- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 16, 2016

Gamers work together to battle an evil presence in the galaxy in the online, sci-fi, role-playing shooter Destiny: The Collection (Activision and Bungie, rated Teen, reviewed on Xbox One, $59.99).

The two-year saga to consume a player’s time continues with this definitive compilation not only offering the core “Destiny” game but all of its major content expansions including “The Dark Below,” “House of Wolves,” “The Taken King” and the latest, “Rise of Iron.”

More on “Iron” in a bit but for the new warriors to the massive online universe, they will find an intriguing, though slightly confusing, tale of a mysterious celestial body named the Traveller and its visit to Earth’s solar system that delivers a golden age of technological advances for humans.

Unfortunately, the Traveler also brought upon the galaxy the Darkness and the unleashing of numerous invading species that nearly destroy but now occupy many planets.

A group of fearless Guardians arise, anchored within the last city on Earth, and now venture forth to save humanity and purge the enemy infestations.

Players first build a character — either a Titan (a Hulk-ing, heavily armored warrior), Hunter (stealthy bounty hunter) or Warlock (magic-infused weapons expert) — and slowly unlock enhanced powers, weaponry and armor upgrades as he or she succeeds in firefights or between visits to The Tower to interact with vendors and commanders.

Enemy species stand in their way at every planetary encounter and include the Fallen (insect-like humanoids packing laser rifles and energy spewing eyeballs), the Hive (undead soldiers assisted from exploding zombies and massive ogres), the Vex (mechanical humanoids that look like “Independence Day” aliens), the Cabal (heavily armored hunters that look like the aliens from the “Fifth Element” and the Taken (warriors culled from the four species, consumed by the Darkness and returned as minions of the Oryx King).

The game never bores while exploring the surfaces of Mars, Venus, the Moon and Earth with each sporting colorful varied landscapes and breathtaking vistas that harbor hostiles popping up around every precipice, tunnel, staircase, burned out bunker, temple ruin, waterfall or cavern.

Encounters with other players are equally fun as a trio can go out on strike or raid missions, or dangerous events spontaneously erupt during solo missions allowing Guardians to suddenly work together to take down an evil boss or enemy infrastructure.

Now, for beginners, getting the collection offers a great, cost effective way to dive into “Destiny” and its roughly 100-story, multiplayer raids, strikes, bounty and Crucible (versus player) missions while preparing for its sequel coming in 2017.

Although the game relies on leveling up a character to reach the new adventures, the package includes an immediate upgrade to reach level 40 to jump into any of the missions including the “Rise of Iron” saga.

That latest extension offers a story about the nearly extinct Iron Lords, a group of warriors who were nearly destroyed by the SIVA techno-virus. They existed before the Guardians and were sworn to fight the Darkness.

After the only remaining Iron Lord, Saladin, requests assistance, the Guardians show up to help secure a burial temple atop the snowy Felwinter Peak, protect a breech in the wall protecting the southern border of the Cosmodrome (a communications and transportation hub in Old Russia) and eventually venture into the Plaguelands to fight off the nano-technology infused Fallen minions known as the Devil Splicers.

A player must work through five primary missions and uncover the secrets of the Iron Lords while protecting Earth from the burgeoning Splicer threat.

Besides the primary mission, a few new strikes, new armor and weapons (such as the exotic rocket launcher called Gjallarhorn), the expansion includes a six-player co-operative raid called Wrath of the Machine. The raid requires Guardians to assault the Devil Splicer’s lair and terminate their leader, the mighty Aksis, Archon Prime.

For those who already own “Destiny,” they will be slightly bummed by the $30 price tag for the “Rise of Iron” expansion pack as well as not battling on a new planet and the lack of substantial missions.

It’s just not as enormous as the previous release of “The Taken King” that boasted over two-dozen story missions, for example.

Still, for the fledgling Guardian, “Destiny: The Collection” serves as a wholly addictive and satisfying dive into one of the best-looking and -handling shooters of recent years that still maintains it excellence today.

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