I’ve made no secret of the fact that my time in the original Destiny was extremely limited compared to Destiny 2. I fell off too quickly when the game was new and simply never returned. Because of this, I never experienced the original Iron Banner nor donned the historic Iron Lord garb.
It was in missing the original take on Iron Banner that kept me from ever really being excited about its return to Destiny 2. Even through many of my favorite seasons, I’ve struggled to get too anxious about jumping into what felt like just another PvP mode. In truth, this hasn’t stopped me from chasing many of the gear sets, nor weapons, but most of the time, it was the completionist in me more than it was for enjoyment.
While I can’t say that the quality of IB is vastly improved for Season of Arrivals, I have to say that it does feel like a different experience. The tone has shifted dramatically and it seems to have been approached with a different philosophy entirely. Here’s why:
If you haven’t yet spoken to Lord Saladin this season, you may be surprised to hear just how intensely short the Iron Banner quest is in Season 11. Red Hot Iron, the quest for the entire 12-week season, only requires 25 Auto Rifle Kills and 25 Sidearm Kills. That’s it. The past many many seasons have all required 5-7 steps that require kills from many different archetypes in order to progress through from beginning to end.
The rewards from the quest are also different. Previously, each quest step awarded one piece of the seasonal IB armor set while weapon drops were relegated to post-match drops and Saladin’s token engrams. This season, that has been flipped. The rewards this season include a new Auto Rifle, The Forward Path, and a new Sidearm, The Fool’s Remedy. Each can roll with new unique perks, but that’s unfortunately subject to RNG.
I feel like this is overall a net positive change that was based on community feedback. The general sentiment right now is that too many bounties are forcing players to play outside of their normal play style. If the quest requires kills from Hand Cannons, then SMGs, then Grenade Launchers, then Scout Rifles, there’s just not room for players to enjoy the mode to its fullest. Making the quest much shorter allows players to spend their time focusing on enjoying the mode for what it is, not slogging through a quest that forces them away from how they want to play.
Speaking of loot, the luck that is required in order to get the weapons and armor with the perks or stats that you’re looking for is insane. Completing the quest gives you one roll of each of the new weapons. They do not reward any sort of curated roll which feels rude even if the quest was quick.
But let’s consider what has to happen in order to get a specific piece of gear with a specific roll. Say I want the new Auto Rifle, The Forward Path, and I want it to roll with Dynamic Sway Reduction and the new Iron Gaze perk.
After you’ve completed your quest, there are three ways to get loot: The weekly Bounties, Saladin Tokens, and post-match rewards. Since there are only four weekly bounties, and the drop rate of IB gear in post-match rewards is laughably low, tokens are really the only reliable way to seek the gear you’re looking for. Each engram costs 20 tokens and players are rewarded 5 tokens per win and 3 tokens per loss in the Iron Banner. Bounties also reward 50 tokens a piece.
Cool, so within this engram there are five different pieces of armor as well as eight different weapons. This particular Auto Rifle has six different potential perks in the first slot and six in the second slot. So with 13 potential engram drops and 36 potential rolls, you can start to see where farming for my personal god-roll might get a bit frustrating.
There was a great deal of community excitement around new weapons, but having the chase for specific rolls be this difficult seems punishing. I love that getting our hands on one version of the weapons is so easy, but this seems like the opposite of trying to get away from players having to run three characters.
Earlier this season, Bungie quietly made a huge change to Crucible matchmaking. In all playlists except Comp and Trials, matchmaking would now prioritize connection over skill. Skill-based Matchmaking (SBMM) had been a major point of contention within the community for years, and somehow this was just magically addressed in a recent TWAB.
Due to skill no longer being a factor in matchmaking, the nature of Iron Banner feels wildly different than before. In previous seasons, solo-queuing usually led to some very intense matches where many came down to the final moments. This is to be expected when players routinely get matched with other Guardians of equal skill.
This season, though, is one giant toss up. Some games you’re the steamroller, and some you’re the pavement. Very few of my matches are close anymore.
SBMM is a tough one because those that are better at PVP are excited about a more casual experience allowing for more interesting loadouts. At the same time, those that struggle with PvP are now getting matched against Guardians that are far above their pay grade and it really shows.
Let The Wolves Rest
Whichever side of the fence of this issue you stand on, the conclusion is clear: IB is different than it was last season. The loot grind is shorter and now more tied to RNG than ever. Games now have wild swings in difficulty from one end of the spectrum to the other. The quest is now virtually inconsequential to the overall experience.
In my opinion, this is a function of Trials returning. Bungie no longer wants IB to be seen as the “endgame” PvP it once was because that’s what Trials is for. IB is now for players to join together a few weeks per season to chase loot not available at any other time. The shorter quest could also be a function of players wanting to “play their way”. Through this, players can spend more time with loadouts of their choice vs. loadouts determined by the longer questlines. We’ll see how this feels towards the end of the season, but I’m worried the grind will feel more cumbersome in its later rounds than usual.