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Here's how Destiny: House of Wolves' new Prison of Elders mode works

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Destiny: House of Wolves' endgame content for high-level Guardians, the Prison of Elders, plays out as a three-player cooperative "horde"-style experience, developer Bungie confirmed today.

Unlike the Trials of Osiris, House of Wolves' new competitive multiplayer mode, the Prison of Elders supports matchmaking. However you decide to jump in, the Prison of Elders will throw enemies at you in increasingly difficult waves. Bungie has built this kind of thing before, of course, with Firefight, the beloved mode that debuted in 2009's Halo 3: ODST.

The Prison of Elders offers four distinct setups. The standard Prison of Elders is a level 28 arena that supports matchmaking. "It has randomized elements, it's combat-focused," said House of Wolves lead designer Matt Sammons during Bungie's livestream.

Three different tougher challenges will also be available: one at level 32, one at 34 (the new level cap in House of Wolves) and one at 35. The first two will rotate through a group of five on a weekly basis, while the level 35 challenge will always be "Skolas's Revenge." Guardians can play the Prison of Elders as often as they like, but they can only get rewards from each challenge once per week, like the raids. Unlike raids, however, the challenges won't save progress — you have to complete them in one attempt.

Sammons, Bungie community manager David "DeeJ" Dague and Twitch streamer Professor Broman jumped into the level 34 challenge, "Urrox's Grudge." Each round contains three waves, and a gameplay modifier will be active during each round. The first one shown in the stream was Trickle, which significantly reduces the rate at which cooldown timers recharge; the next, Small Arms, provides a buff to primary weapons. When a Guardian dies, they can't be revived by a teammate for 30 seconds; when everybody dies, the group has to start from the beginning of the current round.

The first round sent Hive enemies at the group. The second round shifted the action to what Broman called "Cabal hell," and presented the team with an objective. They had to defuse three Splinter Mines, which were essentially three capture points that the Guardians had to hold while fending off enemies. Later during the round, one of the players received a "gift" from Variks, the Prison of Elders baron: the Scorch Cannon, a limited-ammo rocket launcher. The gift changes; the second one was a drop of heavy ammo. Round 3's modifier was Exposure, which gives you a better shield that doesn't recharge. The objective changes, too. A later wave brought out a VIP, a target that the Guardians had to take out.

With a great challenge comes great rewards. The Prison of Elders will offer exotic and legendary gear, and some of those weapons and armor pieces will be available exclusively in this mode. Bungie previously announced that Prison of Elders rewards also include Etheric Light, a new material that Guardians will need in order to upgrade existing legendary equipment.

You can check out six screenshots from Prison of Elders below and a developer diary above. House of Wolves will be released May 19.