Bungie might only be revealing Rise of Iron tonight, in a dedicated stream, but it's possible by that point there will be very little to tell via official channel. Leaks, you see. Leaks in abundance. We learned of the new Destiny expansion's existence and title via leaked artwork, and now we have a boatload of setting, story, and content details by way of what looks to be a trailer dropped onto SnapChat a little early.
Not that we can entirely believe in the accidental nature of any leak around E3 time, as everyone scrums together to get things out early before the even bigger scrum of the main LA show. But whatever the reasons for the trailer's appearance, we now know a lot. A lot, such as...
So far, Destiny’s lore has remained vague and enigmatic, its storytelling very much placed in the here-and-now, with only abstract hints at how the current state of the world came to be. It looks like Rise of Iron might change that, with our first, specific look at some of the historical events that shaped the status quo.
The roots of the story seem to be in the Lords of Iron’s last great battle to defend the City, Destiny’s original social hub and the home of the last remnants of humanity. Although we’re told that it’s constantly under threat, we’ve never actually seen the City contested, but it looks like we’re about to, at least in flashback. That said, we might well be in for a fair old dose of history repeating. We’re told in the trailer that the foe the Lords (just) defeated that day has returned, and a lot of the trailer seems to be set on and around the outer limits of the City’s vast, defensive wall. Time for some ground-zero, frontier action, with a whole new area of Earth to discover and explore, I reckon. And getting into the specifics of that location…
There’s an echo of Old Russia in the snowy, junk-strewn climes seen in the trailer, but there’s also a very different feel going on. Things are much bigger, more open, and built around vast scale and huge elevation. It also feels much more abandoned, with big desolate spaces and signs of long-deserted human civilisation throughout – those mountain-top cable cars being just one example. Reckon we might be heading further afield, maybe just out into more distant parts of Old Russia, but possibly deeper into the northern area of the European Dead Zone.
The Dead Zone was largely removed from earlier builds of the game. Significantly, barring a couple of brief appearances in multiplayer maps, it’s the last area originally designed for Vanilla Destiny that hasn’t yet been properly explored via later expansions. The bits we've seen are distinctly less frozen than what's on show in the Rise of Iron trailer, but their airier, lightly mountainous vibe does hint at geographical connections.
The land beyond Old Russia is also a good bet due to the dilapidated sections of the Wall we see from time to time. There’s a real sense of this being the far-off, untamed badlands, which would make a great deal of sense in reference to the City’s more enclosed, consolidated, safer feel. Expect the mentioned new social area to be some kind of isolated European outpost, with a similar set-up for the Raid location.
There are no specific details of the new (old) enemy driving Rise of Iron’s story, but there are hints, if a few juxtapositional video edits are to be taken as indicative. We see a lot of the kind of architecture that we’re used to navigating around Rasputin, Old Russia’s semi-dormant Warmind AI. Those angular corridors and diamond-shaped doors are a clear giveaway. But it’s significant that we hear a line about having ‘locked away the plague’ just as we get a shot of what might well be a hitherto unseen AI core.
That huge, seemingly suspended chamber at the end of the bridge has a definite vibe of ‘central control room’ about it, meaning that we might finally meet Rasputin face-to-face. But at the same time, are we looking at another, corrupted Warmind as main antagonist? If we’re heading further afield, it’s certain possible. Rasputin himself has remained benevolent, if slightly indifferent, so a full heel-turn is unlikely. But he wasn’t the only Warmind. It’s entirely possible that another European AI is the cause of the trouble, both now and in the past.
But it’s not alone. The ground army we see throughout are clearly a new version of Fallen. Even before the faction is mentioned, their skittery movement and propensity for daggers makes that obvious. They’re definitely some new kind of Cyber Fallen though, augmented with much more severe, robotic-looking armour and spindly stilts, which presumably increase their speed and unpredictability yet further. Suddenly the expansion’s title makes much more sense. It’s not about the return of the Lords of Iron. It’s about the rise of a metallic enemy. But will the armoured upgrade be applied to other races as well? Iron Cabal and Hive might be possible (and would be terrifying), and the new player armour shown off certainly has a very chunky, angular look to it.
Interesting point about Warminds, though. The only other one we currently know about is Charlemagne, who was removed from the game, but remains in oblique references. It's believed he was originally planned to be a Martian AI, but if we're going to get into real-world historical references - which Destiny is all about - then it's worth noting that Charles the First, the eight century king of the Franks, tried to unify all of Europe by resurrecting the Roman empire. It's a long shot, but there might just be some thematic stuff to consider there.
That bit where the Guardians are running away from that huge, Fallen tank-cum-demolition machine. That’s a much larger scale of boss than we’ve seen before, with a very different feel in terms of the way it looks to be interacting with the environment. Heck, it looks like it is the environment.
That’s if it even is a boss at all. Given the way that the Guardians seem to be retreating rather than attacking, it’s entirely possible that Destiny’s intensive mob battles might be bolstered by a greater number of environmental set-pieces this time around. Destiny certainly started heading in that direction with The Taken Kings’ campaign.
Yep. Part bashing tool, part battle-axe, all whup-ass. That’ll be your new, third-person melee weapon right there. It will likely be imparted by way of a story quest, much like the third subclass in The Taken King. It’s probably an old, long-forgotten Lord weapon. But how class-specific will it be? Will there be custom Warlock, Hunter and Titan versions? Will it have a sub-class-style skill tree, or just work in the same way that weapon upgrades do now? Either would be good, but it would be nice if it was treated a little differently, to add the kind of specialness that swords slightly lack.