In a recent interview (which you can read here), Bungie’s Community Manager Deej said that while their first-person sci-fi shooter Destiny is focused on multiplayer, “Lone wolves are welcome in our living social world. We’ve even made adjustments to the paths that lead to the top of the power scale to accommodate players who prefer to go it alone.” Well, as someone who doesn’t play well with others, I decided to test this by playing the Destiny Rise Of Iron expansion — which is available both digitally (PlayStation 4, Xbox One) and in Destiny The Collection (PlayStation 4, Xbox One) along with the rest of the game — solo to see how well this game works if you are a lone wolf who prefers to go it alone.
For those who haven’t played Destiny yet, the game is a sci-fi first-person shooter set in a distant future in which mankind has established colonies on other planets, only to see them decimated by a bunch of alien jerks. It’s up to you, as a Guardian, to save what’s left of the human race by shooting these aliens from the first-person perspective.
As first-person shooters go, Destiny is rather exemplary. While it has such Borderlands–esque role-playing game elements as looting, rechargeable attacks, and leveling up your character, weapons, and armor, it also has firefights in unique settings and against smart enemies, as well as fluid and intuitive controls that are on par with the Halo series and Call Of Duty games.
But unlike the Halo and Call Of Duty games, Destiny was really built to be played with friends. Along with the dedicated co-op missions and the competitive multiplayer modes of the usual variety, this also has story missions that can be played solo or co-op. But even if you decide to play them on your own, you may see other people running around the same area of whatever world you’re on. If you’re lucky, they’ll keep to themselves, and maybe only be a distraction when they start hopping around like rabbits. Which happens a lot for some odd reason. But if you’re unlucky, as you inevitably will be, these interlopers will run over and join, or even dominate, your current mission, even if you’d prefer they just left you alone.
As for how Destiny Rise Of Iron compares to the regular game and the previously released expansions, well, here things get kind of curious. While, as I said, Destiny is meant to be played with friends, the story missions in Rise Of Iron have a decidedly single-player feel. Granted, the first mission in Rise Of Iron, “King Of The Mountain,” is a solo-only outing, just like the first mission in the main game was. But even beyond that, the story missions in this expansion feel like they should be played by yourself.
For starters, Destiny Rise Of Iron is largely set in a cold, snowy, and kind of bleak part of Russia that recalls the desolate surface of the Starkiller base in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Much like the Boston in Fallout 4 or the wasteland of Rage, The Plaguelands of Russia in Destiny Rise Of Iron are far more effective, tonally, when you’re exploring them on your own. Which I know firsthand because when I played these story missions, I was all alone in these mission areas.
Further making the Destiny Rise Of Iron story missions feel like solo affairs is how the levels are even more linear than ones in earlier parts of the game. When not running around in the snow, you’re cutting through narrow passages, though they do often lead to more open areas. Which, admittedly, isn’t uncommon in Destiny, but it seems like the norm here, where massive open spaces were de riguer in the original game.
Together, the sparse feeling and largely linear mission areas make Destiny Rise Of Iron feel a bit like a single-player game that just happened to accommodate a co-op story and a world open to other people. Y’know, kind of like The Division. Well, except that Destiny is clearly better balanced for solo play than The Division. If you’re level 10 in The Division and try to fight a gang who are also level 10, you’ll be dead. But if you’re level 10 in Destiny Rise Of Iron, and face similarly strong enemies, you’ll be okay. Though I’d still eat a good breakfast, since some of the end of level bosses in Destiny Rise Of Iron‘s story missions can be quite tricky.
Even when the missions move inside or into larger areas, as they do later on, Destiny Rise Of Iron still feels like it should be played by yourself. Especially since the settings continue to be run down and bleak. There’s even one of these inside, non-snowy areas that recalls the abandoned, sand blasted hotels in Spec Ops: The Line.
Along with its single-player feel, Destiny Rise Of Iron also, because of its story, has much more of a fantasy vibe. Sure, it still has a lot of sci-fi elements, but the story, with its tales of quests and immortality, seems much closer to Game Of Thrones than the hard sci-fi leanings of the original game and the earlier add-ons. There’s even a common area, called the Iron Temple, that looks like a castle in Westeros, complete with dire wolves.
While Destiny Rise Of Iron is an engaging new chapter for the game, it’s not without its problems if you play it on your own. Aside from not being able to stop the aforementioned interlopers and rabbit people, this still has irritating menus that require you to awkwardly use a thumbstick like it’s a mouse.
It’s also infuriating, as big fan of hard and smart sci-fi, that while Destiny has a rich world history, but does a terrible job explaining its own narrative.
That said, they have fixed one of the more annoying issues in the original game. Mostly. Where before you couldn’t turn the music off, now you can. Which is not only good because there were times when it got so loud that it overwhelmed the sound effects. Though they really should’ve given people the option to turn the music down, not just off.
In the end, while I still wish you could bar other people from jumping into your missions, Destiny Rise Of Iron — like the main game and all of its other expansions — is still a compelling and engaging sci-fi first person shooter that is as much fun for those who play well with others as it is for us lone wolves who prefer to go it alone. Sure, I don’t always feel welcome in this game’s living social world, but as is, I’m willing to making do.