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Destiny: Rise of Iron pre-review impressions

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Is the space magic of Destiny still alive in Year Three?

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Destiny: Rise of Iron is Destiny’s first expansion pack in a year, and I’ve just started to dip my toe into what the add-on has to offer. Thanks to an early session at Bungie’s headquarters this month, I’ve played through the campaign, as well as some of the new modes on offer ... but not much else. I haven’t played through the new raid (which launches on Friday), I haven’t seen any post-campaign quests, and I’ve played just a couple of matches of the new multiplayer mode, Supremacy. We’ll have a full review of the expansion after the raid has been released, but until then, consider this some first-blush impressions on whether you should return to the Tower after a long break.

THE CAMPAIGN

Rise of Iron’s story focuses on SIVA, a war-obsessed AI robot hidden deep within the Earth’s crust "a Golden Age breakthrough in self-assembling, self-replicating nano-technology." SIVA’s got some pretty impressive powers of influence, able to sway friends and foes to do its bidding. In this case, SIVA has convinced a cadre of Fallen to start spreading the news. Now equipped with handy regenerative powers, these Fallen are making a mess of Earth, and it’s up to you and the other Guardians to clean it up.

The campaign also ties in the mythos of the Iron Lords, mighty warriors who prevented SIVA’s rise. There’s only one of them left, Lord Saladin, whom Destiny fans may recognize as the purveyor of the Iron Banner event. Anyway, he’s the one concerned with SIVA and sends you to put a stop to it.

Rise of Iron’s campaign is really, really short. It likely won’t take you longer than two to three hours to finish, and that’s if you’re taking your time. At a sprint, you could probably finish it in under an hour. And while it does feature some memorable, exciting moments, including a cool tank battle and a pretty shocking boss fight, it pales in comparison to The Taken King’s epic campaign. The new enemy type, Fallen infected by SIVA, doesn’t stand out nearly as much as Oryx’s Taken did, and the story did a weak job of convincing me that I should really hate the big-bad on the horizon.

It’s hard to say for sure whether there are scope issues in Rise of Iron, though, because as with The Taken King, a number of quests open up after completing the campaign, and we haven’t played through those missions yet.

There’s also Rise of Iron’s raid, which is usually the most impressive piece of non-PvP content in these expansions. The raid will remain a total black box until this Friday, Sept. 23.

ARCHON’S FORGE

I also played a handful of rounds in what has been dubbed the fusion of Court of Oryx and Challenge of the Elders. In my brief experience, Archon’s Forge felt pretty dry, consisting of a large arena with a few dozen standard enemies that you have to slog through before getting a reward. The complexity of Court of Oryx, which gave each of the bosses some kind of a puzzle mechanic, seems to be missing here (though it may show up in higher-level challenges). Low-level challenges felt like a mindless way to pass the time.

This is another area we’ll have to return to once we’ve had more time with high-level play.

MULTIPLAYER

Of the content I spent time with during my daylong play session, competitive multiplayer was the most enjoyable. The new Supremacy mode, which requires you to pick up tokens from killed players to notch a point, adds a much-needed level of complexity to Team Deathmatch (even if it is remarkably similar to Halo’s Headhunter and Call of Duty’s Kill Confirmed).

Private matches, which were opened up to the public in the week leading up to the launch of Rise of Iron, are also tremendously enjoyable. Destiny has always been plagued with matchmaking issues, pairing skilled players against newcomers, turning certain matches into total blowouts. Private matches allow friends to just stick together and enjoy the Crucible without it turning into a total stomp-fest (assuming you and your friends are in a similar skill range). It’s arguably the best way to kill time in Destiny now as you wait for your sixth buddy to finally show up for the raid you’ve planned.

SHOULD YOU GET IT?

Too early to say.

With just five hours of total playtime committed, we’re nowhere near ready to review Destiny: Rise of Iron. Check back early next week once we’ve had time to push to the new Light cap and take a few stabs at the raid.