Destiny 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.