A lot happened in Destiny yesterday, as a new patch made multiple changes to the game, including adding microtransactions. Players were also excited yesterday for the return of the special PvP event, Iron Banner. We wrote a few days ago about the return of Iron Banner in Year Two and asked: Would Destiny’s heavy PvE focus end up hurting players who spend the majority of their time playing PvP? How will “power matter” with The Taken King’s new Light system? What weapons will rise to the top after the new weapon rebalancing?
After playing Iron Banner for a good amount of the day yesterday, we can answer a lot of those questions, and perhaps another: “Is Iron Banner any good?” The answer is: This might be the best Iron Banner in Destiny to date.
The Power Curve
In a blog yesterday, Bungie explained the updated Power Curve. It’s a graph that helps explain what’s going on inside Destiny’s code during Iron Banner (and Trials of Osiris) when level advantages are turned on. Here it is:
To help explain, the line to pay attention to is the red one, as it is the new system in The Taken King. Every 10 Light Levels is one unit on the top row (so the difference between a 300 player and a 290 player is one unit). Following the curve, there are (give or take) five percent differences in power as the level gap grows larger.
But so much for math—how does it play out practically? I have been playing Iron Banner with my 291 Warlock. Most players I run into are between 290 and 303, but very so often there will be a few outliers.
Practically speaking, I haven’t felt outclassed or ineffective, owever, there is a small but noticeable damage difference when I have a shootout with someone above 300. Whereas my Hawkmoon could usually down an opponent in two to three shots, when facing higher Light players, a sliver of their health is often left after those rounds hit. Sometimes, it’s enough to save them, and they take me out. Other times, I follow up with another shot and send them back to respawn.
This Power Curve feels right – a slight and noticeable difference in power, but staying within 10 or so levels of Light will keep you very competitive. That’s good news for those PvP-only players, as reaching 290 Light is not difficult.
Competitive Destiny players like to talk about the Meta, or the current state of the competitive side of the game and which particular weapons, subclasses, tactics, etc. are reigning supreme at the moment. It changes frequently. But in Year One, the Meta for the Crucible wore out its welcome. A go-to loadout established itself: Thorn or The Last Word, High-Impact/High-Range Shotguns (i.e. Felwinter’s Lie, Matador 64), and a Rocket Launcher with the Grenade and Horseshoes perk. Players who did not use this layout were at a severe disadvantage, and competitive modes like Iron Banner and Trials of Osiris only exacerbated the issues.
But the good news is that Meta is gone. There is no Year Two version of Thorn, rendering that hand cannon completely useless in Iron Banner. The Last Word was nerfed back to its intended role, so it’s deadly up close, but not from a distance. Meanwhile, Shot Package was removed from shotguns yesterday further limiting shotguns to a more acceptable range.
In my matches, the most common weapons I ran into were Hawkmoon, Red Death, the Crucible pulse rifle Hawksaw, the Conspiracy Theory-D shotgun, and the 1000-Yard Stare sniper rifle. Outside of those there was also a good variety of auto rifles, pulse rifles, and a wide representation of every kind of heavy weapon. It felt fresh. Iron Banner wasn’t a constant Thorn-fest. Using a Heavy Machine Gun was viable again. It makes for a great experience, which hasn’t been around in Destiny’s PvP for quite some time.
One other great change is how Iron Banner now handles bounties and gear. The gear will drop as match rewards, so purchasing the gear from Lord Saladin is only there if players are really unlucky and don’t get the drop, or if they want the perk rolls that Lord Saladin has (which are actually really good). Bounties – which I always felt were hard to accomplish – are now much easier to achieve and the new weekly bounties are a nice addition.