18 months later we’re still thinking of ways Destiny might get better. Turns out Bungie has the same ideas.
This year’s big Destiny expansion aims to live up to some of the shared-worlds shooter’s promise. Every major release since launch in September 2014 has been about filling in gaps in the gameplay experience; Rise of Iron is about expanding what’s already working.
To this end, it delivers on some long-anticipated story hooks, gives us a new location to explore, unlocks secrets of the Darkness, and grounds us in an ever-changing world – or at least, that’s the intention.
“Expanding the world is something we’ve always been really interested in doing. The canvas the team has laid down allows us to do that, allows us to branch out and explore these stories.”
The expansion aims to explore the history of the Lords of Iron, but there’s more to Rise of Iron’s story than detailing these heroes: there’s the threat which ultimately broke them. The lost technology SIVA (also known as Ironsbane), and the mutant Fallen of the Plaguelands, are new elements – or at least obscure enough that most players won’t recognise them from existing lore.
Bungie may have tipped its hand though; surely I wasn’t the only one to sit bolt upright during the reveal stream when game director Chris Barrett mentioned a Warmind theme to some of the gear and environments of Rise of Iron. The Warmind Rasputin is one of the most mysterious aspects of Destiny, integral to vanilla’s easily-overlooked plot and resurfacing repeatedly in expansions. It’s never really clear whether he is friendly to the remnants of humanity or not. If Rasputin is somehow connected to SIVA and Ironsbane…
Naturally Bungie wouldn’t tell me a damned thing when I spoke to them this morning, but what it did say left some delightful hooks for speculation.
“There’s some fun lore stuff we’re playing around with,” Bungie’s Eric “Urk” Osborne said. “I think if you take a look at the depths they plumb beneath Earth, and you look at some of the gear, I think you’ll definitely pick up some Rasputin-like, bunker, Warmind cues.
“But that’s something we want players to discover. That’s a really great journey we want to take them on, beneath the surface of the earth, to find out what really happened to the Iron Lords.”
The Destiny faithful have been waiting on the truth about Warminds since before launch. It may finally be time to get some answers.
One of the early promises about Destiny is that one day you’d be able to explore everything in the distance – that future content packs would fill in that background terrain. That’s sort of been fulfilled with Rise of Iron, because the new Destination, the Plaguelands, is continuous with the Cosmodrome.
The new social space, Felwinter Peak, overlooks both the Cosmodrome and the Plaguelands, and the new content begins at the foot of the Wall – the same place where new Guardians wake up for the first time. Although some existing areas will be reprised (and will have changed, in some as yet mysterious way), the Plaguelands is an all new area to explore, as the Dreadnaught was in The Taken King. Guardians will be able to learn more about the Wall and explore around and even on top of it as they follow the story of the Iron Lords into the Plague Lands.
“Expanding the world is something we’ve always been really interested in doing. The canvas the team has laid down allows us to do that, allows us to branch out and explore these stories,” Osborne said.
And yes, it snows in this new Destination; that isn’t just for cutscenes and cinematics. Weather effects aren’t the only changes you’ll see, either.
“The fantasy for playing Destiny was that this world would grow and change over time, the boundaries would expand over time. We’re going to satisfy that urge in Rise of Iron.”
“The fantasy for playing Destiny was that this world would grow and change over time,” Bungie’s David “Deej” Dague said. “The boundaries would expand over time. We’re going to satisfy that urge in Rise of Iron.
“The passage of time is represented by the way the world tells its own story. The ground has been blanketed by snow, the Wall itself has been shattered. Players of Rise of Iron will see the world of Destiny through a different lens.”
The remixed starting areas act as a bridge between the familiar world of Destiny and the new one of Rise of Iron.
“The Plaguelands itself is very different landscape from Old Russia,” Dague added. “You’ll still feel like you’re in Old Russia, but it won’t be like revisiting territories you explored in your original adventures.
“There are different enemies. There are different types of public events. The landscape has been corrupted by and changed by SIVA.”
Never fear; all the original experiences will still be in place. You won’t start a new Guardian and rise up at the base of the wall to spot a bunch of end-game characters bouncing about on their way to the Plaguelands.
The addition of the Plaguelands gives Bungie a chance to revisit the Fallen, whose presence dominates early vanilla Destiny but have always been a sort of also-ran when it comes to end-game activities; they popped up in House of Wolves, of course, but lore-wise that was more about the Awoken, and The Fallen have never appeared in a raid.
This has always disappointed me, because they’re such a rad faction – their dependence on Ether, their delight in chopping limbs off, their disgust for the undead (that’s us, Guardians), their nomadic, scavenging existence trailing the Traveller.
With Rise of Iron, players “come full circle”, Dague said, heading back to where they first entered the world of Destiny and coming face to face with their first enemies to learn more about them.
“We introduce them to an old enemy who has become twisted and mutated, and are going to fight them in some surprising ways,” he said.
“We’re going to change the way they think about the Fallen and change the way they think about Old Russia. It really brings home the promise of Destiny, as a game that changes over time and reacts to their participation in that living social world.”
Destiny: Rise of Iron launches in September for PS4 and Xbox One.