You know the phrase “they don’t make ’em like they used to?” It’s not just true of stereo equipment and American muscle cars, it’s also true of Destiny guns.
In Destiny, there’s a shotgun you can earn called “Felwinter’s Lie.” (It’s a good name. Lots of Destiny guns have good names.) People like Felwinter’s, especially for PvP play, because it has better range than many other shotguns. The best versions of Felwinter’s can take out an opponent from halfway across a small room.
Felwinter’s Lie can only be earned during the on-again, off-again PvP event known as the Iron Banner. Some players won a Felwinter’s months ago; other players won one during last week’s most recent Banner. Thing is, depending on when you got it, your gun might be objectively better than the one I got last week.
The reason for that comes down to perks. In Destiny, all guns and armour come with various perks that you unlock as you use them. A piece of armour may let you throw grenades farther; a gun may let you increase its magazine size, or raise its stability at the cost of a range penalty. If you get a gun as a random drop, it will have a random combination of perks to go with it. Some perks are far better than others, and a killer combination of perks is called a “good roll.”
In the past, it was possible to get a Felwinter’s Lie with a perk called “Shot Package,” which reduces the spread of your shotgun blast if you aim the gun, and another called “Hammer Forged,” which increases the gun’s range at the cost of reload speed. With those two perks, Felwinter’s Lie becomes an extremely dangerous mid-range weapon. There’s a joke among players that the “lie” in the gun’s name is the fact that it’s classified as a shotgun, since in truth, it’s a sniper rifle. Har, har.
During the most recent Iron Banner, Hammer Forged was removed as a possible Felwinter’s perk. You could pay in-game money to “reroll” your gun to try for better perks — something that has long been possible with Iron Banner guns and was recently made possible with all new Destiny guns — but no matter how many times you rolled, you’d never get a combo Shot Package + Hammer Forged shotgun. The only players with that particular combination of perks won the gun during an older Iron Banner. A “vintage” Felwinter’s Lie is therefore demonstrably better than a new one.
Destiny’s House of Wolves expansion introduced the ability to upgrade any gun or armour with a material called Etheric Light, which lets players “ascend” older guns and armour to match the new level cap. It’s a fantastic addition to the game, and it gives players a new incentive to run old challenges like the Vault of Glass raid and to make use of the unique guns and armour those older challenges offer as rewards. Etheric Light has caused a levelling of the playing field — all guns and armour can theoretically provide the same damage and protection, meaning that players are given the ability to better customise their loadout, stats, and gear. Perks are now the primary thing separating one gun from another, and so perks have become much more important.
As a result of this playing-field-levelling, it’s become clear that Destiny‘s older guns are superior to its newer ones. The Vault of Glass guns, now able to reach the maximum 365 damage cap, have proved to be the best in the game. Guns like Praedyth’s Revenge, Fatebringer, Vision of Confluence, and Corrective Measure have tremendous perk combinations and all do some form of elemental damage. Once ascended to 365, they easily outclass almost any other gun in the game, particularly for PvE play.
Even many of the best, hardest-to-get guns in the new House of Wolves expansion fall short of the Vault of Glass weapons. The top-tier guns earned for beating the level 35 boss in the Prison of Elders challenge mode don’t sport perks that can measure up to the Vault of Glass guns — they have one fewer useful perk, replacing the Vault guns’ secondary perks with weaker alternatives. Why would I want a Wolves’ Leash scout rifle when an ascended Vision of Confluence scout is easily the superior weapon?
I don’t see any of this as a problem — I like that Bungie has given new life to the guns I earned over months of raiding the Vault of Glass. If anything, the older guns’ superiority illustrates a failing of imagination with the new weapons. If a level playing field leaves the new weapons lagging behind, then those guns should be improved to give us a motivation to earn them and use them.
At least players can still play the Vault of Glass and therefore can still earn a Fatebringer, or a Vision of Confluence, or what have you. Where the vintage guns thing gets really interesting is when it comes to the guns you can’t get anymore. Some vintage guns can no longer be obtained, making them true — and truly prized — collectors’ items.
Felwinter’s Lie is one example of that phenomenon, but there are many more, guns that can no longer be found in any incarnation. I have two copies of the LDR 5001 sniper rifle — a fairly common gun from the Dark Below expansion — and they easily outclass anything I could get now. One in particular is a solar rifle with an amazing roll — it has the Field Scout perk (no longer available on new sniper rifles) as well as the beastly Final Round perk, which turns the last round in the magazine into a one-hit-kill in PvP. As with Field Scout, that perk appears to be impossible to get on a new sniper rifle. A new gun of this quality simply doesn’t exist in Destiny. Were I to delete mine, I’d be unable to find another to match it.
Now more than ever, it’s worth keeping a collection of older guns. That has exacerbated one of Destiny‘s longstanding problems: a notorious lack of storage space. Players can store a fair number of guns and armour pieces on each of three characters and are given a limited amount of shared vault space. Despite a recent vault expansion, it’s still nowhere close to adequate. I’m regularly dismantling gear to keep a tiny bit of space free for something new that I might get. Every time I dismantle a new gun, I faintly hope that I won’t regret it.
I think back to the many guns and pieces of armour I’ve dismantled with sadness. Did I thoughtlessly delete a weapon or piece of armour that, when ascended, would have put my current gear to shame? Probably. Did I need the vault space? I did. Well, shit. So it goes.
I’m hopeful that as Destiny continues to expand, Bungie will continue to allow us to ascend older gear to put it on par with newer stuff. I really like the notion of collecting older guns, as well as the fact that, provided they hung onto it, longtime players get some superior vintage gear as a reward for their months of dedicated play. And hey, while these new guns may seem weak in comparison with the older stuff, in six months, they could be collector’s items too.