As Destiny kicks off its third anniversary with the release of the Rise of Iron DLC, there can be no doubt that the game has had one of the most tumultuous lifespans of any AAA release in recent memory. Within a few months of Destiny's release, millions of people fought their way through a rather unsatisfying story, endured a long list of frustrating PvP balancing updates, and triumphed over countless (spectacularly designed) Raids. Any developer with a game that lasted this long while still retaining a fairly active community should feel accomplished, and with Rise of Iron, it seems like Bungie has acknowledged that without their community, none of this would be possible.
From the moment that you start Rise of Iron's main quest, it should seem apparent that Bungie made a legitimate attempt to give Destiny's community features that they have been asking for. There are cutscenes that attempt to tell some sort of a story, various characters talk to you in missions rather than simply barking orders at you, and the most desirable rewards (i.e. Gjallarhorn) are obtainable through quests and the completion of certain milestones. On top of that, you are no longer forced to ditch your hard-fought gear for the sake of remaining effective in combat, which is obviously a major improvement from prior DLCs. The introduction of a wide variety of new gear also means that you can customize your character to your heart's content (given that you have the resources and items to do so), and there is certainly no shortage of new things to experience.
In addition to a visually appealing new social space, there is an entirely new part of Earth that you get to explore that has been corrupted by rampant technology. You really get a sense that humanity would've been capable of so much in Destiny's story, but now the very tools that would have delivered them to glory have turned wild, claiming the land and reshaping it much like how nature reclaims areas that humans have abandoned. As one would expect, this results in an outbreak of fighting between the Fallen and the Hive as they both try to either harness this technology or flee from it. With roughly three to five hours of new quests and strikes (add in a few hours for any exploration that you might want to do), there's plenty of new things to see in the world of Destiny.
That being said, even with all of Rise of Iron's new and improved features, Destiny still plays like the same game that was released three years ago, which can be both a blessing and a curse for those who are on the fence about the new DLC. On the one hand, this means that the core gameplay has been unchanged, retaining the same fairly smooth and satisfying gunplay that one can expect from the developers of one of the largest FPS franchises in history. On the other hand, the fact that other games have been given a chance to evolve means that you can't help but feel like the core gameplay is a little dated when compared to likes of a game like Halo 5 or Titanfall, especially in regards to how awkwardly your character moves at times. That's not to say that this is a flaw of Rise of Iron per se, but it is a noticeable consequence of having a game that has managed to stay fairly successful throughout the years.
However, there are some flaws in Rise of Iron that cannot be so easily dismissed or excused, the most glaring of which revolves around how the story is portrayed to you. Despite the inclusion of all of the beautiful new cutscenes and amusing banter between characters, your own character never speaks. Not once during the entire Rise of Iron questline does your character speak, even though there is no shortage of events that would warrant a response from a normal human being with actual emotions and feelings. They never ask any questions, they never have any kind of a conversation, and they certainly never do anything that would help you understand why Lord Saladin went to such great lengths to hide something from the rest of the Vanguard.
To make matters worse, the fact that other characters actually talk to you only highlights one of largest problems that plagued Destiny: the world feels dead and uninteresting. On multiple occasions, other characters mention bringing reinforcements or some such, but in typical video game fashion, they never arrive in time. While this would only serve as a minor annoyance in other games, in Destiny, it only reinforces the feeling that you are doing the same thing over and over again. You never get to fight alongside NPCs, you never see forces from the Last City contribute anything, and you barely even see the Fallen and Hive fight each other. By the time that you finish Rise of Iron's main questline, one thing seems clear: you are the only one who is doing anything in this world, and what you are doing is marching to some place, shooting some aliens, and then repeating this process ad infinitum. Given Bungie's proven ability to create amusing and competent friendly NPCs that helped make Halo's single-player campaign feel alive, this is a rather disappointing annoyance that detracted from the story.
Speaking of annoyances, a small but noticeable number of the locations that you visit while completing some of the new activities are clearly just old locations with some new decoration strewn about. In fact, one of the new Strikes forces you to play through what is almost an exact duplicate of the first Strike in Destiny; the boss' name is unchanged, save for the addition of a suffix that might as well say that it was revived so that you can kill it again. Similarly, the vast majority of enemies that you face in Rise of Iron behave almost exactly like the enemies that you face in the main game, despite their supposed technological superiority; it gets to the point that you would be forgiven for thinking that the only thing that changed was the color of the projectiles that they shoot at you. Given how unique the enemies were in The Taken King, this is a rather odd oversight of sorts.
In all fairness, some of the problems that are associated with Destiny's latest DLC are either problems that can't be fixed until the inevitable sequel or they are problems that are part of this genre of games. Perhaps Destiny 2 will finally redeem the franchise in the eyes of some by modernizing the gameplay but until then, Rise of Iron is (realistically speaking) the most radical update that we can expect for a game that is three years old. As a result, you get the sense that Bungie is at least pretending to give fans of Destiny some of what they have been asking for over the years in Rise of Iron, but people who have already left the game may not be so easily swayed. In the end, the only thing that can be guaranteed with your purchase of Rise of Iron is that you will get more of Destiny, which may or may not be a good thing depending on your preexisting opinion of the main game.
Destiny: Rise of Iron was reviewed on the Xbox One with a copy purchased by the reviewer. It is also available on PlayStation 4.
Love it or hate it, Rise of Iron offers more Destiny with almost no real changes or fixes to the problems that have plagued the release since launch.(Review Policy)
- Visually Appealing
- Longstanding Issues Were Addressed
- World Feels Dead
- Story Lacks Engagement
- Game Starting To Show Its Age