Destiny has had an interesting 2 years since its release in September 2015. The original release was plagued with issues, and while many thought it was released prematurely, it was still arguably a “good” game (at least, that was my opinion). Last year’s release of The Taken King expanded on the original title, and made a number of sweeping changes. This essentially made Destiny a great deal more playable (yet still laden with issues), and propelled it to something that players could reliably recommend to others. This month’s release of Rise of Iron can be considered DLC for The Taken King, in that it doesn’t make huge changes to the game itself, it simply adds more content.
The million dollar question here is, though – is that content worth the $45 AUD price tag? This question makes a review like this really difficult, as there are a multitude of potential responses. From the perspective of a hardcore player – it’s definitely worth it for the new gear and increased light level alone (not to mention the new raid). For the serious casual – the changes to crucible, the new quests, the new strikes – all of this could potentially be considered worthwhile. Yet for the absolute casual? It really depends on your opinion of value and what you expect out of Destiny.
That said – if you’ve played Destiny before, I doubt you would be the kind of player that just plays the story missions and leaves it at that (and if you are, then this DLC probably is not worthwhile)…
The story in Rise of Iron is incredibly short – in truth, it’s deep and complex, but to really appreciate the complexity, you have to dig deep into Destiny’s lore, as the cut-scenes can only say so much… and there are only 5 new missions. In some ways, the brevity of the story kind of undermines the apparent threat of SIVA (one of the primary antagonists), as by the time you’ve discovered the threat, you’ve pretty much destroyed it. However, the threat isn’t really in SIVA itself, but in its manipulation, and this carries over into the raid and the lore at large, but again, this is somewhat unclear within the narrative itself.
Alongside the story missions, Rise of Iron adds one new Strike, and refreshes two old ones (The Devil’s Lair, and The Summoning Pit). All three are welcome additions, and fun to play, bolstering the number of available strikes within the Heroic Strike playlist to a respectable 15. This means that PvE is fun again, which is a good thing, because grinding is ALSO a thing again.
The light level has been increased to 385, and will be increased again to 400 with the release of Hard Mode raid. Getting to 340 is pretty easy (and is mostly achieved via the story missions), but getting to 365 and above involves a lot of strikes, crucible, and patrolling. Part of the issue, though, is that it’s not really clear within the game itself exactly HOW to level up (particularly once you reach 365), so the grind can be haphazard. Once you do figure it out leveling is pretty consistent – but it’s consistently slow, so you had better enjoy the grind. That said, the release of both Trials of Osiris and Iron Banner (both of which are end-game, level dependant PvP modes) provided players with a bevy of well deserved rewards – unfortunately, these modes are both time limited…
Speaking of the grind – Archon’s Forge, the new multiplayer PvE arena, is a little hit-and-miss. Like Court of Oryx before it, players find SIVA offerings on their travels, and use these to unlock challenges of varying difficulty. Unlike Court of Oryx, though, players can only hold one offering at a time. This can lead to frustration as it makes it hard to compete in successive challenges. The challenges themselves are also inconsistent – some are extremely simple, others are extremely difficult, but all rely on RNG for rewards, so sometimes its worthwhile, and other times (read: oftentimes) its not. It IS fun to play, but if there’s no reward, it almost feels pointless. I’m hoping this is a glitch in the loot table that will be fixed soon enough, but as it stands, it’s imperfect.
The raid, though – the raid is where it’s at. Wrath of the Machine, as the new raid is called, brings some new challenges and new mechanics to Destiny’s end-game content. Not only that, but with the dropping of previous gen consoles, the new raid brings some major spectacles that likely wouldn’t have been possible on PS3/Xbox 360 (especially considering the occasional slowdown experienced at points in the raid on PS4). There are four new encounters, each harder than the one preceding, and each requiring a level of teamwork that really requires communication, timing, and skill. Recommended light level is 370, but we got most of the way with an average light level under 360. That said, the final boss (as usual) is quite a challenge, so the higher the level the better.
This is not without controversy, however. The “world’s first” completion of the new raid was done in just under 3 hours – compare that to the “world’s first” for King’s Fall (the raid in the Taken King), which took over 7 hours. Not only that – within a few days, one fireteam had completed the new raid with only 3 members instead of the requisite 6. While the hardcore fan in me wants to cry foul, I would recommend taking all of this with a healthy dose of salt. These particular players are of a high calibre, and this is not achievable by the average Destiny player. My team probably took around 6 hours for our first completion, and my tiny brain can hardly comprehend how this raid was beaten with only 3 people (but no doubt I’ll try myself at some point in the future – likely to fail miserably).
I guess the reality here is that this is complicated and aesthetically beautiful raid, but it is shorter than what most players consider the upper tier (that being Vault of Glass and King’s Fall). Bungie stated that this would be slightly shorter in terms of raid content, as they were aiming for a more accessible experience, and realistically, I see this raid as being something I would be likely to run through in only 1-2 hours very soon. Still, taking new players through will have its challenges, as it does take time to learn roles, timing, and boss mechanics. It’s really fun, though, and has some eye-opening moments, and I’m really looking forward to gaining a deeper understanding of the lore behind what’s going on (as raid’s don’t allow any time for explanation).
Beyond all of this, though, what really makes Rise of Iron is the influx of new loot to collect. The new legendary weapons and armour on offer are all really high quality, and it will take some experimenting to discover the gems among them. The new exotics are also awesome – with particular mention of the return of Gjallarhorn and Thorn (not to mention Khvostov). However, the addition of ornamentation (which allows players to slightly change the look of specific items), and the new Iron Artifacts (each of which provides players with some specific new ability) really provides players with new ways to express themselves – both in terms of look and in terms of playstyle.
I didn’t cover everything with this review (such as the new jumping puzzle embedded within the new social space, or the Rise of Iron record book, which provides players with some general objectives – not to mention the glorious new musical score!), but it should be evident that Rise of Iron includes a great deal of content for those that want to explore and develop their character, but possibly not for those that just want to jump in a finish the story. It does all of this without really addressing the issues around grinding, levelling and RNG, which is a shame, but par for the course for Destiny fans. There’s a lot of fun to be had here (and many promises of more to come, as I expect there are several questlines and puzzles yet to be discovered), but it’s mostly just more of the same. However, for me, there’s nothing wrong with that.