Bungie said that we could become legends in Destiny.  After stopping a time-travelling machine race, killing a the son of a god, imprisoning the leader of an alien coup, and destroying a dimension-hopping king, they’ve delivered.  But now, Lord Saladin has a quest for us — to help him stop what killed his Iron Lord brothers and sisters so long ago.

I’ve taken on the challenge and played through (almost) all of the new content.  Is Destiny, once again, better now than it was before?  Of course it is.

Let's do this, Lord Saladin.
Let’s do this, Lord Saladin.

  • TL;DR: Destiny’s (presumably) final expansion brings a lot to the table but has a few curious design decisions
  • Platform: PS4
  • Time Played: 30:00
  • What I Played: Finished story missions, ran Archon’s Forge ~20x, played Supremacy ~30x, completed all new strikes, completed two exotic quests

Rise of Iron, Destiny’s most recent expansion, has a fairly simple premise that I mentioned in the intro.  Lord Saladin, the last living Iron Lord, tells us that SIVA, the machine-like plague that destroyed the Iron Lords, is on the rise.  Guardian Supreme You are asked to help him.  Lord Saladin is my favorite character in Destiny, so that was an easy sell for me.

The story missions are surprisingly short.  I completed the new campaign with two friends in just under two hours.  Bungie used what they learned in The Taken King and wove cinematics between missions as well as story-driven reasons for you to head back to the Iron Temple, which I’ll talk about in a minute.  It may be a short and sweet campaign, but the final mission is the single best mission in Destiny’s two year life.  It’s heart pounding and packed with action including an escape sequence and explosions, a truly great way to put a bow on the new campaign.

Another similarity between The Taken King and Rise of Iron is the addition of a new enemy race.  Unfortunately, the SIVA-infested Devil Splicers are nowhere near as interesting as the mind-controlled, dimension-hopping Taken.  The Devil Splicers are Fallen infested with red and black SIVA mites.  Their main enhancements are health regeneration and … that’s it.  It’s a bit of a let down that the campaign ends so quickly because we don’t really get to learn where SIVA came from or what it stands for.  Is it even an acronym?  I’m not sure.

The solemn memorial to the Iron Lords within the Iron Temple.
The solemn memorial to the Iron Lords within the Iron Temple.

The Iron Temple atop Felwinter’s Peak brings a third social space to Destiny.  It’s where Lord Saladin and his band of merry men set up shop and it’s complete with a bounty board, vault, cryptarch, and a huge ass mountain that took me and my friends about an hour to climb.  There’s also a hauntingly beautiful memorial crypt to the fallen Iron Lords.

Speaking of those Iron Lords, each of the eight of them have a game-changing artifact named after them.  The cryptarch at the Iron Temple sells a different set of three each week and you can buy one by completing a weekly patrol quest.  The one I’m currently running with, Memory of Skorri, gives all allies increased super regeneration rate while I have my super charged.  I was really hoping that we would have a badass quest to earn each Iron Lord’s artifact, performing some act to prove that I am worthy of his or her title, but that’s sadly not the case.

The SIVA-enhanced Fallen that you’ll need to kill for that weekly patrol quest are found in a new zone called the Plaguelands, an area in the northeast corner of Earth.  The Plaguelands, and the Cosmodrome by extension, are covered with snow.  When you enter the Plaguelands patrol zone, you can explore the roughly 75% of it that is brand new.  You can also run back to areas like The Divide and Rocketyard to find them crawling with Devil Splicers.  It may seem a bit lazy to reuse assets, but I’m a big fan.  It’s an evolution of a game world that I’ve spent two years in rather than adding a completely new zone off to the side.

Archon's Forge is lit
Archon’s Forge is lit.

Archon’s Forge is a new social PvE area like the Court of Oryx from The Taken King.  The main difference is that it’s a wave-based combat arena rather than exclusively focusing on a boss fight.  You’ll find SIVA offerings while shooting up the Plaguelands that can come in three rarities and trigger any of five wave types: dregs, shanks, etc.  Spend a SIVA offering to start the five minute timer where you and any players in your area have to survive long enough to bring out a boss.  Thanks to the enemies being plentiful, there’s no lack of engram drops in Archon’s Forge when you get a group going.  Archon’s Forge can be a hell of a party.  Four or five guardians in a small space with bullets and supers flying by?  Sign me up.

Bungie made a very strange decision in not letting SIVA offerings stack, though, meaning you can only hold one offering in your inventory at a time regardless of rarity.  This means that in order to keep a group chugging round after round, you have to hope that someone in your group gets a new SIVA offering while playing a round.  Oh, and instead of being able to freely jump into an in-progress round like you could with Court of Oryx, you have to spend another consumable item, a Splicer Key, to open the door which locks as soon as a round starts.  Respawning drops you outside the door as well so you better have intelligent teammates who can revive you.  I understand the respawning decision as Archon’s Forge is meant to be played with others, but the non-stacking SIVA offerings seems limiting for no real reason.  A recent hotfix increased the drop rates of SIVA offerings while in Archon’s Forge, so you might see that complaint less in the future.

Three new strikes and a new raid, Wrath of the Machine, round out the additional PvE content in Rise of Iron.  The only completely new strike, The Wretched Eye, is a very cool trip through the Plaguelands resulting in one of the more unique boss battles in Destiny.  The other two strikes are SIVA remixes on existing strikes: Sepiks Perfected is a new spin on The Devil’s Lair while The Abomination Heist brings the mechanical swarm to The Summoning Pits.  I’m sad to say that I haven’t played the new raid yet as I’m not quite a high enough level.  If you’re itching to hear my thoughts on Wrath of the Machine, as I’m sure you are, I hope to have another write up in a few weeks.

Those thirsting for glory in the Crucible haven’t been left behind.  Rise of Iron brings a new game mode, Supremacy, to the mix.  That’s not it above, but I was pretty proud of that little spurt so I had to show it off.  If you’ve played a modern Call of Duty game, you’ll know how Supremacy works.  Instead of kills counting on the scoreboard drectly, fallen guardians will drop a crest — friendly ones look like large blue engrams while enemy crests are red — that must be picked up to score.  You’ll get one point if you killed the guardian whose crest is picked up and one point if you pick up the crest.  You can also deny the opposing team a point by snagging a teammate’s dropped crest, although you don’t get any points for that.  To be blunt, Supremacy is awesome.  It encourages grouping up and moving instead of sniper camping and is absolute chaos.  The “run right back to where you died” syndrome is in full effect as players run towards crests regardless of which team dropped them, meaning there’s always another enemy coming towards you.  This also leads to most games being played in a small, slowly shifting area of the map.  Games are frantic and just plain fun.

Private matches, one of the most requested features and seemingly an answer to each and every community focus interview, have also arrived.  You can set up a private match in just about any way you want: game type, map, score limit, etc.  This opens the door for friendly battles, player-created game modes, and official tournaments.  If Bungie wants to continue pushing Destiny towards the competitive e-sport scene, I’m all for it.

I’ve gone over most of the new content and things to do in Rise of Iron, but that’s far from the full list of changes:

  • Light cap raised to 385.
  • Daily heroics rotate between all year one, two, and three missions.
  • Skeleton Keys drop from strikes and can open chests in strikes with strike-specific loot.
  • Faction rank up packages now let you choose if you want weapons, armor, or chroma.  This lowers the amount of praying you have to do when looking for a certain upgrade.
  • Class items are affected by shaders!
  • Four new exotic weapon quests, including one to rebuild the mighty Gjallarhorn
  • Aesthetic items for certain weapons and armor called ornaments have been added.
Me and two of my clan mates reflecting on Destiny as a whole.
Me and two of my buddies reflecting on Destiny as a whole.

Rise of Iron may not be quite as big of an expansion as The Taken King, but it’s certainly a good one.  I’d love to learn more about SIVA and have had more quests related to the specific Iron Lords, but the concise story was decent and ended with the single best mission in Destiny’s history.  Archon’s Forge is fun when everything gets rolling but odd limitations keep it from being as good as it could be.  Supremacy is great and private matches will lead to a ton of fun in both playing and watching others.  I’d rank Rise of Iron second to The Taken King on a list of Destiny’s expansions.

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