Destiny: rise of Iron

Is Destiny’s snowy new ex­pan­sion filler, or killer?

XBox: The Official Magazine - - START - Nathan Brown

PUB­LISHER Ac­tivi­sion De­vel­oper Bungie For­mat Xbox One due 20 Septem­ber

You have to feel for Bungie – in so far as you can feel emo­tions to­wards a large com­pany. At some point ear­lier this year, stu­dio bosses faced an un­com­fort­able truth: Destiny 2 wasn’t go­ing to make it onto shelves in 2016. Those ex­ecs also knew they would soon be faced with an even less com­fort­able phone call – after all, Ac­tivi­sion don’t really do de­lays.

The pub­lisher have squeezed a Call of Duty onto store shelves in the first week of Novem­ber with­out fail ev­ery year since 2007, and they parp out li­censed shov­el­ware on time, re­gard­less of qual­ity (hello, Mu­tants in Man­hat­tan). Yet they proved oddly re­cep­tive to Bungie’s re­quest to leave Destiny 2 off this year’s cal­en­dar. But there was a catch. You need un­til next year? Sure! So, what are you giv­ing the fans this year in­stead?

Bungie’s an­swer was Rise of Iron. It is, un­avoid­ably, a stop­gap, a mid­dle ground be­tween DLC and full-on ex­pan­sion (big­ger than House of Wolves or The Dark Be­low; smaller than The Taken King). It is the lat­est show­case of the stu­dio’s re­mark­able flair for mak­ing you do much the same stuff you’ve al­ways done, in much the same lo­ca­tions, but mak­ing it feel just new enough to de­serve an­other cou­ple of hun­dred hours of your life. It is tremen­dously easy to be cyn­i­cal about Rise of Iron – we’re only too glad to be. Yet there is plenty here that is ex­cit­ing, in­trigu­ing, in­tel­li­gent and, yes, cer­tain to keep us on the IV drip for how­ever many months re­main un­til Destiny 2 makes its be­lated de­but.

So, to the Cos­mod­rome, the first place you laid eyes on in vanilla Destiny. It has now been ex­panded to en­com­pass new ar­eas, changed slightly in the places you know like the back of your hand and cov­ered in a thick car­pet of snow through­out – it al­ways felt a bit sunny for Rus­sia. We’re here for Fel­win­ter’s Peak, home to a mau­soleum built in trib­ute to the Lords of Iron, a group of pow­er­ful war­riors who, many years ago, buried a pow­er­ful relic deep be­neath the Cos­mod­rome to stop ne’er-do-wells get­ting their hands on it. The mis­sion did for all of the party bar Lord Sal­adin, who Destiny play­ers will know well. Host of the monthly Iron Ban­ner tour­na­ment, he used to spend his days sav­ing the world, but now kicks back in the Tower to of­fer up sweet fac­tion rep for heavy ammo kills.

Well, no longer. The Fallen have been dig­ging up the Cos­mod­rome, found the relic and used its power, Siva, to aug­ment them­selves. Now, part-Fallen and part-ma­chine, they call them­selves the Devil Splicers – and like the Taken, they look fa­mil­iar but fight in strange ways. And like the Taken, they’re the ba­sis for a cou­ple of re­designed Strikes, giv­ing Ac­tivi­sion’s PR li­cence to claim Rise of Iron has three new ones. At least the one truly new Strike, The Wretched Eye, in­tro­duces a new con­cept to Destiny: mul­ti­ple routes through a level, mak­ing re­peat playthroug­hs less of a chore.

“It’s easy to be cyn­i­cal but there’s plenty to keep us on the hook un­til Destiny 2 ar­rives”

An­other change is clear on the first mis­sion, where you fight through the Cos­mod­rome to re­claim Fel­win­ter’s Peak from the Fallen. Once com­plete, the area un­locks as your new so­cial space, home to NPCs for nat­ter­ing with, wolves for pet­ting and, down be­low, the mau­soleum. At the start, you’ll see the fires be­neath each of the eight stat­ues of Sal­adin’s fallen com­rades go out; once a week you’ll choose which to re­light. Each will re­quire you to com­plete a quest, and will re­ward you with a new arte­fact.

Pre­vi­ously a wasted gear slot, the arte­fact takes on a new di­men­sion in Rise of Iron, thanks to the Iron Lords. One grants per­ma­nent en­hanced radar – a god­send for PVP. An­other re­duces the sever­ity of dam­age-over­time ef­fects. Oth­ers let you block rocket launcher rounds and en­ergy blasts with a sword, re­move cooldown on sprint­ing or ran­domly turn en­e­mies into al­lies when you melee them. While the mar­ket­ing fo­cused on the re­turn­ing Gjal­larhorn and the new Iron Axe relic weapon, the arte­facts are the real game-changer here, adding a much-needed layer of flex­i­bil­ity to the way you build your load­out, which­ever part of Destiny you like to play.

In­evitably, not ev­ery­thing that’s new to Rise of Iron is so imag­i­na­tive. New Cru­cible mode Supremacy is just Call

“While on pa­per RoI doesn’t add a lot, the changes to the ‘qual­ity of life’ really mat­ter”

of Duty’s Kill Con­firmed, though rather than dog­tags you must pick up Crests dropped by dead en­e­mies for the kill to count to­wards the score. It’s a cu­ri­ous fit for a com­pet­i­tive game that was al­ways de­fined by the range you fight at, as you’ve got to be up close to pick up the Crest be­fore an en­emy does. So snip­ing, or even longer­range pri­mary weapons like pulse ri­fles, feel sub­op­ti­mal. Destiny’s noisy PVP com­mu­nity will, how­ever, be more than happy with the long-over­due sup­port for pri­vate cus­tom matches.

Happy fate

While on pa­per Rise of Iron does not add a sub­stan­tial amount to Destiny – five story mis­sions, a new Strike, a new raid, plus ex­tra weapons, ar­mour and arte­facts – hard­ened play­ers are more in­ter­ested in the ‘qual­ity-of-life’ changes Bungie are mak­ing. That term, which was born in the MMO era, is rather ironic (if qual­ity of life is what you really want, maybe go out­side), but it’s vi­tal to the long-term health of a game. It’s an ex­pres­sion of how stream­lined and ac­com­mo­dat­ing the process of play­ing and re­play­ing the game is; of liv­ing within it, if you will. There’s cer­tainly plenty of it here.

While the Light level cap rises from 335 to 385 in the base game, and 400 when the raid comes out, all Taken King gear can be in­fused to the new max. The new Skele­ton Key item of­fers a guar­an­teed route to a Strike­spe­cific weapon or ar­mour, some highly cov­eted and all pre­vi­ously only avail­able through miserly RNG. And the new Record Book sits per­ma­nently in the in­ven­tory and tracks your progress to guar­an­teed, pre-de­fined re­wards, in­clud­ing the Iron Lord ar­mour sets shown off in pre-re­lease mar­ket­ing.

Does it still sound like a stop­gap? Per­haps. Yet Rise of Iron has a sense of it­er­a­tion, of sub­tle but wel­come change. It may have been birthed to meet a con­trac­tual agree­ment, but it will ben­e­fit more than just Ac­tivi­sion’s Q4 bal­ance sheet. As Destiny grows, ex­pands and im­proves, so Bungie, mak­ers of Halo, learn more about per­sis­tent on­line worlds where play­ers spend thou­sands of hours. That has to be good for Destiny 2, when­ever it ar­rives. Hope­fully the stu­dio is also learn­ing how to ship games on time but, for now, just like Ac­tivi­sion, we’ll take what­ever we can get. OXM

be­low The fancy Iron Lord gear set un­locks af­ter you com­plete tasks in the new Record Book.

be­low The axe again. Ex­pect the re­turn­ing Gjal­larhorn RP G to be even more com­mon early on.

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