Destiny: Rise of Iron
Any new expansion to Destiny must enrich an already-complex play environment, while simultaneously introducing activities that meet the desires of longtime players and curious new Guardians. Rise of Iron confronts these goals head-on, and while a few problems crop up, it is an admirable success in its own right. More importantly, it continues to evolve Bungie’s grand epic and provides an integrated experience of competitive and cooperative shooting unmatched in the current gaming landscape.
The early days of Destiny hinted at an Arthurian order of knights that predate the player heroes, and Rise of Iron finally pulls back the curtain on that legend. Situated on a suitably lofty social space atop a wolf-inhabited mountain, the stoic Lord Saladin is a lonely survivor of those days, and he takes center stage as players confront the danger that once destroyed the mighty Iron Lords. The campaign that follows is tight and personal, focused on nostalgia and honor. The setup is solid, but the core story feels abbreviated; you’re just getting to know Saladin and picking up speed as the five-mission storyline comes to a close.
You can find additional meat in a few excellent weapon quests, including a thrilling reforging of the epic Gjallarhorn. I’m also enthusiastic about the new artifact system, which offers new collectibles and reshapes the most boring inventory slot in the game into one of the most flexible, adding options like unlimited sprint or eliminating damage over time effects.
The new Plaguelands zone is beautifully crafted, mixing existing Earth art with the invasion of a twisted new nanotechnology, and then overlaying everything with a blanket of snow. I enjoy zooming through the area on my Sparrow, but it lacks the secrecy and depth of last year’s Dreadnaught. Likewise, I appreciate the new challenge of the Fallen Splicers, but they don’t feel distinct enough from the normal Fallen. The new Splicer-focused strike is excellent, including its devilish final encounter. But even the refreshed dialogue and enemies for two other strikes aren’t enough to enliven the cooperative strike playlist, which really needs a more robust set of additions to be at its best.
Archon’s Forge is a new arena activity that provides frantic enemy wave fights. The conflicts are intense, but the new mode is hamstrung by some baffling structural issues and needs some changes. Archon’s Forge is too far out of the way to attract regular visitors, and doesn’t encourage easy public joining once a round begins. Players can only hold one entry key and new keys drop infrequently, so your group’s fun can come to a halt just as it begins.
The Wrath of the Machine raid is sophisticated and engrossing. The expedition is all about movement, collision, and communication with teammates. Filled with hidden chests, it’s a paradise for treasure hunters. From a battle against a lumbering engine of destruction to a final showdown with a machine-warped monstrosity, the encounters are action-packed. I like how much they demand of every participant, not just a select few.
A new competitive Supremacy mode is great fun, borrowing a familiar structure from Call of Duty in which players pick up crests after a kill to score. The mode rewards close-range team clumping, but that means supers and grenades can be devastating. A single crest drop can cascade into a frantic skirmish where everyone converges on the scrum. The mode is fast and furious, and much more engaging when played with a coordinating team. It’s also well supported by the excellent new maps, with lots of verticality, pathing options, and evocative themes.
Private-match functionality is also a major triumph. While options don’t allow for dramatic reinvention of existing PvP modes, they support any existing game style and map to be played with chosen friends or rivals. For the average player, this is a great tool for practice and casual play. It also opens the door for Destiny to enter the tournament and professional gaming scene in a real way.
Whatever the activity, Rise of Iron has gorgeous new gear on offer as rewards, including new ornaments that change the appearance of weapons and armor. I’m disappointed that some of the coolest appearance options are mostly hidden behind a paywall of blind microtransactions, but I applaud the decision to keep the rewards cosmetic.
Rise of Iron provides a lot of choices to players. From the activity you engage in to the rewards you pursue, the expansion supports any level of engagement. While it doesn’t offer the same breadth and reimagining of core systems found in The Taken King, Bungie’s latest release has a sentimental tone that is refreshing. This adventure through forgotten legends stands strong on its own, and continues an unbroken string of content drops that have each made Destiny a richer universe.
Bungie's expansion takes a few missteps but finishes strong, further growing an already deep game.