Destiny: House of Wolves puts PvP back in the spotlight

By Brenna Hillier, Wednesday, 29 April 2015 19:01 GMT

Destiny PvP players, your time has come to shine. New Crucible maps. New Crucible rewards. And the glorious wonder of Elimination mode.

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Destiny: House of Wolves puts PvP front and centre.

When Destiny was first detailed, one of the things Bungie stressed was that there’d be something for everyone. If you wanted to play solo or co-operatively you could do that, but if you were only interested in PvP, that was available too. Offering unique rewards in both realms would entice players to try them everything, Bungie said.

Welcome to the PvP endgame, Guardians.

The theory was good, but the execution let us down. Destiny’s “investment game”, as Bungie called it when I visited the studio in Seattle last week, has proved to be the shooter’s major draw, and it is played far more profitably in Strikes, Raids, daily and weekly activities, and even just bumming around, than in the Crucible.

Bungie has put a positive spin on this by saying that they’ve seen much greater staying power in PvE content than with their previous shooter series, Halo, but the fact remains: outside of the occasional Iron Banner, Destiny PvP is fun but it’s not going to net you any decent loot or make your character stronger.

House of Wolves aims to change that, by making PvP both a viable progression route and a worthwhile end-game activity.

A decent return on your time

Let’s start with the most basic and requested change: as of House of Wolves’ release, you’ll get a lot more for your time when you play PvP. Reputation and Marks drops have been doubled, and there are way more random drops on offer – things like Motes of Light, Legendary equipment and Passage Coins (more on those elsewhere).

Additionally, you’ll receive a guaranteed reward every day just for firing up the featured Crucible playlist. Bungie’s intent is to make PvP part of your daily routine, along with the Daily Heroic and whatever other little things you do – Bounties or Strikes, maybe.

These little changes make it much more lucrative to play Crucible in any form, and much easier to crank your reputation with vendors, all of whom will have gear capable of bringing you to level 32 as of House of Wolves launch day.

The new rewards are available to everyone, whether they buy the expansion or not, and as another little bonus Crucible maps added with The Dark Below will be unlocked for those who only own vanilla Destiny, too. Thanks to the latter, the Combined Arms playlist will be put into general rotation.

The new mode, Elimination, will be restricted to House of Wolves owners, as will the Trials of Osiris. Oh, boy, let’s talk about those.

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Tense, beautiful combat

Elimination is a 3v3 mode in which one team must completely wipe the other side out in order to win a round. The first team to five points wins the match. Revives are allowed, but self-revives are not (sorry, Sunbros).

This unusual team duel will debut on the Burning Shrine map, where it was prototyped and refined, but will later expand to other Crucible destinations, too.

It’s no secret that I’m not a massive PvP fan, despite somehow finding plenty to say about the new Crucible maps. I don’t like pure competitive gameplay, because I am a hippy, and I don’t find the lore behind the Crucible particularly compelling; maybe if there was some sort of faction war. I’m telling you this so that you can take what I say next with the appropriate measure of salt:

Elimination is balls. Out. Fantastic.

I had the very great fortune to be teamed up with two other players who were much, much better than me. I won’t pretend they didn’t carry me through, and winning our way through a couple of rounds certainly put a positive spin on it for me; I imagine losing at Elimination will be frustrating and dispiriting in the extreme (more on that later).

But I had an experience I’ve not yet had in PvP, probably because I haven’t gone looking for it, of feeling like part of a team. The rules of the mode enforce gameplay in a way more freeform matches don’t; you have to communicate. You have to have a plan of attack at the start of each round. You have listen to each other. If you don’t, you will just die. There is no room for anything else but full commitment.

It’s interesting that some of the skills of Control are useful here, because even if you whittle your opposition down to a 3v1 situation, there’s a good chance they can recover if you fail to guard their Ghosts and prevent revives.

Sometimes an Elimination match will be over in seconds, and sometimes the minutes stretch out, feeling like hours. I strongly suspect most will be won and lost before they even start; this is a mode where weaker players will be flattened. It is a mode for pros. Don’t even bother turning up if you aren’t experienced, or have two veterans whose command you can accept. Far more than Iron Banner, this is the mode for serious competitive players.

As I said, I was carried through my matches. I didn’t know the map, and I don’t really know how to play PvP in general. But you must understand: I was carried through by the extraordinary skill of my teammates not in shooting faces, but in rapidly adapting to this brave new world of small pack hunting. In several rounds, it was I who shot the faces, scored the revives, and evaded the enemy’s fire – but it was the better players who gave the orders that led to our success.

Elimination is a mode for tacticians, strategists, psychologist, generals and above all, team players – not just sharpshooters. It set my brain on fire and had me leaning forward in my seat, holding my breath, straining my ears and my eyes, because there was so much riding on each play.

Sometimes an Elimination match will be over in seconds, and sometimes the minutes stretch out, feeling like hours. I strongly suspect most will be won and lost before they even start; this is a mode where weaker players will be flattened. It is a mode for pros. Don’t even bother turning up if you aren’t experienced, or have two veterans whose command you can accept.

In short, it’s an adrenaline rush. Losers are going to scream down their mics in despair while winners, I expect, will wipe a hand over their brow and turn their eyes on the prize – the next match.

Far more than Iron Banner, this is the mode for serious competitive players. It’s also the mode at the heart of the Trials of Osiris, and that’s a really big deal. Welcome to the PvP endgame, Guardians.

Destiny: House of Wolves launches on May 19.

Brenna Hillier recently visited Bungie’s studio in Seattle to preview House of Wolves. Activision provided flights, accommodation and hospitality.

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