Today I’ll be giving my thoughts on Destiny’s latest expansion - Rise of Iron. Marking the end of Year Two of the ten year saga of Destiny, it is the final expansion before Destiny 2’s release sometime in 2017. The expansion’s content has been released slowly since its street date, which has helped players savor Destiny’s swan song. Much can be said about the expansion’s positive aspects, but there are still those lingering issues that plague Destiny, in both broad and narrow scales.
The issue I have with Rise of Iron is its story, specifically how it has no coherent narrative thread in the form of a pursuit. In The Dark Below we murdered Crota, and in so doing learned about the Hive and their magic. In House of Wolves we hunted Skolas, learning as we did about the Fallen and the Reef. In The Taken King we faced off against Oryx, alien god-king of the Hive; we completed our education on the Hive and their dark philosophy. In all of these, those final conflicts were the result of mission after mission of exposition, pursuit, and effort. We learned as we fought, and became invested in the defeat of these powerful foes.
In Rise of Iron we defeat a progression of loosely connected members of the Devil Splicers, never getting a handle on who they are, their motivations, or their goals. We learn about the Iron Lords, but the vast narrative potential teased by their history is almost completely unexplored. This could have been an opportunity to delve into the techno-religion of the Fallen, the history of Earth before the City was built, or the even current state of the leaderless Hive. All we get are more hints and teases from a handful of Grimoire cards.
I had hoped the Dormant SIVA Clusters would correspond with a narrative similar to the exquisite Books of Sorrow from The Taken King, but they cannot hold a candle to that masterwork. The Lords of Iron Grimoire cards approach that high watermark, but they are far fewer in number and only hint at a greater history, and do not explore it in anything remotely satisfactory detail.
Don’t get me wrong - Rise of Iron is well worth the purchase. It delivers solid gameplay, both PVP and PVE. The revamped Strikes are quite enjoyable, as is the new Raid; I’ve yet to endure the Raid, but I watched it streamed live the Friday it dropped, and was thoroughly entertained. The new weapons look - and sound - amazing, as do the new armor sets. The new characters are fun to interact with, and Nolan North once again knocks Ghost’s lines out of the park. The Plaguelands are a big, fun arena to explore. The Archon’s Forge is a fantastic space, and Bungie has taken great steps to correct its minor issues.
This expansion was a lull; a not-so-epic event that rounds out the story of Destiny’s first book. If The Taken King was the climax, Rise of Iron is the denouement. And while having every conflict be catastrophic or potentially world-ending does get old after a while, this feels a bit too small-scale. If the goal was to have a more intimate exploration of themes like old heroes, the dangers of the Golden Age, and how far one can go for the sake of power, it missed its mark. We get some cryptic lines and hints about new abilities and a group of people far out in the solar system; the groundwork is being laid for Destiny 2.
But if this franchise is to be lauded, then Bungie have to go get their collective act together. Snappy gunplay and crisp audio only go so far. Mystery for the sake of mystery is only useful as an appetizer; it cannot be served with every course. If answers do not come in Destiny 2 for at least a few of the franchise’s major questions, then I fear no amount of PVP is going to save the series.
Look for my own thoughts on storytelling coming to Handcanon soon - I’ve been collecting my thoughts and ideas on several of AAA gaming’s more controversial titles. For now, if you’re a Destiny fan, I would recommend Rise of Iron. It’s worth $30, and should tide you over until we get some solid info on Destiny 2.