There's a website where players of "Destiny," Bungie's 2-year-old multiplayer shooter, can see just how many hours they've logged gunfighting with aliens and each other on Mercury, Venus, Mars, etc. 

And there's a reason the website's address is timewastedondestiny.com.

The time commitment required to even approach "Destiny's" tedious endgame tempts one to compare it to a relationship. I did in my review of "The Taken King," the game's seismic expansion that dropped at this time last year.

But the reason that expansion worked, I wrote, was because Bungie made it a mea culpa. The "Halo" developer realized its new game had taken a lot and given little and, with the expansion's story and structural improvements, tried to close that deficit.

I wasn't the only one swayed by "The Taken King's" courtship: A majority of critics heaped praise on Bungie's redemptive design choices. They're no doubt part of the reason a few committed souls are now closing in on 1,000 hours — more than 400 days! — with "Destiny."

I, meanwhile, am at 78 hours. But I don't see that number breaking 80 any time soon.

That's because "Destiny's" newest expansion, September's "Rise of Iron," lives up to its inflexible-sounding name by returning to the game's old, imbalanced ways. With it, Bungie has gone back to taking a lot and giving little.

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"Rise of Iron" focuses on a centuries-old group of warriors, the Iron Lords. Wielding axes, clad in horned helmets and flanked by wolves on snowy mountaintops, they're basically a "Skyrim" crossover. But it's also easy to read the expansion's new wintry Earth settings as some environmental shade thrown the way of that other grindy multiplayer shooter that's dusty white and begins with a "D": Ubisoft's "The Division."

Regardless, the main quest chain of "Rise of Iron" can't match the personal stakes or swashbuckling oomph of "The Taken King's." Where the previous expansion's story could be excitingly summed up as "scary demon wants to kill you for killing his son," this one would take a few tweets. "The Iron Lords sealed up a nanotech virus" is as much as I cared to grasp.

The expansion also suffers the absence of Nathan Fillion's quest giver Cayde-6, whose fearless sarcasm was a supernova of personality in a universe void of it. The Iron Lords, led by Iron Banner sentry Saladin, are instead every bit the stoic warrior trope. But their wolves are cool, I guess.

Nor can this campaign match the length of "The Taken King's": "Rise of Iron's" is a breezy hour, at best. And aside from its melee-based finale, it adds little to what's still, admittedly, some fantastic first-person shooting. The "Rise of Iron" missions felt easier than usual, too, as I could beat them all in a few half-assed tries despite being 10 Light or so lower than recommended.

As for Light and Legendary Marks and the constellation of values that make up "Destiny's" endgame, "Rise of Iron" just doesn't have the kind of gravitational pull that allowed "The Taken King" to suck you back into the grind for weapons old and new. After some time away from the game, I could only meet the sight of all those numbers and icons on Bungie's slick UI with an overwhelmed stare.

The PVP Crucible mode, with a few new maps from the expansion, was once again a more reliable source of purer thrills. But because the few of my friends who play "Destiny" have abandoned it, I've been all but shut out of "Rise of Iron's" new raid, a mode that continues to not allow matchmaking.

Such is "Destiny." At 2 years old, Bungie's titanic game/lifestyle has become set in its ways. For a while it looked like it'd make as much of a commitment to you as you've made to it, but with "Rise of Iron," it's back to asking for the moon.

Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or david.wilcox@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox, or find him on PSN or Xbox Live under the name davewiththeid.

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