Destiny: Rise of Iron Impressions – Hands-On With the First Mission and New Strikes

There’s just over a week until the latest addition to Destiny releases, kicking off the third year of Bungie’s massive universe. We had a chance to go hands-on with a large portion of Rise of Iron last week, and while our full review will go live once we have had more time with the endgame in the wild (and of course once we finish the Raid), we’ll be bringing you our impressions of the story, PvP, and new content throughout this week. 

With a universe full of stories to choose from, each Destiny expansion has chosen to focus on certain characters and ideas while introducing new ones, all with the intended result of bringing a stronger plotline to the actual game, as opposed to hidden away within the vast grimoire that holds Destiny’s lore. It seems like we’re going to be waiting for the inevitable sequel before we get any more clear answers on the Stranger, the Traveler, and the growing threat in general, but what Rise of Iron does give players is a more full backstory on the Iron Lords — the original guardians — and their struggles against the growing SIVA threat. 

The Iron Banner is a Crucible event familiar to players as far back as the Destiny beta, but it is finally now that we get to really know the mysterious Lord Saladin, the man beneath the gold and silver helmet, and the loss that he has suffered at the hands of something that we as guardians have yet to face. In the opening mission, Saladin has abandoned his post and tasks us with helping him to reclaim the observatory at the top of Felwinter Peak. Taking back the Iron Temple opens the game’s new social space, but we’ll save that discovery for another day. First we had to get climbing. 

To the Top of the Mountain

Well, a gondola ride actually preceded the climb, an interesting mechanic that briefly put me on rails in a small metal box, attempting to hit enemies as the cable car slowly took me up the mountain. It’s a interesting set piece that made me feel vulnerable in a unique way, but the caged vulnerability was short lived. Soon Ghost and I were trudging through the new snowy landscape (the detailed weather effects courtesy of dropping last generation consoles for this release), attempting to make out Fallen Dregs and Vandals through a white fog. All the while Saladin is urgently pressing us to the top, saying that the Fallen cannot get their hands on what is there. 

In a way, this first mission tries and succeeds in putting players in a different state of mind for this Destiny release. It all feels very Destiny, yet it takes the story to a personal place. We’re not digging through military complexes, or space stations, or anything else futuristic. We’re climbing a snowy mountain, riding a rusty gondola, and making our way to an old temple. This isn’t about some Hive god coming in to bring terror to the solar system. This isn’t about retaking futuristic space tech. This is one man’s struggle against a past he thought was long buried — though it quickly becomes our struggle as well. It feels grounded, yet grandiose all at the same time. It’s about something right here on Earth, a problem we must confront before heading back to the larger war. 

Destiny rise of iron first mission

At the top of the mountain we come face to face with an old friend, again something that players of the alpha and beta are very familiar with. Sepiks Prime, rebuilt with the unearthed SIVA and now called Sepiks Perfected. Of course we don’t end the Servitor here. He escapes for the inevitable moment that we go through the old Devil’s Lair, now filled with SIVA, and put him down for good. It feels obvious then in these initial moments that Rise of Iron is about bringing players back to where they started, reminding them of their beginnings, not just as guardians, but also as players of Destiny. It’s about reaffirming that core foundation before moving forward. A little nostalgia trip for the sake of world building. 

The One About the Strikes

About a month ago I played Rise of Iron’s new strike, “The Wretched Eye,”and wrote up all of my thoughts which you can read here. Though I liked the new strike, I wondered if the two remixed strikes would be enough to round out the mixture of content already available, assuming that they would be largely the same, much as the Taken-infested strikes presented in The Taken King were. Instead, The Devil’s Lair strike fits well into the SIVA story, instead of just being a remix of the same idea with new enemies to face. It’s also been a very long time since many have played this strike, me included, as it is currently left out of the endgame playlists, so it was a sense of newness and nostalgia all at the same time, including the new mechanic required to take down the reanimated version of Destiny’s very first boss battle. 

I didn’t have any time to play The Summoning Pits, but some fellow players assured me that there were some surprises in that one too, in a successful attempt at bringing a fresh zing to the nostalgic flavor. Altogether its a fun new bit of content, but the real question is how this will hold up long term. Players of Destiny are used to consuming the content in repeated iterations, so these strikes have to hold up under the scrutiny of multiple playthroughs. My initial impressions tell me these will be some popular ones that players will have no problem getting back to, especially as they gather new weapons and level up with more of the content Rise of Iron will be bringing.

That’s all you’ll hear from me before release about the story though. My final review of the game will have more,  but I’m holding the rest of what Rise of Iron has to offer in the narrative department close to my chest, so that those eager day one players can experience it firsthand without too many things to color their own opinions. Tomorrow you can expect some thoughts on two of the new PvP maps, and Wednesday we’ll be bringing you our own tour of the Plaguelands, Felwinter Peak, and the Archon Forge. 

Destiny Rise of Iron was played at a preview event in the Bungie studios. Travel was accommodated by Activision for this event.