Destiny House of Wolves: How Familiarity Breeds Replay Value
You don’t need always need new content to have fun in your favourite game.
Destiny’s House of Wolves expansion is roughly two weeks away, if the various live-stream reveals and image galleries haven’t alerted you to what’s coming up. Bungie’s online shooter is an odd paradox – it’s a first person shooter with multiplayer aspects that’s received significantly more flak than, say, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s multiplayer modes. Various social aspects in Destiny have earned it the classification of an MMO and whether it’s the few days spent completing bounties to level up that new Exotic you received or raiding for weeks on alternate characters to receive raid gear (or even materials to upgrade previously earned raid gear), the grind is very much for real. Most MMOs have a larger amount of content than Destiny admittedly and Bungie’s unfulfilled promise of being able to go anywhere you can see didn’t help matters.
So you’re doing the same raids, the same Strikes, playing the same few maps in Crucible, completing the same Patrol missions or even grinding out the same bounties. It doesn’t help that the Nightfall and Weekly Strikes are essentially the same few strikes but with different and oftentimes frustrating modifiers. However, from an FPS perspective, you’re not doing it all for nothing. You gain XP in games like Battlefield: Hardline and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare to unlock different weapons and gear. Destiny is much the same, except its RNG aspects never guarantee the best rewards. Not everyone has access to the same gear as other shooters. But we’re getting off track.
""Unique experiences" are great and they define how much fun one can have with a multiplayer shooter. However, familiarity is another aspect that players find solace in. Why replay Borderlands 2 with a new character and fight your way through two play-throughs for Ultimate Vault Hunter mode?"
For any multiplayer shooter, the impetus for playing is to have fun. Whether you’re flitting about Venus and landing perfect Firefly headshots, clearing out one mob after another, or crushing Atheon in five minutes on Vault of Glass Hard Mode, the shooting mechanics and overall gameplay is fun. One can play through for additional rewards but we’re far from the days of “forever 29s” where you had to raid or access Hard Mode of either raid to hit the max light level. Nowadays, you take up the additional challenges for fun, whether you get a reward or not.
Destiny is still a lot smaller than games like first person shooters like Borderlands 2 or even RPGs like Dragon Age: Inquisition. Its “open world” aspects pale in comparison to even Sunset Overdrive. The competitive multiplayer aspect is often derided, especially compared to games like Titanfall and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Heck, more people are having fun in Battlefield 4 these days by comparison. It’s perhaps for these reasons that players commit themselves to the grind for level 32 or to pick up Gjallarhorn (or any other Exotic they may be missing). There are those who choose to level up every Exotic and Legendary Gear piece they have. In some cases, it’s not as if players can’t recognize the repetitiveness of their activities – they’re really just looking for any reason to extend the fun they’re having with the shooting.
“Unique experiences” are great and they define how much fun one can have with a multiplayer shooter. However, familiarity is another aspect that players find solace in. Why replay Borderlands 2 with a new character and fight your way through two play-throughs for Ultimate Vault Hunter mode? Yes, there’s far more content on offer than Destiny but you’re still replaying the same missions with the same enemies and plot points. The character is all that really distinguishes the experience and even that’s only barely livening things up. Again, it comes down to having the same fulfilling and familiar experience but from a new perspective.
"This isn't to say that Destiny isn't extremely repetitive. This isn't to say the onus is on players to have fun rather than trying to collect everything. This doesn't even mean House of Wolves will fix every single problem with the game, much less help it compete with every new big game that challenges it with compelling content..."
At least Bungie understands that grinding for loot and battling RNG doesn’t make for the most fulfilling end-game process. With House of Wolves, the developer is at least aiming to introduce some form of dynamism. You don’t need to run both Trials of Osiris and Prison of Elders to get new gear. For that matter, each week provides changes to both modes, allegedly offering new layouts and strategies for both PvP and PvE players.
While Trials of Osiris benefits from map cycling each week and Prison of Elders sees small changes, likely to enemy layouts and modifiers on a week to week basis, both modes have cycling vendors which provide new loot each week. Are these going to introduce new, unique experiences from now till eternity? No, but they will offer players the familiar fun gameplay they enjoy while mixing it up slightly to offer a new outlook.
This isn’t to say that Destiny isn’t extremely repetitive. This isn’t to say the onus is on players to have fun rather than trying to collect everything. This doesn’t even mean House of Wolves will fix every single problem with the game, much less help it compete with every new big game that challenges it with compelling content (like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Batman: Arkham Knight, the former releasing on the same day as House of Wolves). However, unique experiences and replayability don’t often go hand in hand. Sometimes, it’s entering a world you’re comfortable in, which grows at a small but steady pace, and enjoying the mechanics on offer that influences a game’s replay value as opposed to new content on a weekly or monthly basis.
And gaining a new item or weapon in the process is just a bonus.