I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: I like Destiny‘s new House of Wolves expansion. After The Dark Below, I was worried that this new expansion would fail to live up to the “expansion” part; I knew there would be some new content, but I also knew Activision is pretty darn good at puffing up their advertisements. After spending some time playing it, analyzing it, and playing some more, I realize that Destiny seems a bit different than it was before. Before we get into that, what was Destiny like before the House of Wolves dropped?

Pre-HoW, Destiny’s PvP experiences included game modes within the Crucible: Control, Skirmish, Clash, Rumble, Inferno, and Salvage. There were a variety of small, medium, and large-sized maps as well; each was different, and allowed for players to use their skills to their advantage, or develop new skills. The Dark Below brought new maps into the mix, with the Inferno game type arriving sometime after. The Crucible allowed for a different Destiny experience, but could be harsh on players that didn’t have the best gear. The Iron Banner event brought with it a new type of flavor, giving higher level players an upper hand over the competition. It gave players something to look forward to, but could get a bit old after a while; some players enjoyed their level advantages (while others cried), but had to wait until Lord Saladin arrived at the Tower to use them against other Guardians.

Players that preferred PvE could choose from multiple strike playlists, raids, story missions, and patrolling the planets within Destiny’s universe. The PvE experiences could get a little repetitive, but some players loved bringing down Aetheon or dancing around Crota on the Moon. Besides, its always nice to celebrate an exotic weapon drop with a buddy. And let’s not forget gear: reaching that magical light cap has always been difficult unless you had gear from either the Vault of Glass or Crota’s End. As a result, a lot of players looked pretty similar, wearing a lot of the same helmets and armor – there wasn’t too much of a variety among the higher leveled players.

There were also bounties for both PvP and PvE. These included killing specific targets in strikes, completing a certain number of special events in Patrol, and killing Guardians in the Crucible in different ways. These helped add variety to all game modes within Destiny, but it could get boring doing the same ones over and over. The exotic weapon bounties allowed for a guaranteed way to get an exotic, but these were especially grind heavy.

When Destiny first launched, Bungie wanted it to be an MMO-style FPS game. Unfortunately, it didn’t really live up to those aspirations; a lot of the game was grind-heavy, and became pretty repetitive for a lot of players. As with when The Dark Below launched, players came streaming back to Destiny when the House of Wolves launched; this time, however, the atmosphere of the game itself seems to have altered slightly…you know, like how everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked.

What’s so different? Did the game really change that much, or is it just that ‘new DLC’ smell? Quite frankly, I think the House of Wolves is the start of Bungie re-shaping Destiny into the game they really wanted it to be at launch. Or at least something close to that.

I’ll begin with PvP. Besides some new maps, the biggest PvP feature to come with the House of Wolves is the Trials of Osiris. This new competitive multiplayer mode really brought out the best in PvP players, and created a different type of experience. The Trials attracted PvP veterans, as well as players who were new to it – I’m a player that mostly enjoys the PvE experiences within Destiny, but I even gave the Trials a shot, and wound up liking it a lot.

The Trials influenced me to begin playing regular Crucible matches more often to improve my skill, and hopefully get more wins on my trials Passage. The ability to earn that nice Trials gear is a nice motivator (still working on it…), but I also just loved the sense of adrenaline in the elimination game mode. Unfortunately, there were a lot of reports of connection issues and cheaters that ruined the experience for some, but the Trials of Osiris brought some much-needed love to the Crucible.

As for PvE, players had access to a new strike, the new Vanguard Dragon strike playlist, and the Prison of Elders co-op experience. The Dark Below brought a new strike and strike playlist as well, so that part wasn’t so spectacular. Don’t get me wrong, that strike is very much appreciated, but the Prison of Elders is the best part.

Instead of a raid, Bungie provided players with a cooperative wave-based experience; the lowest level experience has matchmaking, making more readily accessible, and the other 3 higher level experiences provide players with more challenges. The Prison gives players a different experience than the raids do – some players may prefer a raid, but change is always a good thing, no? Better have some Treasure Keys handy, though.

Another big change involved the gear you can get for your Guardian. The House of Wolves brings new weapon and armor designs, and some of them look preeetty sweet. A new Special weapon type, Sidearms, was also introduced; these are nice alternatives to shotguns, snipers, and fusion rifles. And of course, there are some Fallen-themed exotics to obtain as well.

The biggest thing for the gear is the ability to ascend legendaries and exotics. If you love the way your gear looks (or some of the perks), you can ascend it using Etheric Light. That means pre-HoW Ice Breakers, Mythoclasts, and The Devil You Don’ts (my personal favorite) can reach the maximum level available in Year 1 of Destiny. Armor can be ascended as well, so you can finally wear your favorite armor and still reach the light cap.  Etheric Light isn’t exactly easy to get, but if you happen to come across some, use it wisely.

So, how does all of this change Destiny? It brings the game just a little closer to what it really should have been when it launched: an MMO-style FPS. Destiny is the first of its kind, but Bungie didn’t really deliver on what that wonderful Activision advertising showed us when it first launched. They seem to be trying to shape Destiny into what they wanted it to be from the beginning, even taking some of the players’ responses and ideas about the game.

Thinking of what Destiny was when it first launched last September, there were plenty of fresh ideas, but they weren’t really employed well across the game. I think there’s still a ways to go, but the House of Wolves was definitely a step in the right direction.

What do you guys think? Is Destiny really that different? Leave your thoughts below.

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