Destiny's Iron Banner multiplayer event was expected to be a hardcore, no-holds-barred fracas. It's called "The Iron Banner," after all! But as it turns out, it's not as extreme as some players were hoping it'd be.
Destiny is a first-person shooter that works like a role-playing game, in that the gear and abilities you acquire over the course of the game get gradually more and more powerful as you progress. That means that your level 28 character will be significantly more powerful than my level 4 character.
The game's basic player-vs.-player Crucible multiplayer accounts for that imbalance by removing damage and armor bonuses and "evening out" the stats, which theoretically provides a level playing field. The Iron Banner was supposed to change that.
The Iron Banner is an optional, limited-time event that launched this week and will run until next Tuesday, October 14. The idea has been that players would finally be able to engage in competitive combat with their stat-restrictions removed. Elite players would have a significant advantage, and would have a chance to really enjoy their powerful gear. The weapons and armor we've all earned on the battlefield would finally make a real difference when fighting other players.
Thing is, now that the Iron Banner is underway, it doesn't actually look like the training wheels have been completely removed. Low-level players are reporting that they are able to compete with high-level players without too much trouble, most players agree that by and large, Iron Banner matches don't feel all that different from ordinary Crucible matches.
In these videos from OohaPiecaCandy, he takes a level 4 warlock into the Iron Banner and proceeds to kill level 26 and 27 players without too much trouble.
Granted, Candy is playing pretty cautiously, his team is strong, and the players he's up against aren't putting up much of a fight. Furthermore, it does appear to take him a bit longer to take down a high-level character than it would in regular Crucible play.
All the same, it seems evident that the gap between a level 4 character with a crusty gun and a level 27 character with an exotic world-beater isn't nearly as wide as it ought to be. In the non-Crucible parts of Destiny, if a level 4 player tried to take on a level 27 enemy, it would be a hilarious mismatch—the player's bullets would barely make a dent, and he or she would be killed by a single hit from the enemy's weakest weapon. Many players were expecting something similar from the Iron Banner.
Bungie's language around the Iron Banner has vague, though they have consistently implied that gear would make a big difference. "Equip your most powerful gear," reads the official Iron Banner site. "The Attack and Defense ratings for your weapons and your armor will be crucial to victory."
"The Ratings on your Gear Will make all the Difference!" claimed Bungie's David "DeeJ" Dague in a recent news post. "UNLIKE the Other competitive playlists in Destiny, Iron Banner IS not a level Playing field."
Since the launch of the event, Dague has begun soliciting player feedback on the Bungie forums. "Were you detecting an advantage attributed to your more powerful gear and weapons?" he asked. "Did the experience feel different than standard Crucible combat?"
"If by 'advantage' you mean 'getting killed even MORE easily by players 15 levels lower,'" wrote one player, "then yes, the advantage was enormous! You did a splendid job."
"You can imagine my disappointment to see lower levels kill me with 'grey' guns, and not feeling like I could over power the lower levels," wrote another. "It just feels like Crucible."
Many other players agree. "It's like you guys were afraid of people complaining," wrote one, "and so you leveled the playing field for a game mode that isn't supposed to be fair."
It's worth bearing in mind that Bungie will likely be repeating events like this, and that even in the midst of the current event, they could tweak the balance to adjust for player complaints. I asked Bungie PR for clarification on how the Iron Banner works, but they said Bungie had no current statement on the matter. They did mention that it's likely Dague will address Iron Banner feedback in tomorrow's regular Bungie Weekly Update, so we'll probably hear more then.
For now, though, it's too bad that the Iron Banner hasn't been the interesting, unbalanced game-mode that Bungie implied it would be. As the Vault of Glass raid demonstrated, Destiny is at its best when at its most uncompromising. It would've been nice to see Crucible players get something similar.
Gif credit: DestinyOverwatch