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Three Days Exploring Destiny: Rise Of Iron

by Matt Miller on Aug 10, 2016 at 09:00 AM

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We’ve been spending the month rolling out our blowout coverage on Destiny: Rise of Iron, including a look at one of the brand new exotic weapons, and an interview with the Bungie developers leading the project. Today, we wanted to step back and have an informal chat about some of the things we discovered, as well as discuss some additional details that just couldn’t fit into our 16-page cover story.

Matt: Ben, you and I had a chance to spend three full days wandering around through the new missions, characters, enemies, and battles of Destiny: Rise of Iron. How are you feeling about getting to dive in with your real character on September 20? 

Ben: I know that some people are actually tired of hearing us talk about Destiny, but I’m genuinely excited to get my hands on the official Rise of Iron release. Every time we do one of these trips, we end up playing a good portion of the game, so we have to replay it when it releases, but honestly that doesn’t bother me. When I got home from this trip I actually booted up the game so I could prepare for the new release. I feel like I should be sick of playing Destiny after two years, but I’m not. What about you? What was your biggest takeaway from our time with the game?  

Matt: I think Bungie has continued to make strides in making the content more replayable, and that’s something I took away from my time with Rise of Iron. Even though Rise or Iron isn’t as large in scope as The Taken King in several ways, I think they’ve really doubled down on the investment game, and they’re putting a lot of stuff in to keep players involved over the long term. I’m encouraged by their willingness to talk about plans several months in advance even past Rise of Iron, like the return of Festival of the Lost and Sparrow Racing League. It indicates a more cohesive plan, and a recognition that many of the game’s players are in for the long haul. 

But let’s dig down into some specifics. One of the first things we did in Rise of Iron, after those first couple of missions, was visit Felwinter Peak, which we had a video about earlier this week. Are you excited about the wolves?

Ben: Oh man, I loved the wolves. Mostly, I loved sitting down inside the wolves so that I looked like a wolfman. I know we really encouraged Bungie to add a pet the wolf option, but I don’t think they’re going to do that.  

Matt: One of the things we learned is that Bungie actually consulted with some wolf conservationists before putting the wolves into the game, and I think even got some of the sounds the wolves make directly from that group. But it was on the condition that Bungie try and represent the wolves in at least some authentic way; I think that’s why we can’t pet them. But they’re all over the place on that mountaintop. It’s a very “living with nature” kind of a place. Who knew Guardians were so eco-friendly? 

Ben: I will say that Felwinter Peak is a cool looking environment. I like the frosted mountaintop vibe, and it’s nice to have a new social space that’s different from what we’ve seen before. Plus there is a whole section of that area that we didn’t even get to see because it’s locked away for special events. What did you think of the new vendors on the Peak? 

Matt: We’ve talked about those new characters a bit, but there’s some other fun stuff about them. For instance, Lord Saladin has these new Iron Engrams for sale, which reward you with some of the older Year 1 and Year 2 armor pieces, which is an ideal option for people who are looking to flesh out their collections. Cayde’s buddy, Shiro-4, also has some cool stuff connected to him. He has bounties to undertake, like using the battle axe to kill enemies in the Plaguelands, or completing a Captain encounter in the Archon’s Forge. Shiro also has some class items for sale, which looked to me like some of the old Year 1 Iron Banner options, like the Hunter Mantle of Perun, the Titan Jolder’s Iron Sash, and the Warlock Felwinter’s Iron Bond. People will be happy for another shot at those, I think. 

We also got a glimpse of the new Radiant Treasures. Did you snag any of those? 

Ben: I didn’t mess with those much actually, but I saw you looking at them. I know they are a similar thing to the Sterling Treasures that were introduced in the April Update. Some of them looked pretty cool. Sounds like you'll be able to get them through either microtransactions or completing in-game missions, right? 

Matt: I think that’s the idea, though Bungie didn’t detail for me how you’d get them each week, or how many you can get from in-game play. I was able to acquire a few of them from the Eververse. I’m not entirely sure about everything that you can get from those Radiant Treasures, but I know that among other things you can get visual customization options for your exotic weapons. I’m not sure if just some or if all of the exotic weapons have those new ornaments, but I saw options for the Zhalo Supercell, Invective, Telesto, MIDA Multi-Tool, and the new Khvostov, and I’m assuming there’s more. 

I also saw that they’re introducing some new emotes through the Eververse, which is fun. And the Eververse has another cool little feature – new artifacts for your guardian that seem pretty clearly targeted to folks making in-game movies.  The one I saw – the Golden Age Lens – let you equip the artifact, and change the camera filter for your in-game view, and it added a sepia tint. I also saw one that added a blue tint. Bungie implied there are just a few colors, but it’s still pretty neat. They are definitely presented as a cosmetic choice – not something that would compete with the powerful Iron Lord artifacts.

Next Page: Discovering the Plaguelands and fighting in Archon's Forge

Ben: But enough about the social space, what did you think of the new PvE environment, the Plaguelands? At first, I was kind of disappointed to hear that it was just going to be an addition to Old Russia and not a completely new area or planet or something, but it makes sense to keep building off what they already have. Also, the Plaguelands area is pretty cool. I love how SIVA looks like organic red and black tendrils that have corrupted everything, and the new Archon’s Forge area (which is hidden in the Plaguelands) is also a fun little play space. 

Matt: I think it’s fair to say that players should keep their expectations in check about the visual variety. It’s absolutely an extension of Old Russia. Even so, the new snowy effects and SIVA presence really gives it a new flavor. There’s this area called Lord’s Watch that is this massive bluff that overlooks the whole zone, and you can see some of the places you’re going to visit. There’s this area where there’s a grounded tanker, and in one spot you can see the ship torn open, and Splicers are sniping at you from the raised decks of the beached ship.  I also liked the bunker area, which feels a lot like a World War II missile silo. There’s a massive foundry, which is a ball torn from one of the old Golden Age colony ships, and the Splicers are trying to retrofit it. Always, off in the distance, is that big flaming fortress, which is where you find Archon’s Forge. 

Thankfully, they’ve maintained the old Cosmodrome. New (or returning) players can still go and experience the Cosmodrome as it originally appeared. The new, snowy version of Old Russia only shows up when you choose to land in the Plaguelands patrol zone, or one of its missions.

Ben: Before we get ahead of ourselves, should we explain SIVA a bit more? From my understanding, it's kind of a nanotechnology-like substance that was developed during the Golden Age and has incredible power, but often corrupts what it touches. The Iron Lords fought to seal it away long ago, but now the Fallen have somehow gotten their hands on the stuff, and it’s juiced them up a bit, turning them into Splicers. 

Matt: At a couple of the points in the story, characters refer to SIVA as Ironsbane, which I love. It has this Pandora’s Box quality to it. It’s a self-organizing nanotechnology, like you said, but it needs a director. It can literally become anything; it helped enable the great expansion of humanity’s golden age. The story team told me that within the fiction, SIVA is actually this evolution of the matter encryption technology of engrams – but on a much vaster scale. As it turns out, putting it in the hands of these Fallen Splicers isn’t a great idea. 

I also like the idea of playing up Fallen Splicers as these space pirates – I think that’s why you find these hidden caches around the Plaguelands. It’s like pirate booty, and sometimes the chests are trapped with mines and other bad stuff. I also came across some new public events, like a fight against a Splicer Walker Tank, and some other ambient events, like one spot where I saw the Hive ambushing some of the Splicers. Because I’m a lore enthusiast, I’m excited about tracking down the new hidden fragments in the Plaguelands. Some of those are tied to the new Gjallarhorn questline, but it also ties back to your Rise of Iron Record Book completion.

Oh, and on that subject, the Gjallarhorn quest is pretty fun. I’m sure a lot of people will already have the weapon from pre-ordering, but it would be a shame to skip out on these new story missions connected to getting it. People should absolutely do the quest, regardless. Taking a cue from the subclass quests of The Taken King, a couple of the new Gjallarhorn missions go to established PvP zones – Bannerfall and Skyshock, I believe – and present new PvE fights, and also give a little more story and context around the weapon. There's also a pretty amazing opportunity to try out your new toy once you have it.

We breezed right past Archon’s Forge as we started talking SIVA and the Fallen. What did you think of your time playing in the new arena?

Ben: It’s fun. I always liked Court of Oryx and this feels a bit like that, but the play sessions are a little longer than those usually were. It also reminded me of Gears of War’s Horde mode, because you’re fending off waves of Fallen enemies that spawn out of these domes scatter across the Forge. I liked the look of the place, with all the molten metal. It’s also cool that other players can join you if they wish. There is also an interesting risk/reward element in that: If you die you get kicked back out to the entrance – which is locked – so it’s usually better to wait for your partner to revive you. Or just not die. Do you know the background on Archon’s Forge? Why is it there? 

Matt: One of the designers told me that there’s a story basis for Archon’s Forge. It plays off the Fallen hierarchy system. A Fallen foot soldier has to scavenge for a piece of SIVA technology to prove his worth to his House, and then he offers it up at the Archon’s Forge in order to earn the right to fight and improve his standing. So, in effect, when you find these SIVA pieces that trigger the start of a fight, you’re stomping all over the Fallen ascension rituals!

Ben: Some of those challenges got pretty hard too. We didn’t make it all the way to the boss, but Bungie did say that each Archon’s Forge challenge ends in a boss battle. However, if you don’t kill the enemies fast enough you can time out and not even make it to the boss. It seems like you need to be constantly dealing damage. Thankfully, if you manage to complete these challenges you can earn new Archon’s Forge specific armor and weapons, and they said it’s one of the ways to earn light-capped class items. 

Matt: I really like the contrast between the sleek futuristic armor that you get out of Archon’s Forge and the Raid, and the old-fashioned medieval and Viking aesthetic of the Iron Lord and Iron Banner armor. Oh, and for the record, Iron Lord and Iron Banner armor are two different sets – they’re similar, but the Iron Banner armor has a little bit more of a militaristic vibe. 

Next Page: Our time in the Crucible

Matt: I’m really stoked to see how people mix up their guardians’ appearances, by taking bits and pieces from various sets, especially since they’ll be able to bring along all the Year 2 armor they’ve been collecting in recent months. What do you think about the decision to allow players to continue to infuse Year 2 gear into Year 3?

Ben: That seems like the right call. I love how they’ve loosened up on the infusion system over the last year, and I like how it’s even easier to level up your gear now. I think it was smart for them to lock away some items before Year 2 started, but I’m glad they’re not doing that again this year. You’ll be able to take your favorite gear and take it up to the highest light level in this third year. This is great from a player's perspective, but do you think it will also discourage players from using the new gear? 

Matt: That is a danger. One of the reasons to make people start over is that you want players to try out all the new toys. With old stuff carrying over, Bungie is having to work extra hard to make sure that the new Year 3 stuff both looks and plays really well – well enough that people are willing to abandon older favorites. Based on my experience, at least some of those new guns are definitely in that camp. 

It also creates a challenge on a topic that has plagued Bungie for a long time within Destiny, which is vault space. A lot of players (myself included) like to hold on to the treasures they’ve earned by playing. It’s hard to hold down that delete button! With all this new stuff coming in, and Year 2 items coming along for the ride, people are going to have to make some hard choices. I asked the development leads for Rise of Iron, and they didn’t have any current plans to further expand vault space. That’s not to say it couldn’t ever happen, but they didn’t tell us about any new initiatives there. I think holding on to old rewards is going to continue to be an issue that both players and the game’s developer are going to have to confront on a regular basis. 

Ben: I know exactly how you feel, and I agree my character looks cooler than yours. 

We also got to play a good bit of Crucible. I’m not usually a PvP player, but I actually feel like I was holding my own in Supremacy. I think it helps that my kill count didn’t matter as much as whether or not I was picking up crests. Each player drops a crest when they are killed, and these crests are the only way your team earns points. Crests show up on radar, and on the HUD, so it leads to these charging skirmishes to snag them. Crests supposedly disappear after 60 seconds or so, but I never saw that happen. I feel like I was able to weasel into a killzone and pick up a few crests and then slide out of combat a few times, which really helped my team even though my kill count wasn’t very high. One time, I watched an opponent nail two of my teammates, but I was able to snatch their crests and deny him the points, before killing him and grabbing his crest.

Matt: There’s actually this funny little story tidbit about crests that I enjoy. The idea is that every Guardian has a heraldic crest tied to his class – sort of like a special order of knights. That’s why, in Supremacy, they look different depending on whether you’re a Hunter, Warlock, or Titan. You bear your crest into battle as a matter of honor. So, in effect, the idea behind Supremacy is maintaining your honor, and stealing the honor of your opponent. 

Ben: Speaking of PvP, we should probably talk about Trials of Osiris. Did you talk to them about whether or not they’re going to change up that popular weekly mode? 

Matt: I did ask, but they really didn’t tell us too much about changes to Trials. If it is going through a redesign, we didn’t learn about it. But we did see some of that new armor, which personally I really, really like. And, man! Those ornaments to adjust your Trials armor are going to be hard to come by. I guess they’re going to be rewards for going flawless. That’s going to be a challenge! By the way, that same mastery sentiment guides the Raid ornaments – Bungie suggested that those may come from Challenge Mode chests in Wrath of the Machine. 

Regardless of how you customize your armor, the PvP team also told us that we can expect all new Trials weapons, which will be a fun thing to pursue.

In addition, Bungie reassured me that Trials is coming back shortly after Rise of Iron’s launch. I don’t think hardcore PvP players are going to have to wait weeks and weeks before they can dive back in to that high-intensity competition.

Those days before Trials comes back should give me a chance to get my gear up to snuff, so maybe I at least have a chance to win a few Trials rounds. For a lot of players, that’s going to mean diving into the strike playlists to gain equipment and light. Did you like the new strike we played? 

Ben: Smooth transition. I liked the new strike. It’s called Wretched Eye, and it’s basically a journey through a series of old silos as you work your way to confront a group of SIVA-infected splicers. I’m sure regular Destiny players will really appreciate the fact there are some random elements to it; each time you play there might be a different pathway through those silos.  

The other cool thing about Strikes that I think people will really dig is the new skeleton key system. Each time you complete a Nightfall or play in a strike playlist you have the chance to receive a skeleton key; they won’t drop in individually selected strikes. You can carry up to five of these skeleton keys, and you can use them to open chests at the end of any strike – a strike hoard. This is pretty useful, because now if you want a specific piece of gear that only drops on a certain strike you don’t have to keep playing that strike until it randomly drops. Instead, you can do playlists until you get a skeleton key and then go use that key on the strike you want the gear from. Seems like this system will make it easier to grab the gear you want. 

Matt: Absolutely. Chasing after those strike unique weapon and armor pieces should be way more manageable.

Next Page: How are rewards tracked in Rise of Iron's new record book?

Matt: Before we finish up, I also wanted to call out how much I like the new record book system, if only for the way it continues to provide clear communication to players about activities they can engage in to make progress. Bungie made strides in this area with the quest system they introduced in The Taken King. This is the next logical step, and it lives comfortably beside that solid quest system as a way to track progress. 

One of its features that is especially cool, for us multi-guardian players, is that it tracks your progress by account, not by character. So, if you do the raid on your warlock, but you knock out some Archon’s Forge achievements on your Titan, your overall percentage completion continues to move forward. When you hit a certain reward threshold, you get one of those rewards for each class. So, for instance, if you hit the threshold for the Iron Lord helmet, you would get a single Hunter, Warlock, and Titan helmet. If you play three Guardians of the same class, they’ll have to share. 

So, overall, is there any particular aspect of Rise of Iron that has you especially excited?

Ben: It’s strange, because I don’t know that I can point to one thing and say, “I’m excited for this.” Rise of Iron isn’t entirely as meaty as Taken King, but that’s fine. Mostly, I’m excited for new content and new light levels and weapons to chase (such as the Khvostov). If I had to pick one reason I’m most excited to jump back in however, it would probably be Archon’s Forge. That seems like a really fun play space, and readers should look forward to a video we have planned for that area coming out later in the month. What about you?

Matt: I’m unabashedly an enthusiast for playing dress-up with my guardians. I love trying out new armor and weapons, both for the way they change the feel of gameplay, but also for the aesthetic options. While Rise of Iron might be smaller than The Taken King, I think the customization options for my guardian are going to be more expansive than ever before. I’m really eager to start tracking down all the new gear and trying those items out. It was awesome to get to play through so much content at Bungie, and Bungie even temporarily imported our guardians so we could play with our familiar loadouts, but there’s something special about playing with your own guardian that you know you’re going to get to keep. I’ve got a Warlock, a Titan, and a Hunter who are hungry for some new duds. 

I’m also enthusiastic about playing with the new artifacts. We talked with some of the devs about fun combos they’ve been experimenting with. For example, the Memory of Radegast lets you reflect energy weapon attacks back at your attacker using your sword, but it expends ammo. However, if you’re a Titan with Ruin Wings to get more heavy ammo, that might be especially viable. Or imagine using the Memory of Skorri artifact, which helps recharge ally supers, but combining it with a Warlock Sunsinger’s Song of Flame; you’ll be a super-generating machine! It’s that kind of experimentation that really appeals to me as a player who has already spent the last two years with the game. But I’m also eager to see what options new players gravitate toward; beginning players are going to have more ways to play Destiny than ever before – certainly more than I did when I started in 2014. 

Thanks for reading, everybody. We want to hear what aspect of Rise of Iron you’re most excited to check out. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

And don’t miss out on the rest of our Destiny: Rise of Iron coverage. We’re continuing to roll out info throughout the month.