Destiny has had its fair share of criticism since its release a few years ago. The game shipped with not much of a story, making players learn far more about the game’s lore via Bungie’s website than through the game itself. Despite the title being designed for a multi-year plan, you could work through the entirety of all its content within a week or two. Through the various updates, patches and expansion packs, Destiny has started to find its footing. The Taken King expansion was fun, well written and introduced us to a wide range of colorful and engaging characters. With Destiny’s newest expansion, The Rise of Iron, the content pack seems to be more renovation than innovation and plays it far too safe, but there is still a lot of fun to be had along the way.
Destiny: The Rise of Iron is the latest and possibly last expansion before the inevitable Destiny 2 hits store shelves at some point in the somewhat-near future. While the majority of Bungie is hard at work on that very sequel, a small team within the studio pushed out one of Destiny’s better bits of content, even if it does ring a bit hollow.
The Rise of Iron shows us what happened during the final battle of the Iron Lords, as they attempted to stop an evil force called SIVA.
Destinypedia describes SIVA as:
“The SIVA plague was once a Golden Age breakthrough in self-assembling, self-replicating nanotechnology, created by Clovis Bray to accelerate humanity’s colonization effort. It was discovered by the Iron Lords during the early City Age, and turned against them in their attempt to utilize it for humanity’s betterment. Unable to destroy the techno-virus, the Iron Lords sealed it within its bunker, deep within the bowels of the Cosmodrome.”
You’ll revisit area’s that were explored by the Iron Lords and attempt to finish what they could not. My understanding of the game’s story is what I have experienced in-game and I have not, and probably won’t, read the lore via Bungie’s website. It also doesn’t help that the story itself is not terribly well-written, with characters that don’t feel as fleshed out as the cast we had during The Taken King.
The main story to The Rise of Iron can easily be beaten within two hours, as it is only a few missions long. While the road to the final encounter is fairly interesting, its final mission is one of Destiny’s best. After you beat the story you will have a few small missions to take part in before the need to grind content becomes apparent. On Xbox One, the version I played, there is one new strike and two revamped classics.
The new strike is fantastic and its boss battle is both well designed and intense. You are tasked with putting down a splicer priest, as he’s experimented with a Hive Ogre. You’ll have to contend with that very Ogre during battle and there’s a catch, he is invincible. One of the revamped Strikes is a slight variation to The Devil’s Lair in which Sepik’s Prime has returned, corrupted by SIVA to become Sepik’s Perfected. What is nice about this new strike is the new mechanics to the final battle. You’ll need to take down enemies that wield rocket launchers and then use those weapons to destroy Sepik’s shield. It’s a small twist to a classic strike that feels so natural and works extremely well here. The other strike that has seen a small change is The Summoning Pits. You’ll tackle the strike in the same manner as usual, however; the door to the pits is locked and requires a new method to reach the door. Taking a page out of one of the raids, you’ll climb aboard a tomb ship and then jump to another one before it disappears and then jump to the door, it’s a short moment but fun none-the-less.
When not tackling story missions, you’ll fly down to the new patrol zone; The Plaguelands. This area has a whole new section to explore but does contain the original earth zone within it, albeit covered in snow and littered with evidence of SIVA everywhere. The new area is fun, well designed and offer lots to explore. One of the new patrol missions in The Rise of Iron are Quarantine activities. These will drop a new item called SIVA offerings, and they’ll drop in green (easy), blue (medium) and purple (hard). These offerings are used in The Archon’s Forge, a new Court of Oryx style event. What the Archon’s Forge lacks, however; is the mechanics that the Court offered in their challenges. Archon’s Forge is simply a kill everything that moves event where in green and blue difficulties, a fully stacked team can breeze through them, sometimes killing the boss before it can even move. The harder challenge, the purple offerings, can sometimes require a six-man patrol team, consisting of two three-man teams. What is odd about this event is there is no matchmaking to bring in another team, requiring you to hope that another team shows up to help. Even finding another team outside of the Forge will have them spawn into another instance should you both run up to the panel to present your offering. It’s annoying. When a full six-man team is present, you can often get enough offerings to drop to fulfill a solid dozen attempts at this event.
The new weapons and armor contained in the expansion is pretty solid with some visually impressive designs and stats for each item. You’ll gather and infuse what you can to boost yourself to the 385 cap. When the raid’s Hard mode hits on October 18th, you’ll need to muster all you have to gain new items in that activity to hit the then 400 cap. Your experience with gear may vary since the delivery of it is mostly random. Items that are not random, however; are the ones gained through the Rise of Iron challenge book. As you complete tasks and events you’ll level up your book, with every two levels offering something impressive. When you unlock armor items, you’ll gain them for your Hunter, Warlock and Titan all at once, making the need for a character of each class that much greater. Each of the armor items from this book can be implemented with an item to change its appearance. These items are called ornaments and can be found in the cash boxes you buy from the Eververse Trading company, or if you are lucky to have them drop from SIVA heroic strikes.
You’ll also receive a few exotic weapon quests that help you unlock the new Gjallarhorn and the Khvostov auto-rifle. These quests are fun to complete with the Gjallarhorn quest ending in a climatic firefight that I wish the game had more of. There is also another exotic weapon quest that randomly drops when you hand in bounties at the Iron Temple, the new social hub, as well as an exotic quest that took Destiny players a few days into the raid to discover.
While the raid isn’t the longest we’ve seen by developer Bungie, it does show a lot of growth for the series. Mechanics are fun, fleshed out and engaging. Most of the prior raids have allowed certain players to fill roles and while that is still true to an extent here, The Wrath of the Machine God Raid makes a few aspects to how the raid works somewhat random and make players focused on knowing all aspects of the raid. The main problem with this raid is the lack of any true story behind it. We knew why we were going after Oryx in The Taken King, it was very clear and it made sense. Here, it doesn’t feel that way, it’s far less clear. It would have been nice to have some dialogue or some sort of cutscene that paints us a better picture, but we don’t, and it suffers greatly for it.
While Destiny: The Rise of Iron hasn’t done much to make Destiny look better, the aesthetics alone make this the most visually pleasing pieces of content released so far. SIVA nodes and other aspect to its design just look fantastic. The red tunnels and string like visuals that SIVA brings with it is stunning. The plaguelands is covered in it, and the further you go into places like Archon’s Forge, the more apparent the SIVA presence is. You can find aspects of it in various other places from original Destiny, but only is areas shaped by The Rise of Iron. Normal Earth patrol won’t bring anything from this expansion into it, but Plaguelands patrol, which does let you visit prior Earth patrol areas, is covered in snow and infected by SIVA. There are also sections of the raid where the art design is jaw-dropping and contains a few stand out moments.
The Raid also has some aspects to it that may have made the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 shake in their digital boots, and those versions were not supported this time around. The large machine in the middle of that raid is a monument of game design and after playing through the raid, it is easy to see why they skipped last gen for this update. While some may still question exactly why Bungie left out last-gen, this section of the raid is proof enough that its time to leave those systems behind and focus on the future of the brand.
You’ll meet a smaller cast of characters this time around in compared to The Taken King. There is Shiro-4 who feels so close to Cayde-6, voiced by Nathan Fillion, that it makes me wonder if Nathan wasn’t available and they had to make someone new for this expansion. There is Lord Saladin, who seems to have one overall tone, and feels rather two-dimensional. The Taken King had so many fantastic characters with great back stories and wonderful acting that they instantly became your favorites of the series. No one here matches that level of detail or makes you think twice about them.
It’s also hard to think about SIVA as a character as well, given that it really doesn’t have a solid form or at least a presence like Oryx did. The Taken King had a solid bad guy you wanted to hate, and while SIVA visually has a cool concept behind it, SIVA as a villain just falls flat and fails to given us something worthwhile to want to defeat.
I’ve played quite a bit of the new Iron Banner, only lacking a few of the weapons and gear pieces exclusive to this mode. It has been fine tuned with regard to dishing out rewards a bit faster than previous Iron Banner events. Lasting only a week, with the goal of hitting rank 5, you’ll find that after a few matches, you’ll be on your way to collecting some pretty decent loot. Where the Iron Banner suffers, however; is the vendor. She only sells 350 light items, and should you be over 350 light, you’ll skip these items and concentrate on the drops from playing the actual event itself. I’ve had items drop here well above 350 light, with my highest being 370 light. Items in the Iron Banner will drop up to 385 light, but never more than four higher than your current light level. What I think would have made the vendor more appealing is if she sold 370 light items, since it’s really easy to have that level drop in random loot while playing the Iron Banner, should you be somewhere around 368 light anyway. While the weapons and armor don’t exactly have decent stats, they can be used to boost your light level to assist in keeping you alive in the raid or nightfall activities. That being said, there are some items that do have good stats, should you be granted the god-roll of that item.
While Destiny wasn’t perfect when it released back in 2014, I still played hundreds of hours of it. Sure, the story wasn’t great and the amount of content at release was not really impressive at all, but the gameplay alone is what kept me coming back, which I am assuming had the same effect on other players as well. The game gradually got better, loot systems retooled and newer, deeper mechanics started to emerge. While Destiny in its current state isn’t perfect, it’s still a better game now than it has ever been. The Rise of Iron doesn’t make Destiny better in the way that The Taken King did, but it does provide a new coat of paint on a game that was starting to wear out, just a bit.