Back near the end of last year, Destiny was in dire need of a revamp. The release had stagnated to a point where many players had simply stopped coming back to Bungie's sci-fi creation, with the game's first two expansions – The Dark Below and House of Wolves – doing little to reinvigorate the title or fix its ongoing issues. Thankfully, the Washington-based studio was able to shine a light through the darkness in the form of The Taken King, which really did manage to breathe new life into the stale shooter. The third expansion added a great new setting, a stronger campaign, and implemented countless small improvements to the general gameplay loop. Since then, Destiny has been a far better game.
With that in mind, it's safe to say that Rise of Iron isn't quite as crucial to Destiny's continued success as The Taken King was – but its overall goal is the same. This latest expansion once again aims to rejuvenate the property, tempting lapsed players back to the fray while proving to newcomers that this is the best time to get stuck in.
Sitting at a slightly lower price point than The Taken King, it's perhaps no surprise that Rise of Iron isn't quite as substantial as its predecessor. Its main story missions will take you around an hour and a half to complete, and as a whole, the expansion feels lesser: its narrative scope is smaller, much of its content relies on reused assets, and it's just not the grand adventure that was infiltrating a colossal alien dreadnought and bringing down an unstoppable intergalactic tyrant.
Having said all that, Rise of Iron does succeed in what it sets out to do. It's a solid slice of additional content that'll have existing fans diving back into the mix, complete with an abundance of new equipment to discover and a fresh light level cap to reach. If you've been eagerly awaiting more of the same – a reason to get back to the grind – then you can't really go wrong.
It helps that, while it lasts, the main set of story missions are enjoyable. They don't really add anything new to the shooter's established formula, but there are some nicely designed encounters to tear through, and the set pieces are some of Destiny's best. It's just a bit of a shame that outside of a couple of lovingly crafted cutscenes, the initially interesting plot isn't developed into something more meaningful – it largely gets forgotten as voices over the radio feed you typically vague lines of dialogue. Sadly, though, that's par for course when it comes to Destiny.
Still, as any veteran player will know, this is a game that's all about what happens after you've fought your way to the end of the story – and Rise of Iron is no different. The real meat of the expansion is split between various post-plot side quests and numerous activities that are designed to keep you playing well into the future. The Plaguelands – a whole new and very large patrol area on Earth – houses new bounties and a load of secrets to uncover, while both new and reworked Strikes have been added to two refreshed playlists. Again, it's more of the same, but Bungie knows that providing new content – no matter how familiar – is the best way to get Guardians glued to the progression system once more.
Indeed, because Destiny now consists of so much content spread across so many different modes of play, it's difficult not to get sucked back into its addictive shoot-and-loot loop all over again. If anything, Rise of Iron proves that Destiny's main problem is that there's simply never enough Destiny; we're certain that it won't be too long until players have exhausted what's on offer here and are eager to get their hands on whatever's coming next.
You can't quite say that you're done with Rise of Iron until you've at least tried the new Raid, though. Dubbed Wrath of the Machine, the latest six-player excursion is one of the most action-packed endgame adventures yet. Constantly flooding arenas with enemies and serving up some fantastic boss battles, the new Raid is testament to the developer's talent for creating incredibly memorable multiplayer experiences. The whole thing is dangerously hectic, and is easily one of the expansion's highlights.
Unlike The Taken King, Rise of Iron isn't an essential reincarnation of Destiny, but it is an expansion that delivers on its promise of rejuvenating Bungie's shooter – even if it does refuse to step outside of the game's well established comfort zone. A few fun story missions, a great new Raid, and a suite of fresh reasons to get back to the grind for better loot should be enough to keep the ever-present darkness at bay.