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Review: ‘Destiny: Rise of Iron’

With only a modest set of new goods, the latest ‘Destiny’ expansion pack doesn’t come close to matching previous ‘The Taken King’ release.

Developer: Bungie, Inc.

Publisher: Activision

Release Date: September 20th, 2016

NOTE: Destiny: Rise of Iron was played on PlayStation 4

We are now into Year 3 after the 2013 release of Destiny from Bungie Inc. – the famed House of Halo. Activision’s ten-year plan/contract with Bungie is blossoming with each new expansion. With the release of the inevitable Destiny 2, the players who have been around since Year 1 have either left due to the repetitive grind or anticipating the release of the latest expansion Rise of Iron. And while Rise of Iron doesn’t come close to bringing the radical changes that came with the previous The Taken King expansion, Rise of Iron does bring the goods for the hardcore Destiny audience with a new area to explore and a new hub area as well.

Rise of Iron begins with the player responding to a call to action from Lord Saladin, who is referred to as the Last Iron Lord. It turns out that one of the enemy factions has caught wind of an ancient material called SIVA that they wish to control but can’t. Because the Iron Lords have all died, it’s up to the players to stop the spread of SIVA and save the galaxy once again. From the get-go, the main storyline doesn’t meet the high expectations after The Taken King expansion’s regicide. That conflict was much more immediate as The Taken King was furious that his son died at the player’s hands – in another expansion, mind you – and seeks revenge. It personalized the conflict. Rise of Iron gives us SIVA, which has the ability to resurrect and strengthen the race that uncovered it. Hardly gripping and engaging.

And it’s time to call into question Bungie’s liberal use of the same enemies and A.I. up until this point. In the base game of Destiny, there were four races (Fallen, Hive, Cabal, and Vex) that the player fought against and each one has been modified slightly in one way or another. In The Taken King, the Cabal’s shield would shoot the player back like a cannon and was integrated into level design. The smaller creatures would split apart if the player wasn’t able to kill them in time. Rise of Iron changes The Fallen and gives them a new coat of paint. The only noticeable change is that some of them will drop a grenade that follows you when they die. Call Bungie economic for rarely changing up the enemy variety but it feels like there was barely any effort this go around.

What Bungie makes up for in the lack of enemy variety is the ambiance and atmosphere that permeates Rise of Iron. Where The Taken King was epic in scale, Rise of Iron finds an interesting balance between the science-fiction and medieval due to the setting and syntax. The new hub area – Felwinter’s Peak – looks to be pulled straight from Dragon Age: Inquisition or Game of Thrones, complete with wolves peppered throughout. The score of Rise of Iron is equally as fantastic as it hits the right tones at the right times for the most grandiose of vistas.

Rise of Iron, however, doesn’t add any new ways to play Destiny. When The Taken King was released, new classes and abilities were added that drastically changed the scope of the game and it’s a peculiar omission not to see any new gameplay elements added to the latest expansion. The new area – The Plaguelands – is a new area on Earth that is beyond the wall, but compared to the previous expansion that let you run amuck on The Taken King’s massive ship, it doesn’t escalate past that.

New side quests and missions have been added to pad out the five mission story of Rise of Iron. They’re mostly tedious busy-work that have you patrolling The Plaguelands but eventually you will come across the Archon’s Forge, one of the more poorly designed areas in Rise of Iron. The concept of the Archon’s Forge is a gauntlet that multiple players, regardless of whether or not they’re in your party, can fight alongside you. Essentially a horde mode, the fee for entry comes in limited keys that appear as you kill enemies outside of the Archon’s Forge. So if you die, you will be placed outside of the arena until you or another player opens the doors. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck waiting outside until the round is over. Not only that but the difficulty modifiers are tied to the Random Number Generated (RNG) system. It’s just a perplexing area that I’ve seen criticized by the Destiny community. It’s basically a ghost town until Bungie makes a fix.

Multiplayer has always been a staple of Bungie’s legacy but Rise of Iron feels more like a calm before the storm of Destiny 2. Private matches have finally been introduced to Destiny. Three years down the line but better late than never. Call of Duty’s Kill Confirmed mode has made its way into Destiny in the form of Supremacy. It feels at home in the fast-paced nature but it doesn’t feel as inspired as the Rift multiplayer mode or Mayhem in The Taken King. Only three new maps have been added to Rise of Iron, which is a noticeable step down from the seven that were introduced with the last expansion.

It’s obvious where Bungie spent their time and resources. The base game of Destiny needed a kick in the pants and The Taken King delivered on that and reinvigorated the community. There have been reports that the majority of Bungie’s workforce is focused entirely on Destiny 2 for a 2017 release and it shows. Rise of Iron is a serviceable expansion that dazzles the eyes and ears but lacks any meat to chew on - there’s not enough here for an enthusiastic recommendation. The Taken King expansion was Bungie’s best foot forward for this series, so it’s recommended that you pick that up if you want to hop into Destiny. If you want the entire package, Destiny: The Collection was released concurrently with the Rise of Iron expansion, which includes The Taken King, so I can fully recommend that if you’re a brand-new Destiny player. It’s a great value at $59.99 in the midst of the holiday season and comes with a lot of bang for your buck.

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