Welcome to Year 3. Destiny, the game that was proclaimed dead within months of its initial release by many of its less then enthralled player base, releases the fourth DLC – Rise of Iron. The package doesn’t alleviate many of Destiny’s long-standing issues, but gives its thriving community much of what they’ve been asking for and further hones its highly addictive winning formula.
Game: Destiny: Rise of Iron
Reviewed on: PS4 (Review code provided)
If you’ve been in a hole the past two years, Destiny is a blend of MMO mechanics and first-person shooting set in a futuristic space setting where you zip around the Solar System as the last line of defence against several alien races all embroiled in war. This expansion adds new strikes, a raid, a new crucible PvP mode and a ton of new gear to grab.
The struggle has been real for Earth’s Guardians. They’ve stood at the back shooting rockets at the Hive’s cranky deity Crota, stood in the corner shooting rockets at wannabe Fallen leader Skolas, been slapped on the wrist for shooting rockets and told to stand in a bubble and shoot Oryx’s belly, all whilst jumping around platforms and being eaten by Ogres – a fitting punishment in anyone’s book. And here we are, Rise of Iron. Here we learn how the Iron Lords died trying to fight a self-manifesting technology named SIVA that tears through the galaxy as a technological plague and it’s resurfaced thanks to the Fallen race attempting to harness its power. Yes, it’s time to get those rockets ready.
As almost expected, the narrative is thin and single player story missions unhealthily short with most of the real meat of the quite fantastic lore buried in Grimoire cards only accessible from Bungie’s website. The issue has been a problem since Year 1 of the game and something that’s never really been rectified. It’s a shame because if you delve deep of your own accord the plot-underbelly of Destiny’s universe is quite spectacular and genuinely worth investigating.
Whilst the story is short-lived, any veteran of Destiny will know that when the story missions end, the game really begins. It’s here when the game really tightens its grip on you as you pick up that first really cool gun, or find a clever secret buried in its missions. A lot of Destiny’s finest moments come from its community banding together in an attempt to unlock hidden treasures to point of ridiculousness such as decrypting the Hive language or spending hours jumping up and down in random areas of maps to unlock new paths – it’s never ended up being quite as complicated to solve its mysteries. Well, until now that is, but I won’t spoil it.
Following a similar pattern to its predecessors, Rise of Iron invites Guardians into a new area to explore, the Plaguelands – a new area of Earth previously unreachable that offers public questing, loot grabbing and exploring within its vast landscape that’s as a joy to shoot in. Bungie’s shooting mechanics remain in my opinion second to none. The feel and control of letting some bullets rip, reloading, and then the final kill-sound of an enemy’s head exploding just feels like perfection and it feels as impeccably solid now as it did 2 years ago.
Then there’s the return of the infamous Gjallarhorn rocker launcher, a fabled weapon from year one that melted pretty much anything and everything it touched. After a year hiatus it returns with a fanfare from Bungie and is given back in an almost ‘thank you for playing’ like fashion. In-fact the entire expansion feels like a love letter to itself at times, with the Khvostov (your very first gun in-game) receiving an exotic upgrade, the PvP favourite hand-cannon named Thorn and a rehashed version of the game’s first strike all re-tweaked to pull on your nostalgia strings. The game attempts to patch holes in its untold history with each one, most of it to good effect.
Most of the game’s issues still reside in its separation of the casual and hardcore playerbase. For casuals, Destiny remains a great shooter with plenty to indulge in such as three new player strikes and The Forge which serves as an arena akin to The Taken King’s Court of Oryx that tasks groups with fending of waves of foes. There’s also a wealth of content from previous expansions such as the Prison of Elders and of course the PvP modes that can now be set up into private matches at your own leisure. It’s safe to say that if you’re into just shooting some aliens every now and then, you won’t run out of things to do. Destiny’s launch content drought was officially over quite some time ago.
Then, if you fall down the deep Destiny shaped hole, things can get serious quickly. First and foremost there’s a new raid, Wrath of the Machine, only intended for those with the time and patience to pull together a Fireteam with enough communication and skill to tackle the challenge. Vault of Glass, Crota’s End and KingsFall, the previous raids all offered something a little different but the latest entry is a representation of Bungie fine tuning their craft. The KingsFall raid before it was a technical challenge that was excellently designed but left player’s stationary fulfilling their tasks. Wrath of the Machine is an all action, communication heavy raid that requires your wits and your observation skills working at their peak at all times.
The raids in Destiny separate it from many other games. You won’t find the heart pounding finishes, camaraderie and pressure anywhere else – it’s something to witness for yourself. If it’s not you tasked with the job at hand, you can still feel the tension of your teammates and the sighs of utter satisfaction and relief when a raid section has been cleared. Yes, it does get easier, but those first runs are gaming gold and when you open that final chest, you know each and every one of your team earned it.
So, Rise of Iron is a wonderful expansion, yes – but it’s not the whole story. You need to hit a recommended light level to play the raid, and that means saying hello to the grind. Repeating content has always been Destiny’s bread and butter, but to reach the right levels I found myself crawling through hours and hours of old content to get there. That’s partly mine, and the communities fault as we all strive to find the most efficient and quickest way to level but it means that there’s probably something wrong with way the system is designed. Omnigul, a Hive strike boss, dropped higher level loot and could be killed on a loop (until recently patched) meaning a solid percentage of the payer base were sitting in Year 3, playing a strike for hours on end that was released in Year 1 of the game.
SIVA aside, it’s these frustrations that plague the game. Misplaced repetition, an unbalanced loot-drop system, weapon buffs, weapon nerfs, patches, hotfixes – the truth is Destiny is an on-going experiment that Bungie is still trying to tweak and perfect. Even when the story has you staring down from high up with your Ghost companion at where you first began two years ago, it feels as though there’s too many gaps and holes that haven’t quite fitted together as originally intended.
Ultimately though, here is a game that demands you come back to it no matter how long you’ve been away. When you finally get that gun you’ve been waiting forever for, beat a raid with your friends or stumble across a post on reddit that someone has found a secret entrance with strange markings on… then it’s on, and you won’t look back.