During today’s Prison of Elders livestream, Bungie revealed a ton of new information on the new mode included in Destiny‘s upcoming House of Wolves expansion.
The co-operative Prison of Elders is one of the two gametypes that will replace a traditional raid in House of Wolves, the other being the competitive Trials of Osiris.
Today we take a closer look at the PVE-style Prison of Elders mode, investigating the round-based system, the co-operative strategy, boss fights and gear. Armed with impressions from key players we’ll underline everything you should know about PoE to get you prepared for House of Wolve‘s release later this month.
As most of us know Prison of Elders is kind of like Halo 3: ODST’s old-school Firefight mode mixed in with a Strike, and has even been related to Moxxi’s Underdome.
A team of three Guardians work together to take on waves of enemies in an arena, with bosses at intervals–possibly the end of every round or at the very end of the match.
The Prison of Elders is the main gametype, and features various “missions” broken down into Light level tiers: a matchmade-ready level 28 mission, Broken Legion (lvl 32), Urrox’s Grudge (lvl 34) and the incredibly daunting Skola’s Revenge (lvl 35).
All of the missions after the level 28 mission won’t include matchmaking, so players will have to find their own partners. Additionally this matchmade session will always be randomized rather than scripted like the other tiers.
Read More: I Played House of Wolves and Prison of Elders at Bungie HQ, AMA! (Reddit)
Bungie will rotate each the missions every week. While the number of missions will be set in stone, we’ll see Skola’s Revenge, for example, rotated to the level 32 difficulty slot, and perhaps Urrox’s Grudge move to the level 35 tier.
There are five rounds in a single match, except in the level 35 Skolas mission, which has six. After every round the enemies become progressively more difficult, and there will be bosses waiting for you throughout your progress.
Checkpoints save your progress after every round, so if you wipe, you won’t lose all your progress. But if you leave the mission or get disconnected, you’ll most likely miss out unless you can rejoin your team. It won’t be like the raids which save your progress when you leave.
We’re not sure how often players can take on Prison of Elders matches. It’s likely that the mode will be like Destiny’s various Strike playlists that can be repeated a bunch of times, but it all depends on the chance of really good loot drops.
For example, if you can earn something incredible from the level 35 Skola’s Revenge mission, Bungie might only let you beat it once a week. That’d make the Prison of Elders like the Weekly Heroic and Nightfall Strikes (at least the higher-level missions), all of which are planned to revolve on a weekly basis.
Respawning is restricted. So if a player dies, they can’t be revived for 30 seconds. And if the whole team wipes out, then the round is reset. Thankfully there’s no returning to orbit like Nightfall Strikes.
Each of the four level difficulties have their own match modifiers, and we might see some Weekly Nightfall and Heroic Strike modifiers like Lightswitch, Arc Burn or Juggler come into play. Bungie told IGN that there will be a total of eight match modifiers, including new ones like Brawler, which raises melee damage, and Catapult, which increases grenade recharge rate.
Every mission will also have random objectives to complete. These are fully obligatory and if you don’t complete them in time, you’ll be reverted back to the beginning of the level.
The side objectives usually call for the destruction of certain objects, capturing designated points, or killing an enemy before they reach a defined zone (kind of like the random event).
Between waves you’ll get “gifts” which can range between heavy ammo boxes to a massive external artillery weapon called the Scorch Cannon. This cannon is dropped by bosses and is somewhat like the Blade of Crota or other raid-centric devices, giving players a bit of an edge.
Previewers have unanimously praised the Defender Titan’s bubble shield effect during their Prison of Elders sessions. Everyone seems to be in agreement that the shield is an invaluable asset against the dozens and dozens of enemies and carnage you’ll face, giving your whole team precious seconds to regroup and get an overshield or damage boost.
Although the Prison of Elders mode is included in the Fallen-centric House of Wolves, it’ll feature a variety of enemies across the board including Hive Ogres and Wizards. Basically each round will feature a different enemy race–but since there’s only Vex, Hive, Cabal and Fallen, one will likely overlap.
As we noted earlier, bosses will pop up intermittently to finish off rounds.
During their playthrough of the Broken Legion mission, IGN faced off against two bosses: a Wretched Knight, which is basically a super Hive Knight, and Valus Trau’ag, a Cabal who sports a nifty shield that revolves between Arc, Solar and Void protection.
It won’t be easy to get good gear, and the mode will be quite challenging. Bungie proved this during a somewhat embarrassing livestream when they couldn’t even beat a level 34 run. We can only imagine how daunting the level 35 rounds are.
Additionally players will need to capitalize on each faction’s natural elemental weaknesses. That means switching up your weapons and even skillsets to maximize damage.
When facing against Hive Wizards or Cabal, you’ll want to grab your Super Good Advice machine guns and Icebreakers, as they’re weak against Solar. Vex are weak against Void, so Voidwalker Warlocks will do extra damage, whereas Fallen are weak to Arc, so you’ll want to break out your Fists of Havoc and Plan C fusion rifles up.
As far as actual in-game drops, engrams won’t drop from fallen enemies during the match. All item rewards will be doled out in RNG-style chests that spawn at the very end of the session.
If you survive all five rounds you’ll be given a special key that unlocks access to the Queen’s treasure room. In this room there are three treasure chests that award players with randomized loot. Also it looks like all three players will get all the drops from the chests instead of one chest per player.
The loot varies from difficulty level, and some gear can only be attained from the level 34-35 matches. Beat a level 35 Prison of Elders match and you’ll get access to “exclusive and super secret” rewards, Bungie affirms.
Potential drops include new exotics and legendaries as well as new legendary upgrade materials like Weapon and Armor Cores and Etheric Light.
The cores can be traded in to vendors for high-tier gear in the House of Judgement faction, and players will earn HoJ reputation with every Prison of Elders playthrough.
Etheric Light is used to “ascend” legendary/exotic weapons and armor. Ascending a weapon unlocks the 365 damage tier, whereas ascending a piece of armor pushes players towards the new level 34 cap.
As far as actual loot, House of Wolves will bring a host of new goodies to the table including elemental primary weapons and even a new sidearm weapon class.
Even with the information that’s been unloaded to the press, Bungie still has a lot of surprises up their sleeves. No one’s gotten a look at the illustrious Skola’s Revenge mission yet, nor do we know about the high-tier rewards the activity will drop.
It’ll be interesting to fully explore the Prison of Elders first-hand, and take part in the chaos therein. I for one have always loved Firefight and have wanted a mode like this since day one–and although we aren’t getting a raid this time around, I’m almost okay with that.
House of Wolves will release for $19.99 on May 19, 2015 across PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.