Destiny: Rise of Iron (Bungie, 2016).

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Destiny: Rise of Iron, developed by Bungie and distributed by Activision (2016).

Score: sisyphean.

Rise of Iron is the last of the Destiny mandatory expansions, which came out back in September for the not at all insignificant price of 30 euro/dollars. Just like it happened with The Taken King, you absolutely need to buy the new expansion if you want to be able to keep playing any of the game’s interesting modes. Rise of Iron included a new patrol area, a new social area, eight new story missions, one new strike, one new raid, three new Crucible maps (and a fourth one only on PS4) and a new Crucible mode.

The storyline is about the Lords of Iron, the last of which is Iron Banner host Lord Saladin, who all sacrificed themselves about a hundred years before the events of Destiny in order to contain a technological plague called SIVA. Guardians are now summoned to stop the Fallen House of Devils from infecting themselves with SIVA and becoming Splicers (which you might guess it’s already too late for).

As usual, the eight new story missions are just an irritating formality in order to be acquainted with the new enemies and mechanics. The new kind of enemies, Fallen Splicers, are regular Fallen, only tainted with a flesh-eating, stiff-limb-growing disease, and controlled by a superior instance… now that sounds familiar. The Taken were still better at being new enemies because at least they did stuff that was different from their non-possessed counterparts, such as splitting in two or pushing you out of platforms with their super annoying shields. Splicers are just Fallen with arthritis.

The new social area, Felwinter Peak, includes some new questgiving characters, but it doesn’t have all the same features as the Tower, so this means you need to stroll around the Tower, the Reef and now Felwinter Peak and it’s not like loading times are instantaneous.

The Plaguelands, the new patrol area, is the Cosmodrome, with snow and Splicers. That’s all there is to it. They’ve included something called “secret missions”, which are missions you activate but don’t tell you what you need to do. You need to do stuff until you do what was requested by chance. If you’re a completionist, you’re going to spend a long time here: there are nine special artifacts that you need to complete a lot of patrol quests to get, which reset every week. Spawn ratios between kinds of missions (assassination, surveillance, and so on) have greatly improved; they used to require insane amounts of farming to get the right one and they still do if RNG is not on your side.

There is an open arena, pretty much like The Court of Oryx, called The Archon’s Forge. Like The Court of Oryx, it requires a consumable to activate and the difficulty depends on the kind of consumable you used. It’s way less tactical than The Court of Oryx: it gets nowhere close to the strategy requirements of Mini Crota; difficulty is escalated basically by the amount of enemies on the area and that’s it, so it gets easy fast. It’s a good area to go to at the beginning because there are lots of good loot, but only up to 385 Light for weapons and armor. Also, it does something really annoying that The Court of Oryx didn’t do: when you enter the Forge, you get redistributed to a new lobby, different from the one you were in while on The Plaguelands. So sometimes you head to the Forge because you can see people playing inside, only to arrive at an empty lobby where you have to wait for someone lucky enough to get sent to the same lobby as you.

There are new quests for exotic weapons such as the (new and nerfed) Thorn, the (new and nerfed) Gjallarhorn, or the Outbreak Prime. It’s nice that these don’t depend on drop rates and reward skill and effort, except when you can’t get them because your friends don’t play anymore and random people don’t want to help you. I did manage to get the new Gjallarhorn, the quest wasn’t even hard. It’s nerfed. It’s not bad, but it’s not much better than other rocket launchers. It sucks when they give you a broken toy and then take it away. It was wrong that an item was broken, but it’s not fun when they give it back and it’s not broken anymore. I preferred when it was gone. It was the stuff of legend.

As for strikes, there are three new ones officially, but one of them is Sepiks Prime again and the other is “The Summoning Pits” again. The only new strike is “The Wretched Eye”, which I only got to play once because for some reason I can’t begin to understand, it never shows up in Weekly or Nightfall strike lists. The strike in itself is quite boring. The boss battle is quirky in that you have to kill a little guy while there’s an ogre you can’t kill chasing you around. There is a new strike playlist called SIVA Crisis which is all the strikes we have grown to know and love (and get bored of) but with Splicers. Nightfall strikes have a new mechanic where you need to gain a specific amount of points in a given time to get the loot, which is like playing Prison of Elders only less fun because in the end it’s the same old strike over and over again. Prison of Elders is still there, but no one wants to play it because the loot is ridiculous.

Someone decided that it was a good idea to have strike-specific loot which you can only get if you have a consumable called a Skeleton key, which basically drop never. This looks like a good idea but to me it is an excuse to nerf the regular loot. To add insult to injury, each strike has specific items that drop in it, so if you want one in particular you need to replay that strike to death.

I did like the new Crucible mode: Supremacy. In this mode, points are awarded both for kills and for picking up a crest that Guardians leave behind when they die. This way, killing a Guardian and picking up the crest immediately will award you two points. Picking up the crest from an opponent you didn’t kill gives you one point and another to the player who made the kill. Picking up the crest from a fallen team member will not award you any points but take them away from the opponent, who will only get one point for the kill. It’s a fun mode in that it’s really fast-paced.

We were lucky that this expansion had a new raid too: “Wrath of the Machine”. Allow me to explain to you the ordeal I had to go through to barely play half of it. All my friends have stopped playing, so I had to rely on playing with people I don’t know. I used the official app and checked forums in both English- and Spanish-speaking communities. Firstly, people don’t want to play with you if you are even slightly under the recommended level, but it’s very hard to reach the recommended level without playing the raid. Secondly, nobody wants to teach you the raid. It’s worse than getting an entry-level job, seriously. Even if you find someone to teach you how to beat the raid, the waiting times to get a full squad are ridiculous. Even if you add people as friends they won’t show up at the agreed time or you will see them playing with a different party and ignoring you while they’re at it. I’m told this happens in virtually every MMO but it still annoyed me and was detrimental to my gaming experience.

The community as I saw it via the official app could be really obnoxious: people were refusing to play with anyone with a K/D ratio of under 2; people would leave you in the middle of the raid half an hour in if you made minor mistakes. It wasn’t much better with a mic: more experienced players would try to point out covers and safe angles to other more reckless players who simply didn’t give two shits and would call anyone who complained about their attitude a sore loser.

The raid itself is fun. Unlike everything else in the game, it requires tactics and cooperation. Brute force will not do. Everyone needs to be roughly the same level and lower-level players absolutely need to be carried because the timing is quite tight, and it’s a lot of fun if you manage to get in a team with a healthy environment. I only managed to play the first segment and the final Aksis boss battle, for the reasons described above. I’ve been told the middle segment consists in being chased around by a car.

I’ve had great fun with this game since the day it came out, but I’m sick and tired now. I’ve coughed up a grand total of two hundred euro for the game and all its expansions as they came out and I’m treated exactly the same as someone who bought all the same content yesterday for forty euro (namely, like garbage). We keep getting charged to play exactly the same content as before. The changes made all over the four expansions don’t justify the price. I’ve said it many times but I feel this is especially insulting: you can’t stick to playing the older content once a new expansion comes out. You need to keep paying to play what you had before with some minor novelties.

The loot rates are ridiculous. You want to hook people and keep them playing, but what they do is just too much. This is no free-to-play where they want the junkies to get desperate and actually spend money: you paid for the whole game, it’s only reasonable that you get access to every item in a finite amount of time.

So long, Destiny. It’s been beautiful while it lasted but I don’t want to see you again, ever.

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