Review: Destiny: Rise of Iron
Now officially entering its third yearly development cycle, Activision and Bungie’s Destiny is continuing its seasonal expansions (now becoming a yearly Fall follow by Spring DLC every year) to give more farming fuel for its loyal players. Following the major fully-fledged expansion pack Destiny: The Taken King which got me personally hooked again for a long while, comes Destiny: Rise of Iron, the now fourth expansion dropping a new raid, new story and missions. So what is new in Destiny: Rise of Iron and is it a fit evolution of the universe? And was the ditch of the old generation beneficial for the developers to go wild?
Out since September 20, Lords of Iron marks the end of an epic saga. You see, the Taken King expansion, out in September 2015, was probably what player believe the best expansion to the game after the two very short and simple The Dark Bellow and House of Wolves Expansions. Followed by a free Update in April, Destiny: The Taken King expansion got a boost of life with a return to the Prison of Elders, revised with Taken themed confrontation, but also various fixes, higher light levels and more. Yet despite all the criticism and its redundant aspect, heavy focus on farming, new and veteran players still play the adventure, and servers still continue to run properly.
This new extension is based on the legendary of the Iron Lords, which were led by Saladin, now the last of them. But although the entire plot is centered around them, and your journey to become the next Iron Lord, we yet still learn very little like with The Dark Bellow, with stories and legends only told by grimoire cards or a few cutscenes starring Saladin (voice by Keith Ferguson, who also happens to be the voice of Reaper in Overwatch). And so we are told of the sacrifice these Iron Lords did to save humanity from something called Siva, a technology actually built by mankind, which was supposed to be the answer to all of our problems and speed colonization of other planets. Locking themselves in a replication room, the Siva threat was contained, with only Saladin and Effridet surviving this threat, making them the last Iron Lords, and the death of the others was honored with the Iron Banner tournament, the crucible everyone played throughout the first two years of the launch of Destiny. Sadly, while my explication may sound complicated and an adventure that will last you for a long while, the story missions can be counted with both of your hands, with only seven new missions adding around 4 hours of gameplay even when taking your sweet time to finish them. Disappointing in comparison to the better told story, missions and lifespan of the main “solo” experience found in Destiny: The Taken King.
But let’s get that deep into the main story and concentrate on other innovations added to the game in general. Starting with the obvious would be the maximum light level obtainable, now going to 385 and 400 (once the Heroic mode is activated on the new raid). Of course, new weapons and equipment are available, as well as neat new sparrows, ships and all sorts of cosmetic additions. While most of you will like the new weapons for their perks or stats, I actually felt like the new batch of exotic items in this expansion are lazy in terms of design, starting with the re-appearance of the Gjallahorn. The iconic rocket launcher that was one of the most sought-out weapons in the beginning of the Destiny first year, is back in the game with a quest to explain its origin and the story of its creator, alongside the exotic quest to get Year 3 version of Thorn, these guns are basically old stuff. Then you got the exotic mission to get the Khvostov 7G-02 (your first ever gun in the game now turned into a multi-purpose auto-rifle) as well as the Outbreak Prime (one of the coolest quests made in teh game), but all in all, most of the truly new exotics are almost pointless, and don’t even look good.
Like with Destiny: The Taken King, Rise of Iron introduces a new area to visit, that will also host a majority of the story missions, which is the Plaguelands. A wide areas taken over completely by the Fallen Splicers (we’ll get to talk about these in a bit), the Plaguelands are more of an extension of the Cosmodrone, with access to beyond the wall where you are first awaken by your Ghost when you first start the game. There’s numerous new destinations, with a sick new snowy weather effect, but all in all nothing groundbreaking in terms of graphics with the exception of the Doomed Sea, looking like something straight out of a Mad Max movie. On top of these new grounds to protect, Destiny: Rise of Iron introduces the Iron Temple, a new social space on top of Felwinter Peak where you’ll find the new quest vendors Shiro-4 (a Vanguard scout), the Year 3 Iron Banner (led by Effredith now), Lord Saladin, and your usual cryptach (a female one this time) as well as bounty, postmaster and other kind of interactive NPCs. There’s also a new ability to add skins to some key weapons, mostly exotic ones, with the use of Ornaments; want a gold Truth rocket launcher? You got it.
The Plaguelands also introduces a new arena or horde mode area called the Archon Forges, which upon giving an offering will unleash a Fallen Splicer threat, very much like the Dreadnaught’s Court of Oryx, except with the tier levels. Finally you’ll get a brand new strike, but also some other re-hashed ones themed differently, to give you the illusion of a new one.
As for the raid, the situation is a little more mixed as I haven’t tried it myself fully, and I’m getting mixed reviews and impressions from my usual raid team mates. Named Wrath of the Machine, the raid is the culmination of the whole story, based on the threat of a group of fallen from the house of Devils, and their attempt at using Siva advanced nano-technology to enhance their body and powers, and finally rule Earth. The Fallens were named Devil Splicer, mainly because of the way their bodies were altered or augmented with Siva parts, including their leader and final potential candidate to become Archon to the house of Devil (leader in Fallen terms). In his pursuit of godhood and ultimate power, Aksis became more machine than Fallen with an excessive fusion with his own body and Siva’s technology, turning him into some sort of Fallen spider cyborg. The Wrath of the Machine ultimate goal is to defeat Aksis, but your journey will be filled with jumping puzzles, many enemy encounters but the best of them all is the Siege Engine part, one that will truly make you realize that this is the kind of stuff Bungie can do, when not limited to port their game to old and current generation. The technical constraint feels non-existant now that Destiny: Rise of Iron is only on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, which allows way more things to kill to show on the screen, bigger sized bosses such this amazing Mad Max themed mechanical beast which is the Siege Machine. Sadly on the point of view of the artistic direction, and while it might be impressive at first, the raid and whole expansion feels a bit lazy in terms of theme, with very simple additions of textures, new elements and mostly covered the easy way thanks to a coat of snow.
Finally for PvP, Bungie added the Supremacy mode, accompanied by four new maps, on top of the free update that was launched to everyone playing Destiny which is private matches. Supremacy as a mode is very close to Call of Duty’s Kill Confirmed or even the old Halo Headhunter game variant, where a crest drops out of every guardian you kill, which needs to be collected (yourself or one of your teammates) to count as a point and stack up until one team reach the set score limit. The great thing is you can also pick up the crest that falls from one of your teammates, and deny the point for the opposing team, which eventually turns into chaos as guardians try to do all of that at once. The new Trial of Osiris is still mainly unchanged, with the way boons work as well reaching the Lighthouse if you managed the 9 straight wins, but has newly updated loot with high-end light levels. Iron Banner on the other hand has been assigned to another vendor (Saladin is busy hanging out at the Iron temple), which will give you new quests but also fresh types of mode based bounties, but the goal is the same: you got until the next weekly reset to try to get all these Iron Banner weapons and armor (themed with wolf pelt), by making your way to the highest reputation level of 5, and hopefully get a decent or lucky drop from the tournament’s themed weapons and gear.
In general, Destiny: Rise of Iron suffers from the same problem the previous expansions have: it’s a content heavily emphasized on abundant farming patterns, weekly reset of activities and a constant search for better loot. While new gameplay and mechanics gives a sense of refreshed patterns, such as the Rise of Iron activity book, which unlocks new loot as you tick the boxes, the game all in all is the same, and that bloody jump from 350 to 360 light was one of the hardest I had to go through since the launch day. And although the Destiny universe now appears to be settled in the gaming world and industry, I’m personally ready for a big change, which presumably is planned for 2017 with the Destiny 2.
Destiny: Rise of Iron was reviewed using an Xbox One copy of the game purchased by the writer. The original game with all of its previous expansions, including Rise of Iron is also available as a bundle package called Destiny: The Collection on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• The story is narrated better than before and darker in tone
• A masterful soundtrack
• Artistic direction is lazy but still beautiful
• Private and custom crucible games
• New and interesting quests
• Some old Strike revisited
• The Rise of Iron Lords Book
• Loved that fire axe even if not used to its full potential
• Not enough story missions
• A price a little high for the content
• A really safe expansion for Bungie
• Still the same loot farming
• Why can't I have a wolf as a pet?
• Boring Exotic items in this expansion