Destiny: Rise of Iron Review

My connection with Destiny is best described as a passing fancy. It’s one of those games that I find myself ambling back to once in a while when I’m looking for something a little different in my usual MMO rotation. That said, it’s never really deepened to more than that. Still, I found myself excited by the coming of Rise of Iron, the newest expansion for the game. I was hoping for a little something unique, but what I ended up finding is more of the exact same stuff that developer Bungie have done prior. This is my Destiny: Rise of Iron review.

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You Must Be New Here

The last time I was in Destiny, I was still wrapping up House of Wolves and The Taken King. Well before Rise of Iron arrived, I was able to clear both of those items as well as do a bit of Missions grinding and Strike Playlist rides to get my overall equipment to Light level 259. Which I thought would be at least alright as an entry number for Rise of Iron.

False. The very first story mission recommended a minimum Light level of 300. This reveal pretty much sets the table for my entire experience with Rise of Iron: If you’re new to this game, you’re not really eased in. It’s an expansion that, perhaps rightly so, believes that you’ve already been invested in Destiny for a long while.

Still, despite my unintentional handicap, I managed to get my way through the first couple of missions of the expansion’s main story through a mixture of careful aiming, cheap tactics and outright attrition through dying a lot until the boss I was fighting finally was killed. Yes, I took advantage of swift respawning outside of a Darkness zone and I camped myself on a perch that melee Fallen couldn’t reach. I’m not proud of it, but it got the job done.

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Third Verse, Same as the First

The story of Rise of Iron follows Lord Saladin, the very last of a group of warriors known as the Iron Lords who took it upon themselves to hold back the threat of a material known as SIVA. SIVA works like a sort of nano-plague, able to create and repair practically any material it touches but with a particularly voracious appetite if not kept in check.

In an attempt to seal up a SIVA outbreak, the Iron Lords sacrificed themselves. Now, the Fallen have managed to find SIVA and are attempting to apply it to their own nefarious ends, forcing Lord Saladin to request aid from you.

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The story itself is decent enough, but Destiny’s narrative and world-building never really gripped me from the very start. Vague references to cryptic events and forces of darkness that should be feared because an NPC told you to don’t really strike me with a sense of narrative engagement, and Rise of Iron leans on these same tired retreads.

In fact, much of this expansion feels like the same room with a new coat of paint and maybe a couple of extra potted plants to pretty up the place. The enemies you encounter are Fallen, just with somewhat higher health pools and red weapons fire in stead of blue. Missions follow the same formula of having a series of shooting galleries capped off with a boss who summons more added mobs and calls it “a challenge”. About the only mission that really gripped was the very last one.

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After getting through the main campaign, the expansion’s end game opened up precisely as it has the same way before: run Missions in a Patrol area, decode Engrams in hopes of loot good enough to start up Strike Playlists, which lead to Heroic Strikes, which leads to the Raid and the finale of the primary story.

It’s a formula that has been taken up by players of the game, but it does little to incite new arrivals or electrify lapsed players. If Destiny is trying to rope in new blood – and a release of a full bundle version leads me to think they are – then they’re hardly taking advantage of an expansion’s potential to shake things up.

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As low as I am about the whole experience, that’s not to say that Rise of Iron is a bad game. If you are a current fan of the game, there’s a lot to enjoy here. The new zones of the expansion cross from blizzard-coated wastelands to old wreckage to a genuinely eerie tomb where SIVA originated from. Further, the gunplay of Rise of Iron is as solid as ever, with weapons feeling outstanding and carrying a suitable level of oomph to make combat enjoyable. Bungie’s console shooting prowess is easy to feel when you find a type of weapon that speaks to you.

So Rise of Iron isn’t a bad game, it’s just mediocre. It happily plods on familiar design territory and doesn’t really take any chances. If you love the formula of the series, then this is good news. If you’re a new arrival or a Guardian who maybe is wondering if Rise of Iron breathes new life, then you’ll probably be left underwhelmed. I suppose we’ll have to wait until the assumed sequel before Destiny really sees a paradigm shift.

 

Gameplay 7/10

Rise of Iron as a shooter is top-notch. Guns carry impact and weight, they feel great, they look great and finding a combination of three weapons you love turns you in to the sort of lone wolf badass that shooters always want to aim for. Gunplay is tightly woven enough to make going through the same-y missions palatable as you line up precision kills and adapt to enemies.

Innovation 3/10

When compared to other multiplayer shooters, Rise of Iron doesn’t tread new ground. When compared to itself, the pattern repeats even more. Every mission plays out in much the same manner as it has from vanilla to Taken King to now. Even the multi-tiered end game treadmill will be familiar to Destiny vets. It’s not bad at what it does, it just does it too frequently to really find thrilling.

Community 7/10

Probably due to a lack of open communication, Destiny’s community is collaborative and welcoming. The systems that let people share open world objectives or come together in Strike Playlists certainly help. It’s not a stupendously sociable game, but it doesn’t feel unwelcoming either. More than a few times I’ve had random dance parties during Patrol to celebrate an impromptu Sparrow group forming to take on an event.

Graphics/Sound 9/10

Destiny is a gorgeous game overall, and Rise of Iron’s frozen warrior aesthetic showcases this excellently. Felwinter Peak and the Plaguelands bring a sense of unforgiving chill, and the equipment that’s arrived with this expansion puts some medieval style in to the sci-fi world without feeling tacked on. Music, meanwhile, carries a similarly epic scope as powerful chorus arrangements and copious use of brass instruments make you feel like a true knight going to war.

Value for Money 4/10

Even in spite of my meager Light level at the beginning, I was able to beat the main campaign in about three to four hours. That is not a lot of meat on the bone for $30. Still, if you’re going to play Destiny, you’re going to be left completely behind by the community at large as the player pool for older content evaporates in favor of Rise of Iron’s offerings. It really is all or nothing, which is not fun but also is par for the course in many MMOs. I just hoped for a lot more for the money.

 

Overall 6/10

Rise of Iron is taking a double cheeseburger and adding a third patty. It’s not really blowing things apart with originality, but if you like cheeseburgers a third patty is probably welcome. It’s just a shame that Bungie are content to rest on their laurels and machine-press the same content they have before. It’s a tasty enough cookie, but it’s still a mass-produced cookie.

 

Pros:

+Lovely graphics
+Tight gunplay
+Active playerbase
+Getting new loot is always fun

Cons:

-Lack of innovation
-Repetitive mission structure
-Grindy end game
-Story feels rushed and short

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About Chris Hughes

Chris is a literal wolf who has managed to learn how to use a computer. He enjoys cooking, roleplaying, writing, and reading those who do the same. You can find him staring at Twitter or read more of his attempt at humor at his blog, or in-game primarily on WildStar, Blade and Soul or Final Fantasy XIV.