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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.