Well after 5 months without any content, Destiny has received its latest expansion. Granted the April update was very small so realistically it has been 12 months. So with much excitement and hype I jumped in feet first on launch night. Luckily I was one of the few that didn't suffer connection issues and was able to run through the content with little interaction with anyone else. Exploring Felwinter Peak without anyone else to distract me was a joy and allowed me to traverse to the top of the mountain like an excited 12 year old. Also there are wolves.
Rise of Iron takes what The Taken King did with the campaign and adds to it. Finally revealing the fates of the fabled Iron Lords and plunging you into a fight against an ancient technology called SIVA. Beautiful cinematics through the main campaign give the player compelling reasons to go head first into each mission. Coupled with subtle improvements of in mission storytelling and quest design overall, show what we all knew Destiny could be back before it first launched. Sadly the campaign is also relatively short and clocks in at only a couple of hours which may make it difficult for some to justify the $45.00 AUD entry price.
Mixed in with the story missions are the quests to obtain the new exotics. The Khvostov, an automatic rifle that is the recreation of the very first gun you ever wield back in vanilla Destiny now with new exotic perks. The year one God of a rocket launcher the Gjallerhorn also makes a welcome return, both are very easily obtainable within a couple of hours of game play. Both weapons serving as a nostalgic tribute to all things you may have accomplished in year one. The Gjallerhorn in particular has a couple of very fun quests taking place on a couple of PvP maps. A good portion of the expansion is specifically set aside for nostalgia, which may be lost on any new players who have come in after picking up the Destiny Collection. I am yet to unlock the quest to get the dreaded Thorn (also making its return).
Accompanying the main campaign is a record book. Similar to the one used recently for the year 2 Moments of Triumph, this book highlights all the things to do in the game and rewards you with some pretty sweet looking loot for your troubles. One task has you simply complete the main story. Another requires you to get a K/D ratio above 1.00 in a PvP game. And there's an entire page dedicated to raid activities. But as a bonus you could complete an estimated 60% solo and nab yourself a full set of armour.
And speaking of groups and Destiny's acclaimed raids, the new one shows why leaving last gen behind was technically a Godsend for the development team. Without going into spoiler territory, graphically and technically this may be the best raid yet. However given its short nature it hearkens back to the speed running of The Crota’s End raid from year one. As I have yet to complete the raid, I can't comment too much, but upon hearing that within a day a group had already cleared the raid with only 3 players, it doesn't really spell "challenge" to me. I look forward to plunging it's secrets regardless.
Unfortunately grinding gear for light level increases to get to the end raid is back, this is my biggest gripe with Rise of Iron. LIGHT LEVEL GRINDING IS BACK! This is NOT a good thing! In year one you had to grind Strikes and the Crucible for better gear to get from levels 20 to 25. Giant pain in the butt back then. In year two they fixed it with gear readily dropping and giving you a chance to get to a high enough light level to be competitive in end game content relatively quickly. In Rise Of Iron, yet again there is no clear path for the uninitiated to gain light to reach the fabled 360 mark for raid entry. And you want to be higher than that to have some moderate success. I personally have been struggling to get better gear and make my way through the ranks. With most gear I get barely being 1 light level higher it is extremely frustrating to even make progress to 360 let alone surpass it. And so I'm grinding heroic strikes for the end boss drops which may be one light higher than what I have already if I'm lucky, that's if I haven't already got something of that level or better in that slot already. Grinding is one of the most painful undertakings in any game. (I know about cheesing Omnigul and refuse to do so on principal).
But the most fun thing to do in Destiny has always been to group up with friends. With the long awaited introduction of private matches to the list of group activities, the game finally feels fleshed out. Possibly holding back private matches has worked in Bungie’s favour, as the community that has been built around the game is still pretty amazing. And while I think it was the last gen consoles holding back this feature, it is clearly long overdue for the current gen. Already there have been some great videos of player created game modes out there in the wild. Add to this the new game type of supremacy (think Call of Duty - Kill Confirmed) and this just takes what most Destiny players already know and puts a spotlight right on it, this game is best played with friends!
Given that the majority of Bungie’s development team had moved on to Destiny 2 well before Rise Of Iron came down the pipe, and this expansion has been done by the relatively small “live content team”, it bodes well for the future of the franchise. Without last gen limiting their ability to create and craft in the world, it appears that Bungie may finally be able to shake the demons of the vanilla release and deliver better content at a much more frequent rate. If you enjoyed Destiny, you will love this. If you haven’t played it since launch, now is a great time to come back. And if you are new to the franchise, there is plenty to discover and learn now.
3.5 out of 5
+ Great story telling we have been clamouring for
+ Gorgeous visuals
+ Same tight gameplay
+ Wolves inhabiting the Iron Forge
- Price of expansion may be too high for some to justify
- Grinding & unclear direction once you Hit 340 Light
RISE OF IRON WAS REVIEWED USING A "RETAIL" PLAYSTATION 4 DOWNLOAD KEY