I can think of many things that I want in an expansion for an online multiplayer game: new items, new levels, new equipment, and so on. I did not realize how much I wanted jumping puzzles.
And yet that’s what I’ve enjoyed the most during my early hours with Rise of Iron, the new expansion for the multiplayer first-person shooter Destiny on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Rise of Iron gives players a new competitive mode, story quests, and a raid. But I loved my strange, jumping adventure so much because it was spontaneous, organic, and hidden.
It started when I first entered Rise of Iron’s new social city, Felwinter Peak. This acts like a hub for players, giving them a place to accept quests, manage items, and meet up with others. It’s a striking location, nestled against a tall, snowy mountain. I was just beginning to explore the city when I noticed other players doing something odd. They were jumping up some of the cliffs on the city’s edge that, at first glance, appeared to just be there for decoration. Curious, I followed them.
Now, if you go to an area in Destiny that the developers don’t want you to be in, a countdown timer will start. It gives you time to go back before you die. But despite the heights we were all climbing, moving further and further away from the city, no such timer activated. This cemented the fact that, as nondescript as it looked, I was somewhere Destiny wanted me to go. I was heading for a secret.
This is the kind of stuff I love in games.
So many digital experiences hold your hand, terrified that you might miss whatever content it intends for you to see. I get giddy when natural exploration sends me down an unknown path with some mysterious reward at the end. Not that I knew there was an award when I finished all this jumping, but … well, there had to be. Despite how high we were, there was a pretty clear path ahead of us.
Although “us” quickly became just me. The others had fallen to their doom.
This was not easy. While most of Destiny is in first-person, cities put you in a third-person perspective. In some ways, this makes platforming better. You can see more of the area around you. However, outside of cities, you have access to abilities like double-jumping or gliding, depending on your class. I had no such luxury here. And Destiny’s physics were never designed for this kind of platforming. Jumps are awkward and could easily send you to your death. Hitting a cliff with your head mid-jump would send you shooting off the mountain — so would jumping while your character’s feet are planted at odd angles. I had to be very careful.
And even then, I failed. A lot. I died over and over. Sometimes, my respawn would be generous and put me back close to where I fell. Most of the time, it sent me back to the beginning. I was at this for over an hour. I was making slow progress, often getting a little further with each attempt, but I worried that frustration would get the best of me.
I was also getting discouraged by all of the falling corpses around me. Every now and then, you’d see a fellow guardian plummet to their death, screaming as they flashed by you. It was part comical and horrifying. Sometimes groups of players would form, encouraging each other with emotes (usually clapping or dancing), showing each other the best places to aim their jumps without saying a word.
These groups were common toward the start and the middle of the climb. Once I reached the higher altitudes, I would wind up alone again.
My heart was pounding, which doesn’t happen all that often these days when playing a game. Any slight mistake could send me back to the beginning … which they often did. Each time, I thought about quitting. But I wanted to see what was at the end. Right now, getting to the top of this mountain was more important than any quest, raid, or piece of loot.
A narrow cliff, however, was determined to beat me. No matter what I tried, I always slid off of it. I probably never would’ve overcame this particle obstacle if it weren’t for a kind stranger who suddenly appeared — the first I had seen this high up the mountain. He was standing in a particular spot that I quickly gathered was the only safe footing. He crouched and uncrouched continuously, silently marking my landing zone on the far right of the sliver of snow. I committed to going for it. If I missed, I would fall to my death yet again.
I made it.
But that wasn’t the end. I still had a ways up to go. Luckily, my new friend was now guiding me. He would make a jump and then turn around, making sure that I would follow. A few times I would stumble, but luckily catch myself on a nearby platform before falling to my death.
Eventually, we made it. If you don’t want to see what I found, stop reading here. I think not knowing the reward makes the journey more interesting. But if you’re curious, this is what awaited us at the top of the mountain: a bonfire.
It’s amazing how much impact a simple piece of art like that can have on you when you spend over an hour climbing up nondescript mountain ledges. It was a signal that we reached something. Nearby was a dormant SIVA Cluster.
I don’t even know what these are or what they do. I just know that they’re a new collectible item in Rise of Iron. Honestly, it didn’t even matter what the reward was. I just needed it to be something. Anything I could point to and say “I earned that.”
But the view was also a reward. I could see the entire new city. It was beautiful. And, because this is a video game, I was able to jump off that final cliff, happily plummeting down to my death. The return trip was a lot faster.