It's a big week for competitive Destiny players. A new Iron Banner started recently, which is a week-long competitive multiplayer event where players get to test their mettle -- and their cool new guns -- against one another.
This is the first Iron Banner since the launch of the Taken King expansion, and also the first since the 2.0 weapon rebalancing. I've played a fair bit in the last 24 hours, so I thought I'd share some early impressions.
Fights Are Far More Varied
Every time there's a weapon rebalance, some time passes before a new meta emerges and everyone starts hunting down the agreed-upon "best" guns. The 2.0 meta still hasn't settled, which has made crucible a remarkably fun place to be.
I've really enjoyed how balanced matches have been, in terms of weaponry. I get killed by so many different guns now! I get killed by auto rifles, and scout rifles, and hand cannons, and sniper rifles… it's, uh, fun.
No, really though, it actually is fun to be killed by guns other than Thorn and The Last Word. That's in part due to the rebalance, and in part because lots of the most popular year-one guns were left behind in year two. Those guns still work in vanilla Crucible, so Iron Banner has been our first time in the entirely new ecosystem. So far, I like it.
Shoguns Are Still (Still) Annoying
The day Iron Banner came out, Bungie included a small nerf to Shotguns. They removed the Shot Package perk and theoretically removed the "sniper shotgun" archetype from the game.
Results seem mixed, at least to me. In the first day of Iron Banner, I still saw a lot of instances of That Shotgun Guy doing his That Shotgun Guy thing: It's always a hunter, always bunny-hopping everywhere, shotgunning people in the face. (God, I hate that fucking guy.) Shot package or no shot package, shotguns are still annoying in Crucible.
That said, I've also had plenty of instances where I've beaten out a shotgun warrior with a sidearm or a fusion rifle. I'll get hit by their first blast, but my fusion rifle will beat out my opponent at medium-close range. In those instances, the game feels closer to working as intended. The impossible snipe -- where a guy one-hits you from like nine feet away -- hasn't happened to me since Iron Banner started. Shotguns may still need a few more tweaks, but this does feel like progress.
The New Supers Are Ridiculous
I'm playing as a Titan in Iron Banner, so I'm part of the problem. The problem in this case being that the new Sunbreaker super ability is hilariously powerful. Lots of IB matches devolve into seemingly endless chains of Sunbreakers bullying their way around the map and killing the entire opposing team in one go. (It's a similar situation with the Warlock class's new Stormcaller super.)
Most matches play out like this: The first couple of minutes are a gunfight, mostly because everyone's waiting for their super to charge. Then at about the 1/3rd mark, here come the supers! And everything goes out the window.
Many matches that I'm in go from a close contest to a blowout right around the halfway mark, which I'm guessing is tied both to the first round of heavy ammo and to people finally getting their supers up. I'm not sure if that's by design or not, but it's immediately noticeable.
As a result, a given Iron Banner match is defined more by each team's supers than by anything else. That's not bad, exactly, but it does make me understand why some people are asking Bungie for a PvP mode without supers. I love hammering the other team as much as the next guy, but I'd also love to play a guns-only match.
As far as the various supers' overpoweredness goes… I'm still not quite sure how I feel. The Sunbreaker super certainly feels overpowered, but the class's non-super abilities aren't that great. The Stormcaller super is extremely annoying… but I've successfully countered it in a bunch of different ways.
The thing that seems clearest to me is that the three new subclasses are superior -- maybe too superior? -- to the year one subclasses. Every time I see a Titan using Fist of Havoc, I think, "Really?"
My Levitation Helmet Is So Cool
This probably doesn't merit its own bullet point, but whatever. A couple weeks ago I got the new exotic Titan helmet Empyrian Bellicose, which gives you the ability to levitate in mid-air for a short time. It makes you a floating target, but if you use it aggressively and creatively, it allows you to snipe from angles that other players aren't expecting.
It is extremely fun to use, and has been a hoot in Iron Banner. It reminds me how a good Destiny exotic item should subtly alter how you play.
(To be honest, I was really just looking for an excuse to post that clip.)
The New Bounty System Works
The changes to the Iron Banner bounty system seem good to me -- the daily bounties are a cinch to get done, so I don't actually have to spend all that much time each day clearing them out. The weekly bounties were actually also pretty easy to complete, and I like that they pay in legendary marks.
I feel similarly about the new daily Crucible bounties, which are also easier to complete -- it's nice to make progress simply for playing, and the wider variety of IB bounties means I can carry over incomplete ones from the previous day.
Matchmaking Is Still Inconsistent
Unsurprisingly, Destiny's PvP matchmaking is still a mess in Iron Banner. Connectivity is still a drag, and lag is still ever-present. I'm still seeing players quit losing teams, and am still getting matchmade into in-progress games where my team is 4,000 points down. I'm still seeing red-bar players lagging all over the damn place, and in general, any up-close fight feels like fighting on a time-delay.
A Lot Of My Matches Have Been Really Close
Over the last day of Iron Banner, my motto has become "never say die." It's easy to think you're losing badly, only to look at the score a minute later and realise hey, we're still in this thing. That feels different to me than standard Crucible, where a 2-3k point deficit is almost always insurmountable.
In just the last day, I've been on both sides of a number of down-to-the-wire Iron Banner comebacks. It's happening often enough that I have to give Destiny's matchmaking some credit. Each close game is a welcome reminder of just how exciting a fair, well-matched Crucible contest can be.
OMG Saladin's Pulse Rifle Is So Good, I Want It
I've generally liked playing Iron Banner for its own sake, rather than for the loot and gear you can earn. After House of Wolves, it was worth doing it to get Etheric Light for upgrading my gear, but I never cared all that much about earning the Iron Banner equipment Lord Saladin sold.
So I was pleasantly surprised to check out Saladin's inventory and see what amounts to my dream pulse rifle sitting there, waiting for me to get to rank 5 and buy it. I spent an absurd amount of time last summer rolling and re-rolling my precious Hopscotch Pilgrim, and the whole time I was chasing a roll much like the one Saladin is offering. Red-dot OAS! Braced frame! Third eye! Outlaw!
If those perks were specifically picked by Bungie -- and I'd imagine they were -- that suggests that Iron Banner weapons are going to have similarly fantastic rolls throughout the year. The upside is that players will all get a worthy prize to work towards; the downside is that every motherfucker in the Crucible is going to be using that gun starting a day or two from now.
Those are my impressions of Iron Banner, one day in. Everyone else out there who's been playing: How's it been going for you?