On September 20th the Rise of Iron expansion launched for Destiny, and considering just how damned engaged I am currently with World of Warcraft Legion, the truth is that I had not really spent much time playing the game until this weekend. On Saturday when we recorded the podcast, I noted some of the issues I was seeing about what seemed to be recycled sections of the Cosmodrome for the purpose of building the Plaguelands area. There is one entire section that was essentially the same, but with added snow, ice and SIVA/Splicer destruction marks. What I am realizing after spending some time with the game is that this is absolutely on purpose. The current cosmodrome and the plaguelands overlap slightly, and it seems as though this area got repeated as a way of explaining to the player visually how the two zones fit together. After spending a significant amount more time roaming about, I can verify that the plaguelands are massive and extremely unique in geography apart from this one region. It is really hard trying to make something feel completely new, when essentially you are having to build it out of the same visual language that the first zone of the game used several years ago. So while much of what you end up seeing looks extremely familiar, there are some really interesting things going on, like exploring the heavily skewed wastes of capsized shipping freighters for example.
The dreadnaught very much felt like you were invading a dark and foreboding foreign space. Everything about that dungeon felt like a dungeon crawl, as you explored the nooks and crannies gleaning secrets from every corner. The plaguelands are much the same, but this time around it is a sprawling outdoor space, and part of the cognitive dissonance is that at least on some level I keep remembering that I am exploring the same cosmodrome complex that I have known for years. It feels as though I simply got to open a door to a new area that I never saw before… and essentially because of the recycling of that first area that is precisely what happened. The only disappointment is that the new story elements were pretty short, and while retaking Felwinter Peak was an awesome sequence of quests, and shutting down the SIVA replication chamber was one of the more epic fights in the game… it all felt extremely brief. The truth is the amount of content contained within Rise of Iron feels like a DLC addon… and not an “expansion” in the terms I am used to think of it from my MMO roots. The level cap does not change, and while all of the light levels increase greatly… the process starts to stall out heavily just five points from the 335 cap I was already sitting at on my characters. All of this said I still have yet to really scratch the surface of the content, but it just does not feel like quite the same transition as Year 1 to Year 2. I guess in many ways Rise of Iron didn’t have quite so many wrongs to right, and as such didn’t need to be quite the overhaul that Taken King was.
Ultimately I am enjoying myself, in spite of the fact that the gearing this time around feels significantly more grindy. The biggest part of this is the fact that it seems like blue engrams have a hard cap of 340 light. I spent a good deal of last night when I couldn’t get to sleep running around and doing content out in the world, and with that gathered up a dozen or so blue engrams. Apart from the ones that upgraded into Legendary, or turned into Strange Coins… every single one came out at exactly 340 light which only serves to be armor materials or weapon parts. With Rise of Iron, Blue is the new Green… which makes the fact that I am getting a constant string of 190ish light Greens simply tedious. Something just feels wrong with the engram system this time around, because nothing shy of a Legendary seems to make a difference. That means that the real way to move that needle forward is to either grind out faction packages or do heroic strikes… something I have not really dared to do just yet given the highly interrupted playtime I have gotten so far. When I do open a faction package however the fact that you can choose between an Armor, Weapon or Chroma package is a welcome change. It is my understanding that the faction packages have a similar hard cap to Blues, which winds up getting you to 365 leaving raid gear and exotics your only way to push up to the new 385 light cap. All of this would feel a bit frustrating… were it not for the fact that the moment to moment gameplay feels so damned good. The biggest problem I have however is the fact that my favorite weapon is an exotic… which means I need a constant flow of infusion fodder to keep moving it forward.
Since I am also an avid Destiny lore hound… I have to say this expansion is great for many reasons in that it fleshes out a lot of bits of the overall story that were left alone. Unfortunately most of this happens in more grimoire cards, which are only hinted at in the actual spoken dialog. For the last two years we have participated in the Iron Banner, as Lord Saladin arrives at the Tower looking for a new generation of Iron Lords. Now we finally get to learn about the names we have heard during that time like Jolder or Timur. This is the story of what happened to the Iron Lords and once again the story of the hubris of humanity as it tried to exploit the resources of the traveler. While I completed the main storyline rather quickly, I still have a bunch of quests that are slowly playing their way out as I have yet to take on the raid, or do any of the new strikes. I have a feeling that these will ultimately lead to unlocking the various new quest exotics, and I am hoping giving me more bits of the story. All in all it seems well worth the $30, but the truth is… you are just paying the upkeep cost on being able to keep current with the game. The game is once again falling into the spot of giving me something that I can do quickly, without getting to engaged in content that will be hard for me to pull myself away from. Are you playing the expansion? What are your thoughts?