’ reward centres that this expansion pack has generated as much buzz as a full game release. The good news is House of Wolves is a huge improvement over the previous expansion pack, The Dark Below, with one very big caveat (the lack of a new six-man “raid”, the game’s hardest and most rewarding content).

The story is tighter than anything we’ve been subjected to thus far, although given how bad this aspect of Destiny has been, this is rather damning it with faint praise. Developer Bungie has made steps to streamline its bloated space opera, and this time all you have to do is hunt down a rogue alien commander. It recycles plot-points and geographies from previous missions instead of introducing yet more layers of garbled lore, making it feel refreshingly light, while still anchored to the overarching narrative of the series (whatever the hell that may be; something to do with confluxes).

Finishing the new content on the easiest setting won’t take long, especially if you’ve done your homework and already have at least one fully levelled up character – it will take three or four hours if you’re dawdling, two if you’re racing through. After the handful of new missions are finished, you’ll have access to the content most players have been looking forward to: The Prison of Elders, an arena-based battle where teams of three “Guardians” (that’s you) fight off waves of enemies for a chance to win powerful weapons and armour. There’s not a great deal to these missions: blast through increasingly difficult mobs then kill a boss, but for players who have been grinding through the same missions for what seems like several thousand years, it’s a welcome diversion.

There’s also a new competitive multi-player mode called Trials of Osiris, where teams of three face off against each other; a long-overdue improvement to a game that’s always favoured co-op play. Three new Crucible (player-vs-player mode) maps are also available.

Apart from some geeky (but broadly positive) changes to the in-game economy, Destiny’s mechanics remain much the same, but it was never the mechanics that needed improving – it’s always been a great shooter bogged down by poor writing.

All of this means there are now a load more ways to get your Guardians to the new maximum level, which is what Destiny’s legion of love/hate players will spend the next three months doing, all the while whining about how tedious the process is. Reading this review, you’d be forgiven for thinking I hate this game. I kind of do. I can’t wait to get home and play it, though.

First published in City A.M.