In late July I had the opportunity to visit Bungie's studio in Washington and play a tiny portion of the new Destiny expansion, Rise of Iron (check out our impressions here). At that preview event only two portions of the game were playable: Crucible and a new Strike called The Wretched Eye (more impressions here). I was fortunate enough to get invited back out to Bungie last week to play everything else in the game, except the new raid, which Bungie wants to keep under wraps until it launches the Friday after Rise of Iron launches.
Although I did get to play through the entire campaign, Bungie has very stringent policies in place as to what parts of the game I can discuss today, and which parts have to wait for a later date. Some I can't write about until the final review. So, what's on deck for today's discussion? The very first story mission, King of the Mountain, and the remastered The Devil's Lair Strike! I have already given my thoughts on The Wretched Eye Strike mission last month.
The game kicks off with Lord Saladin becoming concerned that the House of Devils has returned and taken root in the Plaguelands, an area of the Cosmodrome to the north and east of the previously accessible game space. He directs the Guardians to check out an abandoned observatory high up in the mountains.
The mission begins in the snow-covered mountains with windy conditions and snow flying every which way. Visibility is noticeably reduced thanks to the heavy snowfall. Soon you come upon a gondola that will take you up the mountainside. Your Ghost explains that it's been 400 years since this gondola has been activated. Once aboard the tiny cable car, strings of enemies appear on the cliff sides and begin their assault. You're on a one-way trip and the gondola doesn't slow down or stop. That makes it all the more difficult to target the moving enemies and kill them before they take you out. As you progress higher and higher, more enemy waves appear, this time from both sides of the mountain, creating more than a few tense moments before you reach your destination.
Upon exiting the cable car, the level opens up a bit allowing for a little more exploration. Like previous expansions, the loot system has been rolled back so you'll sometimes receive green items and engrams once again. Some of them could still be higher level than what you have equipped, so they're still worth checking out.
Upon reaching the mountaintop you realize that it has been taken over by a very familiar foe, Sepiks Prime! Except this time he has been augmented with SIVA, a mysterious source of energy that has made him stronger than before and given him the new name of Sepiks Perfect. In this epic battle there are waves upon waves of enemies coming from every direction trying to take you down as you try to deal as much damage to Sepiks as you can. This was an intense fight that was thrilling from beginning to end. I was alone in my session, which meant I had to often take cover at critical moments. I almost perished several times, but was able to vanquish the powerful enemy without losing a life. Despite finishing Sepiks Prime off, he manages to escape at the last second, which spirals into the next mission. For now, the temple is secure and this unlocks the new social space, Felwinter Peak. I was able to spend some time there as well, but that discussion will have to wait until a later date.
The first mission marks an excellent start to the new expansion. It was a completely new area to explore and I really liked the snowy environment. The cable car ride was a nice change of pace and the level seemed to be rather long. It's obvious the game looks slightly better than prior installments, which is probably due to the dropping support for the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions. Overall, I thought the first stage was fun and exciting with a story that really kicks into gear as the level concludes.
I also had the opportunity to play the remastered The Devil's Lair Strike. Longtime players will remember that this is the first Strike in the game with Sepiks Prime being the end boss. This new version takes the same route (for the most part, there might be a surprise or two that I'll let the players discover), but often has new enemies to keep things just different enough to feel new. The areas may be familiar, but they also received a facelift with new snow effects and other enhancements. The final boss is Sepiks Perfect, and players will have a brand new method of dealing damage to him. I could divulge the exact details of how to take him out, but learning how is half the fun. Suffice to say that this revamped Strike was more fun than I anticipated and I think players will really enjoy going back to it and coming up with all new tactics.
That's all I can really discuss about Destiny: Rise of Iron today. Later in the week I will give my impressions on a few other areas of the game, leading up to the final review as the game approaches release date on September 20th.