Destiny: Rise of Iron isn’t a revolution in terms of ideas and features that rewrite the game with last year’s The Taken King expansion. Nor is it a massive evolution that further sets the stage for the future of the franchise. But as an extra slice of a game that has come a long way over the last two years to become something utterly fantastic over that continued cycle of development through DLC?
It’s an utterly superb and nostalgic offering that pays tribute to what makes Destiny the kind of game that has earned a vast and loyal following of hungry fans.
But first up, let’s address the Devil Splicer Walker in the room: This ain’t no Taken King expansion. Bungie has been clear over the last couple of months that Rise of Iron isn’t the meatiest of expansions. It’s got a slightly cheaper price point to reflect that, and a campaign that is laughably short even by Destiny standards as Lord Saladin’s grand quest can easily be finished within two hours.
Any other game would be taken to task for that, but the beauty of Destiny has always been that each level is structured to be replayed several times, whether it be on daily heroic missions or to scout for hidden treasure. And yes, Rise of Iron does reuse assets to deliver a foe in the form of SIVA-enhanced Fallen that aren’t exactly too different from their regular or Taken counterparts.
Hell, the new Plaguelands zone is half new and half familiar as well. And you know what? It’s still some of the most fun I’ve had this year, even if Rise of Iron plays it safe by sticking to ideas that were previously introduced in Destiny. Where Rise of Iron succeeds, is in the fact that it wants you to finally feel like the legend that Destiny promised you’d become back in 2014.
Every part of the campaign is about building on that myth you began when you killed the heart of the Black Garden and defeated Crota with his own sword. If the defeat of Oryx was the anvil on which your legend would be further forged, then Rise of Iron is the hammer that shapes it even further. The Plaguelands may be a trip back in time, but they’re an absolute beauty.
Missions where you retake Felwinter’s Peak or engage on an epic quest to rebuild the mighty Gjallarhorn highlight Destiny at its best: Explosive and challenging gameplay that makes you feel like the last hope of the galaxy against a relentless army of Fallen, Hive, Cabal and Vex forces.
Like some sort of techno-organic version of Mordor filled with more lasers than the 1980s and home to the secrets of the Iron Lords, the Plaguelands are a treat. They’re also home to the Archon’s Forge, an arena which merges the best bits of the Prison of Elders with the Court of Oryx to create an arena that is perfect for quick jaunts. The thrill of the horde and the boss rush is clearly alive and kicking here.
Likewise with Supremacy, a new Crucible mode that you’ve probably seen in other games already, such as EA’s heavily underrated Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare. Hit the arena, kill opponents and pick up crests. Teammate gets killed? Deny a crest, extra points. Simple and easy stuff then, and when combined with the trademark gun-action of Destiny.
Rise of Iron’s new Strike and a half aren’t too shabby either. A neat twist on the usual assault on Sepiks Prime, Sepiks Prime Perfected throws a reasonable challenge at any Guardian rocking a higher Light Level while the Wretched Eye event has Guardians playing the mother of all keep-away games as a SIVA-enhanced Hive Ogre attempts to decorate its fists with their organs.
And then there’s the latest raid, Wrath of the Machine. Recently released, it’s Destiny meets Mad Max as the biggest threats in the Devil Splicer arsenal guns for Guardians. It’s not as brutally technical as the King’s Fall raid was however, and I think the lighter twists and turns in these boss battles are going to keep returning Guardians invested for a lot longer.
Bungie has also lifted some inspiration from Borderlands 2 here, with a record book that details your various accomplishments, ranging from missions completed to bringing a rocket launcher to a sword fight. It’s undoubtedly the heart of Rise of Iron here, an eternal reminder of just how far you’ve come and with some snazzy rewards thrown in as some added incentive. Because right now, I working my way up the ladder to get that shiny new Iron Wolf armour.
Rise of Iron isn’t the perfect Destiny expansion. It’s got a lingering problem with narrative that Bungie insists on keeping separate from the core game itself and it plays heavily on nostalgia. But dammit, it’s fun. It’s exhilarating to do anything new in Destiny, a game which has evolved into a platform with some of the most solid first-person shooter mechanics ever committed to a digital screen.
Last Updated: September 26, 2016