As Destiny heads into its third year, Rise of Iron is pretty well positioned to give fans a lot of what they want: more Destiny. There’s a new story to work through, new and reworked strikes, a new six player raid, and plenty of new weapons, items and gear to collect.
It all gets to build upon the foundations that The Taken King firmly established last year, and there’s certainly no need for Bungie to fix what isn’t broken. Following our hands on time with the new Supremacy multiplayer mode and the Wretched Eye strike, we sat down with Scott Taylor, Executive Producer on the expansion.
TSA: With The Taken King, you got to add subclasses to each of the three main subclasses, but you don’t get to do that with Rise of Iron. Is that something that’s missing, maybe? To have that eye-catching new character path to play with?
Scott Taylor: Whenever we do an expansion like this, we’re always looking for what we can add that’s new. What we really got excited about were the artefacts and how these non-class specific items would play off the existing supers.
That’s what we got excited about and we love that we got to tie that into the fiction. We have this whole ritual about acquiring them, this interesting player choice over which ones you’re going to get and in which order, so we kind of took that and ran with it as far as we could. I really wanted to evolve the experience of how you choose to play.
TSA: Obviously coming from the outside and looking in, plans seem to have changed during development and now we’ve got this extra year with the first Destiny, so was that difficult to gear yourselves up for and find a way to add something more?
Scott: I’m trying to think, because that’s not really how I thought of any of this, so I’m trying to get into that headspace!
The way I thought of it was that we were trying to think of an adventure and a story to tell. So we started thinking about what to do and we got excited about Saladin being something that the players know – whether they played Iron Banner or not – and telling a full cinematic story about that, introducing a new zone…
We’ve definitely attacked it from the side of what we want to build and then building it. So it’s not what you described. This is really the most fun thing I’ve ever done! The premise of your question is actually hard for me to reconcile.
TSA: What kind of things are you trying to do with the story? It’s nice to see that the Fallen are the big bad this time around, they’ve got a different style about them…
Scott: So actually, the image that’s behind you, of Saladin with an axe, is very similar to the first inspirational image – we call them postcards – to start us off in development. He was turned around and I don’t think he had the axe in his hand yet, in the original painting.
So if you look at an image like this, you have things like the snow and the cold, we have the wall being dismantled, and you can tell that it’s a space that you’ve seen before in Destiny, but that it’s different. We started to get excited about the theme of time passing, nostalgia being something, sadness and loss, and diving into what happened to these Iron Lords and telling that story.
TSA: It’s always nice for fans of the game to be able to lap up a new place to explore, which you have in this expansion, but is it a tricky balance to add these new places, with all the time and resources that takes, but also revisit and find new ways to explore the old ones?
Scott: Again, it’s so funny, it’s not how I think of it!
We come up with a theme and a story that we want to tell, the adventure that we want to have, and then we think about what we want to build to support that adventure, as opposed to some [other way of doing it]. So we got excited about building a zone on Earth and then having it incorporate parts of the old Cosmodrome, but change it and then break through a wall and see a whole new space that’s this [he points], this other painting behind you.
TSA: We’re doing a lot of looking around the room in this interview!
Scott: Yeah, it’s good. It’s all been cued up for me!
And so, for instance, wouldn’t it be cool if we had a social space that you have to conquer and take over, and then you revisit it as it’s being built back up? You’re looking at the adventure and the tone and you build around what that is.
How you tie all those things together is what I find challenging, not the logistics of building real estate or make a new super. It’s about how those pieces come together to make something that’s bigger than each of those parts. Does that make sense?
TSA: Yeah it does, I think it’s maybe a little bit difficult to see that for me, because I sank a hell of a lot of time into Destiny during the first year…
Scott: How many?
TSA: I looked the other day, and I think it was over 800 hours…
Scott: That’s pretty good… that’s more than me!
TSA: [laughs] And you have to play it during development!
Scott: Well I love playing it! I play at work a lot, but that doesn’t count on the trackers and stuff. So my home characters are at, like, 500 hours, and that’s fine, but then I’ve played this campaign I think 50 times, but it doesn’t count.
This is my tragedy!
TSA: [laughs] … but I think it’s tricky for me to be coming back to Destiny and trying to find that point of continuation, what’s new, what’s different, and what’s exciting.
So, with the strike that I just played, there was a big deal made around the launch of The Taken King about making more interesting boss fights that weren’t just bullet sponges. How have you carried that forward into this expansion?
Scott: Yeah, [we’re doing that for] the strikes that you’re going to play, including The Wretched Eye and the two fan favourite reprises that we have. For instance, we’ve added some mechanics to the Sepiks battle that are fun and you’ll see when you play it.
We’ve really enjoyed the fact that this strike [The Wretched Eye] has a giant ogre chasing you around and you have to be constantly moving. So we look at those ideas and we look for the mechanic to support it. We’re really liking where the strikes are right now in Rise of Iron.
TSA: Do you think that Bungie have now managed to adapt and change to suit the need for regular updates and content for Destiny?”
Scott: As a studio we’ve never been in a better position to deliver content to our players. We know our fans are ravenous for more cinematic story content, more gear to acquire and locations to explore and with Rise of Iron we will be delivering on all of that and more.
Our Live Team is already hard at work on two upcoming events: Festival of the Lost in October and Sparrow Racing League, which will return alongside a collection of other activities this December.
TSA: Let’s talk a little about game balance between weapons and classes, and where you’re trying to head with the patch that’ll come alongside the expansion.
Scott: Well, I’m not going to give you any specifics, but the Sandbox team will look at all of that. First of all, we have new exotics, we have new weapons, we have Thorn and Gjallarhorn and Khostov and some of these other weapons… Actually, Khostov’s never been an exotic, that’s going to be really fun! Actually, Khostov’s amazing![laughs] Sorry, I was just thinking about how that’s going to be really good! But it’s on them and it’s their job, and they love doing it, to make sure that it all feels of a piece, so these weapons, these armour pieces and perks, and on and on, can play in harmony.
TSA: The addition of private matches is a nice add-on for multiplayer, and people have been asking for those for quite some time. What was it that meant you couldn’t do that sooner, I’m wondering?
Scott: Um, I think, for things like Gjallarhorn and private matches, we’re looking for the right time and the right opportunity to release a package of things that make sense.
So when we came up with this adventure and having Saladin, even though we’re doing the full campaign and cinematics, we’re bringing that lore from the PvP side to the PvE. […] It felt like that was a nice opportunity to get that out.
And if you have a PS4 or Xbox One and any version of Destiny, you can play with private matches.
TSA: And finally, the Gjallarhorn return. I made sure to symbolically kill the High Priest with the Gjallarhorn…
Scott: Oh, did they give you the Gjallarhorn?
TSA: They gave everyone a Gjallarhorn!
PR Dude: Yup, everyone gets Gjallarhorn.
Scott: Oh, that’s nice…
TSA: I was quite tempted to delete it, actually… But one of the big reasons for it being sidelined before and not getting an update was so that it stopped being seen as the only solution to a tough boss fight. So how are you preventing it from having the same overpowering status here?
Scott: Well, I would say that you’ve just asserted a fact that I don’t know if it’s true? I don’t know why it wasn’t chosen to go through [to Year Two].
I think it was like, “Hey, let’s create a space for all these new weapons.” Now, and this really happened, the Game Director text me and was like, “Hey, this seems like a good release to bring back Gjallarhorn. It has wolves, it feels thematically very similar. Let’s do it!”
I think it’s odd when people hear those things, but we’re just trying to find the best place to fit these things and make them fit. The Sandbox team will work to balance it out, but it’s still going to be and play the way that you know and love. […]
The thing that’s really neat about the Gjallarhorn quest in Rise of Iron, is that it’s going to both be challenging for our engaged players, and it’s a really fun quest to go and reforge the Gjallarhorn, but if you’ve never been able to participate in an exotic quest, it’s going to welcome in and you’re going to be able to do it.
It’s a really interesting balance of trying to hit both of those, but I love it. I keep playing it over and over again, and I love it.
Thanks to Scott for sitting down to chat with us (and trying to see where we were coming from with our questions!). Be sure to check out our hands on preview here, but if you’re deeply invested in the game, you’ve almost certainly been keeping tabs on Bungie’s weekly updates and recent streams.