Destiny: Rise of Iron – First Impressions (and review I guess…)

I really, really want to be fair in this. We will see how that goes.

After about an eight month hiatus from Destiny, I logged in and played for the first time last night. I’ve logged in two or three times since January, but they were only to see what was up with the new patches. In those cases, I didn’t even go on a patrol let alone actually take a run at any missions. The main reason for that hiatus has been blasted across the internet, you don’t need me to really add anything. Either way, Rise of Iron was released last night and I was ready to get my game on.

Two and a half hours later, I beat it.

I am not even kidding. The story stretches maybe four or five missions. I sat down at 8:00. Between my daughter waking back up and having to get her to sleep, and the uncharacteristic OCD fervor that made me reorganize and throw out everything in my inventory and vaults (due to the awesome revamp to infusion), I started playing at 8:30. By 11:00, I had beaten the story missions. There is still the big strike with Sepiks and the raid left, I don’t think those are the same anyway, and there is a ton of stuff to find, but that’s it from a narrative point of view.

By now, you may realize I have a negative tone. The reason for this, and I think this is my main takeaway, is everything I anticipated Destiny would do well, they delivered upon. It looks good, it plays well, it’s fun, and there are guns all over the place. But everything I had hoped they would improved upon, and everything I was afraid they would fall short of, was exactly as feared.

I have an issue with the length of time, but my core problem is around the execution of the narrative itself. The story centers around Saladin, the last remaining Iron Lord (the dude who runs the Iron Banner), as he recruits the Guardian to destroy the technology that killed all the rest of the Lords of Iron. I say that it centers around that, but that’s actually pretty much a synopsis and that’s the problem. Saladin loses his shit because next “worst thing ever” (SIVA) has broken out and he thinks it will destroy everything if not contained. The Fallen, who were touted as such a big enemy, hare just fodder. This space herpes, broadcast as a plague for some reason, hasn’t so much modified them as much as it is being used by the Fallen to build new body parts. Other than a few mini bosses (and I still have to see how the strike and raid play out), there are no unique enemies delivered from this. It is anticlimactic from a story perspective and falls flat from a gameplay point of view.

This is emphasized by how quickly it is resolved. Within a few missions you go from “The End is Nigh!” to “S’Cool, I go this”. I singlehandedly in my case, take down the entity that killed over a hundred Lords of Iron. Granted, for some reason Rasputin was involved in that massacre (because, you know, when is he not?), but even in the storytelling no one seemed all that concerned by this plague. I’m not even really all that sure why it’s referred to as a plague. It doesn’t do anything that the Hive’s gunk doesn’t already, just with a color and texture pallet change. There was some affliction of the Iron Lords, but nothing is given to build that up or emphasize the way it infects a host other than one scene toward the end (when you get the axe).

I have not yet read through the Grimoire cards and am looking forward to doing so, but the narrative of the story is so disjointed that even if the plot and lore is filled in offline, I can’t help but hold Bungie accountable. Yet again, they have ignored the most fascinating and intriguing parts of the game by either omitting them entirely or burying them in the damn grimoire. I am very interested in what SIVA actually is (I think it’s a self replicating nano machine meant to alter and build stuff for colonization), Clovis Bray’s role in its development, why Rasputin was involved, as well as the Lords of Iron. Why are they immortal? Are all the Guardians? If this was truly a moment where the Guardians, as a whole, discovered that immortality did not equal invincibility and that the light of the Traveler did not protect them from all harm…shouldn’t that have been a bit more of an emphasis?

I would have loved to have seen the Fallen’s role in this expanded. They are the more boring enemies other than their grimoire references to having been a race the Traveler visited and possibly uplifted in the past. The idea that they would “splice” their bodies isn’t terribly original but would have expanded their lore a bit. I would have liked to have seen a decent boss from them as well, something a bit different (think Draksis).

Why in the hell haven’t the Vex gotten involved in this? Seems right up their alley.

It may have come from Mars, why isn’t the Cabal (probably the most ignored of the enemy races) not involved in some way?

There was also a lot of speculation that Charlemagne, the supposed Martian Warmind, would have been involved. Nada.

I am hearing some people applaud the story. A lot of those people seem to be comparing it to Destiny’s original content and its earlier expansions.

No.

The Taken King set a new bar for this. It had fascinating lore, a seriously threatening villain, and galactic stakes. It still had problems with burying a lot of that in the grimoire and failing to really convey all of that in the story, and overall the threat was again too easily vanquished, but it was the new standard.

This is not that.

And the real reason this matters, The Taken King was the achievement of what Bungie had originally set people up for. I was not an early Destiny player. I played the beta, took one look at this, and said to myself, “this is all it’s going to be”. And largely, I was right. It never truly reached the scale, the story, the breadth that people expected and were promised. The Taken King, as good as it was, still wasn’t the achievement of that promise. It was a wonderful step in the right direction.

Destiny wants to be an FPS and an MMO but doesn’t really hold itself to the standards of either. The gameplay, the actual mechanics of shooting and combat, continue to be probably the best executed I have ever played. I would say the PvP probably holds itself up pretty well too. If it were just an FPS, that would probably be fine.

But it’s not.

There was a lot of frustration from people who wanted constant content. Who wanted big content. There has been griping and complaining about the story, the missions, and what you actually do in the game to even out the grind. This needs to be addressed. At the moment, Destiny executes well as an FPS, but I look at the top FPS game out there, and Destiny falls short. It doesn’t have the epic campaign of Halo (which has faltered most when the story is its weakest) nor the mass multiplayer engine (or release schedule) of games like Call of Duty of Battlefield. As an MMO, specifically one that developed this concept of a loot shooter, it has made progress but I think we are right back where we were the end of last year. People have new guns and armor, it’ll be great for a month while they mess around with the Raid. Content such as new guns, puzzles, challenges, etc. will be time released and it will create a storm or interest for a week or so each time, but it will die down and in the end people will be looking for more. What will they get? Crickets. Promises of a Halloween event. Destiny 2. Next time.

I love Destiny. I am trying to be fair to this. I am disappointed by this release because it is a reaffirmation that Bungie is just going to throw scraps to its fan base. This is one of the most anticipated titles of the year for one of the most successful new franchises in recent memory developed by one of the most lauded studios of the past three generations.

That is the standard I apply.