Destiny, from the time of its release, has been a title constantly marred by criticism. Content has always been somewhat lacking, and the story mostly restricted to collectible Grimoire cards only viewable on Bungie’s website. The very design of the game from the ground up seemed a bit off, yet the game has consistently kept a population in the hundreds of thousands. It has seen three expansions prior to this September, which have helped to supplement the drought of content. Now, two years since its release, the latest expansion, Rise of Iron, has dropped. It boasts a new storyline, weapons, player vs player content, as well as a highly anticipated raid. This installment is also the first to be exclusively available for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, leaving the previous generation behind.

The launch of Rise of Iron unfortunately did not go as smooth as I had hoped.
The launch of Rise of Iron unfortunately did not go as smooth as I had hoped.

The latest threat to the Guardians of Earth is the SIVA virus, a nanotech plague that was sealed away by the Iron Lords centuries ago. Lord Saladin, or as he is more commonly known, the guy that hides away in the Tower until the Iron Banner competition, is the last Iron Lord and your guide to containing SIVA. He was there when it was first sealed away, and has his own personal reasons for needing to stop it, aside from the whole “the world is in danger” thing.

The SIVA virus is now in the hands of the Fallen, the aliens that roam Earth and its surrounding planets. The Fallen faction known as the Splicers – bioengineers who have re-purposed SIVA to augment their own bodies – are the players’ new target, and add a little bit of spice to firefights. Many of the new Fallen have new SIVA-based grenades, and often send bombs after the player with their dying breath. Shield elements have been swapped around a bit, with most of the Fallen Captains rocking Void shields instead of Arc. Not much else differentiates them from the normal Fallen, though in all honesty that is fine by me; I’ve always enjoyed fighting Fallen more than any other alien faction.

I lost count of how many selfies I took with my wolf friends.
I lost count of how many selfies I took with my wolf friends.

The first mission involves reclaiming Felwinter’s Peak, which functions as the new social zone. It contains a few little surprises and puzzles, as well as wolves. Lots of wolves. Saladin awaits you there, and assigns all missions from the Peak.

The new campaign concludes rather quickly, ending after six missions. The story does not necessarily wrap anything up, leaving the final battle to contain SIVA for the raid. The characterization of Saladin and the Vanguard scout Shiro-4 add a bit more to the Destiny universe, but once again Bungie offers us more personalities than explanations. I get that the Iron Lords fought to contain SIVA, and most of them died, and the elusive warmind Rasputin is involved, but I once again have to dig through the Grimoire cards on the site to get the meat of it.

Despite the shortcomings in Rise of Iron‘s storytelling the game is, as always, surprisingly fun when it comes to actually doing the missions. Gunplay is tight as usual, and many of the new weapons add a lot of variety to the sandbox. One of my personal favorites is the new Khvostov 7G-0X, which is a “remastering” of the very first gun you ever pick up in Destiny. While there do not appear to be as many new weapons as we saw in last year’s The Taken King, each new exotic and even many legendary weapons offer enough variety to keep things from getting stale.

The siege engine awaits on top of The Wall.
The siege engine awaits on top of The Wall.

Like its predecessors, the raid is where Rise of Iron shines. The newest raid, dubbed “Wrath of the Machine,” is Splicer-centric and possibly one of the best things Bungie has ever created. Without giving away too many of the surprises in stow for players that have not entered the raid, multiple new mechanics await the fireteam that dares to stop SIVA. The Siege Engine seen in the launch trailer is the highlight of Wrath of the Machine.

The final boss, however, is the real challenge of the newest raid; the encounter demands a level of communication never previously needed in Destiny. Players need to constantly be aware of their positioning and able to rearrange themselves on the fly, which adds an insanely hectic, yet incredibly fun layer of complexity. I don’t think I’ve ever yelled as loudly as I did when my fireteam killed the final boss. The raid loot is, for the most part, undeniably impressive, especially the Hunter set (sorry Titans). Warlock armor is unfortunately an abomination.

Aside from the raid, which is definitely the highlight of the entire expansion, Rise of Iron also provides some new Crucible (Destiny‘s PVP) content, in the form of a new gametype, private matches, and some new maps. The newest gametype is Supremacy, which is a carbon copy of Kill Confirmed from Call of Duty, in which players have to collect items that players drop on death. Private matches are what players have been clamoring for since Destiny‘s release, and it’s more sad than satisfying that it took Bungie, the creators of Halo, two years. The new maps aren’t anything to write home about, but their aesthetics are, at the very least, pleasing.

The final boss defeated, we rushed to our loot drops.
The final boss defeated, we rushed to our loot drops.

The biggest issue I have with the current state of Rise of Iron is the sheer grind to reach “raid-ready” level. Players are recommended to be 370 light level, but unless you saved up exotic engrams, you’re going to be around 365 for the raid. However, unless you exploit a boss in one of the Strikes, even the grind to 365 can be hell. I know, because I actually didn’t find out about the exploit until the night before the raid. Thankfully I managed to get a little over 360.

I understand that Destiny is reaching the end of its life cycle, and it’s a bit silly to expect a complete rehaul of the game, but players are, once again, rather limited in means to gear themselves up.

Nonetheless, I find myself logging in every day to do my daily missions, grind a bit for exotic engram drops, and work on my Grimoire score. And you can bet that I’m itching for the weekly reset, when I’ll get another shot at loot in the Wrath of the Machine.

It seems that even beyond all of the problems that Destiny still contains, there’s something fun behind it. The challenge, the numbers game, and the friends I’ve made over the past two years keep me coming back. With Destiny 2 on the horizon, I can’t see myself stopping any time soon either. If you haven’t jumped into Destiny just yet, now is a fantastic time to do so, as all of the content is decently priced at $60. Also, with the possibility of previous raids returning, there’s sure to be a lot for new players to experience.