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.

Destiny’s New Leveling Problem

Destiny Rise of IronDestiny has a well documented rocky lifespan – from story issues to stagnant multiplayer balance. One thing that Bungie fixed with The Taken King last year was the convoluted levelling system and streamlined it to the system we know now. Light is still what really determines your power, especially when you hit Level 40, but it’s a lot easier to understand and progress now than it was in the “Forever 29” days of Vanilla. However, with the launch of Rise of Iron a new issue has popped up with the levelling, and it’s just going to be highlighted brighter this week with Iron Banner returning.

I didn’t really see a lot of talk over the weekend with Trials of Osiris coming back, but that tends to see less players than Iron Banner does. Now that Iron Banner is back the fact that there are going to be a lot of players with huge gaps in Light is going to make for a very frustrating experience for some people. I’m only sitting at about 354 on my Titan and not even 350 on my alts, but because there’s a section in the Rise of Iron book for hitting Rank 5 I’m going to play a bunch of IB this week. The loot looks really cool – I think the weapons are the same as the Iron Lord drops (I got lucky in Archon’s Forge last night and got the sniper and fusion rifle) and the armor looks awesome. That means I know I’m going to be fighting a major uphill battle since even playing regular Crucible matches last night I saw players up in the 370 Light range. And I know that there are people up above 380 and plenty with Light lower than I have. That wide gap is the level problem that I want to talk about.

The only real reason that that wide of a gap exists is thanks to the way that Rise of Iron launched, combined with the changes that Bungie made to engram decrypting. With The Taken King and the major shift from Year One to Year Two, banked engrams – including exotics – would only decrypt to Year One values. Since there isn’t as much of a shift from Taken King to Rise of Iron, Bungie didn’t decide to call this officially Year Three. As a result, players could bank tons of engrams – legendary and exotic – and when they decrypted them, they followed the new rules for engrams. Playing the story was enough to get beyond the point of the 340 Light that blue engrams decrypt at. Combined with a full stack of legendary marks to upgrade our Ghost shell, if you had a full vault of engrams, you could get a huge jumpstart on upgrading. Bungie had intended for the time from about 350 to 365 to be a slower grind – that’s where legendary engrams become most useful, and was intended to be the lead-in to the raid for the end-game level gear. That’s when Heroic Strike drops are relevant, where Archon’s Forge should have been populated constantly, and when your faction reward packages matter the most. The problem I think is twofold here – people could skip past this spot with enough engrams and materials to exchange; and the end-game activities returning so quickly after launched put pressure on players to hit those high levels as fast as possible. This meant that hardcore players were constantly grinding launch week to be raid ready on day one – I had friends that were in that group, playing pretty much all week long and got through the raid that first weekend. But there are way more players that don’t have that time and can’t grind out Heroic Strikes for hours to get a handful of drops. That’s what creates this huge gap in power – it’s going to be there for months now with no real way to close it quickly. People who are raid ready will just keep raiding and getting high level drops, while people who only play a few hours here and there will be stuck in the grind for longer. It’s not an inherently bad thing, only really when you look at things like Trials and Iron Banner, which Bungie has been talking up with the new loot to earn.

It’s unfortunately too late to really fix the issue – that gap is there, and the only fix is to just push through the grind with Iron Banner, Strikes, faction packages, Trials or the raid. What I’d love to see though is with Festival of the Lost this month, that actually have loot that can help players with limited time to level up. Crimson Doubles did that with Ghost shells, SRL did with class items and helmet back before “loot 2.0” was in place. Festival of the Lost only had the masks, which are cool, but they don’t have Light associated with them. I kinda have a feeling that when it comes around we’ll see something like sterling treasures with the masks or new loot dropping at Light 3 just like the Taken gear did in April. With no major expansions on the horizon until the full sequel – which is a whole different can of worms to talk about – there’s plenty of time to grind up the levels, it just stinks that there’s this huge gap right now as we go into the first Supremacy Iron Banner.

Destiny – 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.

Destiny Iron Banner – Post April Update

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

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

Warlock Nova Bomb

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

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

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.

The Return of Iron Banner and Why That Matters for The Taken King

Destiny CrucibleIn last week’s Bungie Weekly Update, Bungie outlined the plan for the return of end-game level PvP content. Next Tuesday we’ll see the return of Lord Saladin and the Iron Banner, and next Friday Brother Vance will start up the Trials of Osiris again as well. The Taken King already has a ton of content for players to enjoy, but the return of even more content is actually a really big deal on the PvP front. Today we’ll talk about why they matter so much.

One that Bungie has done really well with The Taken King has been infuse Destiny with all kinds of new content – and we’re still discovering secrets all over the place. On the PvP front though, the content was has certainly been a lot more straightforward. New maps and game-modes really isn’t a huge move when compared with the PvE content added in. In truth, most of the PvP shake-up has come from the weapon rebalance and the three new subclasses. I’ve already talked a bit about my issues with that long initial Crucible questline – but next week those feelings could change a little bit.

Destiny Lord Saladin

Let’s start with the lasting impact from Iron Banner and Trials. When power matters, and your light stat will impact your survival and damage, that’s really when a weapon meta can grow and define itself. You saw that in House of Wolves with the sheer number of Thorn/Felwinter’s/Rockets loadouts. Going into Iron Banner without that set-up, or one that specifically countered it (Red Death) meant frustration. That extended just as much – if not more so – in Trials. That meta doesn’t really exist anymore though – the rebalance has done a really good job of shaking everything up. Handcannons don’t have the uniform utility they did, which allows the other weapon types to start to shine. I’ve been playing a lot of Crucible lately, working on my Titan emblem quests, and I really haven’t seen a single weapon dominate the game like Thorn or Suros Regime used to. Sure there are a few I see more frequently, but I wonder how much of that is familiarity or quest related. For example, I still see plenty of Last Word, but that’s probably for the Jolly Holiday quest to get The Chaperone shotgun. What does bug me is when I see someone using all old Year One weapons – the new set of guns work really well in PvP, try them out!

That said though, I have a feeling that will probably change pretty soon after Iron Banner and Trials go live. That’s really when we’ll see the weapons strengths and weaknesses shine. Low impact, high rate of fire guns are going to be the ones I’m most curious to see – they were notoriously bad in the last meta, but I’ve been able to kill with them again now. We’ll see next week if they can still work with power balancing on. For now I do like that the meta is still in flux – it lets experimentation work and because of that, you’re seeing a lot more variety in the PvP game. I’ve said this about Destiny for a while now, the more variety that the PvP supports, the better it is. There isn’t a ton of content to really support a long PvP life – this isn’t Call of Duty or Halo where the competitive side is the real meat of the game. There’s only a few game modes and a couple handfuls of maps (with a sometimes rough rotation) compared with the other shooters double digits game modes and maps and map voting. That’s why I’ve been having a lot more fun lately than I was during House of Wolves – even without playing much Rift.

Destiny Felwinters Lie

The other benefits that Iron Banner and Trials bring with them are a little more hidden. The easy one is the new gear – armor and weapons. In the past set, the Iron Banner had the best PvP shotgun and sniper (Felwinter’s Lie and Efrideet’s Spear) and Trials had the best pulse rifle with The Messenger. I’m curious to see which archetypes they pick for the weapons this time around – especially for those ones that used to be super powerful. I have a hunch that even though the new Iron Banner shotgun has similar stats to Felwinter’s it’s not quite going to behave as nicely. The armor though is where I’m more curious – in the past the armor hasn’t been top-tier quality, except in PvP settings. With the new system, and perks making a bit more impact than stat values, I could see this new set being useful. Which is great because it looks amazing. With a good roll, I’ll absolutely take that Iron Banner helmet as my go-to legendary while I run with Immolation Fists or Crest of Alpha Lupi or Ruin Wings – even if I need to do some infusing on it.

That other benefit that I said is a little hidden is more of a feeling thing. When Iron Banner and Trials are live, the vanilla Crucible gets a little more forgiving. Those players that are chasing the end-game PvP content leave Control and Clash and Rift and head over to those end-game games. That ties into that big Crucible quest. I’m stuck at the Elimination phase – just before the last push. But Elimination right now has a lot of Trials veterans in there – and matchmaking against that is just brutal. But starting next weekend, with Trials actually live, that should make Elimination a little more doable. The same stands with Iron Banner – the more hardcore players and fireteams head off to impress Lord Saladin, leaving the vanilla playlists open for newer guardians to get those wins they need. The Crucible isn’t maybe the focus for a lot of players, but it does have some nice value in there – there are some really cool weapon drops I’ve managed to get plus those subclass specific emblems look so good. With more options headed our way soon, the Crucible’s value is going up again.