Hits and Misses in Destiny’s House of Wolves Expansion

I played WAY too much Destiny over the last week because of the new House of Wolves expansion. In some ways, HoW has revitalized the game. In other ways, it has made it more depressing. First the good:

While HoW doesn’t have a raid, it adds new (and quite fun) story missions, though now that I’ve done them with all three characters, I can’t imagine actually wanting to complete them again. On the other hand, they were all better than the ones from Destiny’s first expansion, which Bungie tried to get us to repeat every day via the daily mission rewards.

HoW also adds a new strike, which is pretty good and quite difficult, particularly as the Nightfall strike (where everything is much tougher and if the entire fireteam wipes, it dumps us back to orbit). Notice I said “us” in that last sentence – my fireteam wiped several times, including once at the end when the boss had just a sliver of health left. Darn…

HoW has two new types of cooperative game play: Prison of Elders and Trials of Osiris. PoE pits a 3-person fireteam against waves of ever-harder enemies, but can give nifty loot if you survive. ToO is PvP and I haven’t tried it, so I can’t comment on it other than saying it sounds hard and very unforgiving.

I have done PoE a few times, and it is a mixed bag. There is matchmaking at level 28, so you can always find people to play with. On the other hand, they are all better than me. I came in with the lowest number of kills in all the rounds that I played, sometimes by a lot. This is depressing, since I felt that I was always contributing and making kills, reviving others, etc., but when all it shows is that kills stat, then it looks like I’m being carried. Maybe I am, but it doesn’t feel that way at the time, so I’m pretty annoyed about this.

The other issue with PoE is that you need a key to get the good loot. We all got a key for finishing the story missions, but the rest must be “farmed” by killing “wolves” bands out in the wild on Earth, Moon, and Venus and looting the chests after they are defeated (often speeding away to re-loot the chest if there’s time). So I’ve looted a lot of chests and have yet to get a key. Some of my PSN peeps have managed to get several, and there are always groups in the Skywatch on Earth waiting for the wolves to spawn. It’s almost back to the bad old days of the loot cave – unless you waste a lot of time farming, you don’t get the good loot.

Which brings me to the bad stuff (in my opinion). All our gear got invalidated by the new expansion, but not as badly as with the first expansion. Now we can upgrade our stuff to the current levels if we have certain very rare components. I’ve already upgraded several of my exotic weapons and armor, so one of my characters can be level 33 (max is 34) and all of them have one or two fully leveled guns.

So what does all this mean? Well, to paraphrase Yahtzee Croshaw of Zero Punctuation fame, it’s all about the numbers. We need to play harder missions to get better gear so we can play harder missions and get better gear. This was Yahtzee’s complaint about World of Warcraft, but is true about most MMOs, and particularly Destiny now. The materials needed to upgrade gear is almost impossible to get unless you play the highest level cooperative Prison of Elders missions, so those of us that aren’t very good or aren’t part of the “in crowd” will be left farther and farther behind.

Speaking of which – the raids needed fireteams of 6, so it was fairly often that you’d run into someone trying to put together a raid run, so even I could run the raids reasonably often. PoE will be a different story, since it is only 3 people. And the missions are hard enough that it won’t be easy to carry an under-levelled or under-skilled player. So I think PoE may actually lead to more frustration and disappointment.

I haven’t mentioned Bungie’s new emphasis on PvP with better daily rewards as well as the new weekly bounty system, but these seem to be improvements. But overall, while I like the gameplay improvements in HoW, I am disappointed in many other parts of it, including the race to get better gear for the sake of getting better gear. Since I just bought Bloodborne, we’ll see how much hold Destiny retains over me.

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