By Tommy Robbins. This is LOAD FILE, where raids and loot grinds encompass weeks, if not months, of our time. This week, Tommy reviews ‘Destiny: Rise of Iron’, developed by Bungie for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

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It always feels as like Bungie is just on the edge of getting things right. Following the launch of Destiny, players found more and more reason to fall away while those that stuck around cemented themselves as the Destiny apologists faithful. Vanilla Destiny felt coy, vague and confused. It wanted to be an in-your-face shooter with MMO trappings but also attempted an ambitious jaunt through sci-fi adventure. Never really pulling off both, Bungie began to fully embrace the MMO-iness of their game and things got better. If The Taken King was a step in the right direction, Rise of Iron is effectively the same.

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AGE OF THE IRON LORDS

Before the dawn of Guardians, there were only Iron Lords. Ten protectors tasked with revitalizing humanity following its collapse, the Iron Lords gave their lives to contain a golden age technology called the SIVA virus. The nanotechnology capable of rapid expansion (previously used in the construction of entire cities) had proven malignant; it attempted to take over the Iron Lords’ tech, right down to the very armor on their backs. To prevent the spread of the nano-virus, all but one of the Iron Lords locked themselves away to die in a last ditch effort to seal off the virus from the rest of humanity.

Lord Saladin was the last of these Iron Lords. A no-nonsense rugged type, Saladin wastes no time when fears arise that SIVA has been awoken by the Fallen. The appearance of an enemy previously thought to be dead stirs an investigation, which shows the Fallen have indeed summoned SIVA to make them bigger, stronger, and meaner. The SIVA virus may be capable of fascinating and marvelous things, but in the hands of the Fallen, it’s become something of a technological steroid.

The story here is big, over the top, and larger than life. Saladin’s gruff demeanor makes him an overly serious character (don’t expect any levity coming from this guy) but it drives home the MMO high-stakes drama. Though you’ll likely spend hours upon hours chasing loot and grinding for light before really paying him any attention, his call to action feels imperative.

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SLOGGING FOR LIGHT

If you’ve played Destiny and any of its recent content, you’ll find that there’s nothing really striking about Rise of Iron. As detrimental as that may sound it’s definitely not a damning factor.

Most of what you want from a game like Destiny is a constant barrage of new and better gear. Something that felt crappy in early Destiny was that it always felt easy to get stuck trying to move forward. Picking up my level 40 character with 297 light felt like it would be a long, uphill trudge to 350 and ultimately up over 360 — the light level required to get into some of the Rise of Iron’s end game content.

What I found, however, was a relatively giving experience that stood greatly in contrast with that expectation. Starting with several chances to obtain gear with light rating in the 320’s, it was a fast journey up to an accumulative light level of 320. Completing the base missions that make up Rise of Iron was enough to accomplish this, and then some. From there, a little diligence was all that was required to close the gap to 350. (Things got tough at this point; the game wasn’t throwing gear my way anymore but it all felt appropriate.) It was expected that I’d be completing higher level tasks while attempting harder versions of missions I had previously accomplished, but I understood what it would take if I wished to continue towards that end game raid.

Destiny other carrot-on-the-stick took the form of fairly manageable exotic gear quests. Pretty early on in Rise of Iron, the previously coveted Gjallarhorn makes its reappearance. Realizing that this weapon would be the first in a great step towards upping my light level, I chased it as soon as the opportunity presented itself. I should point out that in the past I’ve had a “no bullshit” approach to these things in Destiny. If questing for an exotic weapon meant devoting hours upon hours of my life on it, I typically tapped out. The Gjallarhorn missile launcher and the Khvostov auto-rifle, whose quest line I stumbled into a little later, both felt manageable while giving me just enough challenge to feel rewarding.

If you previously felt as though all of the exotic questlines were too convoluted, new Destiny is trying to do right by you. While you may not be hunting down the full line of exotics, there are a few that are easily within reach, just waiting to boost your light level and give your shots the extra punch you need.

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GOOD WORK, GUARDIAN

It’s always felt as though Bungie was just short of getting Destiny right. With The Taken King, Destiny went all in on its MMO trappings and things started to shape up. Rise of Iron delivers on that execution nearly identically. Gracing players with a clear means for improvement and dropping lore directly onto the players early on (rather than expecting them to seek out Grimoire Cards) plays into what Destiny always felt like it should be — a big, over-the-top MMO.

There is always room for improvement, but two years in and managing to keep things fresh and exciting is no small task. If, after my time with Rise of Iron, my only negative takeaway lies in there STILL being few opportunities to play with a fire team larger than three players, I can easily give this one the ol’ stamp of approval.

Developed by Bungie.

Published by Activision.

Directed by Christopher Barrett.

Produced by Scott Taylor.

Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One

7.5 out of 10

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