A Review of Destiny's House of Wolves DLC by M.A. Feldman
After much anticipation and guessing and leaked information and denials and confirmations from renown game developer, Bungie, the creators of the games Marathon, and the Halo Franchise (despite it being utterly ruined by 343 Studios and Microsoft), on Tuesday, May 19th, 2015, at effectively 1:00 PM Eastern Standard time, the HOUSE OF WOLVES second expansion Downloadable Content was released. In this month’s MFG Mouth Off, we review in depth the storyline content, the changes made to the game’s aesthetics and gameplay as well as the Prison Of Elders (Unfortunately, we will not be able to review the Trials of Osiris as this is a weekend based event, and unfortunately my publisher wanted the review out today! So we’ll make sure we get an update posted for the House of Wolves Trials of Osiris over the weekend for you guys!)
While I understand that this is going to be targeted directly at the video gaming world this month, instead of some news about upcoming events and releases for our books, please bear with us, as we are also demonstrating in this month’s article why self-published authors should also be seeking our services as novel reviewers, and that our services are in fact worth their prices (and we are also willing to negotiate). So without any further ado, we move right along, to the review of House of Wolves, starting with the first two places: The Trailer, and the Opening Cinematic for the House of Wolves DLC Content. After we’ve reviewed the content, we’re going to analyze and explain some of the new features that have also been added, and lastly, we’ll give you our overall rating on our 1-5 star scale system.
House of Wolves Expansion Two
Developer: Bungie and Activision
Genre: FPS, MMORPG
Release Date: May 19, 2019
Game’s Original Release Date: September 9, 2014
We start by looking at this trailer for the House of Wolves. Just listen to it; the empty hatred that hides beneath the calm exterior of Mara Sov, the Queen of the Awoken, who spilt the blood of her own people in the fight for their survival against the Fallen House of Wolves, and it was she who killed their Queen, and imprisoned the rest in the Prison of Elders. Granting them their mercy, she’s repaid in blood. Your job Guardian, is to hunt down these traitors, and reap the benefits of Reef’s rewards for your success.
Downloadable Content: The Story and In-Game Mechanics
The trailer just jacks you up, doesn’t it? It makes you feel like you’re going to take on an army. It makes you feel like the fate of the Awoken’s revenge truly does hang on your every decision now. Will you aid the Awoken? Will you help them claim vengeance upon the enemy, and will this actually have a storyline content, unlike its predecessor. The trailer we see definitively implies that this is the case, to some extent.
Furthermore, the actual in-game cinematic does the same thing, however, this time as you can see in the video, we’re not greeted by the voice of the Awoken Queen herself (for clearly, we are but merely insignificant bounty hunters to the mighty Queen who slew the House of Wolves Kell, but apparently keep track of her own prisoners), but by her emissary an incredibly familiar face to Destiny players, Petra Venj, who at the game’s launch also was the representative for the Queen’s Wrath event. After the video, we are taken to the Reef, which as a new DLC has turned into one of three things:
A) The Reef’s Vestian Outpost: This is the new social area for the game. Here, you will find NPCs similar to those back at the Tower, however you will not find vendors other than Reef based Vendors. Here you will find two new characters as well; Variks the Loyal, a Kell from House Judgement who stayed loyal to the Queen even during the House of Wolves uprising. He is the Vendor responsible for not only administering parts of the storyline quest, but also the individual who runs the weekly Prison of Elders event in much the same capacity as that of Lord Saladin (Or as my gaming clan calls them, Lord Insalata Viso, which translates to Salad Face in Italian, just our quick little sick senses of humor). Alright, admittedly, that sidebar statement is actually a running joke, so to my friends that see this review, please know it still makes me laugh. Also, to those brand new to this blog, please don’t let my sidebar humor get in the way of the review. If you think it is, comment in the comment section. Additionally, there is Sentha 55-30, the Postmaster, two additional Safe Storage Units where guardians can grab their gear, the Bounty Board, Brother Vance who is the Trials of Osiris Vendor, and last but not least, the Bounty Board Representative for the Tower Social Space, Berg 99-40, where you can now not only gather the weekly Queen’s Wrath Bounties, but also, gather your actual bounties. Now, this seems as though it would be a pain in the ass, frankly, to go from one social space to the other. However, with the exception of the Vanguard and Crucible Vendors, for that is the only real purpose the Tower now officially serves, with the exception of Xur. The Vestian Outpost is where you obtain your major storyline missions and bounties for the Reef.
B) The secondary Location introduces Arenas. Arenas are a new end game for the final story missions of House of Wolves, and instead replaces Raids with the Arenas. Each week, like the Nightfall Strike and Heroic Strike, the Prison of Elders will have different arenas, however, each arena remains the same in terms of level: 28, 32, 34, and lastly, 35, which is the effective hard mode for the game type, as is equivalent to hard mode for the Raid. We will be discussing the Prison of Elders more in depth in this review.
C) The third portion of the Reef is the Trials of Osiris Arenas. The Trials of Osiris are another new addition to the many that have been added to the world of Destiny, and the Multiplayer Competitive aspect of the game. The Trials of Osiris are limited to the weekends only, and count as a permanent faction that one can continually raise their level in without worry of weekly resets in terms of rank. Unlike its Iron Banner counterpart, the Trials of Osiris will occur every weekend from Friday until Tuesday when all activities automatically reset at 4:00 AM Eastern Standard time.
So with these new locations we focus now on our storyline. It’s been made very clear: A former Fallen Reaver Captain of the House of Wolves has escaped, which, is directly tied to the escape of Aksor from the Prison of Elders as well (Destiny fans know this as one of the Nightfalls, and it is one of the Strikes players come across in the game; it is not DLC, it came standard as a mission in the game, and there even bounties offered on him and other such targets as many players already know. This was merely for those that didn’t). Who would dare to defy the Awoken Queen, and slay her people?
His name is Skolas, and in the very first mission, where we hunt him down he reveals himself to be the “Kell” of Kells. His story is told further in the campaign missions that follow. New enemies are introduced such as the Repeater Shanks, Explosive Shanks, and Tracer Shanks which shoot not only lasers, but a special mine that blinds the Guardian and slows them down within their radius, much akin to the armor effect of an Exotic Titan Helmet that many Titan Guardians are familiar with. Throughout your missions, you are rewarded by Petra Venj, as well as Variks the Loyal and Brother Vance with just enough rewards to get you started. You see, Bungie has once again increased the overall Light Level of Guardians, this time instead of the level cap being 32, it has been risen to 34; with the Prison of Elders final arena level being capped out at level 35, making it the hard mode equivalent of the Raid.
Along the way of doing these missions, you will notice new public events, indicated by the text at the left hand bottom of the screen in white that says, A Pack of Wolves is Prowling. This is a four wave series of enemies that drop from Fallen Ketches’, and on the final wave, you as a guardian will fight a specific target. One week prior to the release of House of Wolves, Destiny Players were given a chance to increase their Queen’s Wrath Reputation early. Vanguard commendations can now be converted to give you 250 reputation towards any faction, while Crucible commendations remain the same: They can only be used on Crucible reputation. A great suggestion to any player that I would advise is to wait until you do the weekly Nightfall, for the 20% experience increase, as the 250 becomes roughly 312 experience towards the faction of your choice (you do need to be wearing the faction class item in order for it to apply to a group like Dead Orbit or Future War Cult). These new public event with the House of Wolves however, grants the chance to collect rare items known as Treasure Keys, which are used in the Prison of Elders end game to claim greater rewards such as better weaponry and better loot. These public events however, also are sometimes the subject of your bounties from the Reef, along with the story mission.
The story missions equate too roughly about four or five major storyline missions, plus one extra mission from Variks the Loyal, Warden of the Prison of Elders, who gives you your new strike, which happens to be this week’s Nightfall. Overall, the story missions expand on previously existing background areas that guardians previously had not accessed, and were shown new areas that now can lead them, say on patrol, through different areas. In one particular mission, since launch, you are able to go completely back to the beginning where the Destiny Guardian player character is awoken (pardon the term, not to be confused with the race Awoken) by their ghost, or, for those that have yet to play this game, Bungie’s new version of Cortana, voiced by Peter Dinklage, super celebrity of Game Thrones. His Dwarf Stature in real life may resemble his Ghost, however, Ghost is summarily hacked into by Petra in order to guide the guardians throughout the missions. The end result of the main story quests for the House of Wolves involves a fight with Skolas, who has unleashed everything he can get his hands on, and has found a way to use Vex Technology, after breaking into the Vault of Glass; a raid that Destiny Players regularly “cheese” (a term used to practically glide through). This is important because the Vault of Glass is where one of the Vex’s strongest warriors was hidden (the final boss for the Vex, Atheon). The final battle consists of Skolas, demonstrating that the Fallen are not just savage alien warriors, but a brilliant tactician as he is actually using the Vex technology to pull warriors from the battle of the Reef before they can be slain, and recuperate the losses of the House of Wolves. In the end, however, the Guardians defeat him, yet the Queen wants him alive to be placed back into the Prison of Elders.
Now, after the game is completed, we are introduced to the Prison of Elders, which starts out as an overall level 28 matchmaking game. Level 28 is the only level to which an individual will find players to interact with if they do not already have a party. The Prison of Elders was meant to be cooperative, and is a team based event, as it does include objectives such as destroying mines or deactivating them the same way one would when playing a match of control and capturing the point. Each wave after the first round carries a specific modifier, including a new modifier known as “Brawler”, which greatly increases the amount of damage a melee attack from a guardian does. For Titans, you guys just became the reason why Zeus had to imprison you monstrous tanks of armor and lightning and void shields! Each tier grants a specific level of experience per level, and as mentioned before works as follows: Level 28 is the start of the mission, level 32 is the next stage. Level 33 is harder, and does require a new type of material upgrade: Etheric Light.
Now, after all of this, you’re most likely wondering if Bungie put the time and energy to fix the weaponry that the DLC The Dark Below doled out, and the answer to that question is most affirmatively yes. The weapons now all have a nice balance, and many of the previous glitches they experienced are officially patched with the release of House of Wolves. Overall guardian level now caps out at level 34, which can be obtained without having to do a Raid, which has so far been overwhelmingly one of the best features of the game, in my honest opinion. They did include new exotic weaponry, to which I have yet to come across, but that doesn’t mean Xur isn’t going to be selling it or perhaps a new Agent of the Nine. Weapons and armor that were acquired can be upgraded simply using Etheric Light.
However, Etheric Light is a material that can only come from one of three places: The Weekly Nightfall has a chance to drop it. The Prison of Elders has a guaranteed chance at level 34 in order to ascertain the Etheric Light. Lastly, the Trials of Osiris has the chance to reward players with Etheric Light. That said, this is where some may have complaints. Etheric Light is not required for the exotic weaponry that players own. All they need is the exotic shards and money and materials and they can immediately upgrade their guns to the maximum amount of damage output, which numerically has been capped at 365 points of damage. This can and still does vary of course, depending on the impact of the weapon; however, 365 is the number that means your weapon has been completely levelled up in. Etheric Light is needed to upgrade Year 1 items, as well as current new items such as the Vestian Dynasty, a new secondary weapon that is actually a side arm, and said by Bungie not to be the only one of its kind. For information on it, simply visit the Destiny Companion App or do a google search on the Destiny Lore, which is likely going to be some kind of “Destinypedia.org” site. However, most of the information you will find is actually quite accurate as its put together by the dedicated fans of the game.
Etheric light can be seen as both a good and a bad thing. Admittedly, with new weaponry and armor and new exotic items as well, the idea of ascertaining the Etheric light is a good idea and the way it’s doled out however, and is slow and in the MMORPG world, that’s known as Grinding for those that don’t know. It means we need to take the time to upgrade our weapons fully by finding Etheric Light, which can also be found in the chests for completing event assassinations.
Now after mentioning this, there are some other things to mention as well. With the release of House of Wolves, Legendary Engrams will no longer give you materials or shards. If you as a player receive a legendary engram for your primary weapon slot, no matter how good of a legendary weapon or how bad of a legendary weapon it is, that is what you will get. This does include so far based on the experience with the game and completing it and the bounties in a total of 5 hours in a play through on one character, class engrams as well. Additionally, the Voice of the Speaker now sells and converts items since most weapons now come with the only requirement to make the weapon its most powerful is etheric light, and the materials used to upgrade it. However, Ascendant Energy and Ascendant Shards are still used, and can be traded amongst one another in exchange, allowing players to be able to level up guns that they normally would not have been able to level up if they didn’t have enough of the material at the time. Additionally, Banshee at the Tower does now reforge weaponry, except not all weapons can be reforged. If you are a Destiny player reading this, you will likely enjoy hearing that you can reforge your Iron Banner weaponry, despite the cost of it being the gamble. You can also reforge certain weapons if you do not like their perks. It does not always mean you will get better perks. It does however mean that you have the opportunity to get better perks for the gun, as well as change its damage output type. Please Note: This only applies to weapons with the hammer symbol on them.
Questions regarding replay value have arisen. After speaking with Destiny Veteran Games, LightTau and FitLopez of Clan Defiling the Wretched, both of whom are some of the nicest gamers and honest I’ve ever had the pleasure of gaming with, both agree that House of Wolves adds a refreshing breath of air into the game and a level of replay value that was not existent in The Dark Below. They also both went on to agree that the changes made to the weapon and armor systems, as well as the increase in Crucible marks one gets for participation and winning were great, and that it was something that Destiny needed to happen. At the same time however, while both agree that the missions of House of Wolves make the player feel that nostalgic Halo like atmosphere, there is a certain amount of repetition to it; that is to say that the idea of simply going level to level and killing the individuals en masse felt somewhat repetitive. However, they also further elaborated that they did acknowledge the fact that there was at least motive behind each hunt, and a storyline this particular DLC that was not present in the other. However, the three of us came to an agreement that Bungie needs to find a way to make their grimoire cards more relevant, because their player base is losing out on storyline that could be incredibly helpful to them understanding some of the missing gaps that have been left.
Lastly, some more aesthetic changes have been that Xur will now be trading motes of light for Strange coins, and there is now an item cap limit in gold when an individual has reached a maximum of a particular type of consumable or material in their inventory space. The Vanguard, Crucible, Dead Orbit, Vanguard Quartermaster, Future War Cult, New Monarchy, and even the Shader Maker Iva Levantisuseless (Most useless NPC ever….even somehow managing to beat out Ashley Graham from Resident Evil 4) each have new armor and weapon sets that complement the game, however, as of yet, no other side-arms such as the Vestian Dynasty have popped up. The Nightfall and the Weekly Heroic Strikes respectively, are now different each week, both from each other as well as the rewards that each distributes. The Nightfall will continue its Unknown Rewards, while the Weekly Heroic will continue to drop strange coins, but no longer carries the Cryptarch’s Engram. An additional level of Strike Playlists has been added, called Strike list Dragon, which is for level 28 strikes.
So, what are the pros and cons of the DLC for someone who’s never played the game before? Simple.
Pros: Each week, along with the reset of the Nightfall and Heroic Strikes and the reset of the Prison of Elders, players have not only the original campaign to play through, but they also have the chance to obtain new and exciting gear without having to wait for the DLC to release. The current weaponry and armor for existing players can in fact be upgraded so long as it was released within the first year of the game’s release. Players who are veterans and have yet to try the game’s new DLC will find that the only thing they need to worry about in order to increase their light level will be the amount of Etheric Light that they will need to upgrade their respective legendary armor and weapons; as previously mentioned, exotic equipment does not require etheric light to be upgraded, nor can any of their effects be changed. There is a level of nostalgia for those who used to play the original three Halo games, and the new missions certainly play on that, as well as providing some new and rich looking backgrounds, while also adding new music as well. The expansion of a new social area makes getting your bounties all in one place nice and simple.
Cons: The truth is very simple: The missions in their nostalgia can only last for so long. The receptiveness of the missions can be somewhat grueling especially at level 32 with no payout or reward, as most players who have and are reading this, have already reached the maximum level for their weaponry and armor as well and are waiting for the Etheric light. There is new medium now to which to farm, and it’s in the form of etheric light. While the newer weapons already come covered with the maximum amount of damage that they can deal, aside from what the Etheric Light will upgrade it too, obtaining the Etheric light requires individuals to farm and interact with others, since attempting to solo the Prison of Elders by one’s self is akin to soloing the Nightfall by one’s self. There is no anchor to help you out. Level 28 for the Prison of Elders is the only matchmaking for both the Prison of Elders, and the Trials of Osiris will require you to already have a group of three people. For those that spent the last few weeks doing what they could to get their faction levels up and trying to get to maximum level, they now have to continue on to level 34, which can effectively be done without the crucible, however, it takes even longer now to do so, putting players who prefer the PVE environment at a slight disadvantage.
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
House of Wolves adds a refreshing breath of life into what was beginning to become a stale game. With the weekly reset of Petra’s bounties, it means someone doesn’t have to rush through in one day to hunt down the targets, they have the luxury of the week to get it done, while also getting the Nightfall and Prison of Elders done as well. Added on top of this that most of the bounties that Petra offers will usually include targets on your way to doing a Daily Mission or Patrol mission, you’re likely to get some alright gear if you’re brand new, or for more veteran players, you’ll at least get something to play with like the shiny new Scorch Cannon (admit it; you definitely felt satisfied when you watched your enemies turn to orange ash thanks to one trigger pull and not wasting your own ammo to get it done).
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