Iron Banner is not in a good place in Destiny 2. Season of the Haunted introduced sweeping changes to the once-popular event, reducing its frequency, adding an old-new game mode, and overhauling how players make progress. After knocking out the intro quest and playing a dozen matches solo queue, I’m inclined to agree with the community at large: the flame of passion for Iron Banner is fizzling out.
For those playing catch-up, Iron Banner was once a monthly event in Destiny 2 that saw Lord Saladin arrive in the Tower and ask players to play a form of Crucible. He offered bounties that awarded tokens, which could be used to rank him up and gain engrams containing the hot new weapons and armor. Alternatively, players that complete the seasonal quest could earn a full set of themed gear. It’s safe to say most players would look forward to the event.
Cut to May 2022. Season of the Haunted releases and players are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Iron Banner. Bungie highlighted in a TWAB all the changes coming to Iron Banner this season, chief among them was that Rift would be the main game mode. Rift was a game mode from Destiny 1 that was released and swiftly removed after player feedback was clear: they didn’t like it at all. Somehow, after five years, Rift is back and worse than ever.
While the core concept of Rift remains the same, there are new additions that make it feel like a slog to play. Two teams still spawn at opposite ends of the map while a ball (called a Spark in-game) appears in the middle a few seconds later. The goal is to grab the ball and score it in your enemy’s zone. One of the most jarring changes to the mode is that instead of continuous play after a team scores, both teams now respawn back at their bases after a loading screen. This is a hard cut to black with, depending on your hardware and connection speeds, several seconds’ worth of downtime.
Balancing issues that plague Destiny 2’s matchmaking systems are also present in Iron Banner. It’s too common to either be completely crushed by an enemy team six-stack or be the one rolling faces, and going into solo queue isn't an option when you want to play with another friend. And if you do find yourself on the receiving end of a thrashing, when the enemy team kills you in the base, you’ll respawn far away from your home goal, unable to defend against attacks.
Though prone to theatrics, the DestinyTheGame subreddit has quickly and decisively appraised Rift in Iron Banner as a flop. ImNotGhost013 points out that attempting to pick up the ball in the middle of the map is a chore, as it has a long interaction button press that can be easily interrupted. But more concerning are the bugs that outright prevent the match from progressing. Users in the thread are noting issues where the objectives disappear or teams get locked in respawning cycles for minutes on end.
The subreddit is full of despondent players. Some players are feeling deflated after only a single match while others are lamenting the fact that Control won’t be the Iron Banner mode until maybe Season 18. Those actually trying to make progress are noting the abysmal reputation earn rate, even when exploiting the rep boosts.
Rift’s shortcomings aside, Iron Banner has a lot of other glaring issues. The in-game messaging is unclear to the point that we needed a guide to explain what an Iron Banner Daily Challenge is. Hint: it’s actually labelled a Weekly Challenge in-game. There are also problems when trying to simply make progress in quests. For those working through the Forging Iron intro quest, it can be easy to get stuck on step 5 with no progress being made towards the goal.
And then there's the issue of gear. Anyone that is actually after any god rolls better be a long-time player with a treasure trove of Legendary Shards because focusing engrams is expensive. It’ll set you back 100 Legendary Shards to focus one item. This is a steep price for new players who likely don’t have the thousands of shards long-time players have, but even veterans need to be careful. Focus 10 engrams and you’re down 1000 shards – that adds up quickly when you’re chasing a Riiswalker god roll.
While most of these issues can be solved with tweaks and fixes, there is the underlying problem that players are barely able to capture zones let alone grab a ball and run it to the enemy’s base. Dare I say that objective modes don’t work in Destiny 2’s PVP sandbox? It might be time for Iron Banner to focus entirely on killing – save the objectives and strategy for Trials of Osiris. For now, Iron Banner needs to sit a bit longer on the bench, because it’s not quite ripe enough for consumption.