E3 2016 – The Games I’m Most Excited About

E3 LogoEvery one always likes to pick out one or two games from E3 that they call the “game of the show.” If you’re lucky enough to be at the show in person, that involves actually playing the games. For those of us watching from afar, it’s more about the feelings the games give us. Last year it was an easy pick for me – it was always going to be Fallout 4. This year didn’t have that singular game that immediately got me ready to play that minute. Instead, there were a handful that got me very much interested. Today, I’ll talk about them quickly.

 

Dishonored 2

First up, Dishonored 2 – I was super happy to see it announced last year, and now that we’ve seen even more of the game, I’m absolutely on board. The first game was my favorite game in 2012, so I’ve been waiting for the sequel for a while. Everything that we’ve seen is exactly what I’ve been hoping for – it’s the best example of what a sequel is supposed to do. It’s taking all of the best from the original, and making it better, while still adding in new content to round it all out. Playing as Emily, with her whole set of new and different powers opens up the possibilities even more. The first game did stealth in such a great way that it really helped revive that style of stealth game – you can see the influence in the Thief reboot. It’s got wonderful ambient storytelling that evolves as you go along, depending on how you complete the missions. All of which I expect to show up in the sequel again.

On a similar level to me is Titanfall 2. Totally different tone and goal from Dishonored obviously. But I see some definite similarities – it’s doing exactly what sequels are supposed to do, learn from the mistakes of the first game, and refine what worked. Adding in an actual story campaign is a big first step, and from what we saw at E3, it looks pretty damn fun. And being perfectly honest, they could put the exact same multiplayer back in, just with some new maps and I would be happy. It was such a fun, unique FPS multiplayer – especially factoring the Titans – that just playing that again would be fine. But Respawn isn’t resting on their laurels and they’ve updated the whole thing. New weapons, new Pilot abilities, new Titan models and gear – all exactly what you want from a sequel. Knowing that there are plenty of modes to play – including at least one without A.I. gets me thinking that Respawn may be starting to think about competitive play. Of the FPS games coming this fall, I think this one may end up being my favorite.

We Happy Few Logo

The last two games that really jumped out to me both were shown at the Microsoft event. So far, the two games I mentioned are sequels – established IPs getting a true next evolution. Microsoft had two brand new IPs that really pulled me in though – We Happy Few and Sea of ThievesWe Happy Few, which looks like it’s taking a lot from BioShock in terms of mechanics, looks like it might be that story based FPS style game for this year. The setting and premise is pretty unique within games – there really isn’t anything quite like it, at least that I’m aware of. The potential for some disturbing and dark story content is wide open – I’m really interested in seeing where this game goes. I also love that it uses color in such a smart way – lots and lots of games these days have such a washed out palette that it’s always refreshing to see bright colors; and since it looks like this is going to be a pretty dark game, that kind of juxtaposition is smart. That use of color is another reason why I’m looking forward to Sea of Thieves – it looks so bright and different from most multiplayer games out there. The setting, again much like We Happy Few, is one that we don’t see in modern games. We used to have a good handful of pirate games, but aside from Assassin’s Creed IV, I can’t think of a recent, high profile pirate game. What I think really makes this one special is that it looks like it’s got a huge focus on group play – making a full pirate crew of your friends and sailing the seas sounds like so much fun. Of all the games I think I saw this year, this is, aside from perhaps Call of Duty/Battlefield 1, the one that I am the least interested in a single player/story mode. I just want a free open world to run around in with my friends – give me that, and I’ll be happy.

E3 2016 – My Biggest Takeaways

E3 LogoE3 is always my favorite week in gaming – at least that doesn’t have a slew of new releases. It’s a full week where the industry can come together and show off just how big our industry has become. Excitement runs high, hyperbolic words flow freely, and trailers show us games in all different states of development. It’s not all sunshine and roses – I saw a couple really disturbing reports about sketchy and dangerous behavior at private events, which just highlights that even in an industry built around games, we have some darkness still to overcome. But overall, I think E3 is all about setting the tone for the coming year. A couple years back, it was a running joke that every game had a bow and arrow, but that’s not entirely off the mark – E3 is where we see the industry as a whole in one spot. It’s easier to spot trends that reach across platform and genre there.

Dishonored 2

If I had to pick one trend this year, I think it’s probably going to be beards. There were easily eight or so games that prominently featured a main character (player or not) sporting some notable facial hair. That might seem like a silly thing to point to, but I think it speaks to a deeper underlying theme. Traditionally in entertainment, we use facial hair (especially full beards) to denote wisdom, grit, determination, toughness and resolution. In gaming that can be seen translating to darker, more nuanced stories – even in games we might not expect it in. We saw the surprise return of Marcus Fenix with his gray bear in the Gears of War 4 footage – a wizened, older veteran imparting his knowledge to his son’s team. Kratos has a big beard in God of War 4 – notably bigger than any beard he had before – again, a father figure teaching his son; both games are set in dark, almost hopeless worlds. If all of this beard talk does end up pointing to darker stories, we’re going to need games like Trials of the Blood Dragon and even Mass Effect to balance it out. Gaming needs wackiness, it needs humor and love and actual human emotions to balance all of the typical conflict and angst we see. That’s what’s always drawn me to the BioWare games – yes, the worlds are embroiled in conflict – usually cataclysmic  – but the characters that live in those worlds have real emotions – there’s humor, there’s joy, there’s love. The same works for Bethesda’s RPGs – sure there are dragons all over Skyrim, but you can balance that out by getting married, hunting game or forging arms and armor.

The other big takeaway I had was that this fall all of a sudden got really crowded, but in a different way than usual. Generally speaking, the busiest release window is late October, early November. We’ll often see multiple games coming out on the same day. I’ve noticed more and more over the last couple years that developers have been spreading out the releases. This year, that’s absolutely the case – Rise of Iron for Destiny launches on September 20, Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2 are all in October, Call of Duty, and Dishonored 2 are still set for November – and that’s just off the top of my head/games that I am already planning on playing. I know there are more in there, across all three months. It’s happening more and more – every year I think, “Boy, this fall only has a couple heavy hitters, I can branch out a bit,” then E3 hits and it’s suddenly full of AAA titles. That’s not even talking at all about the new trend of a swath of games in the Spring either. Gaming has definitely evolved to a year-round, massive entertainment medium. It’s here to stay, and if it keeps evolving as it has technology-wise, there’s really no ceiling. It’s a lovely time to play.

Destiny June Update (Patch 2.3) Thoughts

DestinyMaybe a little lost in the E3/Rise of Iron hype was the news that Destiny was getting the next big update this week. It went live on Tuesday, and has been one of, if not the, rockiest patch in ages. Weird new bugs have been popping up, and the actual content of the patch has had players talking all week about the changes to the live game. I wouldn’t be a dedicated Destiny player if I didn’t have my own thoughts about it, and that’s what we’ll hit today.

Let’s start with the bugs that we’ve been seeing pop up this week. There’s been a couple rough ones – especially one that has been killing PvP player. One bug that seems to be impacting a bunch of different aspects of the game has to do with the game not properly downloading your character info, and as a result you are unable to launch any activity. It looks like this one also might be why some players are seeing invisible players across the universe instead of actual player characters. There is a fix in place for that one already, but the PvP bug – which has been limiting players to only dealing 1 or 2 damage per shot, regardless of weapon – still lingers. I know Bungie is working on it, and will hopefully get a fix up today so Trials doesn’t get suspended. I may not play Trials, but it’s a huge part of the Crucible’s lifeblood. This is a relatively rare sight with Destiny – usually the patches that go live don’t really introduce major issues like this. I wonder how much of this is because of the timing with E3.

Destiny Hunter

In terms of the actual patch content though, this was the Hunter patch we all knew was coming. Titans got their balance pass back in December, Warlocks with the April update and now Hunters are coming under the microscope. As a player who mains a Titan, it’s nice to see all of the Hunters complaining about balance changes. Welcome back to the pack. Now, there are a couple changes that maybe I think are overdone – mainly with the Throwing Knife damage and Tripmine sticking change – but overall a lot of the elements that made Hunters overly powerful came back a bit. Blink jump finally got the adjustment that it needed, Blink Strike should hopefully not be one-shotting from the front anymore, Shadestep won’t be as powerful, but still a good option for escaping danger, and Gunslingers and Bladedancers won’t feel like detriments in PvE play anymore. Regardless of whether or not you think Hunters needed the changes, the core design philosophy is still the same – give players more options, and make more options within the subclasses viable.

I still think Hunters are going to be just fine in PvP, with two roaming super abilities – both of which got damage upgrades and Arc Blade in particular got a solid adjustment – mean that they’re able to swing teamfights in a split second. Some of those tried-and-true tactics that have worked since launch will need to be reworked though. The biggest shift probably is the Tripmine behavior – it’s more about area denial now, and using them to set up traps. Still powerful, but not the one-hit that it used to be; although I still think they’re the best option for Gunslingers in the Crucible. It’s the PvE side where I think you could see the biggest changes – Nightstalkers have dominated the PvE landscape since Taken King launched. Bungie wants to try and get Gunslingers and Bladedancers out there more, and this patch certainly makes that seem more likely. They do a really clever thing this week too to try and get them out there – the Nightfall strike this week has solar burn on, while Heroic strikes feature arc burn. Combined with the damage boosts, Golden Gun and Arc Blade this week have been destroying the strike bosses – and apparently the loot has been flowing a bit more so than before. I think it’s all part of Bungie getting the base game into a really solid spot for the September launch of Rise of Iron.

E3 2016 – Microsoft Press Conference Thoughts

E3 LogoAs they’ve done the last couple years, Microsoft opened up the week proper on Monday with their press conference at E3. They’ve done a really good job of rebounding after the tepid response to the initial Xbox One launch and marketing, mainly by focusing a lot more on games during these big showcases. This year though, they took a bit of a chance by also talking hardware – which has worked against them in the past. I think ultimately it was a really solid show though – the new games they showed off hit all the major points, big exclusives, some good third party support, and a variety of genres and tones to play. Let’s talk a couple high points.

Before we get to the games, let’s get the more “boring” stuff out of the way. The hardware talk this year was a good mix of platform upgrades for Xbox Live and cross-network play, as well as actual hardware like the new custom controller shop and upgraded consoles. It’s easy to look at some of these announcements and not necessarily be excited, perhaps because of all the flash around the games this week; but I really think that some of what Microsoft is working on is a legitimate game changer. The new Play Anywhere idea in particular is a really cool idea – buy a game once on Xbox One, and you can play it on Windows 10 PC at no extra cause. Progress and achievements all carry over thanks to the Microsoft Cloud. With all of the big exclusives that Microsoft talked about Monday all being part of the program, I definitely see Play Anywhere the first step in gaming trying to really break down those platform/console walls. The Xbox Live upgrades are all welcome ones – I like the addition of clubs, it lets existing communities begin to group up and play together easier; I wonder how much of that is in response to PlayStation doing the same thing a couple months back. The addition of LFG right into the basic Xbox Live service is another really cool idea – no more random matching, you want a group to play the raid in Destiny, you put it up and go. The last addition – Arena – is a little trickier to me. I like seeing competitive gaming becoming easier to get into, and the more options there are to play in tournaments, even as an amateur is a really cool idea. I just wonder how smooth the implementation will go. The most exciting hardware news though is the Xbox One S and Project Scorpio, the two new versions of the Xbox One that Microsoft is releasing. Xbox One S should be a good way to try and get new players moving to the console – HDR gaming, 4K video and up to a 2TB internal hard drive is a great combo. Add in it’s a smaller footprint, and it’s a solid all around console. I don’t think that current Xbox One owners need to upgrade – not yet. But it’s a good way to get new people on board. Project Scorpio on the other hand does look like it could be a good upgrade point. All we really know is some specs for it – 6 terraflops of computing power, true 4K display and support for VR tech all sound like a pretty sizable upgrade. Pricing will be a big question – especially since you’ll pretty much need a 4K TV to really see the difference. But it’s still a year out – TV prices can change a lot in that time – and everything will be compatible, across Xbox One, Xbox One S and Scorpio. It really feels like Microsoft is trying to go from being one console, to a full console family. It’s a risky move for sure, especially knowing that PlayStation also has an upgraded PS4 coming.

Sea of Thieves

All of that is great, but what we really watch E3 for is the games. Microsoft has certainly lost a bit of third party support in the last couple years – Destiny and Call of Duty both are PlayStation first titles. But Microsoft has been, to me at least, showing a really good focus on trying out new IPs from their exclusive developers. We saw four games that are part of franchises – Gears of War 4, Forza Horizon 3, State of Decay 2 and Halo Wars 2. Every other exclusive was a new IP – including some games that I could easily see being heavy hitters. Of those sequels, I think Forza is the one that I’m most interested in – I never really got deep into Gears, I never played State of Decay and I’m not a big fan of RTS games. Forza Horizon 3 though looks gorgeous, as Forza games always do, and having four player, cross platform co-op play is really cool. I like the setting of Australia – it’s different from just about any Forza yet. The new car classes also look to help break up the gameplay.

We Happy Few Logo

For me, the most exciting games I saw, exclusive-wise, were new ones. First, we saw We Happy Few, from the team behind BioShock. It looks dark, it looks heady, it looks frightening, but overall it looks incredible. It’s going to be in the Game Preview program starting July 26, so the wait isn’t long. The other game that really got me pumped up was Sea of Thieves – I was interested last year when Rare announced it, but seeing it in action solidified it. Persistent online world, with a huge emphasis on co-op group play, and you get to be a whole pirate crew? Count me in. I love how colorful it looks too – a lot of big name games are always so washed out and trying to be dramatic. Sea of Thieves though uses the bright color palette to make the whole world feel a lot more alive. Microsoft also has the ID@Xbox program, which is where We Happy Few comes from, as well as Inside, the new game from the creators of Limbo, which looks incredible as well. And of course Cuphead is on the way from that same program as well.

Third party games also got shown during the conference, and it was a pretty good mix I thought. Final Fantasy XV got a demo of a massive fight against Titan – that honestly was underwhelming. I think it was just because the actual fighting shown was sloppy, but I came away unimpressed. Battlefield 1 showed the same gameplay trailer as the day before, as well as announcing that EA Access members on Xbox One can play the game a week early on October 13. While Minecraft isn’t technically a third party game, I still think of it as one – and I really like the move they’re going with. They’re adding in cross-network play, right now focused on the mobile versions with PC, but console support is coming. That’s the one real feature that I think Minecraft really is tailor-made for. Tekken 7 was shown, with Akuma appearing, and it looked solid. Nothing crazy for a Tekken game. Scalebound, the new game from Platinum games got a co-op gameplay demo, and it continues to be a game that confuses me. The idea behind it is awesome – hack and slash Platinum goodness, with a giant dragon as back-up. But the tone of the game just keep catching me off guard – it’s got a lot of levity and almost some degree of self-awareness about it. I wonder how much of that is the Japanese influence in the development, but it’s not something that I think would keep me from buying it. I think the big surprise came from Capcom though, with a really slick trailer for Dead Rising 4. It looks a lot like a return to what got the franchise started – Frank West, and a mall full of zombies.

I know that a lot of media has been down on the Microsoft show – especially after the Sony show, which I missed. And maybe it’s because I’m primarily an Xbox guy first these days, but I don’t know how you come away from that show and not go, “Microsoft has some really cool stuff coming in the next year or so.” Maybe it’s because they took time to show hardware, which is always kind of boring to hear at big events. Maybe it’s because PlayStation 4 has just been doing everything right over the last few years, while Xbox One has had a couple hiccups along the way. Whatever the reason, I think it’s another bit of that kind of negativity and pessimism that surrounds gaming in general lately. Was Microsoft’s show flawless? Not at all. But I came away from it excited to be an Xbox One owner, and ready to see what the next year brings.

E3 2016: EA and Bethesda Press Events

E3 LogoIt’s that time of the year again, E3 is upon us. Yesterday things got underway with two press events, one from EA in the afternoon and the other from Bethesda. This is always my favorite week of the year, there’s so much excitement and positive energy in gaming to talk about. And today, we’ll look at yesterday’s two pressers.

EA kicked the week off yesterday afternoon, and it was certainly an EA conference. The event itself was very stiff and felt really corporate, although I think the second site in London had a little better energy thanks to Peter Moore being on stage there. But I don’t really watch these events for the stage banter and presence – it’s always more about the games to me. EA was in a weird position to me this year – we already knew their big hitters going in, so it was more about if they had any surprises up their sleeves. Turns out, no not really. But they started with Titanfall 2, which looks to be a major step forward from the original. A true single player campaign that looks like it’s putting a lot of emphasis on the relationship between your character and your Titan. Some of the set pieces that they showed got me really excited to play – in particular the one where your Titan flings you across a massive gap into a wallrun. The multiplayer as well got its own trailer, showing off a bunch of new abilities for both pilots and Titans and it really made me want to get back into form. The original three Titans are being replaced with six new models, combining new and old abilities. It still looks like the scale the first game had is there, and the speed is still faster than most other shooters today. Really, really excited to play Titanfall 2 when it launches October 28, on XBox One, PS4 and PC.

As always, EA likes to show off their sports titles, especially FIFA. Last year’s show had Pele on stage, this year, they went a little quicker with the presentation. Madden NFL 17 was talked about briefly, with the bigger focus on the competitive scene. This year’s Madden NFL 16 finals will be shown on ESPN 2 of all places. They also showed plans to have multiple levels of competitive play online with Challenges, Premier matches and EA Majors. It’s a way for anyone to start getting into competitive gaming. Sticking with the EA Sports titles, they of course talked about FIFA 17. Along with a number of other EA titles, FIFA 17 is moving to the Frostbite engine, meaning it’s going to look better than ever. They’ve also put a new focus on telling a story with “The Journey” mode, telling your tale as you progress in the Premiere League. The other big focus – and part where they brought out the guest this year – was the addition of managers on the sidelines of the pitch.  In terms of actual gameplay changes though, expect better set pieces, better physical play, better off-ball AI and more ways to finish your shots on goal. It’s the usual EA Sports motto – keep refining the mechanics to make it the truest soccer game out there.

Stepping back in the show flow, one of the biggest games I was hoping to see more of was Mass Effect: Andromeda. So when the mentioned BioWare, I got excited. We still didn’t really see any gameplay, although we did learn a few new things. It’s going to be set outside of the Milky Way galaxy – that means totally new planets, species, technology, and perhaps most importantly, we are going to be the outsiders in the Andromeda galaxy. It’s going to use the Frostbite engine – no surprise there, it’s a massive upgrade in visuals from Mass Effect 3. Beyond that, we didn’t learn a ton – the footage showed an Alliance ship called the Tempest, which I think will end up being the new Normandy; and we know that the MAKO vehicle is returning, with the driving being worked on by Need for Speed developers. The new facial models look awesome, with a definite focus on emotion; I definitely want to see more, and we apparently will learn more this fall.

EA also showed their new EA Originals brand – it’s their take on indie development. Last year they showed off Unraveled. This year, it’s Fe. A game from a small team in Sweden, focused around exploring a young cub’s relationship with the forest it lives in. It has a real cool visual flair, using sounds and song to communicate with the other animals, and certainly seems to have a bit of an environmental message behind it. EA isn’t usually a publisher that I associate with strong indie development, but I was pretty happy with what I saw with Fe.

Battlefield 1

Of course, as soon as the mood was quieter, EA went loud, closing the show with Star Wars and Battlefield 1. Let’s start with Star Wars. EA said that there are seven developers working on different Star Wars games. We know that next year we’ll get a new Battlefront game, and from the video package, it looks like we might get some VR elements.The next year, Visceral will put out an action/adventure game. Beyond that, there’s a Respawn developed, 3rd person action game. The highlight here was a video package showing all of the work off, that really was a cool package. Of course, EA was always going to focus a lot on Battlefield 1. We got a new trailer, showing gameplay(?) that I still don’t quite believe is actual gameplay. II buy that it’s in-engine, but until I see clearly gameplay, I’m still a little skeptical it looks that good.That said, what they showed looked incredible – I couldn’t help but get lots of flashbacks to playing Battlefield 1942. I’ve thought that over the last few Battlefield games, the real visceral feel of the combat has been lost – that definitely looks like it’s back in this new game. I also really like the idea of the behemoths – huge vehicles that drive the combat. There are three that EA mentioned yesterday – the zeppelin, an armored train and a battleship, covering each of the areas of combat in a Battlefield game. With an open beta coming this summer, hopefully I’ll be able to get some hands on time in.

Quake Champions

A few hours later, Bethesda had their own show starting up. Last year, Bethesda kicked off the week, with a killer show – bit of a lofty expectation to set. I think though that they managed to nail it this year. From the opening game, I was hooked. That’s because the opening game was the return of Quake – and it’s exactly how Quake should be, a competitive arena FPS. Quake Champions looks like it could be the logical step from what DOOM was last month – taking the foundation of the old-school and finding ways to take modern aspects and put them in. In this case, it’s the idea of individual characters with abilities. I’m a little cautious about it, because Quake is such a near and dear to my heart kind of game, but I’m really happy to see it back.

Next up was another look at Elder Scrolls: Legends, the mobile game coming soon. I can’t help but describe it as Hearthstone, Elder Scrolls Edition. It’s the same basic idea – strategy and deck building, with a variety of modes to play through. That wasn’t the only Elder Scrolls news though – we got the confirmation of a Skyrim remaster coming this October which looks gorgeous and brings mods to console, and a couple new bits of info for Elder Scrolls Online, the big one being that they are going to put globalized level scaling in place soon. Essentially that means that as soon as you’ve finished the tutorial, you can go anywhere in the world and do anything – the game will scale and level based around you and your group.

The other big Bethesda RPG series – Fallout also got some attention. Fallout 4 had its next three DLC packs outlined – one next week based around contraptions for shelters, one in July that lets you build your own Vault and the final in August set in a theme park called Nuka World. It’s just more of the Commonwealth, which is never a bad thing. Fallout Shelter is also seeing a new update, as well as a PC launch.

Dishonored 2

Bethesda also has a couple other IPs to be excited about. They finally announced the return of Prey, a game that has been a bit of an open secret over the last few years. I played the first game way back in the day, and really just thought it was a run of the mill FPS – what I saw last night was totally different and looked incredible. It’s got a much darker tone, more grounded in realism and perhaps showing some of the dangers of scientific experimentation. I thought it was curious that, although it’s the second Prey game, it didn’t have any branding as a sequel. It’s from Arkane studios, and I am very much intrigued by what I saw. The other IP is one that I’ve been a fan of since day one – Dishonored. Much like Adam Sessler said last night, it was my favorite game of 2012, and ever since the sequel was announced last year, I have been waiting for more. Boy did we get it last night – a new trailer along with two samples of gameplay. The new setting Karnaka looks gorgeous and does have a different feel from Dunwall. The new visuals look incredible, and the new engine they built for lighting and particles make the world feel a lot more alive. The gameplay immediately made me think of the original, just with even more options – especially when you take into account the two different characters have different powers. I am very much excited for November 11 when it launches.

One last thing from the Bethesda show that I was super impressed with – Bethesda announced that they are working on VR games. In fact, they have two games set for the HTC Vive platform to come out next year – the new DOOM that came out last month, and the big one – Fallout 4. As VR becomes more and more a reality, and the platform gets better at not only accessibility but the visuals as well, games like Fallout are the kind that were built for VR. I might not have a Vive, or even next year when it comes out for the platform, but the potential moving forward is incredibly exciting. Imagine the next Elder Scrolls game, combined with VR and the newer, more powerful consoles that we’re seeing this week. It’s these kind of announcements that really get me pumped to play games.

Yesterday really set the tone – new games, returning favorites and those lovely surprises that we all talk about for weeks to come. E3 is always fun to watch, and even more fun to think about where we’re going.

Destiny Rise of Iron – The Hype is Rising Too

Bungie wrapped up their reveal stream for the upcoming expansion for Destiny titled Rise of Iron, and holy crap am I hyped for this expansion. We got a date: September 20, 2016. We learned a the price point: $30, which is awesome since it’s $10 cheaper than Taken King. I think overall I’m more excited for Rise of Iron than I was for Taken King, but that’s because Taken King was so solid. I now expect Bungie to keep up doing what they started in TTK.  There’s a lot to unpack, and there’s still a lot of specific details that Bungie is keeping under wrapped still – which is totally understandable with a full summer to get through.

What we did see today is awesome though. It’s a lot of what we were expecting – my post yesterday could not have been timed worse, since it went live literally right before I saw the Xbox leak. So we knew going in to today that we were getting a new enemy type to fight against – it turned out to be the Plague Siva returning and the Fallen embracing it. I think it’s more along the lines of how the Taken were new back in September – it’s a new kind of enemy, but it’s built on an existing enemy faction. Regardless if you think that’s a good move, the  new Fallen Splicers look damn menacing. I’m really glad that the entire expansion, at least for now, seems to be focused solely on Earth. It’s the same idea that Taken King had – tell the story on one location, and use the other locations to help flesh out the post-story content. In Taken King it was the Taken War after stopping Oryx on the Dreadnaught. Do I think that something like that will be in Rise of Iron? I actually do – and I think they laid the foundation for it in today’s stream. We know that we’re taking back the new social space – Felwinter Peak – and then using that social space to honor and remember the fallen Iron Lords. We saw the mausoleum briefly in the stream today, and I immediately got thinking – what happens if each statue to an Iron Lord has a quest associated with it, with a weapon or piece of gear at the end of it? How cool would that be? Go up to Jolder’s statue, pick up a quest honoring her legacy and end up with an Exotic/Legendary machine gun. Now, ultimately what I think will happen is those Iron Lord quests might exist, but they’re probably how we’ll get access to the returning Gjallarhorn, which is a whole other thing to talk about.

The new content looks incredible from a tone/visual standpoint. I love that we’re staying in our backyard, and finding a new enemy that was so dangerous that the strongest guardians in our history had to sacrifice themselves to seal it away. The new gear looks incredible – using the Iron Banner, Warmind and Trials as their themes, at least that’s what we saw on stream. I’m really excited to see the inevitable full stream based around the new gear and weapons – especially new exotics. Which brings us to the one thing that I’ve seen some negativity about – the return of Gjallarhorn. Mainly because going in to the stream, we only knew that it was coming – as the Iron Gjallarhorn – with a pre-order. Immediately the “pay-to-win” comments started to pop up. That’s not quite the case – everyone who plays Rise of Iron can get a Gjallarhorn through a quest. Pre-orders net you the special black and silver one that’s the only difference. Which, if you’re a day-one player like me, is a really, really cool thing to see Bungie do. Gjallarhorn is easily the closest thing that Destiny has to a “mascot” weapon. Halo has Master Chief’s assault rifle, Zelda has the Master Sword – Destiny has the G-Horn. It’s the one weapon that every guardian chased through the entire first year of the game’s life. It ruined the balance of every activity because of how damn powerful it was. And I can’t wait to see how it’s going to play into the game moving forward.

There is still a lot to talk about with Rise of Iron – the Crucible in particular is going to get a hell of a lot of attention over the summer. Bungie did say that they’re going to be at E3 next week. I doubt we’ll see anything super crazy there, but they’ll have something on hand for sure. We’ve got a release date, a price point, and a hell of a lot of positive content to look forward to. Destiny is a game that seriously love, and and I’m super excited for what Bungie is bringing to the game moving forward.

Destiny Rise of Iron Reveal Stream Pre-Show Thoughts

DestinyTomorrow is Bungie’s first reveal stream since they were hyping up the April Update for Destiny, most likely showing off the Rise of Iron expansion that was leaked a few weeks back. All of the promo material leading up to the stream certainly seems to confirm Rise of Iron, but that’s about it. So with that in mind, I thought I’d talk a little bit about what we might see tomorrow. All of this is total speculation still, and is assuming that Rise of Iron is a full expansion, which is looking more and more the case instead of a timed summer event.

First, if it’s a full expansion, we need to think size. Destiny has two different examples to look at: The Taken King size, or Dark Below/House of Wolves size. Just based on the timing with this one, I think it has to be on the larger size – Bungie has also been saying that the next content coming to Destiny was going to be a big addition. I’m thinking a good chunk of story quests, a couple new strikes and a full raid. Based on the leaked Google results that come up when you search for Rise of Iron, it’s looking like the basic gist of the content is going out and discovering the Iron Lords stories. Much like how Cayde-6 and Eris Morn were the primary story contacts in Taken KingRise of Iron will probably be told through Lord Saladin, along with Shaxx and Zavala. I think this is where we might finally get to go to the European Dead Zone – in the Grimoire we know that the original Iron Lords pushed back the House of Kings all the way to the Caspian Sea. We know that the Tower has at least cleared portions of the European Dead Zone for the Crucible. The Cosmodrome is pretty well explored and taken back – the House Devils has been broken, House Kings foothold isn’t as strong as before and the Hive threat has been dealt with. We know though that the House Kings Kell is still around – and I think that’s who the Raid will revolve around. I saw someone saying that the Kell of Kings will be the actual Kell of Kells that Skolas claimed to be. That could make for a really cool raid encounter.

Destiny Rise of Iron

One thing that I think Taken King did really well was keep the story content more focused on one location – in that case, the Dreadnaught. If they do the same with Rise of Iron, which would most likely be Earth, they’ll need to come up with some new areas to explore. But keeping the content in one location really helps focus the narrative – which is something that Destiny really needs to keep doing. I think the story elements that Rise of Iron is going to be dealing with is a potential strength of the DLC. I assume we’ll get more new strikes, but on top of that, I want to see the other old strikes get brought forward – I miss playing Sepiks Prime and Phogoth. We also still have a handful of Exotics that were added to the armory back before Taken King launched that haven’t been added, those could very well pop up, or other new exotics could instead. I don’t think that we’ll get those few Year One exotics that people love to talk about (Thorn, Icebreaker and G-Horn), but I suppose anything is possible. I also really hope we get a few more full sets of armor and weapons – the Year Two sets that the Vendors and Factions have had are starting to get a little stale, even with the Chroma sets. I’ve said it for a long time with this game that the more variety in the gear, the better off the whole game is. I loved back in House of Wolves that I could use any set of legendary gear, as long as I could ascend it. I would love teh ability to wear my Vault of Glass armor again, mainly because it looks so damn badass. We’ll see what they add in gear-wise, since that’s a guarantee.

On the other side of the Destiny coin is the Crucible. I think Rise of Iron will bring the most thorough overhaul for the Crucible that we’ve seen yet. I don’t know about custom games showing up yet – that might be a full sequel feature. But I think we’re going to see a much bigger weapon balance pass than we did in April, along with a handful of other changes that need to happen – in particular the Firebolt/Viking Funeral/Touch of Flame build. I also fully expect to see a bunch of new maps get put into play, and hopefully an actual Capture the Flag mode as well. I think that there’s bound to be some kind of new end-game PvP activity as well. Trials of Osiris is a year old now, and I still think that as a true competitive mode it’s really lacking. Spawn side matters a ton, certain weapon sets are basically required to do well, and some classes are just by default stronger. Since this expansion will be focused around the Iron Lords, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see some kind of expanded Iron Banner as a new end-game. That could be Iron Banner as a weekly event instead of monthly, or a whole new activity under the Banner.

Ultimately, while Bungie has said this is going to be a big expansion, I actually think that most of the changes coming to the game are going to be smaller in nature. Lots of little changes in Destiny actually end up making a huge deal since there are so many different aspects in play. More story content is definitely needed to keep fleshing out the lore that is, again, really strong. New strikes and raids are always welcome, and keep the PvE side of things fresh for longer. PvP I still think is where the most attention is needed to keep the balance – I think that there’s a lot of options that work as it stands now, but there are still a handful of weapons that are just still too strong. I’m definitely looking forward to Rise of Iron a lot, and tomorrow is going to be a really exciting stream I think.