Since its launch in September, Destiny has always encouraged social engagement as the key to full enjoyment of the game. Raids and Nightfall strikes acted as end-game experiences squarely targeted at group play, but demanded you do your own work to form and solidify the teams that would enter those spaces. With House of Wolves, Bungie has doubled down on this strategy, offering two brand new gameplay modes that are a ton of fun, along with some of the most interesting gear and weapons yet seen, but the best of the new content demands a pre-formed group.
House of Wolves opens with several new story missions, taking Guardians into some pitched battles that nonetheless unfold in mostly familiar locales. While several of these missions reuse old areas, it’s often in compelling ways – particularly a memorable descent into the Vault of Glass, this time with different goals than the last time you visited. We also finally get to explore a few long-locked new areas, like Kings’ Watch and the top of the Vex Citadel, both of which made my list a few months back of locations we most wanted to visit in the game. The story mission battles are smartly paced, with some fevered combat encounters against large numbers of Fallen foes, and these encounters are friendly to both lone wolf Guardians and fully formed Fireteams.
After the much decried story of the original game, the story content that unfolds in these House of Wolves missions continues to make strides in the right direction. It’s increasingly apparent that Bungie recognizes the cool elements of the science-fantasy world it’s created, and is capitalizing on the potential through intriguing locations like the Reef and a couple of memorable characters, like Petra and Variks. Even so, House of Wolves still leaves the Destiny player base hanging, with the bulk of the most interesting fiction locked away in out-of-game grimoire cards and rarely fleshed out through the missions themselves. From a storytelling perspective, House of Wolves’ biggest triumph is the way the evil aliens are beginning to interact with each other in surprising ways. This expansion’s big bad, Skolas, recognizes the tremendous power of one of the other races’ technology, and tries to capitalize on it.
The new strike is a worthy addition to the growing catalog of 3-man, match-made experiences. Shadow Thief takes us up onto a Fallen ship for a running fight against a powerful Fallen mercenary. The mid-level tank battle is fun, and I like the opportunity to explore another Fallen spaceship. Especially if you play on PS4, the nine distinct missions now available make the strike playlist experience varied, easy to enjoy with or without friends, and available for a broad swath of levels.
[Next Page: Entering the Crucible, and the new approach to equipment]