Destiny – Iron Banner Wrap-up

Destiny Rise of IronThe first post-Rise of Iron Iron Banner wrapped up with yesterday’s reset, and like I do every month, I thought I’d talk a little bit about my experience with the 6v6 end-game Crucible activity. Since this was the first time that Supremacy was even available to play, there’s a little bit more to unpack than usual.

Supremacy as a game-mode is the perfect fit for the first Iron Banner. It’s one where even lower Light players or less skilled players can contribute in a meaningful way to the team. Grabbing those Crests should be your primary concern, and having that option there for lower Light players means that they can score for the team and still build their super bar up and then use that to help swing matches in those power-play moments. Where Supremacy gets a little frustrating though is that it also encourages the current “insta-kill” meta. Weapons with super low Time to Kill were all I saw – powerful handcannons, crazy fast Rate of Fire pulse and autorifles, super stable scout rifles, and the same max impact shotguns that have lived in the Crucible for over a year. Because the scoring system for Supremacy by nature drives you to closer ranges, those weapons are actually important to the team score. It’s not inherently a bad thing because the meta really needs to be addressed across the board, not just in Supremacy, but it certainly provided for a couple frustrating moments in almost every game. There’s nothing worse than outshooting an enemy with your Hawkmoon, then having a ghost bullet sneak in and let them close to insta-kill shotgun range. I would probably expect a weapon patch with the upcoming Festival of the Lost event, or at the latest November.

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As for the actual Iron Banner part of the last week, I have to admit, this one surprised me a bit. I went in fully expecting to die a ton because of people who had banked Exotic engrams and rep materials and had run the Raid a couple times and as a result they were up near the current Light level cap. Sure enough, the very first game I played I was 11 Light below the next lowest player in the lobby. As the game loaded in, I was ready to just be frustrated and die lots; but as it turned out, I ended up with the best K/D and the highest score in the game. Yes, Light Level definitely matters in Iron Banner – I couldn’t survive things I normally should, and moves that should get kills weren’t – but on the whole, it felt a lot more even than I was expecting. I don’t know if it’s just because in normal Crucible play everything is already so fast, or if they did change the way it works, but either way I had a ton of fun playing Iron Banner matches this past week.

A big part of that fun came from the fact that this was easily the most rewarding Iron Banner that I can remember. It was a very rare instance to not see at least one Legendary drop after a match, and it felt like Three of Coins netted Exotics a bit more consistently as well. Over the course of the week, between post-match rewards, Exotics, bounty rewards, and the Quest rewards my main character raised his Light by almost ten full levels. That’s using some new Iron Banner weapons and armor, both of which are super cool looking and the weapons sound amazing; as well as infusing duplicates or sub-par rolls. In truth, the only item I didn’t get to drop that I was chasing was a Ghost shell, since the Iron Banner one looks awesome. If this is how the rewards will be moving forward – presumably it’s the same in Trials and will be with the timed events – then playing just about any activity is instantly more worthwhile than ever. There are certainly still a couple issues in the game sure, but I think overall Rise of Iron has done an incredibly good job of breathing new life into Destiny.

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Destiny’s New Leveling Problem

Destiny Rise of IronDestiny has a well documented rocky lifespan – from story issues to stagnant multiplayer balance. One thing that Bungie fixed with The Taken King last year was the convoluted levelling system and streamlined it to the system we know now. Light is still what really determines your power, especially when you hit Level 40, but it’s a lot easier to understand and progress now than it was in the “Forever 29” days of Vanilla. However, with the launch of Rise of Iron a new issue has popped up with the levelling, and it’s just going to be highlighted brighter this week with Iron Banner returning.

I didn’t really see a lot of talk over the weekend with Trials of Osiris coming back, but that tends to see less players than Iron Banner does. Now that Iron Banner is back the fact that there are going to be a lot of players with huge gaps in Light is going to make for a very frustrating experience for some people. I’m only sitting at about 354 on my Titan and not even 350 on my alts, but because there’s a section in the Rise of Iron book for hitting Rank 5 I’m going to play a bunch of IB this week. The loot looks really cool – I think the weapons are the same as the Iron Lord drops (I got lucky in Archon’s Forge last night and got the sniper and fusion rifle) and the armor looks awesome. That means I know I’m going to be fighting a major uphill battle since even playing regular Crucible matches last night I saw players up in the 370 Light range. And I know that there are people up above 380 and plenty with Light lower than I have. That wide gap is the level problem that I want to talk about.

The only real reason that that wide of a gap exists is thanks to the way that Rise of Iron launched, combined with the changes that Bungie made to engram decrypting. With The Taken King and the major shift from Year One to Year Two, banked engrams – including exotics – would only decrypt to Year One values. Since there isn’t as much of a shift from Taken King to Rise of Iron, Bungie didn’t decide to call this officially Year Three. As a result, players could bank tons of engrams – legendary and exotic – and when they decrypted them, they followed the new rules for engrams. Playing the story was enough to get beyond the point of the 340 Light that blue engrams decrypt at. Combined with a full stack of legendary marks to upgrade our Ghost shell, if you had a full vault of engrams, you could get a huge jumpstart on upgrading. Bungie had intended for the time from about 350 to 365 to be a slower grind – that’s where legendary engrams become most useful, and was intended to be the lead-in to the raid for the end-game level gear. That’s when Heroic Strike drops are relevant, where Archon’s Forge should have been populated constantly, and when your faction reward packages matter the most. The problem I think is twofold here – people could skip past this spot with enough engrams and materials to exchange; and the end-game activities returning so quickly after launched put pressure on players to hit those high levels as fast as possible. This meant that hardcore players were constantly grinding launch week to be raid ready on day one – I had friends that were in that group, playing pretty much all week long and got through the raid that first weekend. But there are way more players that don’t have that time and can’t grind out Heroic Strikes for hours to get a handful of drops. That’s what creates this huge gap in power – it’s going to be there for months now with no real way to close it quickly. People who are raid ready will just keep raiding and getting high level drops, while people who only play a few hours here and there will be stuck in the grind for longer. It’s not an inherently bad thing, only really when you look at things like Trials and Iron Banner, which Bungie has been talking up with the new loot to earn.

It’s unfortunately too late to really fix the issue – that gap is there, and the only fix is to just push through the grind with Iron Banner, Strikes, faction packages, Trials or the raid. What I’d love to see though is with Festival of the Lost this month, that actually have loot that can help players with limited time to level up. Crimson Doubles did that with Ghost shells, SRL did with class items and helmet back before “loot 2.0” was in place. Festival of the Lost only had the masks, which are cool, but they don’t have Light associated with them. I kinda have a feeling that when it comes around we’ll see something like sterling treasures with the masks or new loot dropping at Light 3 just like the Taken gear did in April. With no major expansions on the horizon until the full sequel – which is a whole different can of worms to talk about – there’s plenty of time to grind up the levels, it just stinks that there’s this huge gap right now as we go into the first Supremacy Iron Banner.