Destiny: Rise of Iron – Looking Forward

Destiny Rise of IronI’ve now played through the story content in Destiny: Rise of Iron on two of my three characters, and I’m starting to really be excited for what comes next. I know that seems really shortsighted of me, like I’m moving away from Rise already. But that’s not exactly what I mean here. Instead I’m talking more generally about how ever since The Taken King, Bungie has fundamentally changed how they’re approaching telling the story of Destiny.

In-game, that’s meant scrapping the amorphous story direction in favor of quests that tie together story missions with a coherent thread between them. That, combined with the better writing in the lead-ins to the missions along with new cinematics that advance the story and you’re starting to see player being able to better connect with the world. It’s not just players who go out and read the Grimoire – which we’ll talk about in a second – who have an understanding on the story now. Playing the actual game will get you enough of the story to know what’s going on. I don’t know if they changed writing staff for in-game work, but it certainly feels like it over the last year as it’s gotten less reliant on cliches and every character actually feels grounded, even the somewhat over the top ones like Eris and Saladin. Cayde-6 and your Ghost have emerged over the last year as the real standouts of the cast, mainly thanks to the strength of their voice actors. Rise of Iron continues that with Saladin and Shiro-4 both actually having character. With this most likely being the last big addition to the first Destiny game, Bungie has been doing a phenomenal job of doing as much as they can with the current framework. It’s night-and-day from how the game looked and felt at launch. And over this last year, it’s gotten me more excited about what Bungie could do with a new game.

One of the biggest things that I want to see in the sequel has to be an in-game way to read the Grimoire. That desire comes from just how damn good the Grimoire cards are. Much has been made about how threadbare the story is in Destiny, especially at launch. Where that doesn’t ring true is in those cards – they’re written incredibly well and flesh out the world so incredibly well. Things that seem like they don’t matter in the long run like Rasputin’s role in the grand scheme of things turn out to have much deeper ripples. Reading his cards in particular paints an interesting picture of just how the Traveler came to rest where it does now – there’s a very real chance that Rasputin shot down the Traveler to prevent it from leaving humanity behind for the Darkness. Why would Rasputin think that the Traveler would do that? Well keep reading the Grimoire and you see that it has a little history doing that – that is how the Fallen came to be Fallen; and beyond that, the Traveler has a intricate relation with the Hive and their Worm Gods going all the way back to the very beginning. Because the story is so well told in those cards and helps create a really interesting world to play in, that’s really why it has to be in-game in the sequel. There are way too many players who won’t read the cards because they don’t live in-game. I would love to see something like Mass Effect‘s codex – that would be the best way to do it I think. If you take that ability to dive deeper into the lore of the game, combine it with the more focused in-game storytelling along with the inevitable steps forward in gameplay and I think the series will be where we always wanted it to be. The future is super bright for Destiny and to me, Rise of Iron is a great step in the right direction.


Let’s Talk About Destiny’s Story

DestinyI was able over the weekend to sit down and finish up the story in Destiny on my two primary characters. I was withholding judgment on the story until then, but I had pretty low expectations based around what I had been seeing online. Now that I’ve finished it up, I want to get my thoughts on it out there, so be aware there probably will be a few spoilers ahead. As for my character builds, expect more next week, after I’ve had more time with each class’s second subclass.

One of the decisions that I think people are questioning with the story in Destiny is that the story starts in media res. That is to say that the real storyline has been ongoing at the point where your guardian comes back to life. Because of that, there’s not really any sort of introduction to any of the major events or enemies you’ll face. You are expected to be aware of what the Fallen are, right in the first mission. There’s no real backstory to any of the characters or factions that you encounter, both in the world and on the Tower. Which is actually not 100% true, it’s just that none of the exposition happens in game. Instead all of the real meat to the characters and factions and enemies stories are all told using the Grimoire in the companion app. Now, the entries in the Grimoire are actually all really cool – in depth bits of info to help flesh out the universe; but it’s all stuff that really should live in-game somewhere. In general, the character menu is really streamlined – there’s isn’t a lot extra going on with any page of it – but I don’t see why a fifth page couldn’t have been added to include the Grimoire in-game. It almost reeks of marketing to help drive up downloads of the companion app to me.

Destiny Black Garden

Beyond that, the actual story of the game is really hard to pin down. The central threat is this amorphous “Darkness” that really doesn’t have any form until the very end of the game. Instead we fight against four different warring factions, that all take on very similar make-ups. That said, each faction does feel different enough where you don’t feel like you’re just shooting interchangeable enemies, or at least I think that’s the case. I think it’s more apparent with the Cabal enemies on Mars – their tactics are totally different from just about every other group – with shocktroopers jumping to the front, and slow moving Phalanxes continually firing at you. But aside from being told that they are all “servants of the Darkness” we really have no idea as to what their intentions are. Bungie does a good job of making each group actually feel like they have an identity though, it’s just not clear how those identity fits into the context of the story.

Destiny Queen of the Reef

At the end of the journey (excluding the Vault of Glass raid) the whole journey really feels much more like one step. Instead of going through the usual Bungie epic, it feels much more like we have just seen the foundation laid for the real tale. We have experienced the very beginning of what could end up being a massive franchise/series in the next 10 years or so. There are hints of what might be ahead all around – it’s especially evident in Old Russia. Beneath the giant wrecked ship there are three Hallowed Knights, two Major and an Ultra guarding what appears to be some sort of huge door. There’s a second one if you follow the coastline around past the leveled dregs near the water. Beyond that there are two more map transitions that end at closed doors, one in the Refinery and one in the Hive seeder at Skywatch. That’s just on Earth, I’m sure there are similar places on the other planets that I haven’t found yet. Which all just makes me think that there are way more plans in place for future content, beyond just the two announced ones, which might help flesh out some of the concerns people have.

As for future stories, I fully expect more to happen with the Fallen Queen, which we might see this weekend, as the weekend event is based around her. In all likelihood that will amount to special bounties to undertake with high level enemies and hopefully good loot. In the future though I expect the Queen’s brother to play a major role in the upcoming story. I also am expecting to see a lot more of the other planets in the solar system outside of the Crucible.

Overall, I really just expect to see a lot more of everything in the coming months which hopefully will lead to a more fully fleshed out experience next time out. The good thing going for Bungie is that Destiny is set up as a perpetual online world, which gives them ample opportunities to adjust the way certain parts work. Everyone online is giving them grief about the loot system. I’ve gotten very lucky, able to get pretty good gear, but at the same time I can fully see how it is frustrating for sure, especially grinding out weapon parts and experience for the higher tier gear.