Destiny is at its best in Iron Banner Clash

By Brenna Hillier, Thursday, 25 February 2016 08:55 GMT

Rift? Piss off. Clash is where the Iron Lords choose their champions.

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Destiny story time:

Somewhere in the Himalayas, in the territory once known as Nepal, a lone tower just out from the encircling peaks like a defiantly raised fist. The Tower is the seat of operations of the Vanguard, an association of the undead Guardians who keep the remnants of Earth’s inhabitants – human, Exo and fallen Awoken – safe from the encroaching Darkness. Stand on the atrium side and you can look out over the Last City; the windows in the Vanguard command centre afford remarkable views of nearby mountains and farmlands.

The majority of players hanging around Destiny at this stage are in it for the traditional, face-shooting PVP. They want to own noobs, not dash about holding a ball.

All of it surrounded by the Wall. The Titan order, layered in armour and defensive Light, has a special affinity for the Wall, having aided in its construction and held the Last City secure during the Battle of Six Fronts. But if you’re going to talk about the Wall, you have to talk about the Iron Lords, a group of nine men and women from all three classes who attained legendary status. Earth would be lost without them.

Efrideet. Felwinter. Gheleon. Jolder. Perun. Radegast. Skorri. Silimar. Timur. Remember their names. (You’ll find them on some of the best gear in the game.)

The Wall keeps the Last City safe, but even bolstered by the Traveler’s silent strength it won’t stand forever – and it can’t beat back incursions of the Darkness. For that you need powerful warriors, and it’s for this reason that Guardians throw themselves into death again and again in the Crucible, a testing and training ground managed by Lord Shaxx.

There are some who consider the competition frivolous, and more serious Guardians offer their allegiance to Lord Saladin. In honour of the Iron Lords, Saladin seeks the mightiest of champions; those who can be relied upon to hold the front should the Darkness breach the Wall, and those with the courage to take the battle to the enemy directly.

Welcome to Iron Banner.

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Iron Banner is great. It’s accessible enough that even those who haven’t got a full set of raid gear can have a go, but bringing the right equipment to a fight still grants a satisfying edge. Working your way through the ranks is almost certain to reward you with a couple of good endgame level drops, and the bounties and increasingly powerful rank gain buff mean anyone can make it to Rank 5 with a bit of dedication. Improved reward systems have made it essential, and it’s good enough that even a PvP newb can fall in love with it. Despte all the new event types introduced in House of Wolves and The Taken King, Iron Banner stands out as a highlight of the Destiny calendar.

For all that, it’s not perfect. After more than a year of playing Control in Iron Banner, players expressed interest in trying something new. Bungie obliged, introducing Clash – a pure 6v6 mode.

Players seemed to enjoy the variety, so Bungie switched it up again, this time choosing Rift, which I suspect is not getting as much love as Bungie had hoped.

Rift did not go down as well as Clash.

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Putting aside the ball game silliness (the lore says it began as a Warlock training exercise, and definitely not anything that rhymes with “Drift Call”) and its questionable value as a forge for warrior legends in the making, Rift is an interesting mode and potentially a lot of fun. It opens the game to non-combatant roles, meaning less accurate or under-equipped players have a chance to make a significant contribution while sharpshooters protect them.

Rift could probably make a good tournament mode if Bungie ever gets around to making an eSports push with Destiny, because it has an almost MOBA-like emphasis on teamwork and roles. It’s no wonder Bungie wants to promote it; Destiny is at its most sublime when Guardians work together in groups, focused on specific goals – and that’s why raiding is so much fun, and why Control has been as successful as it has.

Even with a full crew of useless randos, Clash is all about being harder, faster and smarter than the enemy under your crosshairs. The freedom to go where and when you want, and no goals bar survival and the dismay of your foes, opens the door to heroic performances.

It all sounds so good in theory – but I’m just not interested in it, at all. The majority of players who are still hanging around Destiny at this stage are in it for the traditional, face-shooting PVP. They want to own noobs, not dash about holding a ball. They definitely don’t want to get a magnificent KDR and end up with a loss in their statistics.

And that’s assuming they manage to get a decent crew together, but as as the never ending requests for raid matchmaking demonstrate, the realities of modern gaming life is you don’t have a group of five buddies with matching schedules who enjoy obeying barked commands and practicing tactics. In content drought era Destiny, it’s especially difficult.

This problem applies to all modes, of course. Control becomes ludicrous when groups of randos sprint in circles around the map, apparently attempting to take all three zones at once while the enemy laughs merrily and takes them to pieces from a co-ordinated formation. Even the simple purity of Clash leaves room for embarrassing performances; last night I saw a group of five randos rush one of the doors on Black Shield again and again and again, apparently convinced that this useless tactic was eventually going to magically work somehow. Not one could be convinced to come help to flank the (no doubt highly amused) defenders inside.

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But Clash – ah, Clash! Even at its worst, with a full crew of useless randos, Clash is saved because it’s all about being harder, faster and smarter than the enemy under your crosshairs. The freedom to go where and when you want, and no goals bar survival and the dismay of your foes, opens the door to heroic performances.

When Clash is at its best, spontaneous three-Guardian fireteams spring up, circling the map to pincer attack the enemy or ambush them from corners rarely visited during zone rushes. Sniper face-offs quickly dissolve when mobile close range units put an end to the cat and mouse. The beauty of the Heavy Ammo drop system is foregrounded by the way it drives teams out of prime positions, and the back and forth of spawns across the map during a good match is a dance you want to be leading.

This sort of magic doesn’t happen in Rumble, where every Guardian for themselves undersells the delicacy of Destiny’s design by removing the tactical co-op that is the very best it has to offer. It doesn’t happen in Control, where tactics are of necessity guided by an arbitrary territorial goal. And it sure as hell doesn’t happen in Rift, where half the team doesn’t know what it’s doing and the other half don’t want to do it.

Stick to Clash, Bungie. Mix it up a bit sometimes if you will, with a modifier here and a variant there – but let your beautiful game shine as it deserves, and let the bravest of your Guardians live up to their potential. Surely that’s what the Iron Lords would want.

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