Destiny: Rise of Iron Review

Rise of Iron is Destiny's latest expansion, introduces players to the not-so-threatening SIVA and an amazing new Raid. Hook it straight into my veins, please.

Destiny has always been one of those games that you either love or hate, and even those who love the game often find themselves hating on it for brief moments during their space career. I’ve probably played more Destiny than I’d care to admit, so my anticipation of Rise of Iron was pretty high, especially given the amount of time it had been since the last installment.

Lord Saladin knows... something
Lord Saladin knows... something

Rise of Iron revolves around Lord Saladin, the stoic fellow who was in charge of the laggy Iron Banner, and his dark secrets involving a nanotechnology known as SIVA. The expansion introduces players to the Fallen Splicers, a section of the Fallen family that has decided to infuse their bodies with a nanotech they don’t quite understand. However, it does make these new Fallen extremely powerful, which means it’s time for your Guardian to step up, knock them back down a few pegs, and maybe discover what Lord Saladin knows about this SIVA.

SIVA tendrils
SIVA tendrils

In terms of story, the threat of SIVA is never truly evident and fails to feel like an actual threat until the closing moments of the campaign. Without revealing too much, it would be like playing through The Taken King, only to get to the final boss and realizing that Oryx can “take” things and bend their will. There’s just a lack of tension building with the alleged SIVA threat. Sure, the Fallen are using SIVA to enhance their bodies, but I’ve literally just slain a Hive demigod that crushed worlds, so it ends up paling in comparison. It’s a problem I realized when I saw Oryx during the Raid. It’s a form of power-creep but in boss form, “Boss-creep”. Oryx appears monstrously huge in the Raid, making his size a threatening aspect. SIVA, without having an actual body, must be built up using another method of fear, but with Lord Saladin being extremely cagey on the details there’s more uncertainty than anything.

Compare this to another piece of DLC, House of Wolves, where Skolas was the main antagonist. Players could see him collecting an army as they chased after the Kell of Kells and tried to figure out what he was doing. There were attacks on familiar locations, and a sense of dread when it was revealed he was looking into Vex weaponry. The threat of SIVA is only ever talked about by Saladin, and talking about a bad guy is never as scary as seeing one with your own eyes.

With each new release of content that Bungie graciously drips into our thirsty mouths, the crowds come surging back to experience new content in a game they’re incredibly passionate about, sometimes to a fault. These faults lie on both sides of the experience, with players often hyping themselves into a frenzy, and Bungie removing or altering tried-and-true mechanics that players have come to love.

Another 340 Blue
Another Weapon Part. I mean, another 340 Rare.

The cycle Bungie seems to repeat is to fix some issues in a DLC release, while systematically going back on systems that were otherwise completely appropriate and helped gameplay. The most immediate example of this is Engram decryptions. In The Taken King, decrypting Engrams actively helped you level up, even after reaching a higher Light Level. This meant that even Rare Engrams were a decent resource, but in Rise of Iron, blues are now useless once you reach Light 340, a feat easily accomplished by even the most casual player. There was a method to this madness, as some of the hardcore players stockpiled Engrams in an attempt to capitalize on the Decyption process, but this just ended up hurting everyone, not just the hardcore. It’s returned Rare Engrams to their pre-Taken King state of trash. However, it means players need to grind out new content in order to level up, like the new Archon’s Forge.

Archon's Forge
Archon's Forge

Archon’s Forge is a poorly implemented, yet incredibly enjoyable experience. It's like Court of Oryx meets the Prison of Elders, only you insert a key into a machine that summons a boss. These keys come in three different difficulty tiers and are dropped by enemies in the world. You don't have a set way of earning them, so you must rely on their drop rate. When I first began writing this, Bungie hadn’t addressed the drop rate of Archon’s Forge keys, but to their credit, it is now vastly improved. However, the problem still remains that you have no control over what you will fight in the Archon’s Forge. I’ve had a quest that requires me to fight four Captains in the Archon’s Forge using a certain key, and each time I’ve used that key it summoned Dregs. The other glaring issue is the amount of time it takes to reach the Archon’s Forge. To put it into Destiny terms, it would be akin to driving from the Steppes to the Forgotten Shore just to play a round of Court of Oryx. It’s inconveniently far, however it does mean I get to admire the new Patrol area, The Plaguelands.

The Plaguelands
The Plaguelands

Like the Dreadnaught in The Taken King, The Plaguelands is the new stomping grounds for players in Rise of Iron. What the Dreadnaught lacked in interesting décor, The Plaguelands makes up for in spades. It became tedious traversing the Dreadnaught, as players were unable to summon their Sparrow. On the other hand, the Plaguelands not only allows you to use Sparrows, but it encourages you to do so, as there are jumps and ramps to be found everywhere. In terms of areas, this new Patrol area is somewhat linear compared to the rest in Destiny, with only two regions possessing any real sense of density or depth. Most areas feel like their entire purpose is to take you to the next.

Record Booklet
Record Booklet

For all the small problems and grievances players have with Rise of Iron, Bungie has done a lot right this time around, with one of the greatest additions to Destiny being the Record Booklet. These act as a means of tracking your progression through the game, with milestones that the user can reach to earn gear and rewards. Each page has several tasks that a Guardians can perform, like doing weekly Nightfall Strikes, competing in Iron Banner, completing tasks in the Raid, or even finishing the storyline. It’s an excellent way of tracking progression and ensuring that players have something to work toward, even after they’ve technically finished the content. I’ve played and finished every activity in Rise of Iron, and I’ve yet to even scratch the surface of the Booklet. This addition will help to bridge the gap between this piece of content and the next, allowing players to chip away and earn rewards for weeks to come.

Wrath of the Machine
Wrath of the Machine

Just this last weekend I managed to finish the Wrath of the Machine, the new Raid Bungie released with Rise of Iron. Ignoring all the problems with the entry requirement and how long it takes to reach the appropriate Light Level, the activity itself is a solid piece of gameplay. It’s early, but it feels more like a return to the quality of Vault of Glass, rather than what Crota’s End or King’s Fall offered. Speaking in terms of scale, there are no transitions or teleporters in Wrath of the Machine, making it feel physically larger and more connected than the two previous Raids. Wrath of the Machine is shorter than King’s Fall, but with more fine-tuned mechanics. Each section builds upon the last with the only black sheep being the Siege Engine (or Zamboni, as the community now calls it). The Siege Engine section is one of the most enjoyable moments in the entire Raid, and a breath of fresh air into Raid building, which had previously boiled down to: enter arena, hold out against the boss, damage boss. The Siege Engine fight is like trying to change a car tire on the highway during a hail storm. Wrath of the Machine is short yet complex, with a sense of understanding and appreciation for a community that loves to dive into a Raid's secrets.

Gjallarhorn
Gjallarhorn

Aside from new activities like the Patrol zone, Strikes, and Raids, Rise of Iron also brings a host of new and old Exotics for players to collect. Instead of opting for RNG, like with previous Exotic weapons, Bungie has implemented a few quests that lead to unlocking the Exotics. Year 1 players will be happy to hear that there are quests to unlock Year 3 versions of the Khvostov, Thorn, and even Gjallarhorn. While Gjallarhorn is a powerful rocket launcher, I don’t feel the need to use it exclusively like in the original content. Bungie has struck a decent balance with their weapons in Rise of Iron, a feat that is always surprising given the vast quantity of options in the game.

Khvostov
Khvostov

As always, the gunplay in Destiny is on point, with Bungie needing to do very little, if any, tweaking to the way weapons handle. The only changes players will find are the slight ways the weapons function in regards to damage and recoil, all of which will go relatively unnoticed to the untrained eye, but become a point of major discussion across the communities like the Destiny subreddit. Bungie has struck gold with the weapon handling and the perk system in Destiny. Raid weapons now come with predetermined perks, making a lot of old school players happy. There’s really not much to say about the weapons and handling. They've both been extremely solid aspects of Destiny since its release in 2014.

Overall, Rise of Iron is another solid addition to the Destiny universe, and should hopefully keep players entertained for a couple of months. If previous installments are anything to go by, after the release of the Hard Mode Raid and the subsequent Challenge Modes, players will begin itching for new content to sink their teeth into. At the moment, with the addition of the Record Booklet, new Strikes, old Exotics, and the new Raid, Rise of Iron offers the perfectly-sized hit for the Destiny addict.

 

Rise of Iron Review

777
/ 1000
The Good
  • Great New Raid
  • Refreshing New Content
  • Gjallarhorn is Back
The Bad
  • Underwhelming Campaign
  • Blue Engrams Useless
  • Ghosts and Artifacts Too Rare

Sam Chandler

Australian writer who has a penchant for Souls games, an addiction to Destiny, and a love for the indie.

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