In its third year, Destiny is finally trying to explore the myths that have pervaded its world since launch. The Rise of Iron expansion brings a new storyline with fantasy elements, more cooperative strikes, additional public events, an assortment of player vs. player offerings, and a new upcoming multiplayer raid. In short, Rise of Iron attempts to dig beneath the surface of Bungie’s post-apocalyptic world. As of this writing, though the expansion has yet to go very deep.
Rise of Iron explores the tale of the Iron Lords, the order of warriors that fought before the post-apocalyptic world devolved into Destiny as we know it now. The expansion draws heavy influences from Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings: wolves lie sprawled across the stone floors of Felwinter Peak, characters don pelts to cross snowy mountainsides, and ancient evils return from the past to wreak havoc on the present.
As a portmanteau of fantasy and science fiction, this setup is promising. But the writing doesn’t lend the premise any momentum. Characters are one-dimensional and the plot whisks by without conveying the weight of your missions. The Taken King, Destiny’s previous expansion, showed promise in the way it depicted the nuanced personalities of its lone warriors. After finishing Rise of Iron’s storyline, I feel as if Destiny has taken a narrative step back.
The actual questlines show a little more promise. Although missions frequently retread locales from Destiny’s first two years, and firefights can become repetitive, there are a few standouts–most notably, a skirmish that plays out in the shadows of massive anti-aircraft guns, and a boss fight that encourages melee combat throughout. Rise of Iron may exhibit the same signs of combat fatigue that have permeated Destiny since launch, but as of this writing, it has a few shining moments of stellar design.
The new cooperative strikes show the same paralysis between the past and future: one of the strikes is a rehashed version of one of Destiny’s earliest boss fights, and makes few attempts to hide it. The actual new strike, on the other hand, pits you against an ogre impervious to damage, forcing you to dodge his pummelling attacks while you eliminate his handler. The ogre is a constant threat that disrupts the objective, creating tension without becoming overly invasive. With its second major expansion, Destiny still knows how to craft a thrilling boss fight.
I have yet to spend more than two hours with Destiny’s new Supremacy mode and multiplayer maps, but from what I’ve played, there’s nothing novel here. The maps mostly comprise close-quarters hallways and catwalks of varying elevations. Supremacy also lacks inspiration: after killing an opponent, you don’t get full credit for the elimination until you collect the orb it leave behind–this mode has been done before in numerous other shooters, and while it rewards risky maneuvers and daring sprints into the open, it quickly feels rote.
As of now, the prevailing feeling is that I’m playing Rise of Iron just for the feeling of progress, and few genuine thrills. But my final opinion all hinges on the expansion’s late-game questlines and, of course, its six-person raid. I’ll be further increasing my light level over the next few days, completing more quests in the Rise of Iron lineup, and preparing for the raid–time will tell if the cooperative battle can mitigate my lukewarm response.