Once More Unto the Cosmodrome, Dear Friends

Gabriel Silvas, Columnist

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Quite a bit has happened since Ghost restored the Guardian in the middle of Old Russia back in 2014. They set out on their adventure, culminating in not only invading the Black Garden, the home world/dimension of the Vex, and destroying the Black Heart within, but also infiltrating the Vault of Glass, braving the ontological horrors within and making their own fate by bringing an end to Atheon, Time’s Conflux; They teamed up with Eris Morn to prevent the return of Crota, the Monster of Luna, by destroying his lieutenants, stopping his resurrection, and then plunging to the bottom of the Hellmouth to his Sword Realm, permanently slaying the God Prince of the Hive; They assisted Mara Sov, Queen of the Reef Awoken, in hunting down the mad war criminal Skolas, putting an end to his ambitions of becoming the Fallen Kell of Kells, locking him within the Prison of Elders, and later personally executing him; Finally, they fought in the Taken War, spearheading the attack on Oryx, the Taken King and father of Crota, establishing a beachhead on his dreadnaught, driving him to his Sword Realm, ending the Taken influence throughout the system, and then assaulting his pocket universe to forever end the reign of the God King of the Hive. Needless to say, when the next big crisis arose on Earth, the Vanguard could not think of a better candidate to aid Lord Saladin in stopping this ancient evil and becoming the first of the new Iron Lords. Welcome back, Guardian.

The fourth and presumably last expansion before the release of the sequel, Rise of Iron is the start of Year 3 of Destiny, Bungie’s hit FPS after Halo. Released in September of 2016, the expansion adds onto the improved experience that The Taken King introduced back in 2015. While not as expansive as its predecessor, Rise of Iron does introduce some more fun and interesting mechanics, locals, weapons, a new Light Level cap of 400, and other features that make it a fun experience. However, the PS3 and 360 versions of the game are no longer supported and will not be able to play the DLC. With the theme of “nostalgia” being a central focus, Bungie ran with the concept by adding a new version of the Cosmodrome, the first location visited in the game, making Lord Saladin a central character in the plot, and bringing back the much-beloved and absolutely devastating Gjallarhorn, an Exotic rocket launcher (in)famous for its efficiency in wiping out bosses when deployed en mass.

Aside from the player Guardian and Ghost, the central character is Lord Saladin Forge, the long-standing representative of the Iron Banner. Normally content to just run the monthly Crucible game type for the past two years, he has now abandoned his post to take up an active role when the ancient enemy responsible for the death of the other Iron Lords reemerges. To accomplish this, he has brought in a couple of allies to assist both him and the player in their campaign. Shiro-4 is the Vanguard representative on Felwinter Peak and one of the finest of Cayde-6’s Hunters, specializing in the Fallen across the system and, at least in personality, is Cayde’s foil in being a serious professional that relies on intel as opposed to Cayde’s laid-back joking and precise intuition. Tyra Karn, one of Saladin’s old friends, helped form the Cryptarchy and represents the order at Felwinter to decrypt the countless engrams that the Guardians bring in. With his focus now on the current threat, Saladin’s post as Iron Banner rep has been taken over by the only other survivor of the Iron Lords, Lady Efriedeet.

The Fallen House of Devils return as the central enemies, but have undergone extreme changes thanks to SIVA. An ancient techno-virus from Humanity’s Golden Age meant to emulate the Traveler’s power to construct any object imaginable via nano-mites, it was sealed away and lost to time before the Iron Lords tried to use it to aid humanity after the Collapse. Coming to blows with Rasputin, they found out too late that the Warmind was trying to keep SIVA sealed for a reason and were almost completely wiped out as they sacrificed themselves to ensure that the virus remained hidden and locked up. Centuries later, the Splicers of the House of Devils managed to find SIVA, but this caused an ideological schism within the ranks, with most wanting to continue their tradition of worshiping technology. A radical faction, led by a disgraced Splicer named Aksis, wanted to use SIVA to reconstruct themselves as the very machine-gods they worshiped. Eventually, Aksis’ faction won, elevating himself as Archon and not only taking control of the Devil Splicers, but the entirety of the House of Devils itself. From there, under Splicer Priest Kovik’s design, SIVA has been unleashed in the aptly named Plaguelands and the Fallen are being transformed and infused by the virus, becoming much more ruthless and machine-like in nature, upgrading every bit of technology they have with SIVA. Aksis himself has lost all sense of being and is now just a soulless machine god that no longer requires Ether, awaiting more SIVA offerings within his Perfection Complex.

The gameplay is still the smooth and excellent FPS experience it has been, but a few mechanics have been added in or altered to further enhance the experience. The light level has been increased further from the previous max of 335 to 400, though with several other options outside the raid that can help reach that goal, and the UI has also been touched up and improved to make it easier to navigate. Perhaps the biggest addition is the new patrol area of the Plaguelands. A mix of part of the old Cosmodrome area and the quarantined SIVA-corrupted Plaguelands, snow has covered the area in thick blankets, but it barely covers the sheer destruction the Splicers have caused. Large chunks of the Wall and industrial area have been cut up, the Hive have been forced out into the open, and the insignia of SIVA is painted all over the place by the zealous Devil Splicers. Within the Plaguelands itself, a wave-based arena event known as the Archon’s Forge has players fight a horde of Splicers in order to gain powerful rewards, bring to mind a mix of the Prison of Elders and the Court of Oryx. Furthermore, a number of Strikes, initially two at launch with three released for The Dawning winter event, have been remade. Among them include the revival of Sepiks Prime and Taniks the Scarred as Sepiks and Taniks Perfected by the tendrils of SIVA, and the return of Sekrion the Nexus Mind, in both normal and Taken forms, wielding some of the ontological weapons from the Vault of Glass. With The Dawning, the Sparrow Racing League returned and is available to play in Private Matches even after the end of the event.

The main story does not take long to finish with around five quests comprising the story arc, but like before, most of the content takes place in the post-game, with numerous quests to undertake, Iron Lord Artifacts and SIVA Clusters to collect, and several new Exotic Weapons to obtain. Besides the iconic Gjallarhorn, an Exotic version of the dinky Khvostov, the very first gun players pick up in Destiny, has been added with a lot of customization, and the insanely deadly, insanely hard-to-get Outbreak Prime are the more notable Exotic Weapons added. The latter can only be collected by going through the Raid of the expansion, Wrath of the Machine, taking six Guardians through the heart of the Plaguelands to track down Aksis, confront him within the core of the Perfection Complex, and put him and SIVA down once and for all.

Rise of Iron may not be as game-changing as The Taken King was in regards to drastically improving the entire game, but it does build upon its predecessor’s improvements and adds a lot of good content to hold players over until Destiny 2. A compilation of the game, Destiny: The Collection, contains the base game and all of the DLC released. As such, it is the definitive version for players that want to purchase the full game. It really is interesting to see just how far Destiny has grown since its very rocky launch two years prior. With the focus now being shifted entirely to the PS4 and Xbox One versions and cutting out the last console generation, one of the more prominent issues with the original game that held it back quite a bit, future installments of the game can get closer to the experience that people wanted Destiny to be from the beginning. If you have stuck with Destiny this long, Rise of Iron provides one last joyride full of excitement and content that will leave you satisfied until the next big adventure.

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