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.

destiny-lady-efrideet

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 – August Iron Banner Takeaways

Destiny Rise of IronWe’ve hit the weekly reset for Destiny and with it comes the end of another Iron Banner. There’s a very good chance that this was the last Iron Banner in its current format before Rise of Iron changes the way the event progresses. Bungie has said that this was one of the last chances to gear up before the new expansion – I’m not sure entirely since the timing would fit for a final Iron Banner the week before launch leading up to the move to Felwinter Peak. If this was the last Iron Banner before the changes, I think it may have been just in time. I want to quickly talk today a little bit about the current state of the Crucible, and Iron Banner is a great way to really shine a spotlight on the higher end of the competitive meta.

This past Iron Banner was a bit of a sticky point for me. I needed to get both weapons Saladin was offering to complete my Year 2 Iron Banner weapon collection; so in that regard I knew I was going to be playing at least for those. Neither weapon really is the kind that I like to use – I prefer a little faster firing hand cannon, and I’ve been ignoring shotguns on principle over the last month or so. Which is a good segue to why I wasn’t really looking forward to playing the games – this current meta is becoming as stale and frustrating to me as the Thorn meta was. Weapons like the MIDA Multi-Tool and the fast firing pulse rifles have become almost mandatory to do well in Light Level enabled playlists. As stagnant as the primary weapons may be now though, I think the real issue lies with the shotguns. It’s a problem that really goes back to House of Wolves – high impact, low rate of fire, long range shotguns have dominated the Crucible ever since. Whether it’s a Party Crasher +1 or Conspiracy Theory D, or the exotics, those weapons have become so ubiquitous that almost any other special weapon puts you at a disadvantage. I think my biggest issue is that the way Destiny plays – sniping takes a pretty steady hand to nail headshots and I think takes a lot of skill to do well; that’s even with some of the aim assist help that’s in there. Shotgunning, at least within the game now, feels like easy mode to me. Aiming isn’t nearly as important, a lot of the maps feel almost built to accommodate that kind of weapon, and the only truly effective counter is another shotgun. It’s a snowball of power creep that I don’t get how it’s lived for this long.

Which is really a shame because I still think that Destiny has some of the best feeling gunplay in FPS games right now. And that fun PvP experience is becoming a chore to play because of how stale the current game is. I expect that to change soon, I think we all know that with the 3.0 patch there’s almost surely going to be a weapon balance part of it. Hopefully they’ve been looking hard at the Crucible data since the last patch in June to get a good grasp of what needs to happen. Personally, I’d love to see shotguns range reduced a ton, fast pulse rifles stability reduced and MIDA looked at again. There’s not a ton else that really bothers me weapon-wise; sure rockets are strong, but if you avoid the initial heavy push, I think you get more out of a machine gun. Class-wise, I think it’s a no-brainer that we’ll see Thunderstrike’s extended range come back in a bit; but that’s pretty much all I would do, along with a small reduction to Stormtrance’s duration. With a new expansion bringing in a whole slew of new weapons and armor pieces, not to mention potentially game changing new exotics, it’s really important that Bungie gets the Crucible back to a more balanced spot quick. I have a lot of faith that we’ll get a good patch with 3.0.

Destiny Iron Banner – June Impressions

Destiny Lord SaladinWe’re back after a quick break, and a week of playing in the Iron Banner in Destiny. This is the first Iron Banner since the 2.3 patch back in early June, which means it’s the first real time to explore the new weapon changes and balance passes to Hunters. Let’s talk a little bit about how the Crucible is currently feeling, and where I think we’ll see the next patches impact.

For starters, the Hunter changes definitely are noticeable across the board. This is the first Iron Banner, in a very long time, that I can remember seeing Titans early in the week. Usually the first couple days are lobbies full of Warlocks and Hunters, and as the week goes on, more Titans infiltrate in as the Crucible players move on to their alternates. Now that Hunters and Warlocks have both gotten some balances recently, each class feels a lot closer in terms of power. At least in theory – Hunters I think still have a little bit of an advantage because their abilities are strong in just about every situation. Some of the more frustrating aspects of the different abilities have been addressed though – although I do think that the throwing knives got hit a little hard. Still, I’m really happy that each class can actually function in Crucible now. I do think that Defender Titans might have the new annoying set-up though with No Backup Plans and Universal Remote.

Which is really where I think the issues lie now – the new weapon balances from patch 2.3, combined with the Nightfall/Heroic strike loot has created a monster. A couple weeks back, the Nightfall was Will of Ctota and as a result, the Grasp of Malok farm was in full effect. Grasp is Hawksaw, just better – faster rate of fire, along with the same roll potentials for stability and full auto and you get a pulse rifle that can out perform just about every primary weapon. I think it’s not a sandbox that will last too long though, since so many Grasps, Hawksaws and Suros PDX variants are out there Bungie has to be looking at the data and seeing just how much stronger they are then the other weapon classes. I really think the next patch will hit the high rate of fire pulse rifles with a hefty stability and range nerf. I still think that shotguns need some major attention – there are way too many of the Conspiracy Theory archetype and the skill needed to use shotguns has really gone down in a hurry. Where the Iron Banner has really excelled this time around is the loot drops. I think that Iron Banner has become my main way of getting end-game level gear – I’ve been able to get a handful of 334 and 335 light level drops out of this month and last months event. Since you can get those drops after one game, it’s potentially more efficient than running the raid. Saladin is going to be back two more times before Rise of Iron, so there’s plenty of time to get up to the max light, especially with the Year Two Moments of Triumph being officially announced this week.

First Person Shooter News Roundup

TitanfallOver the last handful of days, we’ve had a few pretty sizable news items drop all relating to different FPS games. Each one isn’t really worth a full article exploring, but they’re definitely worth talking about at least a little bit. So that’s what we’ll do today.

We’ll start with the easy one to digest – Titanfall 2 has apparently officially been unveiled and it’s going to have a campaign mode included. There’s a couple things here to look at. First off, this is the first official word we’ve gotten about a sequel to Titanfall outside of some speculation about platforms. I think it was kind of an open secret in the gaming world – the first game did so well and really helped bring FPS games to the current-gen consoles, that a sequel was a no-brainer. While we still don’t have any real concrete details, knowing that Respawn and EA saw the lack of a true single-player campaign as a shortcoming and are addressing it is a good thing. I thought that Titanfall had a really cool universe that it built, and the campaign Multiplayer matches, while a cool experiment, just didn’t quite deliver for me. I think that because it came out when it did in the current-gen lifespan, the player count dropped pretty quickly, despite it being a really great game. I’m hoping that putting in a true campaign mode, bringing along Frontier Defense mode as well as keeping the overall multiplayer mode more or less the same will keep players invested in a shooter that has a truly unique feel compared with the rest of the market.

Call of Duty Black Market

The other two bits of news I want to talk about today both revolve around Activision’s two biggest FPS games, and probably their biggest games period: Destiny and Call of Duty: Black Ops III. Let’s look at Call of Duty first. Yes, they just launched a new DLC map pack on the PS4, and while there were a couple pretty big issues with a couple map exploits that got patched quickly, I think the overall reaction has been mainly positive. Which is what makes this latest little influx of content we got this week kinda surprising. Treyarch added in over 100 new Supply Drop items, to all platforms, including new guns, not just melee items. That’s got the community a little divided, and understandably so. Here’s the problem – all those new items, including a couple really compelling weapons that I want to try out, are tied totally behind RNG based loot drops. It’s like fishing for a certain loot drop in Destiny all over again, just with the looming shadow of “COD Points” to look at. Since Call of Duty‘s loot drops are all tied with microtransactions instead of just in-game play/currency, there’s always going to be that shadow looming over new content. There needs to be something done with the Cryptokeys – either a permanent increase to the rate their earned, some kind of daily challenge that earns a Rare Supply Drop, or the weighting on the new weapons should be favored. Since I’ve been playing the game I have yet to see any of the Supply Drop weapons for me – and in truth, only a couple instances of them in my playing. I know that they have to have some incentive to buy COD Points, but tying cool new guns to them isn’t really the way to do it. I think keeping the customization items there is totally fine, but actual in-game items that can impact matches I wouldn’t have gone that route.

Destiny Crimson Days

On the other side of the Activision coin, we have Destiny. Crimson Days started yesterday and I have to say, it’s kinda underwhelming. Sure the Crimson Doubles look pretty cool – it’s a neat twist on Elimination. But that’s literally it – there’s one quest and one set of weekly bounties. In theory, you could reasonably complete everything that the event brings with it in a day of playing. They only added in two distinct pieces of gear – two Ghost Shells – that’s it. Festival of the Lost and SRL both added in a lot more, granted gear that didn’t really do anything for your Light level. But still, two Ghost shells, two shaders and one emblem is pretty weak. Tess Everis has a couple new Emotes that you can buy with real money (Silver) but again, not really worth it unless you’re really invested in the social side of Destiny. This really isn’t what Destiny needs right now – mainly because there is no PvE content added in with this at all. And that’s the real problem here – I think we maybe lose sight of this because a lot of streamers and YouTubers in the Destiny community do play a good amount of PvP, but the majority of players are PvE based players. There needs to be some kind of influx of PvE content quickly – I would hope next month instead of the April that we’re thinking now. What kills me especially is that in the Crimson Days Grimoire Card we get a glimpse of what Crimson Days could have added on the PvE front – and it’s something that was in my fantasy development for the sequel I did last week: Horde Mode. Two-man, co-op endless waves of enemies on the different planets we have – they even mention it happening in the Vault of Glass! How cool could that have been – fighting off endless waves of Vault of Glass Vex with a partner for increasingly better rewards. Even if it’s a short timed event, that’s pretty much exactly what the PvE side needs right now.

Ultimately, the FPS news is a mixed bag – the Titanfall news has me optimistic about the sequel coming our way; but the Activision side of things is a little muddier. It seems like they’re both short-term additions to games that need long-term attention. If Destiny is supposed to live for ten years, this isn’t the kind of content it needs. If Call of Duty is going to have microtransactions moving forward, tying game-altering items to them sets a bad precedent. Hopefully Activision, Treyarch and Bungie all can start thinking a little farther out, and each game can very easily bounce back from this no problem at all.

Destiny Weekly Update/Rumor Thoughts

Destiny I was out of town last week when the new Bungie Weekly Update came out, the first since before Christmas. So while this is a little late, I do want to put down my thoughts on what we got out of Bungie and what we’re getting in Destiny in the coming months.

As I was reading the post, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this post was pre-scheduled for a while now. A lot of the issues that have been talked the most about in the community weren’t really addressed in the detail that I think we would have liked. The lag in the Crucible was barely mentioned in passing, despite being a pretty prevalent problem. The weapon meta is turning really stale again – Thorn, of all guns is popping up with regular frequency again. That wasn’t addressed at all. The lack of new PvE content, while less important than the community would have you believe, wasn’t addressed either. Instead we learned that, yes they tweaked the Crucible matchmaking to include a bit more skill-based matchmaking in secret. We learned that what the new February event is – Crimson Days – and that it’s a Crucible event built around Doubles. And we got the usual Bungie “we’re still working on a lot of different stuff that we’ll tell you about soon” catch-all that they’re really fond of.

Destiny Crimson Days

Here’s the problem with that – we had been waiting almost a full month with no communication from Bungie on the Destiny front. Really, all we wanted was a more direct post about the current state of the game, and what we could expect in February. Beyond that, I would have perfectly happy without the February event update last week – there’s still a January weekly update that it could have been a part of this week. The current game is a weird state of limbo, and this weekly update didn’t really do a whole lot to reassure me that Bungie is hard at work on new content to plug into the game quickly. I know that they’re hard at work at whatever Destiny 2 will be, and I know that the developer environment for Destiny is kinda rubbish, so new content is going to be a little sporadic. Couple that with the shift away from monolithic DLC to smaller event based content and you see why we’re a little impatient. The comparison is a little tenuous, but by this time into Year One, we already had The Dark Below launch – a new strike, three new Crucible maps and a whole Raid. Now it’s not a one-to-one comparison, again, but I don’t think that what we’ve gotten since The Taken King launched is really close – Festival of the Lost didn’t include any new content, just masks; and Sparrow Racing League really didn’t add in a whole bunch of new stuff either. With February’s Crimson Days being based around the Crucible I don’t exactly foresee a lot of new stuff coming to the game in terms of meaningful content.

Destiny Loot Cave

The other bit of Destiny news recently has come from the rumor mill. Yesterday morning there was a rumor that Bungie planned on making heavy ammo synths cost silver – aka real money. Both Activision and Bungie shot that down right away, and really, it shouldn’t have gained any traction at all. Bungie is in a really tight spot right now and a move like that would just kill any of the good feelings that the community has left. They’ve been very good with the microtransactions so far – sure the level boost does have gameplay bearing, but not in any meaningful end-game way. The other rumor came from Kotaku’s article about the current malaise surrounding the game. In the article they say that a source of theirs at Bungie has said that Destiny 2, in whatever shape it ends up, has been pushed back from September. Now of course, that game hasn’t even been announced yet so it really can’t be delayed. But the idea of Bungie pushing a major release back shouldn’t be a huge surprise if it is true. As much as Bungie likes to have annual launches – just about every Halo game they put out came out in November – I think they know that this is a big step for the future of the franchise. I would think that Bungie and Activision both want to make sure that whatever they call Destiny 2 really measures up. As important as The Taken King was, and the current plan of timed events is, the big release this fall was always going to be, perhaps, the key to this “ten-year” plan playing out. I’ve been saying this just about every Destiny post lately, but now more than ever, we really just have to wait a little longer and see what comes our way.