One of the main complaints levelled at Destiny is that it didn’t have much content. From its launch to the release of its two expansions, critics and players all said the same thing: “There isn’t enough to do.” And they were right. Slick visuals and solid shooting don’t mean much when the majority of that is spent in service of grinding out multiple different currencies.
Bungie’s latest expansion – Rise of Iron – doesn’t alleviate these problems either. In fact, it’s size and scope is smaller than that of the previous content update The Taken King. But what is there is a refinement of the formula, with memorable set-piece missions, and new areas to explore and gear to acquire.
Rise of Iron tells its own, self-contained story that doesn’t feel as climactic or earth-shattering as previous efforts – which in all fairness, is refreshing. A plague of self-replicating nanotechnology called SIVA has been unleashed, and it’s infected The Fallen – reconfiguring them to suit its evil needs. You and your fellow Guardians need to restart an organisation called the Iron Lords, and take the fight to the swarm of miniature robots.
The nature of the missions on your quest break down into the all-too familiar “go up to a terminal, have your Ghost look at it for a bit, and then fight off waves of dudes” variety. Punctuating these more mundane experiences however are ones that show a little more craft, highlighting the maturation Bungie have undergone with respect to the Destiny experience. The last major story missions delivers a heated battle that combines all the best parts of the game’s combat, with a slick presentation to boot.
The SIVA-touched Fallen aren’t that mechanically different from their base versions. Apart from sporting a particularly hellish red glow, their tactics are familiar. Occasionally they’ll throw a spanner in the works and lob a slow, tracking explosive in your direction, but if you’ve become adept at aiming down your sights and shooting aliens, you won’t find them much of a challenge.
Two new areas have been added for players to explore. The first is a snowy hub world, set at the top of a Mountain. It’s compact, and alleviates some of the longer jogs that other social spaces like the Tower and Vestian Outpost presented. This makes your time spent grabbing quests or decrypting engrams to a minimum, so you can get back out there and shoot aliens in the face.
The other area is the Plaguelands. It’s on earth, near the starting zone of Old Russia. As a result, its landscape isn’t that varied – apart from a blanket of snow covering the tussocked hills, and SIVA-pipes squirming their way through dilapidated buildings like red liquorice. You’ll do some new missions here, as well as patrols. The zone is pretty – providing a nice change of pace from the structured, square halls of the Dreadnaught – but as the Cosmodrome already exists, it does come off as a little uninspired.
Tying that all together is a new Strike. The Wretched Eye is a fast-but-forgettable romp that you can burn through in 15-to-20 minutes. There’s the obligatory jumping section, waves of enemies, and a big boss who unleashes a particularly potent melee attack should you get too close – you know, standard Destiny fare. Some older Strikes have also been re-worked, incorporating SIVA enemies into them.
If you’re serious about finding new gear however, the latest raid Wrath of the Machine is where the meat of the expansion lies. While I have yet to finish it, the enemy encounters are some of the most varied to date – with a particularly memorable section having you ride a rickety siege engine, managing multiple different parts to keep it functional.
Destiny: Rise of Iron isn’t the hardest hitting expansion. That isn’t due to the content being poor – what’s there is solid, even if there isn’t a lot of it. It just doesn’t reimagine some of the core concepts the way that The Taken King did, which puts it at a severe disadvantage when comparing it. But if you don’t mind interfacing with Destiny’s familiar grinding elements because you appreciate the shooting, and you have a team of like-minded players to tackle the new raid, then Rise of Iron is an acceptable footnote to the sci-fi FPS.