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.

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Destiny – April Update Crucible Subclass Thoughts

DestinyContinuing our thoughts from yesterday, we’re looking at the state of the Crucible after the April update for Destiny. Yesterday we looked at the current state of the weapons in the Crucible, and today let’s talk about the subclasses. Titans and Warlocks have each gotten somewhat comprehensive tweaks since the launch of The Taken King, so we have a little to look at.

We’ll start with Warlocks since they just got the balance tweaks in the April update. Warlocks have always been strong in the Crucible – access to Blink, potentially the strongest melee attacks, and supers that are both duration based and power plays. What the new update really did is just help keep them from being overly strong against the other classes. There’s still a build that I think needs some attention – and in truth, Bungie knows it too, they talked about it on one of the lead up streams to the update. Let’s start with Voidwalker though. Voidwalker in Crucible has always been about burst power – grenades that do strong, quick damage, melees that keep you alive and a super that can wipe out whole teams if placed and timed right. After the update, Voidwalkers role just has been further defined. Instead of really being defined by Nova Bomb – which is still a big part of the class – I think Voidwalker now is more defined by the Energy Drain melee attack. It’s a simple build – focused around using your grenades to trigger Energy Drain, and that recharge, since the update, gets your grenade back in mere seconds. It’s a PvE powerhouse, that manages to retain its utility in the Crucible. Blink is still really strong, the melee range is still on the longer side, and Nova Bomb has always been strong. Overall, Voidwalkers didn’t change a whole lot – just became a little more focused. The patch really focused more on Stormcallers and Sunsingers. Stormcallers had been enjoying a pretty high time heading into April. Using Transcendence with Stormtrance had you Sith Lording around for a really long time. That came back a little bit – it’s still strong, but the duration isn’t nearly where it was. It needed it though, so I’m glad that it happened. The rest of the Subclass is still pretty similar to before – extended melee range, damage chaining with arc abilities, and grenades that are pretty lackluster. In certain game modes, Stormcaller can be the best choice – you can clear control points and roam for follow ups like a champ. Sunsingers are where I think Bungie will be revisiting next patch again. Yes, Flame Shield was reduced in strength, and Fireborn’s Radiance duration was also reduced. But Sunsingers’ real strength in Crucible play has long been a Viking Funeral/Touch of Flame/Firebolt grenade build. You keep damage going, by spamming the grenades with Radiance, and since you get even more grenades while Supered now, if anything the build’s power was increased. It’s an issue, but one that Bungie is aware of and, hopefully, trying to fix. Overall though, Warlocks are still in a really good spot – they’re pretty well balanced across the board, just takes a few games to get used to the jump behavior.

Destiny Nightstalker

Next up Hunters – the class that I have always associated most with Crucible strength. Hunters are still in pretty much the same place – mainly because Bungie hasn’t taken a full look at the Subclasses yet like the other two. A lot of the same moves that used to work still do. Let’s start with the new Subclass – Nightstalker. While the Nightstalker might be the Hunter’s best PvE subclass, it has the steepest learning curve in Crucible play I think. The Shadowshot is more focused around control, not kills; the melee is actually a ranged slow, and the grenades are all area denial in nature. Once you get used to those little trick though, Nightstalker can be a really effective part of a team in objective games. Nightstalkers also have a pair of really strong exotic armor choices – the Graviton Forfeit and Sealed Ahamhakara Grasps. You really do need to learn Shadestep though to use Nightstalker at its best I think though. Bladedancers have always been super strong in the Crucible – that really hasn’t changed a hell of a lot. Arc Blade, while maybe not as tanky as the old days since there are lots of high impact options for weapons now, is still really powerful at getting kills. Blink is still the best jump for escaping danger; Blink Strike is a powerful, quick melee attack; and Skip Grenades have become one of the stronger pure damage grenades out there. The neutral game isn’t quite as strong – invisibility isn’t as powerful as it might seem, but in the right hands a build focused around that could be alright. Honestly, not a lot has really changed for Bladedancers, just the addition of a great new exotic chest piece in the Tarantella. Gunslingers are in a similar boat – nothing crazy has changed. Golden Gun is still as close to a guaranteed triple kill as any super can get; Throwing Knives give them a ranged melee option that’s surprisingly strong; and Tripmine grenades can litter the arenas. The neutral game is just that – neutral. There’s nothing super strong, just decent enough boosts for the knife and weapon handling. The Symbiote went from being a detriment, to back on that near-top tier. I happen to think that the Young Ahamkara Spine is overall stronger, since you’ll probably have Tripmines more often. Since Hunters haven’t gotten the same attention recently, there really hasn’t been a lot of changes to their place in the Crucible.

Destiny Sunbreaker

 

Titans, on the other hand, have gone through a bunch of changes over the last 6 months. Taken King brought them Sunbreakers, which were admittedly really strong. In December, each Subclass got a balance pass and put Titans into, what is I think, the best spot they’ve been in since launch. Strikers, which have always been my favorite Titan Subclass, are actually not a detriment in PvE now. In Crucible, Fist of Havoc is the best panic super out there, while also providing a perfect counter to supers and control/heavy ammo plays. Strikers have the best overall grenades for Crucible in the game I think – each one does different things and does them perfectly. Storm Fist is still weak – much like all the Titan melees are – but can net a kill or two here and there. Shoulder Charge is phenomenal as a one-shot kill, and the other column of upgrades provides a couple different options. Defenders, while they are the PvE powerhouses, are super fun to play in Crucible once you get over the learning curve. Suppressor grenades are king – they can totally shut down an enemy play. Ward of Dawn, while still a giant “use your Super on me” bubble, can provide a bit of safe haven for ammo grabs and control points. Force Barrier nets you an overshield, which in Crucible is a good thing to have. The neutral game isn’t super strong, but Bastion and Illuminated is a good combo no matter what. Sunbreakers, while not as powerful as they were, are still the best overall Crucible class I think. Hammer of Sol is a great roaming super, with potential for lots of kills. Fusion grenades are good one shot kills. Sunstrike can weaken enemies, or instantly recharge on kills. You can go with a sunspot build for extra damage over time. Cauterize keeps you alive while Hammer of Sol is active. And it’s not a particularly difficult class to learn how to play effectively. If you’re new to Titans, start here, then branch out.

Ultimately, I think the Subclasses are all pretty well set. Warlocks and Hunters still are clearly stronger in Crucible, but the gap isn’t nearly as big as it used to be. Destiny doesn’t really do a great job of differentiating between the three classes – they all feel very similar – which makes it easy to hop between them. That means Crucible doesn’t have to be only played with one class.

Destiny April Update Reveal Stream Three – Playing in the Sandbox

DestinyBungie’s final reveal stream for the April Update for Destiny just wrapped up, and today was all about changes to the game-world in Destiny. Bungie calls it the sandbox, a lot of the community calls it the meta, all it really boils down to is how players interact with the game world around them. Bungie talked today about weapons, ammo, revives and Warlocks. Let’s hit a couple important bits.

The big changes to the Crucible really revolve around keeping games competitive more often. A big factor to that is revives in the 3-man modes, especially Trials. The update is bringing a slower revive time, as well as adding a strong penalty to revive timers in Trials of Osiris. The big thing is that the quick revive exotics no longer will let you sprint through and revive – you need to actually sit there for the revive. The overshield granted is also weakened, which should limit the revive push back a little. What wasn’t changed, or at least didn’t appear to be changed, was the potential for revive snipes – which is a big sticking point for me to steer clear of Trials. The other big economy change to the Crucible is with the ammo situation. Special ammo, which was removed from match start in a previous patch, is back now since players were working around that with some weapon exploits. I like bringing it back, especially in conjunction with the other changes to special ammo and weapons. The ammo crates spawn in later – three minutes into the match – and spawn less frequently. It means that using your special weapon is more of a choice – you need to pick and choose your shots. The same idea can be applied to heavy ammo – no more grabbing one crate, and holding down the map until the second spawn. There’s now only going to be one heavy ammo crate per game now. It puts a hell of a lot more emphasis on team work to grab that heavy, and spread that heavy around the team. Overall, I like the general changes – I’m sure that there’s a few more details we’ll see tomorrow in the update notes tomorrow of course. When you look at the changes to the crucible, and combine them with the weapon and Warlock changes, I think the Crucible is going to be a lot more friendly an environment to play in, especially since the rewards are going to be increased.

Destiny Thorn

The main point that I was looking forward to seeing today was the weapon balance tweaks. The current weapon meta has been pretty stagnant since December I think – especially in the Crucible. What we saw today was a lot of little changes, but ones that I think will have some substantial impact. The overall archetype changes I think hit the ones that needed them most – bullet hose auto rifles, the super slow autos, slow pulse rifles,  fusion rifles, snipers and hand cannons. I think each one got what they needed, with the exception of maybe a little accuracy boost I would have liked for the hand cannons. A bunch of specific weapons got tweaks that needed them as well – especially exotics. Thorn finally got the DoT nerf that I think it always needed. Suro Regime finally I think has become the dual option weapon it was intended to be. Icebreaker was pushed even farther to being a support weapon. The big surprise on the exotic front was Dreg’s Promise. It was possibly the worst weapon in Year One, utterly underwhelming. It’s gone under the knife and come out a totally different looking weapon. Gone are the ricochet rounds that were pretty terrible as an exotic perk, replaced with tracking shots, similar to what can roll on rocket launchers. I thought immediately of Bungie’s first tracking bullet weapon, the Needler from Halo. It’s not quite on that level, but seeing it in action was pretty impressive. It looks like a legitimate weapon choice now. I think the big overall theme with the weapon balance pass was all about options. It’s really clear that Bungie doesn’t want there to be one or two ways to play the game – both in PvE and PvP. That’s what Gjallarhorn is gone. It’s why Icebreaker got left behind. It’s why Thorn is getting looked at, again, now. The more options there are, the better the game is – variety is never a bad thing in a shooter.

Destiny Warlock

The last thing Bungie talked about today were the Warlock subclasses. Back in December, Titans got a overhaul, taking the subclasses used the least -Defender in PvP, and Striker in PvE – and adjusted them so that they aren’t detriments. This time around, it’s the Warlock. Nothing super crazy was adjusted – on any of the subclasses – just small adjustments that bring each subclass closer to the role that Bungie wants for them. Stormcaller had Stormtrance brought back a little bit, meaning you have to pick and choose when to use it more. Sunsingers had Radience tweaked a bit – banking it with Fireborn means it’s a shorter duration, but using it more offensively will give you a couple more grenades now. Flame Shield also got a little bit of a nerf, which as a Titan I really appreciate. No more melee powerhouse Sunsingers. Voidwalkers didn’t get a huge change – really their energy drain powers were where the focus was. Crank that up so that it’s giving you more energy, and really building your class around those perks is what the Voidwalker is all about now. You’re shooting for extra Nova Bombs, and these changes will help. I like the changes all around – nothing that seems like it’ll kill a subclass in PvP, and nothing that really hurts any of them in PvE. Honestly, going in to the stream, I felt like the Warlocks were in a pretty good spot. The little tweaks were all that really needed to be done – I think Hunters still need work, especially in PvE; and as a Titan, I always want a little more range on my punch. That said, the subclasses are closer than they’ve ever been I think, although hopefully we don’t need to wait too long for the Hunter pass.

Destiny 2.0 Thoughts – The Real Issue With the Shotguns in PvP

DestinyAs we get closer to the 2.0 patch for Destiny, I thought I would offer up my thoughts on some of the parts of the weapon balance changes. Today, mainly because I’ve been playing PvP more frequently, I want to talk about shotguns.

Anyone that’s put any real time in the Crucible since the last weapon update – back in January – should be very familiar with the power of shotguns. Since the weapons’ impact stat matters a lot more in Crucible for damage per shot, shotguns have always been powerful weapons. They tend to always have pretty high impact stats, which in turn results in more one-hit kills. The problem came in when Felwinter’s Lie was first available for sale – it’s already the longer range, highest impact, low rate of fire. When Iron Banner 2.0 went live at the same time, Lord Saladin offered the option to reforge weapons – allowing every person with a Felwinter’s Lie to roll it to it’s most powerful state. In this case, it allowed anyone to roll an already powerful weapon with a perk – Shot Package – that pushes it even farther. Normally that wouldn’t be a huge issue – Bungie should have nipped it in the bud back then by addressing Felwinter’s in particular. Instead, with the House of Wolves they added in three other high impact, extended range shotguns – AND made reforging even easier to do.

Destiny Felwinters Lie

Now, in the 2.0 weapon balance patch, the problematic perks are being addressed. Shot Package, and the slightly less ridiculous Rangefinder, are both being reduced in effectiveness. That’s a really good start – especially since shotguns already got hit by a range nerf back in the 1.1 patch. The problem here is that the real issue that’s kept shotguns at the top of the list is that Destiny‘s core mobility mechanics make it incredibly easy to get in to one-hit range almost instantly, with little to no danger. Sliding is the highest risk move in the close range playbook, and even that still easily favors the sliding player. The biggest issue is Voidwalkers and Bladedancers have access to Blink Jump – essentially a teleport. It allows them to move around the maps super fast, with almost no threat of danger – damage while blinking is ignored, at least during the teleport. Add in that it’s an almost instant transit and the change in vertical nature makes countering it an incredible chore – especially as a Titan.

So while I am happy to see those really problematic perks get knocked down to a more even level, knowing that they probably won’t ever adjust Blink means that shotguns will continue to be a viable strategy forever. Now, as a shotgun fan in shooters, I’m really happy with the way the weapons feel in Destiny. But the current meta feels counter-intuitive to the rest of the way Destiny feels and plays. Bungie has a track record of messing with the weapon type – in each Halo game they worked on, the shotgun underwent a pretty noticeable tweaking. Destiny needs more frequent tweaks than it’s seen so far, but I do worry that we might see the swings be too much each time. We’ll see what 2.0 actually brings with it, and how the new meta shapes up after The Taken King launches.