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.

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.

Destiny: Rise of Iron – What Needs to be Fixed First

Destiny Rise of IronI have been loving my time with Rise of Iron – I picked up an old friend for my heavy weapon slot, my first weapon got a nice new coat of Exotic paint, and I have been really enjoying zipping around the Plaguelands. That all said though, there’s one thing that I really hope Bungie looks at fixing quickly – The Crucible. We’ve been in this ultra-fast time to kill meta for a long time now – it really goes all the way back to House of Wolves and Felwinter’s Lie style shotguns. Over the last six months or so though, it’s just gotten worse to the point now where unless you use a pretty select group of weapon, you’re at a distinct disadvantage.

It was already super frustrating to play in a handful of playlists – mainly the 3V3 games and Iron Banner – but adding Supremacy has just exacerbated the issues. Having to pick up the crests after a kill is a great way to fight passive play – I’ve always been a fan of Kill Confirmed in Call of Duty. In Destiny now though, forcing players into close range just has continued to push them towards the max-impact shotguns and crazy TTK primaries to have a chance. I’ve played enough Supremacy to at least finish out the Crucible quest and weekly bounty, and in those games I’ve seen almost nothing but Party Crashers, Conspiracy Theory D’s, Eyaslunas and Palindromes. Even weapons that are usually 6v6 standouts – Doctrine of Passing, Hawksaw, and most snipers – start to fall away a bit in Supremacy because of the nature of the game. We already know that the first Iron Banner after launch is Supremacy – that has me the exact opposite of excited for Iron Banner. I usually look forward to it for the weapons and armor – consistently some of the coolest looking gear in the game. But even with the changes to the system with Rise of Iron, I think it’s going to be a super frustrating week. Part of that frustration will come from the fact that there is going to be a pretty wide variety in Light Level for the first time in ages with Iron Banner/Trials. The other part will come with this current meta.

Destiny Crucible

Now that Private Matches are live, and the competitive scene can start to grow, we’re starting to see top level players really speak out about the meta. Guys like TripleWreck and KJHovey have put out videos and posts explaining just how bad this current environment is. The more eyes that see this, the more likely that Bungie acts quicker. I personally don’t agree totally with TripleWreck’s idea on how to fix it – I think a blanket primary buff feels like way too much of a step toward power creep. Instead I think a better fix would be to adjust shotguns again – they’re fine in PvE now, so just focus on PvP behavior. To me, the best bet is to just kill the range and handling – make it so you have to be even closer for those one-shots. There has to be some kind of trade-off to using this weapon, and right now there really isn’t. Same goes for those primaries that are good – drop the stability on those Pulse Rifles, make Hand Cannons more consistent across the board and limit the chances for two-shot potential guns; while the one thing that I do think deserves a buff would be Auto Rifles outside of that DoP archetype. There’s a lot of work still to be done, and hell, I don’t have anywhere near the level of data that Bungie does so hopefully they’ll have a better idea of how to address it. The other thing with Supremacy that I might want a little attention put toward is the score limit – FFA Supremacy feels like it goes a little long, and on some maps it can feel under populated. Maybe pull more from the 3V3 maps – good example was a FFA match on the new map Skyline. The match ignored the outdoor sections for the vast majority of the match, and spawns were all over the place. Maybe it’s just the game mode needing to work out a couple kinks, but still, it’s a bit big of a map for FFA.

Destiny: Rise of Iron Private Matches Pre-Launch Thoughts

Destiny Rise of IronWe’re under a week away from launch for Destiny: Rise of Iron, and with this week’s weekly reset made a major new feature in the addition live in-game now. If you’ve been playing Crucible over the last two years you already know that the addition of Private Matches has been one of the biggest features coming to the game. It’s not exactly the Custom Games that the community has been clamoring for, it’s absolutely a step in the right direction. Bungie has a history with Destiny of doing something in-game the week going into a launch – House of Wolves had the Queen’s Wrath, Dark Below had Eris show up, and Taken King had all the changes to the in-game systems live early. With that track record, I think we were all looking for something this week, but I don’t know how many people were thinking Private Matches a full week early. A final Iron Banner with Saladin at the Tower was my bet, turns out we got a pretty sizable patch last week and now a whole new way to play PvP matches.

Private Matches are a super important part of an FPS game’s longevity. They’re what keeps the game in players’ consoles/hard drives for years, not just the online play. It’s the ability to set up a private game that lets a competitive scene grow and thrive – MLG wouldn’t be as big as it’s grown without private lobbies. Over the last couple years, as Destiny has evolved and Bungie has tried to pin down just what they want the game to be, the lack of a private world for a competitive community to grow has been a bit of a noticeable gap. In one day, I’ve already seen tons of different options from streamers and community pillars hosting private games, or putting different ideas for what to play out into the world. We as a community have been trying modes like Hide and Go Seek, Infection; as well as going in-depth with testing things we’ve wanted to learn. There’s plenty here to dig into with Private Matches – maybe not as robust as Bungie games have had in the past, but still plenty to mess with.

Just going in to the maps solo yesterday, I got real sense of nostalgia – which maybe sounds a little weird. It’s really cool to go into these spaces that we play frequently, or in other cases, haven’t seen in months alone and find new things. I never once noticed the little floating Hive lights on the Drifter in one of the hallways back by the heavy spawn. Turning off the HUD and just exploring the arenas alone, listening to the ambient sound design, maybe putting on some music outside of the game and taking it all in is something that I think is going to be a real cool part of Private Matches. If nothing else comes out of it, it’s worth doing to go in and grab the 27 new Dead Ghosts that Bungie put into the Crucible Arenas. Each map has its own new Dead Ghost, and they can only be found in a Private instance. There are guides up already on YouTube or reddit, but I recommend trying to find them first without one – you’ll get a real appreciation for the maps. I came out of my Ghost hunt yesterday with, I think, a better understanding of the work the Crucible design team puts in. From details that litter the maps, to the actual mechanics like where boundaries are and what constitutes a soft-kill zone, you can really learn them with just a few minutes running solo.

Destiny: Rise of Iron Patch 2.4 Notes

Destiny Rise of IronAfter I wrote up my thoughts on the weapon balance changes coming with the 2.4 patch for Destiny, Bungie released the full patch notes before maintenance ended and the patch went live. Much like with the weapon changes, there’s a lot here that I think is a really good thing, and a couple other parts that could need more time to really nail down.

First, my favorite change in the patch has to do with Public Events. Back in Year One, they were something we chased down – hell, destinypublicevents.com was bookmarked by many a player in order to find them easier. They were rewarding, there was often a Vanguard bounty for finishing a few of them, and honestly, they were just fun to do. With The Taken King, they changed – only netting you a handful of Motes of Light, and no more Vanguard bounties to do. Well we don’t know about a returning bounty yet, but completing that first Gold Public Event is about to get a lot more rewarding. You’ll still get Motes of Light and XP, but on top of that you’re earn Legendary Marks and a Legendary Engram. We don’t know if that’s per character or account, but either way, a guaranteed legendary is always a good thing, especially with loot 2.0 from April. That, along with the new patrol zone when it opens up, really should help populate Patrol as a mode again. It’s not exactly the Loot Cave, but it’s a great way to get a quick upgrade.

The other really big change that I like is that Legendary weapon Engrams aren’t going to drop from post-game Crucible results anymore. Instead of getting weapon engrams, you will earn the Crucible specific weapons – Eyasluna, Red Spectre, those weapons. They’ve also fixed the drop rates on the Crucible ships as well – although that was an unannounced change in the patch notes. We know about new cosmetic options – sparrows, ghosts, shaders, ships – so having those drops rates actually working is a great thing.

If there’s anything about the patch that I’m not high on, it’s that engrams have been decrypting a little lower than I was expecting. I had blues that were decrypting at 240 or so, which is easily 60 Light below what I was getting before the patch. It could just be because at this point Year Two items are officially legacy gear, so they’ll be lower across the board; or it could be a little bug. We probably have to wait until the 20th to know for sure. I think pretty much everything else is a good move. The changes to the Crucible modes Elimination and Salvage are exactly what they need to keep them competitive. One heavy spawn helps fight camping and drives the action towards that ammo crate’s spawn. The new scoring in Salvage should push people to actually play the objective since you get rewarded more for captures now. There are a couple more little tweaks and additions I like – previewing the exotic weapon ornaments, Banshee selling armor materials, previewing a couple new shaders, and knowing that exotic boots are decrypting above 335 along with the Trespasser dropping from special weapon engrams is cool. It’s a great taste of what we can expect from Rise of Iron in just over a week now.