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 – Weapon Patch Notes

Destiny Rise of IronWe’re starting to get really close to the launch of Rise of Iron, the third (and potentially final) expansion to Destiny. Today the game is going under some scheduled maintenance for a good portion of the day putting in place the 2.4.0 build in advance of the assumed 3.0 Rise of Iron build. While the game is down though, Bungie is putting out the patch notes online in two waves. The weapon balance changes are live now, and the full patch notes will be up later this afternoon. In general, I think we have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the patch note side of things – removal of Spectral Treasure, addition of the new Silver Dust inventory, I’m guessing this is where the Iron Banner changes will happen too under the hood. The weapon patch though was one that the community has been waiting for since June – and there are some really interesting changes coming forward.

The patch notes start off with changes to Exotic weapons – and this is really where the first shining change lives. Universal Remote, a current bane of the Crucible, is getting hit with a little nerf. It’s not quite as strong as maybe I would have liked, having been on the wrong end of one tons over the last weeks, but it’s a great move. The range, which is Universal Remote’s strength, is getting taken down a bit (75% with the exotic perk) no longer ensuring it reaches max range. It’s also seeing a rate of fire increase, bringing a little damage drop – which is honestly always been my biggest hurdle with the high power shotguns, slow handling/RoF. I love these moves, hopefully they help put Universal Remote back into a better spot. Other exotics got changes too – Fabian Strategy is going to be useful finally, thanks to bringing the Zhalo Supercell reload perk to it, and a range and stability increase. Thorn, which is returning in Rise of Iron, needs to be watched carefully to keep it from returning to the top – and reducing the range 25% should help. Dreg’s Promise is also going to be useful with a damage increase on top of the sidearm changes. Boolean Gemini is going to surprise a lot of people I think – it was already a super balanced weapon that I think flew under the radar, with native High Caliber Rounds just makes hit a little harder in Crucible play; the No Time to Explain change is similar -take the weapon’s identity and reinforce it with a native perk, in this case Headseeker. My one complaint with the Exotic changes is with Touch of Malice – it’s the best King’s Fall weapon for boss damage, especially since I play Titan. Well, that’s going to change since the new Touch of Malice will negate Blessing of Light. It sucks, but it will just mean that raid teams will need to figure out new strategies for ogres and Light Eater Knights.

Destiny Thorn

Out of the weapon archetype changes, there’s a couple things to look at. First is the changes to snipers. Right now, they’re way too easy to use in Crucible with limited repercussions. Well, that’s changing a bit – the biggest thing I’ve wanted to come to snipers is finally happening – there’s a noticeable increase in aim flinch coming. Countering snipers with scout and pulse rifles is going to be a lot better of an experience. Beyond that, they’re doubling down on making the three rifle archetypes feel unique – the max impact/low RoF class is going to be the only one capable of consistently taking down Supered guardians with high armor; mid/mid class rifles are the most balanced, and high/low have the most aim assist still. The other real big changes in terms of a weapon class lie with the sidearms. Right now, they’re a real under the radar weapon – they can shine super bright in the Crucible, but lack a little in PvE play. I have found myself really liking one on my Hunter just because of the movement style. After the patch, sidearms will have more unified damage, a slightly longer range, a little better stability, and will have a PvE damage increase. With snipers being a less forgiving weapon, shotguns spreading around a bit hopefully, and fusion rifles staying more or less where they are, I could definitely see a well rolled sidearm being a must have with a Crucible loadout. There are a couple other changes coming – shotguns that are the higher rate of fire will have a better place in the overall meta. Mid-rate of fire auto rifles are also getting a damage boost, as are mid/mid pulse rifles, giving players plenty more options. A well rolled Shadow Price or Grim Citizen is going to be great again; and that Nirwen’s Mercy from forever ago is going to be a beast again.

Out of all the notes in the patch, the only thing that I think is a little bit of a misstep is with rocket launchers. Yes, Grenades and Horseshoes is getting a nerf, which it needed; and Cluster Bombs, which I’ve always thought was underrated, is getting a buff. But Truth is being left out of the Grenades and Horseshoes change – it’s unaffected by it. All that does is just ensure that if you use a rocket launcher, it’s going to be Truth. In an attempt to create variety, I think it’s just killed it in the heavy slot; especially when you think about the Legendary options in the primary and special slots and how you don’t really need an Exotic like in Year One. Maybe I’m wrong and Truth won’t be as effective, or other rolled rockets will stand out, but for now I don’t think that’s what will happen. The rest of the weapon balance changes though I think are great steps in the right direction – they look like they’re really looking to bring variety back into the Crucible, which has certainly been a little stagnant lately. The one thing that remains to be seen is just how the new Rise or Iron weapons will fit in with these changes. We know about a couple new ones from the patch notes – new high rate of fire sidearms and low rate of fire hand cannons – but exotics are still mysteries in many cases. This is probably the last major communication we’ll get from Bungie before launch – maybe we find out about a final Iron Banner next week in today’s update. I would think that Rise of Iron has to be pretty much completed – it’s officially time to prep for launch.

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: Rise of Iron – Gamescom Stream

Destiny Rise of IronBungie just wrapped up their Gamescom reveal stream for Rise of Iron, the new expansion for Destiny and I can’t believe how excited I am for this content. Today was all about Crucible updates, and while there wasn’t a huge amount of info, the info they dropped was massive. Let’s go through it.

Let’s get the big one out of the way – Private Matches/Custom Lobbies are coming to Destiny with Rise of Iron. It’s been a request of the community going all the way back to Vanilla, and now that it’s here it really is a game changer. Private Matches means that a true competitive scene can grow, along with a much more full content community. Machinima, community tournaments, pro games, mythbusting all can start to exist on a larger scale. The new settings let you pick any map, any game mode (outside of Crimson Doubles and SRL), the time of day, the presence of vehicles on the large maps and whether you enable Light advantage; and that’s not counting house rules. Your group wants to play sidearms only, with Light levels enabled on Asylum? Go for it. You’re a YouTuber who loves lore – you can now make some amazing video Grimoire content. Hide and Go Seek games are now actually a thing that can happen – they’ve been happening in the Twitch community since April in PvE, but now you can make them an actual game. The potential is incredibly powerful, and the idea of a content drought really doesn’t exist anymore. Now when there’s a few months without major updates, the community can fill that gap with tournaments, or whatever else we feel like. I’m super excited to see what this can bring with this community.

We also got a few more little details on stream, including a really great ViDoc that had a couple really interesting snippets. Let’s start with the gameplay we saw – two matches of the new game type Supremacy. Supremacy is essentially Kill Confirmed – you get a kill, you don’t score until you or a teammate picks up the dropped Crest. The mode looked like a lot of fun, it seemed fast paced and should cut back on camping more too. As long as we see a weapon balance patch with launch, the Crucible is going to be a hell of a lot of fun again. We saw two of the new artifacts in action too today – the Memory of Perun, showing the highlights on low health enemies and supered guardians; and the Memory of Gheleon with the new radar upgraded. The two new maps looked really great too – Floating Gardens looks like it’s going to play super fast, like a combo of Pantheon and Asylum; while the PS Exclusive map looked like a clearer version of The Anomaly set on Mercury. The new weapons they were playing with all looked great – it looked like they were all Faction weapons, a Dead Orbit auto rifle and shotgun, and a Future War Cult hand cannon. The hand cannon in particular looked like my preferred archetype for PvP – the slow, heavy hitting style. And of course, it was really refreshing to see Gjallarhorn back in use.

From the ViDoc though we got our first good look at a couple other details that have me salivating for Rise of Iron. For starters, we got an idea about the new Wretched Eye strike which looks really cool – a Captain Splicer who rips an Ogre’s eye out to use as a weapon? Yes Please. We got a little glimpse at the raid as well, which looks like it’s going to be a ton of fun – I love the themes behind the design, climbing that mountain (Wall) and then having to crash down to the core. My favorite thing though was that we actually got to see a good amount of new gear. The new sets – Iron Lord, Iron Banner, Raid and Trials of Osiris – all look incredible. I’m particularly pumped for the Titan Iron Lord armor with the ornaments on it – I can’t wait to be a flaming wolf Titan. The fact that we’ll have multiple sets of armor – including Faction sets – plus ornaments means that everyone will finally look different. Add in shaders, and class items taking those shaders and the variety that I’ve been hoping for will finally be popping up, at least with appearance. The other thing that I was really happy to see was some of the weapons. They quickly showed some new exotics – the weapon grid for one new machine gun, and models of a couple others. I picked out the “Robocop” style sidearm, and what looked to be a new sniper rifle; along with seeing Monte Carlo and Hawkmoon with their ornaments.

Rise of Iron looked amazing to begin with – everything we’ve been seeing has been exactly what I wanted to see come to Destiny. After today and seeing what the Crucible could be shaping into, I am totally on board for this expansion. It’s taken a couple years, but I think Destiny is finally starting to get into the spot it should be.

Destiny Rise of Iron: Quick Predictions

DestinyBungie day is tomorrow – 7/7 – which is always a really fun time for fans of their games. In the past, they’ve had online Halo tournaments with fans, and since Destiny launched, they’ve used it as a day to share relatively big news. We know tomorrow we’re officially learning what the Year Two Moments of Triumph will be – even though they were data mined a couple weeks back. But we might also get a couple little bits of Rise of Iron news – Bungie said they wanted to talk about it all summer, and it’s really been about a month since any real info was shared. The E3 buzz fleshed out a few details – no physical edition, no special edition, along with the mentality that Bungie is approaching this expansion with – but the community is rabid for more details. I’ve seen a good number of videos from the bigger Destiny names on YouTube – Datto, Byf, Gothalion and Broman – all have been talking about various elements that they are expecting/hoping to see in Rise of Iron.

So I thought I would put down a couple of my own thoughts about it going in to Bungie Day, then tomorrow we’ll digest what Bungie actually shares. The first big thing to look at is the Light Level increase – we know we’re getting a substantial increase with Rise of Iron, but Bungie at last glance was still tweaking the number. My money is on a cap of 400 – that gives them a couple milestones to let players hit along the way to the raid. It’s also a good jump, and I think 450 or 500 would just be too big of a gap to clear. As it is right now, the effective cap is 330 – that’s the level where all the reward packages cap out, and it’s where the difficulty caps out. So right at Rise of Iron launch, that can give Bungie a real easy place to assume where the majority of players will be, and plan out the 70 light beyond that. One thing that I’ve seen all over the subreddit lately too is the desire for light to be removed from class armor. I think it’s just because the paths to 335 on class armor are relatively limited – Challenge of Elders cumulative score RNG, and the end-game RNG drops: raid, Iron Banner, and Trials of Osiris. There are the strike specific loot drops too, but that’s only for Titans and Hunters – there isn’t a Warlock Bond in the current loot pool. For me, a better move would just be to open up the loot pool – make it so those class items can drop from more sources. It all just comes back to my biggest hope – more options across the board from an armor standpoint, both functionally and visually.

Destiny Rise of Iron

Which is a good way to think moving in to the next point I want to hit – choice. I’ve been saying this all the way since House of Wolves, the more options that Bungie gives players, the better the game will be. HoW did that with the infusion, meaning that any legendary armor could be end-game gear. I saw a lot more variety in the guardians during those first few weeks, until everyone started chasing the perfect weapon rolls and we went back to the “everyone uses the same gear” spot. Over the last couple months, really since April, we’ve started to see that again with Chroma and 1:1 infusion – you don’t have to wear raid gear, or grind raid gear, to be at the light cap. If they just keep giving players different ways to be at the cap, it will help keep the game fresh, even if it’s just from a visual standpoint. I think we get lost talking about stats and perk rolls because those directly impact performance; but visuals are actually important too – if everything is the same over and over again, you lose that drive and excitement. When your guardian looks different from the same gear you see in every match in the Crucible, I think that helps keep players connected and engaged. I would definitely expect to see plenty more Chroma compatible gear, along with other ways to customize your guardian, maybe using the SIVA tech being introduced.

I think when we start thinking gear and the quality of life stuff that comes with it, there really isn’t a lot that should be shocking. Moving on from last gen consoles should, in theory at least, free up some more space in the vault, or more collections in the Tower – maybe even for the raid gear that I’ve seen the community talking about plenty. We know that all of the inventory for the vendors will cycle through, with new designs for the armor and new archetypes for the weapons. What I would like to see is maybe a couple new vendors pop up – or even better have rotating stock for the main vendors. We saw how having one vendor weapon with a top level roll (the old vendor Hawksaw) can impact the Crucible sandbox on a pretty major scale. I think the prevalence of weapons like the PDX/Hawksaw/Grasp all goes back to the Hawksaw being sold at the Tower. Having a rotating stock – even if it’s just rerolling the perks on the weapons/armor should help keep one roll from dominating. It also would make the currency feel more valuable – as it is right now, Legendary Marks don’t really mean anything for me. I save up to 200, then dump them on either an exotic to complete my collection, or put them into planetary materials. If you make the rolls change – daily or weekly – you make the decision to buy a bigger one. Add in, hopefully, new vendors and the economy shifts pretty substantially. Now, for the hardcore/dedicated players, that economy won’t change too much – mainly because the variety is still limited just because of the pieces Destiny uses. But for the vast majority of players, keeping the vendors always changing would keep them always having potential power.

One last thing that I really hope we’ll see is in the Crucible – we know we’re getting a new mode, but not what that mode is yet. I doubt we’ll learn that tomorrow – I think Bungie will have a whole reveal stream dedicated to the Crucible changes in advance of Rise of Iron. But I’d love to see some kind of new mode that isn’t end-game, just a new way to play. I think there are two front runners – Capture the Flag and Infection. Infection makes sense based on the overall theme of Rise of Iron, while CTF fits more with the nature of the Crucible and Iron Banner in general. I fully expect some kind of balance changes before launch too – potentially two, since we’ve had two major patches since April, and August would fit with that schedule. They may just wait until launch though. There’s a lot of talk about the possibility of custom matches – it’s certainly possible, since they’ve said we’re getting new features – but I think it’s a longshot. I think what’s more likely is some kind of distinction for social and ranked playlists. I could even see ranked playlists being a new potential end-game option. What I think is a given though is that we’ll see a pretty sizable shake-up in the Crucible, especially given the focus on the Iron Lords and their involvement with the Crucible already.

There’s certainly still a lot to talk about with Rise of Iron. Bungie will I’m sure talk about it in some capacity tomorrow for Bungie Day, but there’s still a good two full months of time for them to tweak things and build the hype up the way they want to. That said, Destiny is in a pretty damn solid spot – there are plenty of fun activities in the game, and just as many that reward you with good loot. We may be in a content drought right now, but the content that is there is as solid as it ever was.

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.

Destiny April Update Crucible – Final Thoughts

We’re back finishing up my thoughts on the state of the Crucible in Destiny post the April update. We talked about Subclasses, and the weapon classes. Today I want to talk a bit about the different maps and modes in the Crucible. I also want to quickly talk about the “Rise of Iron” leak that happened at the end of last week.

Destiny Crucible

I don’t have as much to talk about with the different game modes, so I’ll start there. I only really dislike Elimination within the current group of games, only because I’ve never been that big a fan of one-life per round modes. It’s actually a big part of why I don’t play Trials. I’d like to see Trials feature a couple different game types, much like what Bungie has been doing with Iron Banner since Year Two started. I actually think that Rift is probably the most well designed mode within the context of the game. The Lore behind it makes sense within not only the overall world of Destiny but also in the Crucible. I also think that it’s the one mode that really rewards players for playing the objective, while still rewarding players who are more skilled at slaying. Control tries to find that balance, but I think falls just a little short, while Zone Control goes too far and takes the value out of kills and individual performance. If Clash isn’t what you’re into and you want objective modes in a competitive environment, I think Rift is the place to go. The modes that aren’t full teams of six – Skirmish, Salvage and Doubles – each work I think well enough. They are built to be the modes you go into with friends. Solo queue play in them is a lot more difficult to do well, mainly because with smaller team sizes, you need to have better teamwork. I like Salvage, I actually think it would work better though as a six-man mode and no revives. Ultimately though the biggest issue that I think that the modes have is that the Crucible is just begging for a true split between ranked and social play. Maybe that’s something we’ll see in the sequel.

Destiny Black Garden

With the maps, there’s actually not a huge amount of issues that I have. There are a couple of maps that I think have specific spots that present little issues, but nothing super major. What I think the biggest problem with the maps is that the playlists seem to go through phases – one day I’ll play a few hours and see maybe five maps, the next day it’ll be still only a handful, but different ones. I don’t know how much of that is just bad RNG, but map voting would be a huge way to help get some more map variety in there. I see Widow’s Court, Black Shield, Pantheon and Cathedral of Dusk way more often than the other maps. It certainly feels like a lot of the vanilla maps are weighted less in the hopper than the more recent maps, and the larger maps – Skyshock, First Light and Bastion – just don’t appear at all any more. There’s something like 20 or so Crucible arenas, and I just think playing the same ten or so is missing out. There’s a lot of room in the Destiny lore too to branch out with the arenas that I really hope Bungie starts to take advantage of. You see it on maps like Rusted Lands, with the leftovers from the Hive invasion of Earth; Bannerfall, where the remnants of that fourth Tower faction can be found after the Faction Wars; and Twilight Gap, the site of one of the more important battles within the Lore of the game. I really want to see more of that in the maps – show that these arenas are places that we’ve reclaimed from the Darkness, show that they do truly live in the same worlds that we visit in PvE activities. And I’d really love to see more variety in size in the maps – I love playing Vertigo because it’s so squished compared to many of the maps. It’s a big part of why I wish the larger maps were still in the rotation – it breaks up the monotony of the same few tactics on every map. Using a hand cannon, shotgun, rocket loadout on First Light was a lot trickier to pull off because of the ranges that you were usually engaging at.The more variety there is, the less tactics and loadouts like that can dominate to the level that they have so far.

Destiny Rise of Iron

Finally, late last week, there was a leak of some pretty killer artwork supposedly showing off the next major addition to Destiny, with the title Rise of Iron. Kotaku has apparently verified the art as legit, which is interesting because there’s a couple details that could be telling. Of course, we have no idea at all if it’s the full expansion that we’re expecting this fall – the early rumors for that were Cabal themed, and this art suggests Earth based content which would mean Fallen/Hive. It could very well be a timed event like Festival of the Lost/Sparrow Racing League was, to help get us through the summer. We have no official word to go on, and honestly probably won’t until E3. The art certainly seems to show off Lord Saladin – our Iron Banner buddy – standing out near the Cosmodrome wall looking pretty damn badass with a giant flaming axe. The axe is interesting because it reminds me of the Hammer of Sol visually, but we haven’t ever seen a super ability change appearance that much. Which brings us to the possibility of a new heavy weapon – perhaps an Exotic to complement the Swords. I have thought for a while that there’s room for some experimentation with the melee slot in the form of new Exotics. Assuming also that it is Lord Saladin, he’s got an interesting piece of gear for a Titan to have on – a full cloak. Cloaks are Hunter class armors – Titans wear marks around our waists. That a Titan, and one who not only plays a big role in-game, but also within the context of the Lore, is wearing a cloak is interesting. I have no idea at all what it could mean, but it definitely looks cool as hell. The last thing to talk about that I’ve seen people talking about is all the wolves in the picture. I’ve seen people speculate that means we’ll have companion pets, or that it’s indicating wild animals will be coming to the worlds we explore. The first I think is a really really long shot – even for the full sequel. We already have a companion character in our Ghost, and character development is something that Bungie really needs to work on for the sequel. The second idea is one that I could absolutely see working our – maybe not with the game as it is right now, but certainly moving forward. What I actually think the wolves are in the artwork is just a metaphor for the rest of the Iron Lords. We know a good amount about a few of them, and they’re all described in Lore as Iron Wolves. I just the artist included the actual wolves as a nod to that bit of Lore. Plus it looks cool as hell.

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: The Taken King – The Return of Iron Banner and How It Feels So Far

Destiny Lord Saladin

This week marked the return of Lord Saladin to the Tower for the first time since the launch of The Taken King for Destiny. For the new players, Lord Saladin’s appearance means that the Iron Banner is live – and that PvP is a whole different ball game. On the surface, it might not seem like a big change – you only can play Control and it’s only 6v6. That really isn’t the big deal though – Iron Banner is one of only two Crucible modes where your Light score will actually matter. Going in with gear that isn’t powerful can absolutely mean you’re in for a long game. That matters more than ever and it isn’t because of anything specific that Bungie did with the power curve. It’s because this is is the first Post-2.0 Patch Iron Banner.

Destiny Thorn

New players won’t really get why we talk so much about weapon balancing and meta game. They’ll never know the futility of fighting a team of Thorn/Last Word users, or going back further, Suros/Vex users. They only have a small taste of the power of shotguns – and won’t know the frustration of dealing with 15 ft. kill zones with them. They may even think that Titans have always been the go-to Crucible class and that Sunbreakers are just more of the same. I wish that was true. Veterans know all too well that Hunters and Warlocks used to have the Crucible in their grasp, with Thorn and Felwinter’s Lie reigning supreme. And it’s because of those memories that I’m having way more fun with Iron Banner this week than I did during House of Wolves.

Over the course of the last couple days, I really haven’t been killed by one specific gun noticeably more than any other. Sure a couple pop up frequently – Red Death, Hawkmoon, Hawksaw – but not in the frequency that Thorn and Last Word used to be there. I’ve even seen people using Fusion Rifles! That hasn’t been a sight in nearly a year. And that makes playing way more fun. Sure it sucks to get killed, but it’s nice to know that I’m not going into a fight already down a step because I don’t like Thorn. It means I can experiment with my loadout more than I ever did. In House of Wolves, if I played Iron Banner, I used Red Death, Party Crasher +1 and BTRD machine gun. That was pretty much it, no matter the map. My armor didn’t change either – the only Exotic I ever thought of using was The Armamentarium. This week alone I’ve used more weapons and armor set-ups than ever before. I’ve tried Red Death, my Imago Loop, Zhalo Supercell, Hereafter, Conspiracy Theory, In Times of Need, Truth, my Arc Edge and even Baron’s Ambition. Every weapon has gotten me kills, and gotten me killed – just like I want in a PvP environment. I want my thumbskill and decision making to matter more – and now they do. I can take a shot and pull into cover and not just tick my health away. Firefights are way more about tactics and accuracy than they were before. It’s the Iron Banner behaving the way it should.

My biggest issue though is that true power is still gated by a pretty serious obstacle. Yes it’s possible to break 300 Light with only matchmade activities, but you’re at the mercy of RNG. To really be going into Iron Banner at a Light Level of at least 300, you’re much better off having done the Raid a few times. Now for most Iron Banner players, that’s probably not that big a deal, but for newer players I can see it being a pretty serious barrier for performance. What I would really like to see is the Crucible rewards be closer to 300 light either during Iron Banner or right before. It shouldn’t be a guarantee or anything like that, but it would open up a way for PvP-centric players to get up to that 300 region. I do like the way that Iron Banner is shaping up though so far for Year Two – with Trials of Osiris coming up next, we might have a more defined meta after the weekend.