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Destiny: Rise of Iron
Score: 50%
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Bungie Software
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 12 (Online Only)
Genre: First Person Shooter/RPG/Online

Introduction:

Itís been two years since Activision and Bungieís exorbitantly expensive collaboration was released. I still consider its first year a total bust in terms of quantity and quality of content on hand, but I enjoyed its second year outing, The Taken King, for what it was. It didnít solve all the deep-rooted structural problems that rendered the core game a pointless waste of time and money, but nobody who played it can deny that it was a step forward in a handful of important ways. Despite all the negative feelings Destiny inspires in me, I'm still rooting for it. I want it to become the game it initially touted itself as. To rise above its issues and truly come into its own as a viable MMORPG/shooter hybrid. With the release of Destiny: Rise of Iron, one gets the sense that The Taken King, for all its modest successes, was a fluke. What a shame; Rise of Iron squanders the goodwill earned in last year's release and settles for the status quo.

Flavor of the Year:

If, at any point over the last two years, youíve participated in the Iron Banner, you might be familiar with Lord Saladin. Then again, you might not, since heís been little more than a glorified menu screen until now. The lone remnant of his legendary cadre of Guardians known as Iron Lords, his past has come back to haunt him and threaten the galaxy at large. A self-replicating techno-plague known as SIVA once had humanityís collective back against the wall, but thanks to the sacrifice of the Iron Lords, it was contained, kept at bay. However, the House of Devils, the Fallen family who counts the likes of Sepiks Prime among its ranks, has undone the Iron Lordsí noble efforts and released the plague in an attempt to give them an edge. Your job is to put them in their place and assume the mantle of the Iron Lords. It's a bad story, poorly-told. Par for the course.

Whatever though, right? At least we get to go and explore some exotic new locations and fight some new enemy types, right? Well, yes and no. Rise of Iron puts its best foot forward with the frosty hub of Felwinter Peak, a harsh locale that does something that the Tower and the Reef fail to do: encourage exploration. While climbing to its zenith is, as of this writing, a near universal achievement, itís little touches like these that help Destiny establish a sorely-needed sense of place. However, this is in direct contrast with nearly everything that follows, as Rise of Iron seems eager to piggyback off the laziness of The Dark Below and House of Wolves rather than the comparative boldness of The Taken King. Conveniently enough, the Plaguelands are walking distance from the old Cosmodrome, so proceed forth and farm the legion of reskinned Fallen. And be sure to roll those dice at the end of each jaunt; good gear isn't earned, after all...


Rusted Through:

Rise of Ironís story missions and strikes are exciting at first. Then again, if you give a starving person a moldy hunk of bread, it will be the best meal they've ever had. This expansion features a handful of excellent quests, but they're buried in the same kinds of samey content we've become accustomed to. And all that newness? Gone in just under two hours, allowing Destiny to revert to its old abusive, exploitative self. As always, it demands everything of the player and gives precious little (in some cases, absolutely nothing) back. Itís not so much a shared-world first-person shooter as it is an attractive gambling simulator. These issues cannot be fixed in expansions.

Time to inflict a little mood whiplash: the Wrath of the Machine raid is easily the best thing Destiny has ever done. Itís the reason most people will invest in Rise of Iron, and itís where the game as a whole shows the most promise. If youíve mined Vault of Glass, Crotaís End, and Kingís Fall to exhaustion (and letís be real here, most people who are still playing Destiny have done so), this one is full of welcome surprises. Instead of foisting mobs and bullet sponges with some sort of environmental quirk to give the illusion of diversity, Wrath of the Machine is indicative of serious design philosophy progress in what has otherwise become a standard affair. It forces you to think outside the box in terms of positioning, teamwork, and even some other, less obvious angles that I donít dare spoil. Itís bittersweet to sing the praises of this raid, because it shows that a good game is desperately trying to happen.

There's always the Crucible. Making its debut with Rise of Iron is a new mode: Kill Confirmed. I mean Soul Harvest. I mean Supremacy. While the Crucible has struggled to differentiate itself from most of the competitive shooter scene's contemporary offerings, it's never sunk to the dreary lows of the PvE content. For as many times as you go through the motions of putting Oryx in his place or killing the Kell of Kells, no two matches play out exactly the same. And while that's not particularly something that can be credited to Destiny, it doesn't break that rule. In addition to Supremacy Mode, we've got three new maps: Skyline, Floating Gardens, and Last Exit. Bungie hardly flexes its collective artistic muscles here, but its proficiency in map design has never been denied.


Value:

Destiny has always had a value problem, and with releases like Rise of Iron, it just keeps getting worse. The raid might be worth a solid half of its $29.99 entry fee, but even that is pushing it. Look at the big picture: a day one adopter who has done everything possible to keep the experience up to date has now spent roughly $170. Compare the breadth and scope of Destinyís current comprehensive state with that of nearly every other release that has set such a cost of entry. The disparity is real. It's massive. It's tangible. Most importantly, it's not okay.

Destiny is among the most brazenly anti-consumer gaming experiments Iíve ever borne first-hand witness to, and I fear that its continued success threatens a potentially dangerous precedent for the medium as a whole. As for the game itself, itís creatively stillborn and disrespectful of the playerís time. It is a poor manís MMORPG sold at a rich manís premium, and a mediocre competitive shooter in an oversaturated genre. And its solid gunplay, impressive production values, and adequate competitive multiplayer canít save it, just like you can't lay a slab, call it quits, and say it's a house. Itís difficult to predict exactly what kind of future is in store for Destiny. With releases like Rise of Iron, itís impossible to be excited about it.

Activision provided me with a copy of the game. The opinions I share are my own.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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