Lowering the Banner

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The first Iron Banner of Destiny 2 is officially over, and in spite of my comments yesterday…  I did legitimately enjoy myself for a good part of it.  It was only towards the end when things started to really grate on my nerves.  Last night for example was a really bad night where a combination of my general fatigue, my left index finger being sliced, and the fact that somehow I had gotten into what Destiny Tracker calls the platinum bracket…  served to lead to a series of not so fun matches.  I had every intent to grind out the daily milestone on each of the three characters, but in the end only managed to complete it on the hunter.  I am a little disappointed that I never got the Hand Cannon, but from what I am seeing my luck was considerably better than most players.  Here is my final haul for the 60 matches of Iron Banner I played over the course of last week…

  • 7 or 8 Unique Weapons – lots of dupes dropped
  • 5 piece set of Titan armor – lots of dupes dropped
  • 2 of 5 pieces of the Hunter armor set

All in all that really isn’t too bad of a haul for the very first running of Iron Banner.  This ultimately gives me the entire set of Warlock gear and most of a set of Hunter gear to get next go round.  Additionally there is still the chase for the Hand Cannon.  That is way more useful loot than I tended to get from several months worth of Iron Banner during Destiny 1.  Sure it was interesting to get a bunch of different weapon rolls…  but ultimately most of those wound up being trash.  The likelihood of me getting that god roll weapon was pretty limited, and in truth I think I like having a fixed point to focus on rather than not only hoping to get an item… but hoping it isn’t a garbage fire stat wise.  There are still a significant number of legendary drops that I have never seen.  For example I am still chasing the Jiangshi AR4 from the Gunsmith, and its not just a collector thing…  I really want to play with it because I loved the green version I got while leveling.

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As far as the weapons go… I am not sure if I really have it in me to do a review of them all.  I spent some time last night while grinding out Io tokens playing with them all… and most of them are completely reasonable.  I realize that is not exactly a glowing review, but in many cases I already have a weapon I just like better in that slot.  The Time-Worn Spire is a really solid pulse rifle, in an era when that entire class of weapons seems to be outclassed by practically anything else.  I’ve become a huge fan of the Forward Path auto rifle as well, but it has some pretty stiff competition for my time with the Origin Story and Ghost Primus.  The real breakout weapon for me shockingly is the Wizened Rebuke, if for no reason other than the fact that you can hit 100 impact with it if you so choose.  That said I feel like the weapon performs better if you are outfitting it for 95 impact…  which still makes it significantly harder hitting than all but the Shock and Awe in my vault.  Sure it has insanely slow recharge rate, but if I am going to use a Fusion it is likely going to be in a PVE situation where the charge time isn’t that big of a problem.  Essentially this just became my legendary fusion of choice when I cannot for whatever reason use Merciless as my exotic.

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The other weapon that I found myself shocked to actually enjoy is Guiding Sight the Scout Rifle.  This lives in the same archetype group as Does Not Compute, Song of Justice VI and Haunted Earth…  and in truth it felt better to use than any of those.  When I use a scout rifle, I want something with really good impact and range because I am effectively using it as a surrogate sniper rifle.  This fits that bill nicely because it will one shot a Vandal and has armor-piercing rounds to help with shields a bit…  though I feel like that perk needs a buff significantly.  Sure it will drop a shield faster than a normal kinetic weapon, but it still feels horrible as compared to even an unmatched elemental type energy weapon.  I’ve said this over and over… that I am not really a fan of scout rifles as a whole, however when I do use one I want something along the lines of this weapon.  Between Guiding Sight and Manannan SR4… I feel like I am set as far as scout rifles go.  Basically at the beginning of the week I had a good deal of time collecting loot in the Iron Banner, but as we wound down…   it started to feel like a house guest that overstayed its welcome.  I opened around thirty packages in total and in the future I really need to tag out significantly earlier when I am still enjoying myself rather than trying to force a grind I was no longer enjoying.

Iron Banner Issues

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This past week for me at least has been all about the Iron Banner 2.0 event happening in Destiny 2.  If Destiny Tracker is to be believed, I have played fifty Iron Banner matches over the last four days.  That was enough to turn in 24 Iron Banner packages so far… aka the equivalent of 480 tokens.  At this point I managed to pull a complete set of gear for my Titan and have collected all but one of the weapons available.  The Hand Cannon is eluding me but I still have faith that I might manage to get it when I run through my daily milestones for Iron Banner today.  To say I have a high tolerance for grinding is an understatement, and the more impressive stat is that every single bit of this has been solo.  I will get into more about that later but suffice to say I feel like I experienced everything that is to be seen in the new Iron Banner.  This month the game mode of choice was Control…  which used to be my favorite mode for Iron Banner but in the 4 player crucible I seem to now favor Supremacy.

What Changed?

Traditionally the Crucible is an event that does some level synchronization to make sure every player is on a level field.  Iron Banner however in Destiny 1 was one of the un-synced events that took into consideration what your gear level was.  In truth however this didn’t really play a heavy role other than maybe dealing a few extra points of damage to someone significantly under your gear level.  The entire event functioned based on the Iron Banner reputation that would reset to zero before the start of a new event.  The ultimate goal was to level from 1 to rank 5, which then allowed you to purchase gear that was available from Lord Saladin.  This generally consisted of two armor slots and two weapons, and then the same items were available as rewards at the end of matches.  In my experience one in five to ten matches rewarded gear at the end.

Now Iron Banner is governed by a token based system much as is the case with all factions in Destiny 2.  Additionally it relies on the same level synchronization that occurs in the Crucible so no more gear level advantages.  Previously the only way to gain progress was to either complete a bounty or win the match.  This meant if you had some really bad luck you could have a long streak of loses where you did not move your reputation forward at all.  This time around you get 2 tokens for a loss and 5 tokens for a win, and it takes 20 tokens in total to get a package.  The packages themselves contain 1 Iron Banner specific item, and on item from a long list of other miscellaneous weapons and armor.  I should have taken much better care in opening my packages and tracked the items I got in each, but I will just say there were a significant number of duplicates.

The Problems

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The issue with Iron Banner is a very nuanced one, that requires you to understand some of the base states of the game to understand how we got here.  In Destiny 1 there was a constant refrain from players lashing out against skill based match making, and complaining about the number of “red bar” players with poor connections that they kept encountering.  With Destiny 2 it feels like they stepped away from a lot of the intelligence that attempted to make decent matches for players.  One of these is that the game no longer attempts to match teams of players against other teams, which is where the issue happens.  Most of the weekend I spent time matched against partial or complete teams of players, and as a result had to fight a very uphill battle to get my wins.

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The games seemed to be really hit or miss, I could go from being steamrolled one moment to being the odd man out on a team of three players that queued and in turn rolling over another team.  In the rare instance when I got matched with a bunch of other random players…  I did good.  Like for example the above screenshot is one I think I will never be able to duplicate where I somehow ended up with a 6.4 efficiency rating…. which is their version of Kda.  This is an issue because it ends up giving players a very uneven feeling experience, to go from ruling the world to succumbing to it…  within the course of a single matching.  The folks that managed to gather up a team, and were on voice chat however seemed to completely decimate all comers.

Problems With The Grind

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Iron Banner was one of those events that I looked forward to each month, not necessarily because I loved the PVP but because it was an opportunity to move up in the world.  What I mean by that is that in Destiny 1 there were a limited number of events that you could participate that scaled all the way to the level cap, Iron Banner was one of them.  As a result I spent my weekends grinding away at Iron Banner incrementally improving my light level so that I could hang with the big dogs…  but keep my relatively solitary play style.  With Destiny 2 this concept is toast.  Gear drops at the same item level that any other Legendary drop does, which means there is no real way to advance your power level through Iron Banner drops.  Sure there is the random chance of getting an exotic to drop, but that is a once a night sort of event and even then you need some serious luck to get anything that will move the bar forward.

Now the meaningful grind is about the collection of available loot, but I fear this is going to be a very short lived process.  I said earlier in the post that I have collected all but one weapon at this point, and a full set of gear for my titan.  Additionally I have a few items for my hunter now, so currently there are ten items that I have not seen.  Given that it is highly unlikely that we see an influx of new items before the next Iron Banner, then it means that my drive to keep participating is going to be less each time as I whittle down that list of needed items.  Now were I able to keep using Iron Banner as a means to incrementally increase my power level, then more than likely I would continue to participate and even look forward to the event.

The Future

I’ve tried to remain largely positive about Destiny 2 because in a few weeks we will be starting the process all over again with the launch of the PC version.  There are however issues here and there that sort of stick out as annoyances.  The core problem with Destiny 2 is that more than anything it is a direct sequel to Destiny 1.  What I mean by that is in some ways it feels like we took a step backwards to a world where everything that happened in Taken King and Rise of Iron never existed.  It makes me wonder if this project was launched before the release of Taken King, and they simply never applied the good parts of years two and three before launch.  I was a die-hard Destiny 1 player, and I watched that game improve in so many ways over the three years since release.  Similarly I have all the faith in the world that a lot of these rough spots will get ironed out as we move forward.  Destiny 2 is a much better starting point than Destiny 1 ever could have been, but much like I feel sometimes with World of Warcraft…  I get a little wistful when I think about what could have been had we taken all of the good from TTK and ROI into the new game.

 

Xur Week Five: 10/13/17

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This week is an interesting week namely because it answers a question I had rolling around in the back of my head.  Since this is the first week Xur is returning to a planet that he had already been to…  I had wondered if he would always appear in the same place on each planet.  While we may not be absolutely certain… he did in fact appear up in the tree in the Watcher’s Grave area once again.  I am curious to see when he goes to Titan next week…  if they do follow the pattern if he also still appears in the little building that he did last time.  I feel like this is going to be one of those weeks where you are either highly disappointed or really excited based on a handful of variables.  So without further delay, lets rip that wrapping off and see what Xur brought us.

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Every so often in Destiny 1 they had an exotic that equipped in the wrong slot…  No Land Beyond the primary slot sniper or Universal Remote the primary slot shotgun are prime examples.  This weeks bounty is the Fighting Lion… an energy slot grenade launcher that has a significant number of negatives that I feel have been placed on it in order to let it sit in a slot that is easier to get ammo for.  The exotic perk is Delayed Gratification that allows you to do a timed explosion sort of thing where so long as you are holding down the trigger it will bounce the grenade around…  then when you let up off the trigger it will explode.  This continues to go into the generally fiddly and unreliable nature of grenade launchers as a whole that I went into a whole diatribe about yesterday.  The most interesting perk is Thin the Herd which causes direct hits with the grenade to do significantly more damage to enemy shields… and then rapid kills to enemies damaged in this fashion cause the weapon to reload.  Given that this is a single shot weapon… I feel like this is actually the perk we should be caring about.  In function I think this weapon is designed to be a shield stripper and for you to swap over to it… hit an enemy decimating its shield in a single hit and then swap back to your kinetic to kill it quickly so that the weapon reloads and is ready for the next encounter.  I mean this is a cool mechanic, but it also means you are losing one entire weapon slot to effectively a gimmick.  I rely way too much on both my kinetic and energy weapons for moment to moment game play and cannot really afford to have a one hit wonder taking up one of those slots.  Your mileage may vary of course and it is probably still worth a pick up if you have not yet unlocked this item in your collection.

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Peacekeepers are an item that I would have purchased…  were it not for the fact that I literally just got a pair from an engram last night.  The perk on these is interesting in that it effectively gives Sub-Machineguns a stronger version of the cocoon perk.  Effectively Mecha Holster does two things…  firstly it causes submacs to reload when you stow them and secondly it causes submacs to swap instantly.  I feel like this is screaming for a build where you are running two different archetypes of submachinegun in both your kinetic and energy slots.  Were I doing this build I would go with a highly stable 600 rpm weapon like the Antiope-D or the Adjudicator in my kinetic slot, and rock something like the Royal Dispensation II in my energy slot.  This is more than likely a PVP build sort of thing given that submacs akimbo is probably not the best idea for PVE engagements because you lose a lot of utility.  This is a cool item that is inspired by the way Robocop drew his weapon, but it just isn’t good enough to probably get me to stop using the exotics I already have in rotation.  Once again this is another if you don’t already have it, buy it to unlock in your collection sort of setup.

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This week we have yet another repeat in the form of the Wings of Sacred Dawn…  that actually last appeared in Xur’s inventory on week one when we were back here on Nessus.  This still is one of the most ornate chest pieces that I have seen in the game and I know a lot of players seem to rock this almost for looks alone.  I am still not really a fan of the Dawnblade sub class nor am I really a fan of the whole hover in air while hurling blades at your enemy that the Exotic perk gives you.  If you like hanging mid air and performing attacks though then this might be the ideal weapon for you…  for me that just seems to make you a giant target and I absolutely love when a warlock is using this in the crucible for that reason.  It is worth the pick up for the unlock and maybe there will be a situation where this sort of gameplay is really needed in the future.

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Now I present the diamond in the rough…  Knucklehead Radar.  There has been this trend in Destiny 2 of bringing underutilized exotics from Destiny 1 into the game, but this one sort of breaks that pattern.  Knucklehead Radar has always been useful because it grants an insanely good exotic perk in the form of Upgraded Sensor Pack.  What this effectively does is grant you radar 100% of the time regardless if you are aiming down the sight of your kinetic, energy or heavy weapon.  The shine off of this item tarnished a bit during year three, when they introduced the Memory of Gheleon artifact… that effectively did this same thing.  However for now…  this is the only exotic that I use on my Hunter and if you do not already have this in your arsenal you should do whatever it takes to buy this item this week.  Sure there are items that are functionally better in different situations….  but I like the fact that this is legitimately always going to be useful regardless of what sub class you are using or what situation you are in be it PVE or PVP.  One of my favorite Destiny 1 items… and still one of my favorite Destiny 2 items…  I just wish there was an equivalent for Titans.

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Another thing I have started trying to do on my Friday morning post is show of what Xur is selling in Destiny 1, since no one seems to still be doing this thing.  This week he can be located on the Reef, and apparently talked to his Destiny 2 counterpart as he is also offering the Knucklehead Radar.  I am not going to talk a lot about his offerings but instead just list them out for any players who are still trying to complete exotic sets from the first game.

  • Legacy Heavy Weapon Engram – 31 Strange Coins
  • Helm of Inmost Light – Titan Helm – 13 Strange Coins
  • Knucklehead Radar – Hunter Helm – 13 Strange Coins
  • Nothing Manacles – Warlock Gauntlets – 13 Strange Coins
  • Hereafter – Sniper Rifle – 17 Strange Coins
  • Last Word and Sequel Ornament – Hand Cannon – 30 Strange Coins 25 Silver Dust
  • Truth and Prototype Ornament – Rocket Launcher – 30 Strange Coins 25 Silver Dust

Autos and Grenades

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Apart from the recent jaunts back into Final Fantasy XIV brought on by our amazing Free Company house…  I have been spending most of my time this week with the Iron Banner.  There are a whole lot of things that have changed from Destiny 1…  most of which for the better.  For me at least in D1 Iron Banner was this holiday event in part because I knew that I could get gear that would help bump my light level up.  Unfortunately that is not the case with D2, and this is all part of a larger discussion I want to have at some point about the general problems with the way progression feels.  In D1 the only way you made progress through the ranks of the Iron Banner reputation was by winning, which meant that if you hit a frustrating unlucky streak you could stall out complete.  Gear drops were rewarded as part of bounties that you could get on each character, and as random drops at the end of matches.  On average I seemed to get a new piece of gear every three or four matches… but you also had dry spells where you could go upwards of ten games without seeing anything.  In D2 this situation is largely resolved by shifting everything to token based loot.  It takes 20 tokens to get a package with one iron banner exclusive item and then the potential of getting a random filler legendary and/or some shaders.  You gain 2 tokens for a loss and 5 tokens for a win, so if you can manage to get on a streak you can rack up several packages in a row.  Additionally there are challenges that can be completed each day and turning those back in to Lord Saladin rewards 15 faction tokens.

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My goal so far has been to earn at least 2 packages a day, and in part this is only because I cannot really handle a bunch of crucible in a row.  So far in Destiny 2 the length of time I can reasonably play crucible matches back to back lines up almost perfectly with the amount required to get the Call to Arms engram.  My biggest problem is that I need a breather every so many matches because I notice that my own abilities start to wain greatly as the stress and anxiety sort of catch up with me.  As a result I notice that I am completely all over the map when it comes to my ability.  I also have certain maps that I am just not good at, or do not fit whatever it is that my play style actually is and as a result my Destiny tracker profile is a mess.   The biggest problem for me is that the core reason why I spent so much time playing Iron Banner was the overarching goal of increasing my viability in the game by getting more powerful gear and infusing it into stuff.  With this gone…  some of my drive to keep playing is largely toast and at this point my goal is to get 10 packages so I can unlock whatever it is that I earn by doing so.  Right now I have opened five packages and gotten the same auto rifle twice…  which admittedly was the primary weapon I was interested in… as well as helm, chest and a grenade launcher.  I thought I would take a moment this morning and talk about the two weapons I have seen so far.

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The Forward Path looks like the Origin Story which is ultimately what initially got me excited about the weapon, but winds up being a vastly different weapon archetype.  It lives in the 600 rpm bracket which means its most direct competitors are Scathelocke, Ghost Primus and Martyr’s Make…  at least of the rifles you see in regular rotation.  All of these weapons are really closely grouped on most of the stats but The Forward Path has significantly more handling than most of the other weapons in this class.  The big take away from me after using this a good deal is that it feels really reliable and easy to hold on target… especially with a moving target.  It benefits significantly from the Tap the Trigger perk which grants increased accuracy and stability the few moments after pulling the trigger.  When I am taking down targets at max range I tend to habitually pump the trigger firing off short bursts… a habit that I picked up from playing the early FPS titles and this weapon plays directly into that instinct.  The only negative is… this feels like a PVE weapon… that is being rewarded by a PVP event.  There is just not a case where you would not choose to take Scathelocke or Origin Story in your kinetic slot because High-Caliber Rounds and Rampage are just that good.  However Armor-Piercing rounds makes this thing a beast for strikes and other PVE content where the mobs are shielded because this gives you the ability to easily break shields with both Kinetic and Energy weapons.  I am super glad to add this weapon to my arsenal, but it is right now a weird mixed bag for me… and in truth I am probably going to rock Ghost Primus/Scathelocke in a lot of the situations I would normally use it.

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Grenade Launchers need a great deal of work.  As it stands this is my least favorite weapon type and is voted most likely to get sharded on sight when one drops into my inventory.  I’ve found exactly one Grenade Launcher that I actually like using and that is the one from the crucible/packages Play of the Game.  The reason why this weapon shines above all others is because of a single perk…  Proximity Grenades causing the payload to detonate when it gets close to a target rather than hitting it.  Grenades are insanely unwieldy and bounce like mad… making them completely unreliable other than being used “for funsies”.  The Day’s Fury suffers from all of these problems with grenade launchers in general… but is increased by having a fairly small blast radius and perks that don’t really help make up for the weaknesses of the genre.  You have Mini Frags which increases reload speed and magazine size at the cost of blast radius, or Spike Grenade that inexplicably increases stability.  When I think Spike Grenades I think some sort of a claymore mine action where it hurls shrapnel into nearby enemies when it explodes…  which would have been awesome and maybe would have made this weapon reasonable to use.  As it stands this just ends up being vault clutter that I will end up holding onto because it was hard to get… hoping maybe they will turn Grenade Launchers into something useful in the future.

Have you gotten anything cool from the Iron Banner?  What are your thoughts of the event so far?  Drop a line in the comments and let me know.

Beyond the Light

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For the last few weeks I have been making contact with a lot of players in preparation for the launch of Destiny 2 on the PC platform.  One of the patterns that I have noticed is that while there will be a ton of us playing, there are a significant number of different clans in the works.  Even among my own guild-mates it has been decided to go with a Greysky Armada clan rather than joining another, so I will end up splitting time between that on the PC and Tequila Mockingbird on the PS4.  Basically the common theme that I kept seeing was that we were going to be a pretty fragmented bunch going forward.  Ages ago I created the Beyond the Light discord, and then never really did anything with it.  The theory behind it was to have a clan agnostic place for folks to come together and get help doing stuff in Destiny.  Since the early marketing material for Destiny 2 talked about us losing our connection with the light… it seemed like a really fitting name.  The idea is to create a sort of hub for our little corner of the gaming verse, and facilitate cross clan activities.  The channel names themselves are pretty general purpose and I decided to follow a pattern of the various weapon foundries for voice channels.  The idea being that anyone can use any channel for any purpose that is needed at the moment.

The reason why I chose a discord rather than a slack or even a new Blizzard Social area… is the fact that Destiny 2 PC based voice chat is horrible.  I am not sure how many of you actually tried using this during the PC beta, but it was horrific.  Currently we only have about fourteen members, but I figure the discord will grow as we get closer and closer to the PC launch.  There are break out channels for the various classes and we’ve already gotten into some discussions on Warlocks and Titans thus far.  I’ve largely treated the PS4 launch as a sort of extended paid beta process for the eventual PC launch, and I have attempted to gather up as much information as I could along the way.  If nothing else it should be a good place to find people to go do heroic public quests with and maybe even eventually pick up raids.  There are already Destiny themed discords out there, but honestly they felt huge and impersonal…  or in the case of the one associated with the reddit…  fairly toxic at times.  I wanted to create a happy place to hang and enjoy this game with all of the people who may or may not share the same banner as me.  Effectively everyone is welcome pending they behave themselves.  There isn’t a lot of formal structure right now but I figure that will come with time.

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The other big news of the week is that Iron Banner is back and its reset day!  Like every other activity this one is going to be based on a token system, and I have to say I really like this.  There are a lot of complaints from players who like seeing weapons drop, and technically they still do in modes like the Crucible.  However I would far rather have a predictable path to get rewards that I can work my way towards than to rely entirely on luck.  The other aspect of this that I absolutely love is the fact that tokens go into the shared account inventory, meaning you can grind out the rewards on one character and then swap over to another character to consume them.  I personally plan on holding all of my Iron Banner tokens until I have completed the powerful rewards milestones for the week so that I can potentially get items at a higher light level than where I am currently standing.  Right now I see a handful of weapons that look really interesting, including an Iron Banner themed version of my beloved Origin Story.  Additionally I think the gear set this time is amazing for Titans at least, so I hope to gather up most of a set there as well.  This evening my goal is to eat some Tikka Masala that I have going in the crock pot…  and play a bunch of Iron Banner.  Side note you should be able to double dip the Call to Arms weekly milestone while doing Iron Banner so if you have not unlocked that… I highly suggest you do Lord Shaxx’s two early crucible milestones so you can start working towards yet another luminous engram.

Xur Week Four: 10/6/17

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Happy Xursday!  Since this seems to be a fairly popular feature I will be doing a run down of what Xur has this week.  Since the Flashpoint is in the European Dead Zone he is found over in the winding cove area.  For characters who have yet to hit 20… you can get there by just going west out of town and winding along the coastline…  but in truth I would warn against doing this because his items degrade in power based on your level.  This time Xur is a little tricky given that the previous three weeks he has been in some sort of a sheltered area, and this time he is up on top of a cliff that you are going to have to do a bit of wall jumping to get to.  Another thing to watch out for… the area he is in is patrolled by a group of dregs on pikes.  Additionally there may or may not be a public event active at the drop zone in the winding cove area.  Essentially this is probably the most dangerous area Xur has been so far, just be careful if you AFK because Vandals could in fact hit me with their wire rifles from where he is located.

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First off he is offering the Vigilance Wing, a weapon I am extremely excited to see because I have yet to get one from an engram.  This is an odd Osiris themed weapon that you occasionally see in your “killed by” notes in the crucible and now that I see the perks I understand why.  The exotic perk for this weapon is Harsh Truths which does several things.  Firstly it fires a five round burst which is a bit unique because most pulse rifles fire three round bursts, and hakke weapons are the outlier with four round bursts.  A five round burst for reference means a single precision burst kills a second tier mob like a Vandal.  The second part of the perk is that when a nearby ally is killed you gain health regeneration and increased movement speed…  something that happens constantly in the crucible.  Seeing as I just literally got this weapon today I have yet to take it into the crucible so I am uncertain how much difference this makes.  I did however run around the EDZ and complete a public event to get a feel for it and my opinions are a bit mixed.  Statwise it is probably most similar to the Lincoln Green, with a very odd 530 rounds per minute rate of fire and surprisingly high 33 impact for that rpm.  Traditionally the high rate of fire weapons have an extremely poor range but this one has 68 and a medium range sight to go with it making it fairly decent in longer range engagements.  The other side of the coin though is the unique sun themed sight means it is extremely annoying for close range fights.  The last stand perk plays well with harsh truths in that it gives the weapon improved performance if you are the last member of a fire team.  It seems like it is well worth the legendary shards if for no reason other than to get the unlock and a good Kinetic pulse rifle is a bit of a rare item to find.

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The Insurmountable Skullfort is another of a list of items that has returned from Destiny 1.  Its bizarre because almost all of them were considered second tier items, which makes me wonder if the devs were simply unhappy with the amount of play time that they got and carried them over to potentially give them some new life.  Transfusion Matrix causes kills with arc melee abilities to trigger health regeneration and restore melee energy.  What this means in play is that there is a really interesting build you can do with a Striker Titan where you have near 100% up-time of the insanely powerful arc shoulder charge ability.  This is literally the only reason to use this exotic and is probably well worth the pick up so that you have it in case you ever want to try that build out.  Personally since I love my Auto Rifles… I am likely to almost always use the Actium War Rig because it benefits whatever spec I might be in at that time and doesn’t hamper me from switching freely.

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Nezarec’s Sin is another really limited use case item because its exotic perk does one thing.  Abyssal Extractors causes void damage kills to increase your ability energy recharge rate.  I feel like the primary use case for this item is going to be in the crucible and specifically in control or similar modes where you are wanting to stand your ground or camp out a location.  This is of course a useful for Void warlocks, but also is triggered by void weapon damage.  This means you could in theory build a specific layout with a void energy and a void heavy and be constantly dropping your healing puddle on the ground.  I ran this item for a bit of a time and the ability recharge rate increase is significant.  Overall however I tend to prefer Eye of Another World that highlights priority targets and has a flat increase to the recharge rate of melee, grenade and your ability.  The helm however is well worth a pick up in case you really need to be the one providing an on demand puddle.

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And we have our very first repeat item of Xur in Destiny 2.  Foetracer helm was offered in week two and my feelings are probably much the same.  The exotic perk is Relentless Tracker which causes any mob you scope in on to acquire an X target that you can see through obstacles.  Additionally marked targets like this take additional damage when they get to low health range.  This is a generally useful item and I am sure there are specific cases where it is extremely solid especially for low health target damage.  Personally I am a huge fan of Knucklehead Radar because I like having my radar up while I aim down sight regardless of the weapon I am using.  The Foetracer however is probably a much better damage option because at least it does something to increase your output.  I didn’t pick these up in week two, but I did this week largely to get a collection unlock.  Probably a solid item if you are needing a reasonable exotic to use.

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All in all I feel like this was a pretty solid week for Xur.  I’ve been wanting to play with the Vigilance Wing as it is an exotic that I had never seen from an engram, so I am super happy about him offering that.  The two weapons you can get from an engram that I am still missing is the Sweet Business Gatling gun auto rifle, and The Prospector grenade launcher.  As far as armor pieces go… there are still a sizeable number of unlocks on each character that I will hopefully see Xur offering in coming weeks.  I am mildly annoyed that on week four we are already getting duplicates, which reminds me all too much of the number of times we have seen weapons like the Hawkmoon or Last Word being sold.  What are your thoughts?  Are you impressed with what Xur has been offering or are they all old news to you by the time you can get your hand on them?  I am interested in your thoughts.  One last thing… I decided to start including Destiny 1 Xur in these posts because I feel sorta bad about that incarnation stuck in a game that people aren’t hyped about anymore.

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In Destiny 1 Xur is located in the Vanguard area of the Tower.  I am not going to go into a lot of detail on this, but the major items he has to offer…

  • Suros Regime Auto Rifle – 23 Strange Coins
  • ACD/0 Feedback Fence Titan Arms – 13 Strange Coins
  • Celestial Nighthawk Hunter Helm – 13 Strange Coins
  • The Stag Warlock Helm – 13 Strange Coins
  • Legacy Primary Weapon Engram – 31 Strange Coins
  • Monte Carlo Weapon Bundle with Superspy Ornament – 30 Strange Coins and 25 Silver Dust
  • Zhalo Supercell with Not A Toy Ornament – 30 Strange Coins and 25 Silver Dust

Leveling Addendum

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A few days ago I wrote a post entitled “How I Should Have Done It” where I attempted to lay out the way I plan on leveling with the release of the PC version.  Today I am going to talk a little bit about a brief addendum on how I should have been pushing my light levels all this time.  Yes I realize it is now called “power” but after three years of the original Destiny I just cannot bring myself to say that.  Functionally for me I have one class that I care about significantly more than the others… and that is Titan.  I am what you would call a Titan main, and some other players may or may not have similar inclinations.  After 270 the only real way you make forward momentum is through the weekly milestones and the Luminous Engrams that they drop.  I am running at least three milestones on each of my three characters, and as a result I am slowly ratcheting up the light levels of them all.  However I noticed a pattern…  I would start out on my Titan and then slowly work my way through my other two characters and the gains from each would help push up the next character.  What I should have done is started doing these every week in effectively reverse order of preference.  That way my Titan main gets the maximum benefit from the other two characters Luminous Engrams.  Instead what is happening currently is my last string character… usually my hunter… winds up reaping the bounty of potential light level increases because I wind up handing her all of my weapons that got upgraded while pushing the other two characters.

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The other thing that I wanted to talk a little bit about this morning is some more of that “Dark Math” that I spoke off some weeks ago.  This is one of the things that drives me insane with Destiny 2 is that the math doesn’t always work out like it should.  Part of the confusion is that the light level on your character sheet is a lie.  What I mean by this is that all of those legendary mods that you may or may not have in your gear are artificially inflating the total.  You can use a third party tool like Destiny Item Manager to see what your “base” power level is, but generally speaking it is 5 light lower than what is showing in your character sheet.  So right now on my character sheet I show 301 light, and in DIM it is telling me that my actual base level is 296.4.  When things get really confusing is that drops don’t work entirely like advertised.  In theory as I have seen it explained it should work something like this…

  • Blue/Purple Drops/Engrams/Faction Packages — These should drop -5 light levels from whatever your current base power level is.
  • Exotic Engrams — These should drop at base light level +5 so effectively somewhere around the same level as shown on character sheet.
  • Luminous Engrams/Powerful Rewards — these should drop base light level +10 or 5 over what is shown on your character sheet.

I’ve been told that the Exotic Quests that you can complete reward an item that is 18 levels over your base light, but I didn’t throw that in the bullet point list because I don’t with 100% accuracy that this is actually a thing.  The problem is that these are largely just guidelines…  and you are going to see +/- 1 level when actually getting gear to drop.  For example the above shown engram is decoding at 291 as it should…  296 base light minus 5  gives you 291.  However all last night I got handfuls of 290 items instead of 291, and each time I have been at a plateau it sort of fluctuates back and forth between the number it should be and just slightly lower than that number.  Its the fudge factor that I find maddening, because no matter how locked down you think you have the formulate there is always this chaotic nature to it.  Side note…  I am superstitious and feel that Tyra Karn gives me better loot if I go back to the farm and decode my engrams there.

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One of the big positives of the night is that I managed to get my first max light item.  The only problem is… it is kinda a crappy one.  I mean I am not a huge fan of the grenade launchers in Destiny 2, and while there are a few really good ones like Play of the Game…  most of them are awkward to actually get to perform.  Fighting Lion is one of those awkward to get to perform ones… and even worse it is by some quirk of exotics an energy slot weapon and not a heavy.  Sure it is cool to have the damage potential of a heavy weapon in your energy slot…  but I like energy weapons.  When I am not rocking either The Number or Uriel’s Gift I miss it horribly…  so I am largely holding onto this only because it is the highest available light item for that slot I have.  I have yet to do the Luminous engrams on my Warlock and I am hoping maybe just maybe I get another max light weapon while doing that.  I really need to get some nightfalls in this week because I could use the extra chance at decent gear that they offer.

Dead Orbit Won?

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The guardians have spoken I suppose and told us that they don’t care about cool weapons nor do they care about the best looking gear…  and instead they care about…  honestly I am not sure what?  Back in Destiny 1 folks went dead orbit because they had the coolest looking emblems, including one with a skull and crossed axes.  Additionally the logo for dead orbit itself is a weird simplified skull.  I guess this makes them the edgelord faction in spite of actually having a faction called Future War Cult.  The problem with FWC however is that their gear generally looks like a bowl of fruity pebbles, but at least in my case it has sort of begrudgingly grown on me over time.  I too was one of the Dead Orbit legion during Destiny 1 for a very long time, largely because I thought they had the coolest weapons…   Year 2 Hung Jury was fucking amazing.  However in Year 3…  FWC pulled ahead of them and had a ton of really awesome to use weapons.  Mix this with the fact that I had to swap to them to get my No Time to Explain weapon quest wrapped up, and I just sorta got used to looking like a Nascar driver.  Why I stayed however is because Lakshmi-2 is hands down the coolest faction leader in the tower.  Go Team Exo!

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To be fair… I pledged a different faction on each character so I would have access to whatever weapon happened to win.  I think that was the part of this whole equation that people forgot about…  we were ultimately competing for a weapon.  Thanks to Dead Orbit winning we got a weird weapon that does not stack up well against other offerings in the form of the Haunted Earth.  This weapon is effectively in the same fire rate group as the Song of Justice VI that I talked about on Monday, so it is an extremely slow firing and as a result heavy hitting scout rifle aka 150 rounds per minute and 67 impact.  It has considerably shorter range than the Song of Justice….  with 70 verses the Song’s 89.  Where this gun gets a little odd is in the alignment of its perks.  Firstly you have a set of sight options that are largely going to be personal preference…  I opted to go with the default IS 5 Circle, but you can also get a longer zoom red dot scope.  From there you have the choice of Tactical Mag or High Caliber rounds.  Generally speaking I would want the ability to stagger and go with High Caliber, but the scout already has what feels like a small magazine and dropping from 13 to 12 just feels lousy but potentially worth it.  The last perk is the real head scratcher in the form of Field Prep…  which increases the ammo reserves of a weapon and causes it to reload significantly faster while crouched.  If you can get used to using this… it is a fairly nice perk especially given how slow the reload of the weapon feels normally.

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The curse of Haunted Earth however is that it is functionally a slightly slower and harder hitting version of the already existing Call to Serve scout rifle, and when you compare the two it just ends up being the universally worse option.  Call to Serve is slightly faster firing in the 180 rounds per minute space, and as a result sacrifices a barely noticeable 5 impact to land at 62.  It does however sacrifice a lot of range taking it from the 70 of Haunted Earth down to 47.  It however picks up a ton of stability and handling at 46 and 60 respectively as well almost 30 more points of aim assistance.  All of this however is just icing because the reason why you choose Call to Serve over Haunted Earth are the perks.  Firstly you have a choice of two options to bump up the Magazine size, however in truth there is only one option here… so you want to take Appended Mag for 17 rounds which does nothing to slow down your reload speed unlike Extended Mag that only gives you one more bullet.  The best perk however is Triple tap which causes you to gain a 4th phantom round every time you land 3 precision shots in a row.  I talked about this perk a little bit in the review of the Dire Promise hand cannon.  Effectively if you can land streaks of precision damage you can fire 22 shots before needing to reload, which is great in situations where you are burning something down that is effectively a static target like bosses often are.  Basically there are no reasons why I would ever choose to use Haunted Earth over Call to Serve or even Song of Justice VI.  So gratz Dead Orbit…  you won and earned all of us another piece of vault clutter.  If you like the gun however then by all means use it… but I have a feeling you will be swapping it out the moment you get something better.

Faction Rally 1: DO Edition

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Once again by the time this post comes out it is going to likely be of zero use to anyone, because if I am understanding the Faction Rally correctly…  it would have just ended and we will be entering the phase where a winner will be chosen.  I am doing something super dangerous in that I am staging this content on the weekend to post Monday and Tuesday.  So by the time this actually goes live we should know which weapon we have available.  I took the route of choosing a different faction for each character, and this has also given me the opportunity to collect all twelve unique faction based drops that are available from packages.  Yesterday I wrote about New Monarchy, and last week about Future War Cult… so today is the time to talk about everyone’s favorite chromatically challenged faction…  Dead Orbit.  This faction will always have a special place in my heard due to the fact that the majority of my time playing Destiny… I was pledged to Arach Jalaal desperately hunting that cool emblem with the axes.  In Destiny 2…  I was swayed by just how damned good the weapon offering was in the Future War Cult camp.  That said there is at least one gem in this lineup, but your mileage may vary.

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Let me get this out of the way first.  I do not like sidearms…  they have always felt like crappier faster firing versions of hand cannons.  In Destiny 1 the only time I broke one out and used it…  was when I was working on a bounty that required me to get X number of kills with a specific damage type weapon that was not Arc.  Even then the only reason why I used a Sidearm was simply because of the extreme ammo reserves they tended to have.  With Destiny 2 they introduced a new class of Sidearm that burst fires…  which quickly caused me to start ignoring every single firing gun out there.  So needless to say the Eleventh Hour has a bunch of strikes against it out of the gate, but in truth it does have a few things going for it. This weapon is essentially a fast firing low impact weapon…  that has an insane upwards kick if you are firing it as fast as you can pull the trigger.  That said if you are slowing down and placing your shots a little more carefully this can two precision shot most minions and with a 17 shot magazine… you can pour through a bunch.  Where this starts to become useful is the fact that it has Rampage perk giving you a stacking damage buff each time you take down a target up to three.  I could see this being extremely good for clearing out thralls or something of the sort.  The problem I have though is that there are just dozens of energy slot weapons that I would rather use than this.  If you enjoy using it then by all means do so…  it just doesn’t really have a place in my world and I will likely shard it once I have finished writing this review.

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This is a fairly bizarre shotgun offering, and I am going to try and unpack why.  First off this is an extremely hard hitting, slow rate of fire weapon with abysmal range and reload speeds that are amplified by the poor handling stat.  What it does well is hit really hard…  a single time.  So if you think you can one-shot a target with this shotgun then it is probably going to do a great job of it.  Now if you combine the tactical mag perk… with the field prep perk the equation starts to change a bit and while crouched you can reload this weapon extremely fast.  Now initially I thought… maybe this works while sliding but after thirty minutes of trying to make this work it seems like you just straight up cannot reload while in the slide motion. So functionally in order to do this in the heat of battle I would probably slide behind some cover, reload quickly and then get back into the action.  Where the gun shines however is that it has a pretty deep well to draw from in that if you choose specific perks you can have 6 in the magazine and 12 in reserve.  For PVE this seems like a perfectly reasonable shotgun… but for PVP I think it is going to lose out every time to one of the full auto options.  The best part though is the look and the sound it makes when it fires a shell.

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I feel like Pulse Rifles are just in a really awkward place in Destiny 2.  They have always lived in this weird place between scout rifles and auto rifles… and in the current meta both are undeniably in better places than this weird hybrid.  Three Graves currently lives in the slowest rate of fire and highest impact flavor of pulse rifle, and it brings with it some really nice stability.  What it severely lacks however is handling and reload speed…  giving the gun a really sluggish feel as you shift between hip and ads modes.  The outlaw perk can help with the reload speed because it decreases reload time after a precision kill…  which is relatively easy to do given how much damage this thing puts out and how stable it is.  The thing that never really gets better though is the handling… so for me to feel comfortable with this weapon I would need to slot in some mods to improve that.  The biggest obstacle this weapon has is the fact that I have Innaugural Address the raid pulse…  that just feels better to use.

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Tons of players love The Old Fashioned, in fact it has shown up on a ton of the top X weapons in Destiny 2 lists.  I am not one of those players, and when I first saw Dire Promise in the drop list for Dead Orbit I was not extremely hopeful.  There are however a bunch of tweaks that have been made to this weapon that make it feel vastly different than the weapon that is so commonly sharded by me that I didn’t even have one available to directly compare against.  Functionally you are losing a little impact and range, and gaining a ton of stability and handing as well as a tiny bit of reload speed as well as 2 bullets in the magazine.  As far as perks… you are losing Kill Clip and gaining one of my favorites from Destiny 1…  Triple Tap which is shockingly hard to find on a D2 hand cannon.  If you feel like you can sacrifice a little stability… you can even push this gun into the 13 in the magazine club.  This means that if you can consistently hit precision shots…  you could in theory fire 17 78 impact shots without reloading… meaning that is a ton of damage in a very short period of time.  While I doubt this is going to dislodge either Better Devils or True Prophecy as my Hand Cannon of choice…  this is definitely going to be something I swap to situationally.

Now that you have seen all of the weapons available from the Faction Rally this go round… what are your thoughts?  Do you like me feel like Future War Cult had the strongest offerings or are you thinking I short changed one of the other factions?

Faction Rally 1: NM Edition

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Admittedly by the time I post this it will be of extremely limited benefit given that as far as I understand the Faction Rally should in theory reset on Tuesday.  For the unindoctrinated the Faction Rally is this event happening currently in Destiny 2 that involved choosing one of the three factions from Destiny 1 and representing them.  The goal of the event is to collect tokens while doing almost any activity in the game, and then turn these in 20 at a time to the faction leaders.  For my Titan I decided to rep Future War Cult, and I wrote a post last Thursday about the weapons that were available.  Each faction is offering four unique weapons from their packages and I thought it might be cool to attempt to get them all and do similar write-ups.  Now I had done this a week ago when the faction rally went live… it might be of some significant benefit.  Now however I am largely just doing for the fun of it, and it seems useful info in the long run.

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We are going to start off this New Monarchy edition with what was ultimately the hardest weapon for me to actually get to drop.  This weapon has gone through a name change since it first started dropping occasionally from Cayde-6 treasure caches to when the Rally proper began.  The Song of Justice VI  formerly the Sentencer IV is a nearly max range high impact scout rifle that trades these stats for really low stability and handling.  It is also relatively slow firing in the 150 rounds per minute class until the more popular and broader 200 rounds per minute class represented most noticeably by the MIDA Multi Tool.  It lives in a really weird place, but after spending some time using it while doing patrols and such I can see its charm.  It will probably never take the spot of my Manannan SR4 largely because I love explosive payload more than I can rightly express with words…  it does have a few of its own nice perks.  Armor Piercing rounds is extremely nice for destroying mob shields, which I have not seen on that many weapons so far.  Additionally it has auto loading holster which causes the weapon to reload itself while holstered, making this work extremely well in situations where you are not using this as your primary weapon.  I could see it working nicely on strikes when you are using an energy auto rifle as your primary weapon, and just swapping to this any time you need to snipe something at a distance.

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I am a huge proponent of the Auto Rifle and have loved them since the first moment I got one in my hands in Destiny 1.  In Year Three one of my favorite weapons was the Suros made Genesis Chain, which was a slow rate of fire high impact Auto Rifle…  that looked valuely like this weapon.  I got my hopes up and then they were quickly dashed when I saw what archetype this weapon fit into.  The 600 RPM bracket already has a few really good competitors in it and I think the problem is…  this gun just isn’t nearly as good as either of them.  The key problem is the lack of stability… this gun kicks weirdly and often times unpredictably making it significantly harder to control than Scathelocke or Ghost Primus that both live in this same archetype.  Now if you do not have access to either of those weapons… then sure this is a good option and once you get used to its quirks you can make it perform fairly well.  The biggest problem however is there just is no viable reason to use this over one of the other weapons I mentioned…  other than it just looks aesthetically cool.  However if that is really your thing… then grab a Martyrs Make and slap a New Monarchy Shader on it… because you are going to have a much more enjoyable experience.

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Up until now New Monarchy has been the tale of weapons that are just flat out outclassed by other options.  I think however we are going to finish strong starting with the Royal Dispensation II.  Sub-Machineguns for me at least are the new shotgun… when you absolutely need to wreck someone up close and personal much the same way as I used to do with my beloved Invective.  There are basically two competing categories the 600 rpm class and the 900 rpm class.  In the grand scheme of things I tend to prefer the slightly slower rate of fire because they are much more controllable and easier to keep trained on the precision damage markers.  That said this gun is shockingly stable for as fast as it is firing, and when combined with the Grave Robber perk…  gives you some really up close and personal power.  When I run a submac it is because I am getting up in peoples faces and the fact that if I get a melee kill it reloads part of my magazine… means I can stay there and be effective for longer.  The gotcha however… is with 900 rpm and 33 shots in the magazine…  this thing unloads extremely quickly.  This gun is effectively the Foggy Notion with slightly better handling speed and slightly worse reload speeds…  but that little tweak seems to make the gun feel so much better to use.  Well worth holding onto and playing with to see if you like it, because at the end of the day that is all that really matters.

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Up until this gun entered my life I carried around a pretty heavy crush on Hawthorne’s Field-Forged Shotgun…  because Destiny 1 spoiled me on insisting that if I was using a shotgun that it had to have full auto.  I was honestly shocked that I had not encountered anything else in game that seemed to have it…  and then I saw this weapon.  One of the big problems with the Hawthorne shotgun is the rate of fire…  not that it is too slow but it is way the hell too fast.  I cannot count the number of times I have fired shots into the void because I couldn’t pick my finger up off the trigger fast enough to stop from firing one round too many.  The Unification VII fixes this with its 55 rounds per minute rate of fire as compared to the frankly too fast 90 on Hawthorne.  Additionally we gain a significantly higher impact per shot and slight range increase…  at the loss of some reload speed and one round in the magazine.  What cannot be properly accounted for however is just how badass this weapon looks and how good it feels.  The weapon has High Caliber rounds, which causes it to stagger mobs which is always going to be useful.

I am curious how you feel about the New Monarchy offering this time around?  It has been leaked that each faction has a significantly deeper pool of available weapons than these four, so it is going to be interesting to see what arrives each time this event runs.