The One Thing Missing from Rise of Iron

   If you haven’t already read our thoughts on Bungie’s latest expansion to their hit shooter, Destiny, make sure you check out Cole’s impressions here. In summary, Rise of Iron is really good. It adds more of everything that Destiny players love about the game without dramatically changing it in the same way that The Taken King did last year. I’m taking my time with the new content, but I’m loving every minute of it. Still, I’ve had this nagging feeling as I’ve been exploring the Plaguelands that something’s missing from Destiny, and the other day, as I let the title screen idle on my Xbox while I was doing some chores around the house, I pinpointed exactly what it was. It’s missing Marty O’Donnell.

“Rise of Iron’s theme is tragic and sweet and epic, evoking the heroic spirit of the fallen Iron Lords around whom the expansion’s story revolves”

   Destiny ranks up in my top three titles over the past three years in terms of pure time investment, but I burned out hard in the vanilla game. I picked up The Taken King last September after reading how heavily it had changed Destiny for the better, but I didn’t actually step back into the boots of my 20-something hunter until just a couple of weeks ago. As a result, I’m experiencing two expansions at once, and I’m blown away by just how much better Destiny is now compared to its state at launch. My hunter’s a sword-wielding, arrow-flinging badass, and there’s a wealth of compelling quests left ahead of me to complete. 

   It feels like a return to form for Bungie, who’s proved themselves again as masters of their craft. And yet, I’m reminded from time to time that this isn’t exactly the same studio whom I fell in love with fifteen years ago when Halo: Combat Evolved launched. My frequent visits to the tower, including the loading screens of my ship flying through space, evoke bittersweet nostalgia for me because those are often the places where Marty O’Donnell’s music most obviously returns to the spotlight.

   Don’t get me wrong, the scores composed by Michael Salvatori and crew for the game since O’Donnell’s surprising and abrupt termination are still good, even great. Rise of Iron’s theme is tragic and sweet and epic, evoking the heroic spirit of the fallen Iron Lords around whom the expansion’s story revolves. Likewise, I’ve had The Taken King’s soundtrack on non-stop repeat in my office the past five days, and I’ve grown particularly fond of the tracks “Regicide,” “Remembrance,” and “The Awoken.” Destiny’s always featured some of the best music in the biz, and that hasn’t changed as the game’s grown and matured.

   There are times, even, when the new scores feature rhythmic beats and motifs that conjure up visions of Halo for me, and I’ve found myself wondering how much of it may have been originally scored by O’Donnell (to which I assume Bungie still owns the rights) and how much of it is simply the result of his influence on the studio’s legacy. But for the most part, it’s changed. Destiny’s a different game now than it was, better in virtually every way, but it’s different. And Bungie’s different, too.

   O’Donnell had been one of the last remaining pre-Microsoft members of Bungie prior to his termination. The studio’s full of new faces now, with many of the veteran devs having gone one to form new studios, including Microsoft’s 343 Studios who are responsible for all things Halo. The same heart still beats at Bungie’s core, as evidenced by Destiny’s unsurpassed gunplay and absurdly grandiose lore, but they’re changing and growing and evolving as a studio, not always for the better and certainly not always for the worse. 

   Returning to Destiny these past few weeks has been both a familiar and new experience for me. At times I feel like I’m reconnecting with an old friend. At others, I’m forming a relationship with a brand new one. That’s never more clear to me than when I hear O’Donnell’s music juxtaposed with the newer scores. It leaves me longing for or mourning over a studio that will never exist in the same way it did fifteen years ago, but it also leaves me excited and elated for Bungie’s future.

   

First Impressions: Destiny: Rise of Iron Expansion

     Upon learning of Bungie’s final push of Destiny vanilla before focusing on the impending sequel, to be completely honest with you, I really didn’t give it much thought. Not that I have anything against Destiny, on the contrary actually. After more than 600+ hours logged across the original all the way through to last fall’s Taken King expansion I was ready to take a break. Many key components of the original had grown tired; the beloved Gjallahorn was no longer a rare commodity, and it seemed as though each “new” update was another reason to fight the same enemy type since the Dark Below in an all too familiar environment. Basically, I was ready for a change. It wasn’t until after the chatter of the gameplay reveal for Rise of Iron that I began to pay attention, and upon learning that Bungie was taking a different approach to enemies, armor and weapon look, and most importantly storyline, that I found myself ready to visit the Tower one last time. 

     To preface, if you weren’t a fan of the original Destiny “formula”, there is nothing in Rise of Iron that is going to change your mind. However, if you found yourself in a similar boat of exhaustion like myself, you have a lot to look forward too. New strike missions, raid, armor and weapons, and of course a new story line give you plenty to keep you busy for weeks to come. 

      Now to clarify, I have spent about 10 hours into the expansion thus far, and will later give a full review and write-up some time next week after I get to experience the raid, as well as the rest of the end game content. Thus far, I have finished the storyline, multiple strikes, messed around with some of the new crucible match types, and even accomplished the quest line for the shiny new Gjallahorn (now in black). I can safely say that this is far and away my favorite expansion to date, and if it is any indicator of the direction that Destiny 2 will take then we all have a lot to be excited about. One fact that is abundantly clear from this update, is that Bungie is listening to the community and delivering in spades. From little easter eggs like hidden areas in the new Iron Temple, to the return (arguably) of the Gjallahorn, I have found myself smiling with every new discovery- which is often. 

    While we are still a few days out from the new Raid becoming available, modifications to Strikes with a new treasure system will keep you busy and help prepare you to meet the required light level. If you are a PvP kind of player, crucible play has been given map and match type updates offering the all new Supremacy mode. If you are a solo player, all new cut scenes, deep lore about Iron Lords, and exotic quest lines give you plenty to keep you busy. Basically, my time so far with Rise of Iron has been great, but I will need many more hours of play time to see how it pans out over time. If you are on the fence or waiting for a final verdict, be sure to check back in the days to come for the final review. 

      Now back to Plaguelands to find more loot…