Destiny Iron Banner – Post April Update

Destiny Lord SaladinThis week is the first Iron Banner Crucible event in Destiny since the big 2.2 April Update earlier this month. With the 2.2 Update I actually started playing a little bit more Crucible testing the weapon balance changes and Warlock tweaks as well. But the Iron Banner is a different beast and it’s these week long, monthly end-game PvP events that really helps shape the weapon meta in-between those patches. So with that in mind, let’s talk a little bit about this month’s Iron Banner.

The first thing that I’ve really noticed is the increased Light level really matters now. In previous Iron Banners, it really didn’t amount to a huge factor in combat. Now that Light levels vary a bunch more – I’m willing to bet a lot that there are way more players that haven’t broken 320 yet – those players that did grind to get up above 330 really can use that difference. I went in this week at 318 – probably a little low honestly – but weapon-wise I felt pretty even. It was really with the abilities that messed me up. One Throwing Knife with Burn on would kill me from full health. A charged Warlock melee pretty much did me in as well. It also impacted my Hammer of Sol – sometimes my Hammers wouldn’t net a kill, plus I was a little squishier than normal while Hammered up. Once I switched to Striker Titan, Shoulder Charge really was dictated on my targets armor build – if they ran high armor, I couldn’t get the one-shot. So if you’re coming back to Destiny for the April update and raring to jump into Iron Banner, you might want to wait a little while, or at least find a couple teammates to play with.

Warlock Nova Bomb

The two big changes with the April update in terms of the Crucible really revolve around the weapon balance and Warlocks.The nice thing with the Warlock changes is because they are probably the best all around Class, (and I main a Titan) you see them plenty in Crucible. Generally, I think I’m seeing a good mix of the three subclasses so far. It’s not full teams of Sunsingers, mainly because they’re a little squishier than they used to be. Their grenades are still amazing with a Viking Funeral build, but Voidwalker’s neutral game is much better than before, and Stormcaller has always been a solid choice. Warlocks have always been good in Crucible – Voidwalkers for those single power play moments, Sunsingers are great damage dealers and Stormcallers are good at area control/power plays. Don’t expect a major change with the Warlocks, even with all the changes they’ve had.

Weapon-wise though, the Crucible is a very different place then the last time I really played. The last time I really was involved in PvP play in Destiny, the Crucible was full of full auto Hawksaws, Ambush/Shortgaze sight snipers, Truth, and the resurgence of Thorn. It was not a fun place if you wanted to try different things – which is a huge part of the fun with PvP to me. So far this week though, I’m seeing a bit of a different mix. Sure, there are some that pop up much more frequently – MIDA, Hawksaw, Doctrine of Passing – but nothing to the point where I think it’s the only choice like Thorn used to be. I’m seeing a good mix of special weapons, including a handful of fusion rifles. Rockets are still really strong, but since we get a lot less ammo for them, being smart with the heavy is a lot more important. This is the first time in a long time with Destiny where I think if you have a primary that you really like, you can probably use it and do well. Iron Banner or Trials of Osiris might not be the best place to test that out, but general Crucible is definitely a lot better of a place right now. The Taken Spring update continues to impress me, and really has revitalized my love for this game.

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Weekend Gaming Thoughts: A Little Bit of Everything

This past weekend may have been the most exciting weekend we’ve had in quite some time for gaming. Between the new April Update in Destiny, the Falcon Lost Incursion in The Division, and open betas for DOOM and Battleborn there was plenty of new stuff to dive into. And dive I did this weekend, hitting it all except the new Division stuff since I’m still a little cool on that game. I wanted to talk a bit about what I played, even though I already did a little with Destiny and Battleborn.

Battleborn Start Screen

With Battleborn, I played a bunch more story missions – both solo and in full five man groups. I started to try out other characters beyond Marquis as well and I have to say that of the characters I did play, I really liked them a lot. Oscar Mike – the stereotype soldier guy – is a fantastic pure burst damage character. His grenade skill can not only do burst damage with the explosion, but then add in the napalm DoT effect and it’s an incredible trash clearance skill. His ultimate skill is great for doing a massive amount of damage as well, assuming you target the spot right. Rath, who was by far my favorite melee character I played, is a neat character to play. I like his health steal on hit, it helps a offset a little his fragile nature. His skills help out tremendously with crowd control, and his ultimate is lovely for trash clearance and multi-target damage. Plus, he’s voiced by Christopher Sabat AKA Vegeta, so he’s basically the best ever. I was worried a little that melee characters would be a step or two behind in the story missions, but Rath at least did really well. The only part in the two missions where he let me down was in the final phase of the ISIC fight, because he flies all around and was aggroed on our El Dragon during that phase. Assuming that the rest of the story missions have similar engagements, it looks like melee characters will totally be viable choices. Battleborn went from being a game that I was ambivalent towards, to one that I’m very much interested in grabbing.

Doom 2016

With the other beta this weekend, DOOM, I played that a bit less.I only played a couple games, but that’s because I think this is shaping up to be a really really good game. If you’ve played any classic id FPS – DOOM, Wolfenstein or Quake – you’ll be ready from the get go. This was easily the best pure arcade style shooter that I’ve played in years. It felt immediately like the old games, just with a sprinkling of modern trappings. It’s fast, it’s brutal, it rewards thumbskill and twitch shooting. If you come from the modern FPS games, you might have a little learning curve to get used to, but the game does it’s job really well. If this is at all on your radar, this is definitely a good sign. Since the beta was extended to today, if you haven’t tried it yet, give it a shot.

Destiny Taken Guardians

Finally, I got to go through the Challenge of the Elders in the April Update in Destiny. I was worried that I wouldn’t get it in because I wasn’t close to 320 Light yet. And in fact, I’m still not 320 Light. But I was actually able to solo through the Challenge of Elders at 314 Light, which doesn’t exactly sound like much of a Challenge. It wasn’t super simple – the second room took me a good 6 deaths or so to clear. But because Small Arms is the modifier this first week, if you’re a little lower Light, you can easily make it up. I ran with Red Death and Cauterize on my Titan to get health back on kills to help since I’m solo, and it was done in like 40 minutes. Even with Variks taking points away, I was able to score over 40,000 points to earn a weapon from him. I did run it later with a couple buddies, which just further showed that this week in particular, challenge isn’t really the right word I’d use. That said, the actual activity itself is a ton of fun. Soloing it was the most fun I’ve had in PvE in a long time – it’s just total chaos the whole time. The rewards are maybe a little inconsistent, but that is kinda Destiny in a nutshell. It’s really fun, and cements my feeling that the April Update was exactly what the game needed.

Destiny April Update Thoughts

Destiny The Dark BelowAfter a couple weeks of slow gaming, all of sudden this week has exploded. Destiny‘s spring update went live yesterday, along with the first major update for The Division (with a nasty bug that deletes Xbox One characters) as well as Dark Souls III and open betas for Battleborn and Doom. That’s a hell of a lot of games to look at in one week – never mind that there’s been a couple headlines that really caught my eye. So there’s a lot to talk about as we close out the week, but we’ll start with Destiny.

Let’s start with the top level impression right off the bat. Is this update as great as Bungie says – sort of. I think ultimately, this update is exactly what Destiny needs now. It’s not on the same level as The Taken King, or even House of Wolves/Dark Below. It’s somewhere in between the timed events and those first two expansions from Year One. But it’s free – no cost as long as you have Taken King. I think it’s a great update for both re-energizing the dedicated players who have been sticking with the game since September; as well as pulling back players who may have stepped away. As someone who straddles that line, I see both sides of it – hardcore players have a new suite of gear to chase as well the higher light cap; while returning players have new paths to get that power that maybe eluded them at launch. As long as you go into it with the right frame of mind, this is exactly what the game needs.

Prison of Elders

Now, Bungie would have you believe that the main selling point of the update is the new Prison of Elders and story content. Let’s pump the brakes on that a little though. The story content is literally one mission, a collection quest and then you’re on to the new strike. It’s totally beatable in half an hour max. The story stuff really just helps flesh out a little more of the current state of the universe in Destiny. It’s been one of the biggest shortcomings of the game since launch – telling the story and framing the world in game. The Taken King was the start of trying to get that on track – more story is told in game now, and that’s what this is. Showing that Oryx wasn’t the end of the Taken threat does a couple things – explains why there’s Taken still out there in the wild, as well as give them an out for if they decide to keep Taken as an enemy moving forward. As for the Prison of Elders, I know a lot of people were less than thrilled that it was returning. Look, it’s a repeatable, simple horde mode style event that already existed in game – it was always going to be the answer. It’s the easy move, letting Bungie put the update out faster, and still concentrate on the big fall update/next year’s sequel. Yes, the initial Prison was somewhat lackluster, but I think a big part of that was due to how Year One worked. Difficulty levels were a little more punishing with the original Light system than it is now. This new Prison though is pretty damn fun. I went through six matches on the level 41/Light 260 version last night – each match was fun, from start to finish. The four waves leading to the boss are similar to how they used to be – I would say, strike level difficulty. That last boss wave though, when it’s against Taken foes, is legit fun and crazy. There are just tons and tons of enemies – add waves spawn pretty quickly, regardless of boss damage. Taken enemies are some of the most fun to fight against, mainly because of their unique attacks, so the fact those boss rounds have pretty varied mixes of enemies makes them even more fun. I managed to get each of the four new Taken bosses last night too – some are easier to do (the Taken Vex Hydra and Hive Knight) while the other two are definitely crazy. In particular the Taken Captain boss is just chaos from start to finish – you spawn in with Taken Captains and Knights and Vandals and Thrall all heading right at you. Getting out of the doorway is the first order of business, then setting up and fighting like you know you have to in Destiny.

Destiny Taken Guardians

So Prison of Elders is back, and is actually fun. But the best part of the update is actually the quality of life upgrades. Extra vault space is lovely with the new items added. The new Vendor rolls are a lot more balanced, and offer new options to play with. The upgraded reputation gains make leveling factions less of a nightmare, and the reward packages have updated loot pools. The Warlock subclasses all got a little love to be more evenly balanced. The Crucible will, hopefully, be a little less stagnant for a bit with the weapon balances. There are a lot more paths to the top tiers of Light power. The new armor in particular looks incredible. Chroma adds in new ways to make your Guardian truly your own – I’m already trying to figure out how I want my three characters to look. How to pair Chroma with shaders and such. The things that the players do feel like they all have purpose again – Patrol mode isn’t just for material gathering, you can actually earn some reputation and have fun out there again. Strikes drop their unique loot up to the new 335 cap. It’s all little changes that add up to a big breath of fresh air for a game that really needed it.

One last little thing to think about with the update. I saw some comments as the reveal streams were happening saying that this wasn’t enough to keep players engaged until September. I totally agree with that – there isn’t enough in this update to keep everyone on board until September. Now that we have the update on our consoles, I think I have a better idea about what this is really about. This update isn’t about keeping us around until September – it’s to keep us here until E3. It’s designed to get the hardcore audience re-energized and through that, bring back a good amount of the wider community. Then with the players back, you give us one timed thing in May (like maybe the return of Sparrow Racing League?) and along the way, drop hints for E3. Whatever Bungie shares at E3 is really what will help keep us invested until the fall. I would fully expect there to be something timed this summer – SRL, a “Festival of the Lost” style event – but I doubt we’ll get any real content again until the fall. You just have to bank on a bunch of hype and excitement from the fans through the summer – and that’s something that Bungie is really good at.