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: Rise of Iron – What Needs to be Fixed First

Destiny Rise of IronI have been loving my time with Rise of Iron – I picked up an old friend for my heavy weapon slot, my first weapon got a nice new coat of Exotic paint, and I have been really enjoying zipping around the Plaguelands. That all said though, there’s one thing that I really hope Bungie looks at fixing quickly – The Crucible. We’ve been in this ultra-fast time to kill meta for a long time now – it really goes all the way back to House of Wolves and Felwinter’s Lie style shotguns. Over the last six months or so though, it’s just gotten worse to the point now where unless you use a pretty select group of weapon, you’re at a distinct disadvantage.

It was already super frustrating to play in a handful of playlists – mainly the 3V3 games and Iron Banner – but adding Supremacy has just exacerbated the issues. Having to pick up the crests after a kill is a great way to fight passive play – I’ve always been a fan of Kill Confirmed in Call of Duty. In Destiny now though, forcing players into close range just has continued to push them towards the max-impact shotguns and crazy TTK primaries to have a chance. I’ve played enough Supremacy to at least finish out the Crucible quest and weekly bounty, and in those games I’ve seen almost nothing but Party Crashers, Conspiracy Theory D’s, Eyaslunas and Palindromes. Even weapons that are usually 6v6 standouts – Doctrine of Passing, Hawksaw, and most snipers – start to fall away a bit in Supremacy because of the nature of the game. We already know that the first Iron Banner after launch is Supremacy – that has me the exact opposite of excited for Iron Banner. I usually look forward to it for the weapons and armor – consistently some of the coolest looking gear in the game. But even with the changes to the system with Rise of Iron, I think it’s going to be a super frustrating week. Part of that frustration will come from the fact that there is going to be a pretty wide variety in Light Level for the first time in ages with Iron Banner/Trials. The other part will come with this current meta.

Destiny Crucible

Now that Private Matches are live, and the competitive scene can start to grow, we’re starting to see top level players really speak out about the meta. Guys like TripleWreck and KJHovey have put out videos and posts explaining just how bad this current environment is. The more eyes that see this, the more likely that Bungie acts quicker. I personally don’t agree totally with TripleWreck’s idea on how to fix it – I think a blanket primary buff feels like way too much of a step toward power creep. Instead I think a better fix would be to adjust shotguns again – they’re fine in PvE now, so just focus on PvP behavior. To me, the best bet is to just kill the range and handling – make it so you have to be even closer for those one-shots. There has to be some kind of trade-off to using this weapon, and right now there really isn’t. Same goes for those primaries that are good – drop the stability on those Pulse Rifles, make Hand Cannons more consistent across the board and limit the chances for two-shot potential guns; while the one thing that I do think deserves a buff would be Auto Rifles outside of that DoP archetype. There’s a lot of work still to be done, and hell, I don’t have anywhere near the level of data that Bungie does so hopefully they’ll have a better idea of how to address it. The other thing with Supremacy that I might want a little attention put toward is the score limit – FFA Supremacy feels like it goes a little long, and on some maps it can feel under populated. Maybe pull more from the 3V3 maps – good example was a FFA match on the new map Skyline. The match ignored the outdoor sections for the vast majority of the match, and spawns were all over the place. Maybe it’s just the game mode needing to work out a couple kinks, but still, it’s a bit big of a map for FFA.

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 Crucible – Has It Changed Post-Update?

DestinyOver the last couple weeks I’ve been playing more PvP in Destiny than I have since probably the launch of the game. On all three of my characters, chasing the good drops from Shaxx and still leveling my factions up. I’ve written here a couple times about the “meta” that lives in the Crucible, but since the April update (The Taken Spring) I haven’t gone too in-depth about how the Crucible is shaping up. Today, I’ll give it a closer look.

Before we get into the real meat, I’ll say this about the Crucible – over the last couple weeks, this has been the most fun I’ve had playing Crucible since the launch of the game across the board. I’ve seen a lot of posts on the Subreddit talking a lot about Skill Based Match Making/”sweaty” games in the Crucible. I personally think that’s a totally silly argument – PvP is supposed to be competitive, that’s the whole point. What I think people are arguing for is a separate place to play less competitive games – a social playlist – which I do think has merit, it just is too late to add in to the game at this point. You can have fun in the “sweaty” nature of the games – just take a step back, and focus less on the negatives. Find a moment or two in each game that gets you excited – maybe it’s a clutch quick-scope, or a pivotal play with your super ability. When you stop worrying about your wins/losses and K/D in each game, and focus more on the actual gameplay I think you will not only have more fun, but also get better naturally over time.

When we talk about the Crucible, most of the conversation revolves around the weapon balance, and rightly so. While the Guardians we play are characterized by their abilities, the primary way we interact with the worlds in the game is through our weapons. That’s why it’s both super important to get the weapons feeling right, but also incredibly difficult to nail down. I’ve always been a big believer in thumbskill trumping any weapon limitations – if you get your thumbs under you, any weapon can work, and work well. With that said, Destiny has always struggled to find a level playing ground since there are lots of moving parts. However, right now in the Crucible is probably the best all around that it’s been in a very long time, at least from a primary weapon standpoint. All four weapon classes work, and can net you plenty of kills, provided you use them within their ranges/roles. No more cross-map shooting with hand cannons, and the same goes for scout rifles at point blank range. Exotic weapons aren’t as important in PvE anymore, but in the Crucible, they still can be deadly choices – but they aren’t the only choice like Thorn/Suros/Mythoclast used to be.

Destiny MIDA Multi Tool

Let’s talk a little more about primary weapons before we move along. If there is one weapon that’s close to that Thorn/Suros/Mythoclast level it has to be the MIDA Multi Tool. It’s definitely the most popular weapon that I’ve seen out there, but I think it does have a little stepper learning curve than the other weapons did. It’s a scout rifle, so figuring out the pacing on the fire rate and dealing with the close range limitations of the weapon can take a little time. But when you pair it with the exotic perk – greatly increased agility – and it can be a super difficult weapon to fight against. I think the only real reason you don’t see it to the same level you used to with Thorn is because of that learning curve. That said, my new favorite build uses my MIDA on a full agility Bladedancer running Radiant Dance Machines – you can walk just about as fast as sprint, and that extended to strafing. It’s stupid fast. Beyond MIDA, there are actually plenty of different primary weapons you can use to do really well. Doctrine of Passing – which does require Trials to earn – is still capable of putting out insane damage at close ranges, but auto rifles are finally starting to come back. The Iron Banner Haakon’s Hatchet is really solid, as is Shadow Price and Grim Citizen III, along with pretty much any exotic. Hand cannons are all about in the same spot – Hawkmoon stands out a bit more, and Last Word came back to the pack a good amount. I’ve actually been really liking my Devil You Know and even The First Curse for the weekly hand cannon bounty. Scout rifles are pretty similar to hand cannons – all very similar in behavior, which opens up the possibilities; and we already talked about MIDA, although Tlaloc is a solid choice for Warlocks as well. Pulse rifles are still really strong – they have been the best overall class since The Taken King launched I think. Hawksaw and the Suros PDX still can dominate with the right roll, and the new Final Duty from Variks is in that same kind of spot. I still think that Red Death is the best overall weapon, not just in Crucible play, but in the entire game, but I think I’m a little in the minority on that one these days. Outside of the hyper-competitive arenas of Trials, I think this is the first time in a very long time where just about any primary works awesome. Trials is a little different, but I’ve never liked Trials thanks to the Elimination game type.

Destiny Invective Shotgun

When we move to special and heavy weapons though, that’s where that balance starts to break down a little bit. This is where you’ll see a lot of the same weapons over and over in each game. Fusion rifles, while certainly better since the April update, are still rare sights, and I think there’s really only one that I would say has the potential to be powerful – Plan C; that fast charging, relatively strong impact kind of fusion rifle. But shotguns and snipers are still the kings – and the same names are still leading the charge. Conspiracy Theory, Party Crasher, Thousand Yard Stare, LDR, Longbow – weapons that should be very familiar to anyone at this point. With the shotguns, it’s the same problem that Felwinter’s presented in Year One – the high impact, long range, low rate of fire weapons are by far better PvP options. There’s really only one exception to that, and it’s an exotic – Invective. You’re still chasing the same basic ideas – range boosts, reload speed boosts, impact if can get it – that you were in Year One. As a result, this is where I think the balance breaks down and you find players all using the same loadouts. Snipers have a little more variety, but only in names. The Thousand Yard Stare, LDR 5001 and Longbow Synthesis are all basically the same archetype weapons. Impact is on the higher side, rate of fire is right in the middle, and they can all roll with the perks you want. Reload speed boosts, good scopes, and target acquisition all help make that weapon slot feel samey. Exotic snipers all but have disappeared – I was shocked to see a Hereafter yesterday in a match. Building  off of that idea, I can’t remember the last time I used a sidearm in the Crucible, or saw one for that matter. If there’s only one thing that the next weapon pass looks at, I really hope that it’s the special weapon economy. Special ammo has been up and down, but the weapons all haven’t really changed in basically a year now.

Heavy weapons are also in a similar spot – and really have been since the early days of Destiny. Rockets are the head of the class – by a large margin. Even with the ammo changes, reducing the number of rockets you can hold, they’re still the best choice for a heavy. You have easy potential for multi-kills, and the damage is instant. I may prefer using a machine gun, but I have to pull back after grabbing ammo while the rockets start flying around. Swords are…interesting to use. Potentially a really powerful option – especially on smaller maps, but you do have to get up close. A lot like with the specials, you’re still looking for the same talents as always. Rockets still need tripod, grenades and horseshoes, tracking, and as much velocity and blast radius as you can get. There’s a reason Truth is still the best PvP rocket in the game. Lord Saladin did bring a damn good second option with Tormod’s Bellows with a god roll, but it’s no longer for sale. Machine guns still need to have that mid rate of fire and above average impact to really stand a chance – they can get lots of kills, but you need to survive past the rocketfest. Any boots with ammo boosts, and gauntlets with reload speed boosts help a lot here – the guns themselves aren’t quite as dependent on perks actually. Look for stability, range and reload perks. Basically chase the Raid machine gun, and you’ll be set. Swords are all set with their perks, so there’s no real variety there. Instead you want to get as much ammo as you can, then just learn to time your attacks. It’s a lot like the machine guns – survive the initial crossfire rockets, get to the choke points, use the block ability and you’ll be chopping down enemies for sure.

There’s a lot still to talk about – we’ll talk subclasses tomorrow and the different modes themselves Wednesday – but weapon wise, the Crucible is in a really solid spot. There’s still work to do of course, but for the first time in a while, I actually find myself wanting to play Crucible again. Bungie just needs to keep an eye on the data and keep making changes that need to happen. I would like to see them come a little more frequently, but we’ll see moving forward.

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.

Let’s Take a More Detailed Look at the Destiny Beta: The Crucible

DestinyAll week I’ve been running through my thoughts on the beta for Destiny, starting with an overview, then going through the classes and yesterday the locations. Today I want to hit the other major portion of the game we were able to experience, the Crucible, or Destiny’s PvP arena. With a game like Destiny I was a little uneasy at how Bungie would approach PvP – they’ve always done a great job with competitive multiplayer but I was worried how the leveled gear would impact it. Luckily, Bungie took that into account and created the Crucible to suit their ideas for PvP.

CRUCIBLE BASICS
To help even the playing field for guardians, Bungie took a smart approach to the Crucible. It doesn’t actually unlock for players until they reach level 5, and even then, all the level advantages are turned off, meaning that the playing field is a level as possible. Some upgrades are still in play, in particular it looked like weapon and armor and class modifiers all still worked, but the actual stats were evened out for all players. Beyond that, it’s easy to get into the Crucible, just set the playlist you want to play as your destination from orbit and you’re off. The other nice thing is that once the Crucible is unlocked on one character, the other two characters on a profile can access it as soon as they reach the Tower. This makes it easy to try the other classes in PvP quickly, albeit most likely not at full power yet.

Destiny Crucible

CONTROL BASICS
In the beta we only had access to one gametype – Control – which functioned like a domination gametype, but one where kills also added to the team score. Because they added in that feature to the scoring, the score limit needed to be high enough to make the games still last long enough to feel satisfying; but at the same time, teamplay is still rewarded and capturing the points is still the best way to raise your teams score. One thing that I noticed was very important was managing ammo for special and heavy weapons. I ran with a shotgun and HMG for my special and heavy weapons, and found that they each were capable of turning a point defense in my favor quickly if used correctly. Add in managing grenades, melee and super ability cooldowns, and it’s a much more mental shooter than Halo or Call of Duty is. I found that the Warlock and Titan were both better suited for clearing control points, while Hunters were great for providing overwatch, as it relates to their super abilities.

CRUCIBLE MAPS
We only had two maps to play in the beta, one that was set on Venus, The Shores of Time and one set on the Moon, First Light. Of the two, I enjoyed Shores of Time much more so, I think just because First Light is a bigger map, and my Titan build was designed more for close combat than long range fights. First Light also featured vehicles, including Pikes, personal Sparrows and the Interceptor – which during the beta was clearly over powered, to the extent that Bungie has already addressed it for the retail release. Shores of Time played to me much more like a classic Halo map – frantic, with lots of close range action punctuated with spots of sniper fire. The locations of the control points on Shores of Time made it very easy to start running circuits for both defense and offense, meaning that there really wasn’t ever a break in the action. First Light on the other hand felt almost too spread out, especially based around a couple of the spawn locations, which just felt too far from any particular map feature. Spawn locations are one of those things that are always being tweaked with any online shooter though, so I expect Bungie to be working on those throughout Destiny‘s lifespan.

Destiny Lord Saladin

THE IRON BANNER
The other aspect of the Crucible that we got to see was the Iron Banner, a timed playlist that turned on level advantages, meaning that the stats and levels of you character and gear mattered. I’ll admit I was hesitant to head in as early as my fireteam did, just because at that point I was using a Pulse Rifle that I wasn’t super happy with, and my shotgun actually became my primary weapon. However, there were two new maps, Rusted Lands, set on Earth and Blind Watch, which was set on Mars that were exclusive to the Iron Banner. Both these maps felt good, closer in scale to Shores of Time than First Light, with good sight lines, and plenty of choke points. Of the two, I think I preferred Rusted Lands a little, mainly because the Control Points were easier to navigate between without prior map knowledge. I also felt that as the game plays at this point in time, using an Auto Rifle or Scout Rifle is really the only way to go – the recoil patterns on Pulse Rifles make it difficult to hit multiple Criticals, while Hand Cannons have small clips and long reloads, making it less likely for you to come out on top of longer fights. As for gear, going in with green, or Uncommon, gear seemed to be the only way to go, since most green items have some kind of upgrades associated with them.

CRUCIBLE TWEAKS
Overall, I think Bungie has a good way of approaching the PvP aspect of Destiny on their hands with the Crucible. I like that in order to unlock multiple playlists, you have to progress in level, encouraging players to play the story, strike and explore modes and not just sit in PvP the whole time. That said, there are a few little things that I hope to see Bungie address for the final retail build. First and foremost, the spawns – in general I felt that the spawn locations were alright, but in a few instances, I spawned either right next to an enemy, or in one game, twice in a row with an enemy looking right at me with his weapon ready to go; but as I said, spawns are always being tweaked online. Second, I’m a little wary of how the Iron Banner will go when the full game ships – whether it will be a timed playlist, and more importantly, whether matchmaking will take into account players’ levels. I think that the second point is much more important, I can’t imagine going in as a level 5 character and matching up with level 20s being any fun at all. Finally is that I’m just curious as to how the other gamemodes will work, as well as the final map count. Bungie has a history of having a really strong map list throughout the Halo series, so I feel pretty confident that will still be the case here. Once again though, I’m stuck waiting until September to find out – only one month left to go.