Destiny: Rise of Iron will be available soon, kicking off a new chapter of Activision’s wildly popular shared-world shooter. A lot has happened in the universe of Destiny since the game launched almost two years ago, including three major expansions and countless tweaks to the form and function of both the game’s over-arching narrative and various other fundamental elements. So much has happened, in fact, that a reminder might be in order for anyone wondering what’s going on in Destiny these days.
Whether you’re returning from a Destiny hiatus or planning to make Rise of Iron your first introduction to the game’s mythic sci-fi universe, you can ease your transition into the game’s latest expansion by having a good grasp on where everything stands right now in the world of Destiny. To that end, we’ve put together a brief guide to the stuff you might want to brush up on – from the game’s mythology to some of the fundamental elements that have changed dramatically over the last two years – in order to get you ready to jump right into the action when Rise of Iron arrives on September 20.
Getting There From Here
Rise of Iron is the fourth major expansion of Destiny since the game launched in September 2014. In December, 2014, Activision released The Dark Below, followed by House of Wolves in May, 2015, and The Taken King in September, 2015.
While it’s always advised that you play through as much of the content yourself as possible in order to understand why Destiny is so popular, The Taken King allowed newcomers to bypass much of the narrative from the original Destiny and the first two expansions and jump right into its storyline when the expansion hit shelves. Each copy of the game provided players with a consumable “Spark of Light” item that instantly ascended players’ characters to level 25 and provided equipment suitable for taking on the first story missions in that expansion.
Destiny has taken some flak regarding the in-game accessibility (or rather, inaccessibility) of its deep, layered mythology. Much of the detailed information about the game is stashed in Bungie’s grimoire, a website players have to access outside of the game. If you crack its “pages,” however, Destiny’s story is a long, winding tale in a massive universe. Even within the game itself, a lot has happened: Whether started playing on day one, or plan to pick up the adventure for the first with Rise of Iron, chances are you could use a refresher course on the world of Destiny if you are planning to jump back in.
The Story So Far
A long, long time ago, humanity encountered a mysterious, alien entity known as The Traveler. A tremendous, floating sphere, The Traveler helped humanity usher in its Golden Age, sharing the knowledge that let humans explore the galaxy, colonize far-off planets, and develop the sort of technology that let us evolve rapidly as a species.
All good things come to an end, though, and The Traveler was eventually followed by its enemy, the equally mysterious, destructive entity known as The Darkness. Things went bad quickly, and after The Traveler seemingly sacrificed itself to drive off The Darkness, there was precious little left of the human species. Various alien races began to move in for the kill, colonizing former human settlements and making humanity’s continued existence uncertain at best.
Fortunately (for humanity), The Traveler had taken one last action before expending its energies. After fending off The Darkness, The Traveler dispersed its life force – referred to as “Light” – in the form of small, seemingly sentient “ghosts” that sought out the greatest, deceased defenders of humanity and reanimated them as “Guardians” – tasked with protecting humanity and the remains of The Traveler. The base of operations for Guardians is “The City,” the last remaining stronghold for humanity, located somewhere on Earth in the shadow of The Traveler, now a floating, lifeless sphere.
In the initial Destiny storyline, players – in the role of Guardians – fought to re-establish humanity’s foothold on key outposts on Earth and other planets, while investigating rumors of new alien races and the possibility of yet another threat from The Darkness. Over the course of that first story arc, the Guardians battle the alien armies of The Fallen, The Hive, and The Cabal, while dealing with the android-like Vex, recovering a piece of The Traveler, and extinguishing an entity with ties to The Darkness.
Along with their own solo adventures, Guardians joined forces to explore The Vault of Glass, the game’s first team-based “raid” activity, which eventually pits them against a massive, time-manipulating Vex leader named Atheon. This raid on the Vex stronghold was the culmination of the game’s first chapter, which also featured the introduction of a mysterious stranger who seemed to know more about the future than she was letting on.
But Wait, There’s More…
In the game’s first expansion pack, The Dark Below, the Guardians investigated the re-emergence of Crota, a powerful “Hive Prince” being summoned from another dimension.
You learn of the Hive’s plot to bring Crota into this world from Eris Morn, a former Guardian who is the only survivor of an earlier, failed mission to stop the Hive’s ritual. Your actions in the original game indirectly resulted in Eris being freed from the Hive’s underground lair on the moon, and despite being horrifically affected by her experience both mentally and physically, she serves as the resident expert on The Hive.
Over the course of The Dark Below, your Guardian thwarts the Hive’s attempts to bring Crota into this dimension, culminating in the Crota’s End raid, which has you descend into the depths of the Hive’s lair with a team of fellow Guardians on a mission to eliminate the threat posed by Crota. After a climactic battle, your team destroys Crota using his own sword against him.
The second expansion to the Destiny universe was House of Wolves, which followed the Guardians’ efforts to quell a rebellion staged by a group of Fallen who had previously served Queen Mara Sov of the Awoken. The Awoken are a species of blue-skinned human descendants whose genetics were altered during The Traveler’s battle with The Darkness generations ago, and now live in a far corner of the galaxy known as The Reef.
The rebellion is led by Skolas, the leader of the Fallen sect known as the “House of Wolves,” who attempts to use Vex technology to create an army composed of his most powerful allies from various timelines. Your Guardian eventually thwarts Skolas’ plan, and hands him over to the Awoken Queen to imprison in the fortified “Prison of Elders.” Things don’t stay quiet for long, though, and Skolas begins to build an army within the prison. Your Guardian is then tasked with going into the prison with a three-person team to put a permanent end to Skolas.
So What About That “Taken King” Guy?
Remember Crota? Well, it turns out the Hive Prince has a father – and he wasn’t happy about the Guardians killing his son.
The Taken King introduced a new major threat to the world of Destiny: the Hive’s god-king Oryx. It also introduced an entirely new species of alien known as The Taken. The storyline has your Guardian investigating the return of Oryx, who travels through the universe in a massive ship known as The Dreadnaught. He commands The Taken, an army composed of twisted versions of creatures from our dimension, tainted by his influence and given strange new powers.
After a failed attack on the Dreadnaught by the Awoken — an attack that costs them the lives of both Queen Mara Sov and her brother, Prince Uldren Sov — the Guardians are forced to contend with the threat posed by Oryx and his army.
In order to face this terrible new threat, your Guardian embarks on a quest to unlock new powers that give you an edge in your battle against Oryx and his minions. Equipped with these new powers — the solar-based Sunbreaker class for Titans, the arc-based Stormcaller class for Warlocks, and the void-based Nightstalker class for Hunters — you take the battle to Oryx himself on his Dreadnaught, where you manage to not only infiltrate his lair, but seemingly kill him.
You soon discovered that getting rid of Oryx wasn’t that easy, however, and your Guardian was forced to head back to the Dreadnaught in another six-person team to take down Oryx once and for all in the King’s Fall raid. The raid culminated with your team blasting the Hive’s god-king into deep space, bringing an end (you hope) to the reign of Oryx.
The Battle Is Far From Over
In Rise of Iron, your Guardian discovers that sinister things were afoot on Earth while you were busy saving the galaxy from Oryx.
The expansion follows your Guardian’s efforts to fend off a new species of Fallen that have weaponized a terrible technological virus called SIVA. Now armed with SIVA-enhanced abilities, the Fallen have breached the massive wall surrounding the Cosmodrome on Earth and laid siege to Old Russia.
Led by the legendary soldier Lord Saladin, your Guardian must put a stop to the Fallen and seal SIVA away again, and in doing so, reclaim the lands around Old Russia that were once the home turf of the Iron Lords, some of the greatest Guardians ever to walk the Earth.
Levels, Light, and Gear (a.k.a. Ch-ch-ch-changes…)
The original Destiny release gave players the ability to level up their Guardians through the usual means, dispatching enemies to accumulate experience that would eventually ascend your character to the next rank, until the Guardian hit level 20. The maximum level attainable in the original Destiny was eventually raised to 30, which was then increased to 32 in The Dark Beyond, 34 in House of Wolves, and 40 in The Taken King.
(A complicated, gear-based system of leveling up was introduced in The Dark Below but later abandoned in The Taken King, and players were once again required to dispatch enemies and earn experience to reach the maximum level, 40.)
After going through some modifications in the first few installments of Destiny expansions, The Taken King made each character’s “Light Level” a gauge for the character’s ability to do damage and absorb it. Weapons and armor that you collect have certain levels of “Light” assigned to them, and a player’s total Light Level (across all of the character’s weapons and armor) affects that player’s ability to do damage and absorb it.
Basically, characters with a higher Light Level (due to equipping weapons and armor with higher values of Light) do more damage and can absorb more damage than those of lower Light Levels.
The highest Light Level that can be achieved prior to the release of Rise of Iron is 335, with characters of that Light Level doing the maximum possible damage and having the highest possible armor up to that point. Activision indicated that the upper limit of Light Level will be increased to 385 initially with the release of Rise of Iron, and then to 400 with the release of the “Heroic” version of the expansion’s raid, “Wrath of the Machine.”
Rise of Iron will also bring with it several new elements that affect characters’ abilities, including a new form of artifacts and new weapons and other gear. The expansion will also provide a new social space for players, as well as new PvP modes and public events that trigger while wandering Earth.
And that brings us (basically) up to speed!
While this is far from a comprehensive account of everything that’s happened so far in the Destiny universe and all of the knowledge that will be useful as you jump into Rise of Iron, this should provide a good foundation for enjoying the game without feeling too overwhelmed by its epic scale.
Good luck, Guardian. You’re going to need it!