The Rise of Iron expansion is a welcome addition to Destiny but is eclipsed by last year’s stellar Taken King.
In almost every way, Rise of Iron, Destiny’s final expansion, is another iteration on a formula that is loved and hated by console gamers. There’s nothing here besides a new raid that really stretches the Destiny gameplay loop in any new directions.
Gamers who have been soaking up all the Destiny content around in the past two years will have more gear and loot to increase their light level and keep the grind fresh. Bungie doesn’t make any significant changes to how gear works or ranks this time around, so if you found yourself burnt out by the ever-present push for better equipment in the past, you’ll likely feel the sting of repetition in Rise of Iron.
Bungie has been pretty open about the scope of Rise of Iron being limited compared to last year’s Taken King expansion. Even with their priming, I still felt a little surprised by how quickly I finished the main expansion quest line. While the side quests that open afterward keep the loot grind alive, Rise of Iron’s snowy landscapes can’t hide the been-there-done-that vibe of the rolling Russian landscape.
If anything, Rise of Iron feels more akin to House of Wolves and Dark Below expansions than Taken King. Because Year 2 DLC worked hard to expand upon vanilla Destiny’s flaws, it felt like Bungie rested on their laurels in Rise of Iron.
Let’s not forget this point: Rise of Iron maintains the stellar gunplay that Bungie perfected with Halo over a decade ago. Combat is still as spongy as ever if you’re under-leveled, but when you’re prepared for the fight at hand, pulling off kills and recharging your shield in the heat of battle is fantastic. Destiny doesn’t have the same flow as shooters that run at 60 frames per second, but the new graphical effects and hordes of enemies, particularly in the new raid, make the framerate compromise a little more understanding.
The short quest is an interesting enough story that repurposes many assets from the Russian Cosmodrome. The new enemy types are essentially reskinned Fallen with slightly different combat behavior. While the tried and true mission design of holding off hordes as your ghost scans an object has a little less shine than it used to, everything is made better by playing with friends.
Speaking of playing with friends, it’s important to report that Destiny’s versus multiplayer is largely the same in Rise of Iron. There are some small differences, though, such as the addition or private matches and a new mode called “Supremacy,” which is essentially a copy and past of Call of Duty’s “Kill Confirmed.” The loot rewards for your performance in multiplayer are as random as ever. Players at the top of the scoreboard could get low-level loot (or nothing) while those at the bottom who struggled with some of the best gear around. I’m all for rewarding poor performing players to keep them interested, but it’s a slap in the face to those who have perfected the Crucible.
The actual plot of Rise of Iron’s main quest line is interesting if not a bit cliché. The sole survivor of the Iron Lords, Lord Saladin, recruits you to put down the new Splicer faction that’s stirring up trouble back on Earth. Along the way, you’ll chat with a few new faces that keep the plot in motion. As the story unfolds, it’s revealed that the Slicers derived from the Fallen Devils. Although it’s an exciting development for Destiny lore fans, it does feel a little half-baked that many enemies look like the same fallen you’ve been killing for two years.
With more content than the Year One expansions and lagging behind last year’s Taken King, Rise of Iron feels like a complacent iteration on the Destiny formula. Gameplay is as satisfying as ever, and the new loot is a welcome addition as someone who constantly feels the itch to increase my light level. Still, without anything to breathe fresh air into the game, I can’t help but feel like Bungie is using Rise of Iron to stave off fan’s hunger while the studio continues to work on a real sequel to Destiny.
Although it’s a cliché in games journalism, the Rise of Iron expansion is the poster child of the “if you liked the game before, you’ll be happy. If you didn’t like it before, there’s nothing here to change your mind.” I have always enjoyed the gunplay and lore of Destiny, so I felt happy to soak up a few more hours in Rise of Iron. Still, I wouldn’t argue with anyone who thought the game talked a lot but didn’t say much.
When the Taken King made massive strides to evolve Destiny’s story and gameplay, it can be hard to accept you’ve played all Rise of Iron has to offer after a dozen or so hours.
Destiny: Rise of Iron was reviewed on a Xbox One press copy courtesy of Activision.
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