Last month Bungie invited me out to its headquarters in Washington to a Destiny: Rise of Iron preview event. It was my first time out there so it was great to take a tour of the facility and see the hundreds of employees hard at work on the next expansion. While many aspects of the expansion were still under wraps, I managed to learn a great deal about the content that gamers will be playing coming September 20.
My morning started off with a presentation inside Bungie’s theater room. Pete Parsons, CEO of Bungie reminisced about the early days of Destiny. It was almost seven years to the day of my visit that he and his team of developers introduced the concept and idea of game. There were roughly 172 of them at the company at the time and the only things that had been created for the project were four or five pieces of concept art and a design document that was less than fifteen pages. Needless to say, the team dove headfirst into creating a universe that would captivate the imaginations of gamers across the world.
This year is Bungie’s 25th anniversary. It is wholeheartedly invested in making Destiny the best it can be. This year’s new expansion dives into the lore surrounding Lord Saladin and the Iron Banner. Players familiar with Destiny will know that the Iron Banner is a limited time event that shows up in the game where players can take on bounties to earn reputation and level up to acquire new gear that’s only available from Lord Saladin. This player vs. player (PvP) mode actually takes into account the level of your character, which is unlike the normal Crucible matches. Of course, some of the coolest gear is obtained here, and there’s mystery surrounding some of the item names and Lord Saladin himself. Christopher Barrett (Director of Rise of Iron) explained that this expansion will take a deep dive into the lore surrounding the Iron Lords. Players will be able to discover the origins of the weapons and why the Lords sacrificed themselves for humanity.
Rise of Iron’s story missions take place at a new location on the Cosmodrome called the Plaguelands. This Earth map has been expanded to include the new area, which is located to the northeast of the Rocketyard and Kings’ Watch. In addition, a new social space called Felwinter Peak appears here. Similar to The Tower and The Reef, necessary vendors and kiosks will be here to allow players to turn in engrams and access the Vault. An early mission will see players fighting their way up the snowy mountain to fight back the Fallen and open up the new area. This area will be about 2/3 as big as The Tower and is definitely larger than The Reef. A big feature of this new space is the mausoleum that harbors huge statues of the Lords. As players collect special Artifacts in the expansion, they will return to this building to activate them, in turn lighting a fire next to the huge statue, signifying the completion of that reward.
These new Artifacts come with special abilities. In the preview build there were eight of them. They add special attributes to the player, allowing for one more tool to customize your Guardian the way you see fit. I won’t ruin the surprise of all eight Artifacts, however there are multiple perks that can be selected. For example, one Artifact can give players the ability to have a detailed radar, which persists when sighting with primary weapons. Another allows enemy Guardians with full supers and all enemies with low health to be highlighted. Yet another takes away your Super, but your character will gain one extra grenade and melee charge, boosts all stats my a small amount, and all orbs grant melee and grenade energy. As you can see, these Artifacts are great additions and will no doubt foster new strategies never seen before.
The team felt that it was time to revisit Old Russia, as that’s where the game began and it will hopefully evoke a sense of nostalgia for those playing Destiny from the start. The Plaguelands were previously inaccessible, but the Fallen have broken though the wall and are starting to flow into the familiar maps. These aren’t your average enemies. These are Devil Splicers, a new faction of Fallen that have dug up an ancient power called SIVA. This dark energy has mutated them into frightening new enemies that are stronger than ever before. This new area is filled with huge snowdrifts and littered with traps set by the Fallen. The SIVA has been spreading across the land and has begun to choke the life out of the environment. Huge red roots jet out of the ground and wrap around trees and other structures. Brand new Public Events and zones will be unlocked as players progress through the story missions. Throughout your missions there will be cinemas that help catapult the story forward.
Of course, what would the next Destiny expansion be without tons of new gear? According to the developers, the number one thing that players keep asking for is more content and gear. This expansion is loaded with new guns and armor to discover. Some of the key pieces have a Nordic or Viking look to them. In fact, some of them could have come straight out of Game of Thrones. It makes sense that this type of gear would be prevalent in the snow-covered landscapes of the Plaguelands. Making its glorious return is the Gjallarhorn rocket launcher, complete with its deadly Wolf Rounds (tracking cluster missiles) that deliver extra pain to whoever’s on the receiving end. For those looking for a new type of weapon, you’re in luck! A giant axe can be acquired to deal massive damage. Record Books will be integrated into the user interface now and will show off a slew of rewards that can be earned by completed specific missions or tasks. The book will have sections clearly marked, such as Campaign, Crucible, and Iron Banner and will clearly state how specific Exotic gear can be obtained. The team wanted to give players the knowledge of how to obtain the new items through quests.
A new raid will be in the expansion as well, but Bungie was tightlipped about any details. The developers are insistent on keeping secrets and discoveries to themselves as they don’t want the players’ experiences to be spoiled. It will be called Wrath of the Machine and will go live on September 23, just a few days after the expansion launches.
Fans of Crucible will be pleased to hear about a brand new mode of play called Supremacy. This 6 v 6 mode will be familiar to competitive first-person shooter fans and is called Kill Confirmed in Call of Duty. Every time you kill an opponent, a crest falls to the ground. No score is earned unless you or a member of your team can retrieve the crest before it disappears (after 1 minute) or the other team grabs it, thus denying your team the point. This mode was quite fun to play at the preview event, even for someone like me who mostly stays away from PvP. The added strategy of picking the right moment to go after the crest is quite appealing. Also, the crests are inside of glass balls, similar to engrams, and can actually roll around the environment and even right off the map.
There are a total of four new maps in the expansion. The map on Mercury is named Icarus and is a Sony exclusive. That was the first map I played at the event and it seemed nicely laid out. The second map I was able to play is called Floating Guardians (Vex formation on Venus), and this one seemed more entertaining. There were multiple pathways, including some tunnels that ran under the main sections of the map. The other two maps were not shown at this event.
A brand new feature that players have been asking Bungie for is Private Match. It is included in the update that comes out alongside the expansion. Even players who do not purchase Rise of Iron will have access to Private Matches, provided they’re playing on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. This mode supports 1 to 12 players and a wide variety of parameters can be selected. Around 30 maps will be accessible, and modes like Control, Clash, Supremacy, Rift, Skirmish, Elimination, and Rumble will be at your fingertips. In addition to map selection, players can set score limit, time limit, light level (enable or disable), time of day, and vehicles (enable or disable). You will still earn loot even when playing Private Matches, but don’t expect it to be of the caliber found in normal Crucible matches. You will also earn Crucible reputation in this mode, which the development team doesn’t seem too worried about players gaming the system. I’m sure if there’s a huge issue here they will quickly fix it.
It’s unknown what’s next for Destiny after Rise of Iron. The developers did mention that some familiar events are making a return. That includes Festival of the Lost in October (Halloween themed), and Sparrow Racing most likely in December. There are other events planned for December as well that haven’t been seen before. Bungie wasn’t ready to discuss anything past 2016, but it’s obvious that Destiny 2, or whatever it will be called, is in the works for 2017. Until then, it remains to be seen whether Rise of Iron will be enough content to satisfy the ravenous user base. My early impressions are that there seems to be slightly less content than The Taken King, but I haven’t played the entire expansion yet. If Bungie can deliver meaningful content updates throughout the year and into next, then the wait for the sequel might not seem as painfully long. Check in with us tomorrow for a summary of what awaits you in the expansion’s new Strike.