If you’d asked me a year ago what I expected Bungie to be hyping in the build up to release this September, Rise of Iron wouldn’t have been the first thing to spring to mind. It’s not the future plan that Bungie’s heads of studio would have been dancing around in interviews. It’s not Destiny 2, in other words.
So it’s an expansion of what currently exists in Destiny: The Taken King, adding new story content, new strikes, a new raid, a higher light level cap, new and returning exotics. There’s even a whole new area to explore and play in, with a new area of Earth opened up as the great wall seen and visited on the edges of the Cosmodrome collapses to allow players into the Plaguelands.
Golden Age technology known as SIVA has come to be in the hands of the Fallen and the House of Devils, and it’s up to you to assist Lord Saladin, become an Iron Lord yourself and put an end to this threat that’s right on the doorstep of the Tower. For the first time, the Fallen get to be a very real danger to the remnants of humanity, all the way through to the six man raid.
The raids have always been the main highlight of Destiny for me, as larger scale encounters that demand the absolute from you and your team, with much more than just shooting at enemies, but actual puzzles to try and work out how to progress. However, even before you get there, it’s clear that the lessons Bungie learned during the early days of Destiny have held true.
The Wretched Eye strike sees you descend into an abandoned weapons silo, hunting after a Fallen High Priest to put an end to the Hive-manipulating wickedness it is concocting. It’s an unusually open feeling level, despite heading deeper and deeper underground. With a certain degree of sleep deprivation, I found myself wandering away from the path set out by the waypoints, stumbling into groups of enemies that I wasn’t really meant to be fighting yet, before joining up with my fireteam and tracking through the corridors I had emptied for a second time.
The boss battle at the end of the meandering path I took delighted me though. This was a key area that Bungie worked on for The Taken King, and there’s definitely an added spiciness to this encounter, as the High Priest unleashes an invulnerable Hive Ogre that charges and chases after you, while you deal with lesser Fallen and still try to deal damage to the High Priest himself. It’s a fun fight that keeps you on your toes, but I dread to think how difficult it will be in a Nightfall…
But maybe the returning Gjallarhorn will help. After so long with its enforced obsolescence, it’s nice to have it back and I made a symbolic gesture of using my last rocket to deliver the killing blow to the High Priest. This time around, it’s not a lottery when unpacking exotic engrams and praying for it to drop from boss kills, but the end of an exotic quest chain part of the main story. For those that struggled and waited for over a year to get one the first time around, it’ll make Oprah’s car giveaway feel insignificant. You get a Gjallarhorn! You get a Gjallarhorn!
The multiplayer additions are much more by the numbers. Private matches are about 18 months overdue, in my opinion, but finally open the door for competitions and eSports which, when Destiny has sold as many copies as it has, seems like a no brainer.
In addition to some new maps, there’s also the new Supremacy game mode. It’s Kill Confirmed by another name, as Guardians drop Relics upon death, which must then be picked up in order to keep your score board ticking over, or can be reclaimed by a friendly player to prevent the enemy from scoring.
While I had a lot of fun returning to Destiny’s multiplayer for the first time in at least six months, running rampant amidst an assortment of international press and YouTubers – seriously, I hit a 10 kill streak and got a medal called “I’ll do it myself” – it’s also part of the reason why I’m left with mixed feelings about Rise of Iron.
This simply isn’t an expansion of the same significance that The Taken King had. That expansion amended so much of the game structure wrapped around that utterly compelling first person shooting, but Rise of Iron simply doesn’t have that same challenge. Instead, what Destiny has been crying out for over the past nine months is more content, and while Bungie have held certain events and added a few new missions and quests back in April. Rise of Iron gets to add a significant amount of new game to play through, but it can also hopefully be the first step in a year with more regular updates and events.
Really, the most important thing is for Rise of Iron to keep people playing or get them playing again, and for me it seems to be doing the trick. I’ve not fallen back into the weekly grind, but when asked if I’d like to do the King’s Fall raid with a few friends, to help polish off the second year’s Moments of Triumph, I promptly said yes, and spent two nights over the weekend trying – and ultimately failing – to beat Oryx in challenge mode.
I’m not there yet, but come 20th September, I fully expect to be energetically leaping through the Plaguelands, taking down all the Fallen in sight and putting an end to their dastardly plans.*
*A minor caveat, but I will, almost certainly, be reviewing the expansion.