“Destiny” is not the same game that was released nine months ago.
From the makers of “Halo,” one of the biggest gaming franchises of all time, “Destiny” lets players create their own space warriors, called Guardians, to fight all the minions of the Darkness that inhabit the Earth, the Moon, Venus, and Mars.
“Destiny” didn’t receive the same critical praise “Halo” did when it first released back in 2001. But now that Bungie released the second major expansion for “Destiny” last week, the game feels more complete than it’s ever felt. With all the additions and tweaks, “Destiny” feels like a much more balanced and ultimately more satisfying experience.
There are a ton of new things to discover in “Destiny,” now that the second expansion, “The House Of Wolves,” is available. Here’s all the positive takeaways:
- The new social space. There’s a new area called the Vestian Outpost, which serves as your main site for getting new bounties, weapons, and other missions specific to the House of Wolves storyline. This area is relatively small but gorgeous, especially as the nearby asteroid belt bathes the area in a warm purple glow. There are new non-playable characters (NPCs) to interact with at this Outpost, which all have funny things to say if you listen closely, and Bungie even added new music for this particular area, which sounds both haunting and epic. That said, there are a ton of doors in this new area, and you can open only a few of them. Hopefully we see new areas open up over time.
- New story missions. In this expansion, the Queen calls upon all Guardians to hunt down the House of Wolves, a group of aliens called Fallen that were once loyal to the Queen before they decided to rebel. The story missions weren’t a highlight in the original game or the first “Destiny” expansion, but they shine in “House of Wolves”: The voiceovers are colourful and engaging, and they give you a sense of purpose as you move forward in the story. There are also a few welcome surprises and epic boss fights, all of which are highly memorable.
- The new strike. “The Shadow Thief” won’t be a long adventure for your three-man team, but boy is it fun. You and your teammates must hunt down Tanniks the Scarred, a Fallen warrior — you chase him across through the moon’s caverns, and eventually follow him into his spaceship, inflicting damage along the way. Finally you’ll square off against him in a giant arena-like room. It’s a heart-pounding ride with excellent pacing.
- The new content. Weapons, armour, enemies, bosses, gear, and more — there is a ton of new stuff to discover in “Destiny.” And it’s all designed to fit certain themes, like the Queen, the House of Wolves, and some of the other challenges you’ll find along the way.
- The “new” Crucible. If you want to fight against other Guardians, you play the Crucible — but after last week’s update, you’ll now get double rewards for everything you do, and you’ll be rewarded based on your performance, not just at random. Bungie added a few new maps, too, which are all beautiful and fun to play.
- The Trials of Osiris. This is the ultimate test for fans of the Crucible: It’s a weekly event that runs every Friday through Monday, where teams of three square off in elimination-style rounds: Win five rounds and you’ve won the match, and you need either nine wins, or three losses, to complete the Trials. As incredible rewards await those Guardians that complete the Trials of Osiris flawlessly (nine wins and zero losses), you won’t find a more thrilling experience in Destiny, especially as you start to rack up the wins — since you won’t know which teams you’re playing ahead of time, your winning streak is always at risk.
“Destiny” has never been a perfect game, so even though “The House of Wolves” introduces a ton of positive changes, there are still a few gripes we have:
- The new social space is a bit limited. One of the first things I noticed while perusing the Vestian Outpost is how many locked doors I encountered. Hopefully we see some new areas open up in this social space over time.
- One’s storage vault isn’t nearly as big as it needs to be. If you need more room to store all the weapons, armour, and materials you’ve collected from the game, you simply drop them in your vault, which you can even access over mobile in case you want to quickly switch items between characters. Unfortunately, the size of the vault can’t possibly contain all the new goodies you’ll come across in “House of Wolves,” meaning you’ll need to find ways to clear up space — namely, deleting old items you’ve picked up. This is unfortunate: I want to keep all the goods I’ve collected since September, but there’s no way I can do that right now.
Matchmaking is still an issue. Many of the best experiences in “Destiny” require three or six other players — but if you don’t have many friends that play the game, you’ll be forced to look for pick-up groups online, or you’re out of luck. Two of the new endgame activities, “Prison of Elders” and “Trials of Osiris,” both fall under this category, where you’ll be forced to look for “Destiny” players online if you want to play the game. Bungie acknowledges that everyone plays “Destiny” differently, and even offers matchmaking for certain aspects of the game, but it would be nice to see more matchmaking for other parts of the game.
- Many “new” locations aren’t actually new at all. New Crucible maps aside, “The House of Wolves” doesn’t offer many new sights. You’ll be running through the same spots on the same planets as before, but you’ll see them in new ways — for example, you revisit one of the first areas you play when you start a new game, but you play through that level backwards. And aside from the Prison of Elders and the new planet that emerges if you score a perfect 9-0 in Trials of Osiris, you’ll be treated to many of the same old maps. That’s a bit disappointing considering how much else in this expansion is “new.”
- “The Prison of Elders” is flawed and repetitive. In lieu of a traditional “raid,” where six players are sent to a giant area and forced to use teamwork to solve puzzles and defeat enemies, The House of Wolves comes with an “arena” mode called “Prison of Elders,” where you’ll fight wave after wave of enemies. If you beat all five rounds in the prison, you’ll be treated to the Queen’s treasures. But despite the great rewards in the Prison of Elders, the journey to get there is tired and unremarkable. You’ll fight the same enemies over and over — albeit with different “modifiers” that change aspects of gameplay, like making certain weapons do more damage or the ability to deal out more damage while airborne. But the modifiers don’t help much; Prison of Elders feels like a grind. There’s no real story in this game mode, it’s all about killing off enemies and completing mini-missions that will kill you and your entire team if you don’t complete them in a certain time frame. Some people will love having what essentially boils down to a shooting gallery, but personally, I was disappointed at the tedium of this new mode. I prefer Trials of Osiris for getting the new endgame gear, even though that mode’s restricted to weekends only.
I have other small nitpicks — the inability to re-join a fire team can be particularly frustrating for players that were accidentally booted due to a bad internet connection — but by and large, much of “Destiny” will continue to change (and hopefully improve) over time. Since its September launch, Bungie has proven it’s constantly listening to fans and shaping the game based off that feedback to create the best, frictionless experience possible. Many of the improvements and additions in “House of Wolves” were originally suggested by the “Destiny” community.
In all, “Destiny” feels like a more complete game thanks to the “House of Wolves” expansion. There’s heaps of new armour and weapons to discover, countless weekly challenges that offer equally great challenges and rewards, and the best multiplayer experience I’ve ever had thanks to “Trials of Osiris.” If you haven’t played “Destiny” — ever, or in the last week especially — now’s a great time. But what’s most exciting is the fact that “Destiny” isn’t done growing: This is only the first year of Bungie’s 10-year plan for the franchise. And so far, it’s off to a great start.