‘Destiny: Rise of Iron’ first impressions

Rick Marshall

The day has finally come for Destiny fans: Rise of Iron is here.

The latest expansion for the popular open-world, multiplayer shooter went live Tuesday morning, and after getting a few hours to navigate through the main Rise of Iron campaign, Activision and Bungie seem to be on the right track with the latest evolution of their sci-fi universe.

Blasting through the campaign

Compared to the last two expansions, The Taken King and House of WolvesRise of Iron feels like the shortest campaign storyline so far. Those starting out at the highest level for the previous expansion (335) will likely complete the main campaign in under two hours moving at a relaxed pace, unlocking the endgame quest lines in what might amount to a single play session.

Relatively short campaigns have become standard for Destiny expansions now that the endgame is the real draw for veteran players, and the Rise of Iron campaign ends up feeling like a playable introduction for the meat of what the expansion offers.

Progression through the campaign is accompanied by a speedy ascension, level-wise, with common loot dropping at levels up to 340. Veteran players will find themselves moving past 335 early on and by the time campaign is over, most players who start out at the previous upper threshold of levels will likely be at or above 340. It’s a satisfying climb made more so by some of the revisions to the loot reward system that were integrated after The Taken King.

The Iron Temple, and new enemies

The real meat of this expansion, like those past, can be found in new levels, enemies, and gear. Many of the changes made to the Destiny universe in Rise of Iron go beyond simple cosmetic tweaks, with a lot of new area that seems to be added on to what was once there. All of those changes are confined to the Earth maps, but the alterations are significant enough that the areas seem fresh again.

Most notable is the new social area — The Iron Temple. The location, which is only unlocked by progressing through the campaign, has a lot of great detail, though it feels smaller than the Tower or the Reef, the two existing social areas. Still, it has a lot of personality, and it seems like it has some secrets to discover, too. Wandering wolves around the space add a particularly nice touch to the look and feel of the environment.

destiny rise of iron impressions
destiny rise of iron impressions
destiny rise of iron impressions
destiny rise of iron impressions
destiny rise of iron impressions
destiny rise of iron impressions
destiny rise of iron impressions
destiny rise of iron impressions

The new “Splicer” enemies aren’t as intimidating as The Taken were when we first jumped into the previous expansion, The Taken King, but they still pack a punch and can do some damage when they swarm (which happens often).

Visually, they’re not a huge departure from the Fallen we know and love (to shoot). They have interesting new tricks, to be sure, but Destiny has more or less reused the same cast of bad guys since its release. We’d like to see Bungie spice up the story and gameplay with a completely new opponent.

Badass allies

Lord Saladin and the new hunter Shiro-4 play key roles in the campaign, but neither addition is as memorable as Variks, Cayde-6, or Eris Morn — supporting characters who were featured in earlier expansions.

It’s a good move to develop Saladin in particular, a character whose role was limited in the game up to this point. Seeing him become the center of attention and gain the official backstory he deserves adds more depth to the game’s cast of memorable characters.

destiny_rise_of_iron_013
destiny_rise_of_iron_013

Finishing the main campaign in Rise of Iron opens the floodgates on several quest lines that apparently serve to unlock the rest of what the expansion has to offer. The rocket launcher Gjallarhorn is locked behind one of those quest lines — the aptly named “Echoes of the Past” — and there are a few more that lead to new strikes, the “Wrath of the Machine” raid (which officially unlocks Friday), and gear rewards.

A typical Destiny expansion, with potential

In past expansions, the story campaigns have simply served as precursors to all of the quest lines and endgame content that’s the real meat of the Destiny experience, and that doesn’t appear to have changed with Rise of Iron. It’s a situation that should feel familiar to veteran players, and the road to get to the most desirable elements of the game is an enjoyable, entertaining one in Rise of Iron.

Destiny clearly intends to get you well-acquainted with the geography of Rise of Iron before you run off firing rockets at anything that moves, and the first few hours in the expansion does a nice job of making that familiarization process fun.

Of course, this is just the beginning. We’ll be diving deeper into the game over the coming week to see how it holds up to — or falls apart after — dozens of hours digging into the new end-game content.

Highs

  • Lord Saladin is awesome
  • Satisfying level progression
  • New material meshes well with revised old content

Lows

  • Another short expansion campaign
  • New enemies look similar to old enemies