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Game Info:

Destiny: Rise of Iron
Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Activision
Released: September 20, 2016
Available On: Playstation 4, Xbox One
Genre: First Person Shooter
Number of Players: 1 (Up to 12 Online)
ESRB Rating: T for Teen (Animated Blood, Violence)
Price: $40.25 for the Destiny collection
(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Rise of Iron is the latest expansion for Destiny, a massive multiplayer online game developed by Bungie, the company behind the Halo franchise. Destiny released in September of 2014 and has had its share of ups and downs since. From its impressive, yet lackluster debut to its expansions from the mediocre to the impressive, players have been riding Destiny's content rollercoaster for two years. Now with the ‘Rise of Iron’ expansion, new and returning Destiny gamers should wonder whether this ride is about to get bumpy again.

The story begins with a modern day mission to Mars that changes the course of human history forever. Astronauts come face to face with the Traveler, an extraterrestrial intent on bestowing gifts to humanity. Centuries of space exploration and prosperity for all mankind followed. Unfortunately, the Traveler's enemies sought to undo his work and destroyed Earth and its colonies. All seemed lost in this Collapse until the kind Traveler sacrificed itself to push back their evil forces. The broken god's corpse among the ruins was all that remained of humanity’s Golden Age, and small robots called Ghosts now search tirelessly for potential Guardians - those who can wield the Traveler’s power.

In size and scope, Destiny’s universe rivals Bungie’s previous franchise: Halo. It tells numerous stories, including one you yourself can create. You can customize your avatar and choose to play as a Human, an Awoken (transformed humans after the Collapse), or an Exo (self-aware war machines from the Golden Age). As a Guardian and member of the Vanguard, it is your duty to protect humanity from the forces of darkness. There are, however, three other organizations working towards their own political goals as this struggle rages on: the New Monarchy, Future War Cult, and Dead Orbit. Players can further customize their Guardian by aligning with one of these factions to earn faction-specific gear. By the end, you'd have an entirely unique Guardian, your own identity in this large universe that Bungie has created. The problem Destiny's plot had was that much of the game’s lore was not found in the game. Unlocked story cards forced players to visit Bungie’s website in order to understand much. However, the developers have long addressed this issue in their expansions. The story in ‘Rise of Iron’ finally sheds light on the events following the Collapse. This new campaign not only makes it clear why certain things are so, but helps better round out the game's world. It's also nice for longtime Destiny players to revisit original locales and see how they've changed over the years. It’s a nostalgic adventure for those who have been loyal players. Ever since Destiny's first release, these changes are most welcome.

Graphically, Destiny is gorgeous. The game’s cinematic opening really helped set the stage for a beautifully crafted space opera, and the world's designs from the landscapes to the equipment are superb. Rust and plant covered buildings truly gives the impression of a post-Collapse era. The day-to-night cycle on each world is also impressive. Not to mention the first person perspective let's you enjoy the highly detailed graphics and improves overall immersion. Even on the Moon, there are noticeable lighting changes depending on the time of the day. Audio is also a cut above the rest. Aside from a beautiful musical score, Bungie hired a number of professional actors to voice the game’s characters. This all-star list includes Bill Nighy, Nathan Fillion, Lennie James, Lance Reddick, Gina Torres and James Remar. It is easy to see why Destiny was the most expensive series of games ever made, costing Activision more than $140 million to develop.

Destiny: Rise of Iron
Highlights:

Strong Points: A well-crafted space opera; Solid mechanics; wide variety of weapons and armor pieces; looks good and runs smoothly
Weak Points: Stifling WiFi requirements; Too much level grinding; Unbalanced multiplayer
Moral Warnings: Gun Violence

Destiny's gameplay allows players the ability to either play solo, with friends, or with random players. Solo play is what a lot of players focus on to get their character (which you create) "Light Level" high enough so that you can face challenging single player story mission, Strikes, Raids, and PVP matches against other players. Your "Light Level" is Destiny leveling system, which can be increased by finding or buying weapons and armor pieces which have a "Light Level" associated with them. It's this grinding for more powerful gear that keeps millions of Destiny players coming back for more. This game has easily the longest staying power of any shooter game on the market.

The addition of classes and subclasses, however, changes how players approach enemy engagement. Each subclass has different abilities that can cater to any player's individual play style. For example, Titan subclass Striker is geared towards close encounters, Sunbreaker tailors toward midrange, and Defender is a support class. Where Destiny gets really unique is that despite a strong emphasis on first person shooting mechanics, it acts like a role playing game. Everything from subclasses to weapons and armor are leveled up by killing enemies and completing objectives. Selecting which subclasses and abilities along with weapons and armor, can very well determine the outcomes, especially when on a 'Raid'. Thankfully, players can carry numerous weapons and armor pieces with them. Better yet, Bungie had added a Destiny Gear Manager app for computers and mobile devices that lets players transfer said gear to and from their vault without returning to a social hub. This is especially helpful, since different circumstances demand different preparations.

After completing story missions, there are numerous activities for players to enjoy. For those who wish to continue exploring, 'Patrols' give them tasks to perform within this greater planet sandbox. These tasks vary from scouting locations to assassinating high ranked enemies. Players can also replay 'Strikes' through the various Strike Playlists, which vary in difficulty and rewards. Now, the heart of Destiny is grinding, which really just means repeating frustrating tasks for better gear. Previous expansions like ‘The Taken King’, released in August 2015, gave players an assortment of new gear to collect, but did not address the insane amount of time it took to obtain them. Recent updates have addressed this issue in a few ways. They increased the legendary weapon and armor drops, allowed Strike drops to be collected form Horde chests, and changed the faction rank up reward system. With these changes, I have found myself getting far more legendary gear than I did previously. I can now readily choose my rewards and have a means to get them quickly. Bungie has also reworked in-game public events so that players are guaranteed fifteen Legendary Marks and a legendary engram for completing their first public event every day. As a result, it's not uncommon to find three or more players willing to aid you. Now drawbacks still do exist, but these updates considerably reduced the grinding, making for a much more enjoyable experience.

However, as enjoyable as it is to dwell in Destiny’s environment, there is a significant downside to it. There's so much you can do by yourself that it's hard to understand why the game constantly requires other online players in order to run. This, by extension, prevents you from pausing. You can't grab a bite to eat, and you can forget about bathroom breaks. While most story missions take anywhere between ten to twenty minutes, 'Strikes' take roughly half an hour or more, and 'Raids' are at least an hour or two, depending on your team’s skill. This also means you're out of luck if your internet connection is cantankerous, and there are numerous network errors from Destiny servers to begin with. ‘Rise of Iron’ failed to fix the problem. I experienced a number of these errors. Though infrequent, nothing is more frustrating than having the time to play but being unable to.

Aside from the post-story mission grinding, there are community events held fairly regularly which reward players with unique gear. Some of them, like the Iron Banner’s bounties, have been reworked so that players of all skill levels can complete them. Previously, these bounties included challenges like becoming the top scoring player in the match and getting a ten kill streak. These bounties would not only deny players a large amount of points needed to rank up in the Iron Banner, but could deny them the ability to receive the gear available to more skilled players. Iron Banner bounties are now tied to continued play, not exceptional performance. Post-match rewards have also been adjusted to not only drop more frequently, but be rewarded regardless of Iron Banner rank. This has made the event far more accessible to all players, not just the most skilled. It also gives the players an added incentive to return to Destiny each month when the Iron Banner is on.

Destiny: Rise of Iron
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 82%
Gameplay - 15/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 87%
Violence - 6.5/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

What's worse is that Destiny's multiplayer is horribly unbalanced. Bungie hadn't taken any significant steps to fix it either. The uneven perks between weapons and character subclasses proved to be enough to give any one player a significant advantage. Although Bungie has altered a number of subclass perks for the sake of reinstating balance within the Crucible, it turned tons of subclass skills nearly useless even in regular gameplay. Cheating has also become a very serious problem in Destiny - especially in the weekly Trials of Osiris tournaments. Despite Bungie’s promise to stop this through temporary or permanent bans on caught cheaters, the problem seems to be getting worse, not better. At this point, I’d suggest Bungie either change some tournaments' structures or remove them from gameplay altogether. A handful of other minor issues also add to the problem pileup. Destiny's multiplayer really could have been an enjoyable break from the singleplayer, but too much is lacking for it to hope to compete with other popular competitive games.

Destiny is also plagued by microtransactions in the form of the Eververse kiosk. Players can purchase special dances and emotes to further customize their characters. Though they are not as intrusive in this game as they are in others, it is a bit annoying for a developer to nickel and dime players who have spent over seventy dollars to purchase Destiny: The Collection, and more for those who have been buying each expansion upon its release. The Eververse kiosks just provide relatively little for players who aren’t willing to spend a few dollars on amusing emotes.

When discussing morality in Destiny, it's hard not to discuss the obvious parallels between the Traveler and Jesus Christ. The game's populace even worship it like a god and wait for its resurrection. Considering that far too many games lately mock faith and those who have faith, I found it refreshing that Destiny had this spiritual aspect to it. That doesn’t excuse the animated violence, and parents should adhere to the game’s teen rating. A final warning on morality: be careful while playing online. During my experience with the game, I have met as many bad people as good. I have found myself playing Raids with people who are not only intolerant of religion, but openly mock those who have religious beliefs. Fortunately, there are Christian Destiny clans which players can join.

Despite its rough start, Destiny has become one of the best games of its generation for its single player content. The ‘Rise of Iron’ expansion adds to the improvements brought by ‘The Taken King’ expansion and last April's update, offering more story content and gear for players to collect. If players are looking for a solid first person shooter to enjoy, this is one that shouldn’t be missed. If, however, you’re looking for a solid online multiplayer shooter, I would recommend looking elsewhere. It's a shame that Bungie still hasn’t been able to address all the many issues that have been plaguing its online play. Oh, well. It's not about how Destiny started. It's about how it finished.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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