You Say You Want an Evolution
Destiny has been a long, strange journey. Bungie’s post-Halo project has had plenty of highs and lows, culminating in last year’s The Taken King expansion, which presented a compelling vision for this MMO-shooter that probably should have been there from the start. It’s now been a year since there were any meaningful additions to the game, though, and the player base has been wearing thin. Is Rise of Iron the final expansion that will bring all the kids back to the yard and get us pumped for Destiny 2 ?
Well, yes and no. Rise of Iron takes us back to Earth, but not to a new, exotic location. We’re still in wintry Russia, albeit with a new area to patrol and a “new” foe to fight (more on that later). There’s a brief campaign, some post-campaign story missions, new Strikes, a few additions to the PvP Crucible, and a new raid that launches on Friday. And, of course, there’s new gear. The never-ending gear treadmill seems to be the biggest thing that keeps Destiny’s true believers hooked, but it’s also the thing that keeps other players away.
Rise of Iron ‘s campaign story is certainly told better than any before it. As the most casual of casual Destiny players, even I had a good idea of what was going on. My Destiny fanatic friends spent the campaign gabbing about obscure tidbits of lore that added a few things here and there to the game’s torturously convoluted backstory, but you don’t really have to care about that. On the surface, this is simply the story of Lord Saladin, a former Iron Lord who guarded the Earth from the Fallen. It’s a story of misguided ambition, an old warrior forced to face his past, and a supercomputer gone haywire. Hey, it wouldn’t be Destiny without a supercomputer gone haywire.
It’s also a rather brief story, told largely through cutscenes. Sure, the missions themselves have some cool set-pieces. I particularly enjoyed a treacherous gondola ride in the first mission and the final battle, which is set up masterfully. I won’t tell you what it is, I’ll just say it had my fireteam saying, “Oh god, you KNOW what’s about to happen now.” In a good way. More than once.
The whole thing will be over in an hour or two, though, even if you run solo. After that, what’s left is pretty much… more Destiny . You can patrol the Plaguelands, do some post-campaign story missions, run small group Strikes, or get your kill on with Supremacy Mode in the Crucible (it’s like Call of Duty’s Kill Confirmed – you pick up crests from fallen players and try to keep the opposing team from getting your team’s crests). The Wrath of the Machine raid will be out on Friday, but frankly, if you’re super excited to know all about it, you’ve already bought Rise of Iron . What are you doing reading this? Go play.
For most of the rest of you, the lapsed Destiny players, how does Rise of Iron end up working out? Well, a warning to the super-casual: you’re probably at the level cap of 40 if you played The Taken King and messed around a bit with other content afterwards. You’ll also know that leveling is quick and easy in Destiny . It’s “light level,” aka gear score, that takes a bit longer. Rise of Iron recommends a light level of 280 for starting its new campaign, and you can’t even knock on the door until you’re over 260 or so. That means grinding out some Strikes with your fellow scrubs or impatient veterans, patrolling the Dreadnaught, whatever you need to do to pop that light level up with stronger gear. There’s a bit of a gap between the story campaigns, made more absurd by the fact that your light level will pop right up to 320 just from random drops in the short Rise of Iron campaign. It’s not a particularly welcoming system for newbies, particularly with the main gear focus of all the game’s vendor NPCs having switched to Rise of Iron levels.
Once you get to Rise of Iron , I can forgive you for being a bit disappointed, too. One of the coolest things about The Taken King was the Taken themselves. These mutated versions of the classic Destiny foes had cool new abilities that forced you to re-think your strategy when taking them on. Rise of Iron’s new foes, the Splicers, aren’t nearly as interesting. They’re basically faster, slightly more schizoid versions of the Fallen. Dregs, Vandals, Knights, Captains… you know the drill. If there’s one thing we need desperately from Destiny 2 , it’s a greater variety of enemies with a wider range of abilities and behaviors.
At least Bungie’s rock-solid controls are still in evidence. Still responsive, still enjoyable, still friendly for veterans and shooter newcomers alike. There are some chinks in the armor, though. The controls and first-person viewpoint are still not conducive to jumping puzzles, and there are yet more to be found in Rise of Iron . There also seem to be an unusual number of places where it’s easy to get stuck in the scenery. I applaud Bungie for making good use of verticality, but I stop clapping when my character slips through the crack between two shipping crates and then constantly bumps her head on them while trying to get out.
And although it’s certainly an improvement over past storytelling, I can’t say that Rise of Iron feels like a true capstone to the entire Destiny experience. There’s no sense of closure or of having achieved something lasting and meaningful over the course of these two years fighting the Darkness. There’s simply a new place to go; a new threat to fight. Maybe the Traveller will show up at the end of the raid and explain it all to us… but I rather doubt it.
No, this expansion is simply more Destiny , love it or hate it. Unlike the revolution that was The Taken King , this is a mere evolution that shows that Bungie is finally comfortable with this strange new online shooter format. If you’re a huge fan, it’s good. There’s new gear. You’ll like it. Enjoy. Everybody else is waiting to see what happens with Destiny 2 , because that’s going to be the real test for Bungie moving forward. Destiny has been a fascinating experiment, but at this point it could use a reboot from scratch in order to truly fulfill its promising premise. Rise of Iron makes the best out of what’s been done, but what we really want is a new Destiny with a bold, cohesive story and a rock-solid expansion plan. Go forth, Bungie, and deliver.
This review was based upon a complimentary review copy of Destiny: Rise of Iron, provided by Activision.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
Destiny remains alternately gorgeous and completely creepy to look at, and it’s good to get off the Dreadnaught. 4.0 Control
The tight, user-friendly controls remain, marred by yet more ill-advised jumping puzzles and some tricky geometry. 4.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Same great music and strong effects, but the Cayde and Eris Show in Taken King was more fun to listen to. 3.0 Play Value
Destiny’s faithful will love having more Destiny, but in the end, Rise of Iron is simply “more Destiny.” It’s not enough to keep lapsed players around for long. 3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best