This week, Destiny 2 finally reintroduced 12-player matches to the competitive Crucible. It’s a big step in the right direction.
At launch, Destiny 2 PvP was restricted to four-player teams. Every game mode had eight total players, whether it was Control, Supremacy, Trials of the Nine, or old-fashioned team deathmatch. That was a significant change from the first Destiny, which defaulted to six-player teams. Due to team-sizes as well as an overall weakening of weapons and abilities, Destiny 2 PvP was less interesting than its predecessor’s. You could call it “more tactical,” though in the end the primary tactic was to stick with your three teammates and team-shot anyone you happened across.
This week’s limited-time Iron Banner event brings back six-player teams to the game. (It was originally supposed to launch a few weeks ago but got delayed due to a bug.) I’ve played some rounds of 6v6 Control, and I gotta say, those matches were the most fun I’ve had in Destiny 2 Crucible in a long time.
I haven’t played 6v6 on every map in the game yet, but my initial concern that D2’s maps would feel too small with four total extra players has so far proven mostly unfounded. The game feels much more active and frantic, and gunfights are far more common, but it’s not exactly crowded. Just livelier. I did a lot more killing, and… well actually, I think I was just playing well, because I didn’t do a lot more dying. I’m sure in time I’ll do a lot more dying, too.
Overall the matches I’ve played have felt so much more active, exciting, and wild. One gunfight would frequently spill over into another gunfight, and the resulting fracas was silly and entertaining. I won’t say it felt entirely like a different game, but it felt like a different version of the same game.
The “Go Fast Update,” which rolled out a couple weeks ago, has also helped Destiny 2 feel a little different than the last time I played. That update aimed to increase the speed of just about everything in the game: faster cooldowns, faster respawns, and faster movement. The only thing it didn’t speed up, somewhat controversially, is the average “time to kill,” or, the time it actually takes to kill another player.
Playing as a Warlock with boost glide jump, I was immediately struck by how much more quickly I was able to zoom around the map, flitting into and out of fights and rarely feeling stuck or like I was moving too slowly. I also noticed how much faster my super and grenades charged and have been routinely getting two supers in a single match. That would’ve been unheard-of in vanilla Destiny 2.
Bungie has also tweaked the game’s weapon balance. I’ve been wrecking shop with the Vigilance Wing pulse rifle (never a slouch, but which now sits happily near the top of the meta) along with the MIDA Mini-Tool. I’ve seen the complaint that while the faster player movement is nice, the time-to-kill is still too long, meaning it’s even easier to escape a losing gunfight before your opponent can take you down. The bigger team-sizes in Iron Banner somewhat compensates for that, since I found that if I escaped one gunfight, I’d frequently run right into another, and I rarely felt that sense of denied satisfaction that I often felt in a vanilla Destiny 2 gunfight. That said, I understand why higher-skill players might reiterate the critique that time-to-kill is still too high even in 6v6 games, and it’s a criticism to which Bungie has seemed receptive since the Go Fast update hit.
There are some other problems as well, naturally. Loot is still largely unexciting, and I found myself instantly sharding every drop I got. Matchmaking was also noticeably slow on PC, doubtless due to the game’s dwindled player base. I’ve sometimes had to wait several minutes before getting put into a game.
I’ve also noticed that power ammo is everywhere, which makes the game awfully unpredictable. Power ammo spawns have been sped up, and if you kill someone while they’re carrying power ammo, you have a limited window to grab their ammo for yourself. Power ammo is what’s used in weapons like shotguns, fusion rifles, sniper rifles, swords, and rocket launchers, each of which can perform a one-hit kill. A couple of players with power ammo can dramatically change the dynamic of a given shootout, and with so many players leaping around at once, it becomes difficult to keep track of who has a power weapon out and who doesn’t. I’ve seen more shotgunning and fusion rifling in Crucible, which seems fine, at least at a first impression. However, rocket launchers also use power ammo, meaning that it’s pretty common to run around a corner and catch a rocket to the face.
That strikes me as more of a problem with Destiny 2’s current weapon slot arrangement, since shotguns, fusion rifles, and rocket launchers are all lumped together. Bungie has said that players can expect changes to the game’s weapon slots in the future and that they’re working on a new system. I imagine this is the sort of issue they’re hoping to fix. I don’t know what the solution will look like, though I actually hope the sequel doesn’t just revert back to the first game’s weapon slots, since that system had plenty of its own problems.
With the last few major game updates, as well as the ones that are in the works, there’s a growing sense that Destiny 2 is picking itself up off the ground and regaining its footing. It’s got a ways to go before it regains the momentum it had last September, and it could well be too late for it ever to be the mainstream world-beater Bungie (and fans) had hoped it would be. But the timeline for the next six weeks is promising, with the next expansion launching on May 8 alongside a bunch more changes, including an exotic weapon overhaul that sounds like it could be pretty cool. Yesterday Bungie tweeted a video of the changes they’ve made to the Graviton Lance rifle and… I mean, damn:
That’s all in the future, which means as always, we’ll have to wait and see. Destiny 2 PvP is in a messy state of flux at the moment, but the 6v6 team sizes tip it over into enjoyably messy, and I’ve found myself wanting to play competitive Destiny again for the first time in a while.
When Iron Banner ends next week, 6v6 will depart with it. Given how much fun the larger team sizes have turned out to be, I would be surprised if 6v6 didn’t quickly make its way into Destiny 2’s regular quickplay rotation. Hopefully that will happen soon.