An age old threat has lain dormant underneath the snowy wastelands of Old Russia, having been locked away by the heroic actions of a select few. Now it’s back. SIVA has been reawakened by the Fallen, and you’re called into action to tackle the threat it poses to humanity. It’s time to venture forth and take on the mantle of the Iron Lords.
After a year of fighting the tortured Taken, the House of Devils’ Splicers make for a refreshing change of pace. Their reckless scheme brings Lord Saladin to the fore, as the sole survivor of the team that locked SIVA’s self replicating nanotechnology away all those years ago, and it’s with his guidance that you first secure the Iron Temple – a social space with a number of clever and cool secrets to explore – and then use this as your base for launching missions into the heart of the Plaguelands.
The main thrust of the expansion’s story can be quite easily wrapped up in a couple of hours, but just as with The Taken King, it branches off into a few further quests and plot threads. There’s one new strike and a couple of revisited strikes, which shake things up with different enemies and boss abilities, and there’s also a number of exotic quests, the reforging of the Gjallarhorn, and the Archon’s Forge activity in the Plaguelands, which is akin to the Court of Orix from last year.
There’s plenty of new content to explore and it sits somewhere between The Dark Below and The Taken King in scale, with a big part of its content coming from the new area to patrol. SIVA’s influence spreads out into some parts of the Cosmodrome that we know all too well from the main game, and as a wintry spell blankets the area in snow, little drones fly around, carving up parts of the metal structures and putting them to other use. It’s a familiar feeling place to go to, but SIVA’s eerily organic technology is clear to see everywhere, particularly in the enemies you face.
Splicers are Fallen merged with SIVA’s technology, twisting some of their abilities on their head and augmenting others. Dregs with peg legs, Captains with different shields and more powerful cannons, and Servitors with rapid fire energy blasts all put a nice spin on what went before. There’s still a few too many homing death blasts for my tastes, but they’re much less present than with the Taken.
Now in its third year, Bungie have clearly settled on how Destiny should be structured around the continually excellent first person shooting. The Taken King was a grand revision of a flawed original release and first year for the game, after Bungie toiled through the first two expansions to find a solution. They hit upon infusion as a method of letting you take the light level of one item and apply that to an existing piece of gear, so that items that would ordinarily be cast by the wayside could, if you were so inclined, be used as part of a maxed out set of armour and weaponry.
Infusion works exactly the same way here, with all of your second year gear easily infused right the way up to the new maximum of 385 light – Year 1 gear is sadly trapped forever in its own little world. Progress down that path is initially quite rapid, especially if you use Vanguard Marks to buy new gear from the Tower vendors, however it soon slows to a steady trickle of incrementally better weapons and armour as you approach 365 light and you go beyond the levels that rare and legendary engrams will decrypt. While there are other ways and activities to do so, by far the fastest way to get past 365 Light is to get stuck into the new Wrath of the Machine raid.
In lieu of new character subclasses and a new way to upgrade your gear, Bungie have made artefacts a much more integral part of your character set up. Based on the legends of the eight Iron Lords, these can now do more than simply boost you stats and give you simple little buffs. The most amusing I’ve seen so far lets you turn an enemy to your side, but others might reduce damage over time effects, and so on.
Wrath of the Machine sees the Fallen threat coming to a head, travelling through the shattered remains of the wall. Right from the opening moments, it engenders and enforces cooperative team play, pushing your team of six to try and solve the large environmental puzzle in front of you while splitting up into twos and threes and taking on the steady stream of enemies that come your way.
There’s definitely some inventive use of the game’s existing scenery, blending various elements that we’ve seen within the Cosmodrome and some of the more technological environments buried deep below it. The first boss fight is a fantastic low-tech juxtaposition to the organic machinery and ultra high-tech of the latter half, which makes excellent use of bright lights and inky darkness, but it’s split by a section atop the iconic wall that just feels visually very lazy and is thematically confused. It leans too heavily on the Fallen’s rough and ready approach to technology, paying tribute to Mad Max with its kit-bashed approach to construction, but looks bad, in my opinion, even if it’s another clever and uniquely put together puzzle. It’s a minor point in an otherwise fantastic raid, and raiding remains by far the best activity to partake in the game.
Fans of the multiplayer might disagree with me on that point, and those players are exploring the refreshed balance of power between weapons – pulse rifles and shotguns are still very effective, but assault rifles feel much more relevant than they were a year ago. A new game mode has been added alongside the trio of new but fairly unremarkable maps.
Supremacy is strikingly similar to Call of Duty’s Kill Confirmed mode, in which you have to collect the relics dropped when enemies die in order to score. Conversely, you can pick up your own team’s relic to prevent the other side from scoring, and this really rewards players and teams that can effectively stick together. It’s not an astounding reinvention of multiplayer, but an enjoyable mode, even if you do need to rethink how you play compared to the running and gunning of Clash or Control. The main flaw is that the score limit seems to be set too high – something that’s easily adjusted – as almost all matches seem to end at or very close to the time limit.
Rise of Iron is an excellent expansion to Destiny, but it doesn’t have the same lasting impact on the game as The Taken King did. There’s not all that much for Bungie to fix this side of a fully fledged sequel, and so this DLC gets to focus on weaving a new story that delves into the game’s lore, providing hours of new content for the game’s fans to play time and again.
If there’s one area that Bungie can improve upon over last year, it’s in keeping a steady stream of new content coming to keep people engaged deep into 2017.
Version tested: PlayStation 4