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Destiny: Rise of Iron Review
Rise of Iron is the Destiny expansion most players didn’t expect. The Taken King kicked off Year Two of the shared world shooter, and it was believed to be the last hurrah, one that upped the ante from Bungie and helped bring the game much closer to the original vision. Most fans were pleasantly surprised to find out that the adventure wasn’t over, and that a new major expansion would release – one that was sized between standard expansions of the past and the massive TTK.
After spending a tremendous amount of time with Destiny: Rise of Iron and running through the challenging Wrath of the Machine raid, it’s clear to see that Bungie definitely wanted to mix a lot of what they learned with the very roots of the game. Long-time Destiny players will recognize a lot of the revisited locales, now warped by snowstorms and the horrifying SIVA virus. Enemies are familiar (some even being direct repeats, such as Sepiks Prime), but they have been transformed by a new, mechanical form of Darkness.
That threat happens to be my favorite component of the Rise of Iron expansion as a whole, but it’s not without its issues. The Iron Lords were among the first Guardians and devoted their lives to defending humanity against the Darkness. It was not an easy task, but when they found a way to use machines to create ships and weapons, they seized the opportunity. Those machines became the SIVA virus, and they corrupted everything they touched. The Iron Lords were forced to seal it away, sacrificing everything to save the last bastion of humanity. Now, some hundreds of years later, the Fallen House of Devils has dug up the SIVA virus in the hopes of using it for their own designs.
On the surface, it is the Fallen that seem like the primary targets, and that’s understandable, since those are mostly what you will be fighting. However, it’s the SIVA virus that is the true threat, something that will definitely divide players. The Taken King presented Oryx, an intergalactic badass who was really pissed that you killed his son. His presence during every mission and the final encounter in the raid all screamed memorable evil. Bungie did an amazing job helping players focus all of their ire on one single target, which culminated in one of the best raids in the series, King’s Fall. In Rise of Iron, players are facing a virus and an idea more than an actual target. There is nobody to point at and say “you’re the bad guy.” For some that may seem a bit phoned in, sort of like how vanilla Destiny had you fighting a bunch of different targets and then waiting forever to sort of make the Vex the primary enemy aside from the Darkness.
However, while the SIVA virus may not have any lines or commanding stage presence in the usual sense, Bungie has managed to inject a sense of dread into every new encounter. From the menacing red glow that exudes from SIVA corrupted enemies to the large strings of mechanical infestation that you can see in the Plaguelands (Iron’s new playable area on Earth), it becomes clear that you’re facing an evil that transcends any one being or even logic. Oryx was a powerful being who controlled armies, yes, but SIVA tempts the masses with untold power before creeping in and devouring everything you hold dear. The panic in Lord Saladin’s voice as he speaks of horrors from the past, different alien races rushing to get a hold of the virus, and old enemies reborn in twisted, red visages full of rage and death stand out to make this a dark tale that is full of difficult encounters.
It helps that the idea of something you can’t always see is present in the action as well. Rise of Iron doesn’t change things in as drastic a manner as its predecessor, but it does dial up the intensity within encounters. SIVA makes Fallen faster and more deadly, revives monstrosities you thought you dealt with, and it spreads like the plague. To help you counter this new advancement of enemy forces, you’re given new abilities in the form of perks from the Iron Lord Artifacts. These range from removing a sprint cool-down to making any red bar enemy your ally, the latter of which is definitely a personal favorite. The fact that you can take over an Ogre or a Hydra never gets old, and watching aliens fight for you is the greatest thing ever.
Other new elements come mostly in the form of customization, which may not be as extreme as TTK’s changes, but still welcome. Ornaments allow players to customize certain exotic and legendary weapons and armor to provide a different take on their designs. These are different from Chroma (introduced during the April update) in that they don’t just add a new color light to the piece of gear. Instead, the entire appearance is transformed, similar to weapon skins you would see in something like Call of Duty. It’s a nice touch, something I personally liked better than the Chroma, and you can never have too many options.
There’s also a new social space, which is arguably the best to be introduced to the game thus far. The Iron Temple is the base of the Iron Lords and it sits atop Felwinter Peak. There are wolves lounging about – which you unfortunately can’t pet – and beautiful views in each direction. There’s even a mountain that can be climbed, if you’re skilled enough. This also happens to be the place where you’ll collect your new quests and obtain those awesome new artifacts.
Aside from the new features, though, the biggest draw to Rise of Iron has to be the new raid, Wrath of the Machine. There have been three raids so far, each of which has tested players in a different way. The most recent, King’s Fall, focused heavily on team mechanics and skill, making it possible for even some under-powered Guardians to triumph over the challenges. Wrath of the Machine does things a bit differently, and it works very well. Leading up to the raid’s release, the developers stressed that Light Level would play a major role in Rise of Iron’s newest challenge and that collision would be the theme, and they weren’t lying. From the moment you jump into Wrath of the Machine, you’re fighting for your life. The Fallen do not want you to live, and they will do everything in their power to put you down, even if it mean running you over with a huge “death zamboni,” which is as horrifying as it sounds.
While this isn’t the longest raid the game has seen, it was definitely one of the most engaging. There is no real filler, no puzzles to solve between huge encounters. Just huge fight after huge fight, and it’s really a blast to play through. It certainly gives King’s Fall and Vault of Glass a run for their money, even with its much shorter run time and lack of large puzzles. The fights are well thought out, and the gear you get for completing it (especially the weapons) are worth your time. Unlike most raid weapons, the perks here don’t just facilitate an easier experience running though Wrath of the Machine, but also help out in general play, including the Crucible. For instance, there’s a new auto rifle that has the famous Firefly perk, making heads explode in rapid succession.
For all of the good that Rise of Iron does, though, it isn’t without its faults. The raid has a serious difficulty spike at the very end, which has caught many players off guard. It’s disheartening for some, because making it to the final boss is a feat unto itself, but to be completely unable to make progress right when the finish line is in front of you blows. It would be understandable if the raid steadily ramped up or at least had some sort of ebb and flow for less experienced players, but for now it’s a sudden transition. Also, I’m a bit worried about the longevity of this expansion. The Taken King was a larger piece of content, and even that died out in a couple of months. Rise of Iron definitely has less content, so it will be interesting to see what the live team does to keep blood flowing through the game’s veins.
Still, even with its few faults, Rise of Iron is an impressive expansion. Just when everyone thought Destiny was finally dying and we were moving to the sequel, Bungie went and spiced it up again with something fun and challenging. Among the four expansions Destiny has released so far, this definitely ranks among the best, showing the the developers have only continued to learn as the game grows. I’m very excited to see what they put out next as Guardians everywhere cement their legends in history.
Score: 4/5 – Great