It is no secret that Destiny 2 has a bit of a two faced personality; it attempts to appeal to longtime fans and hardcore grinders with things like Raids and Competitive PvP playlists while at the same time making quite an effort to bring newer, perhaps more casual fans into the fold. The end result is a game that, while pretty accessible for virtually anyone, lacks any real depth to it. You can’t grind for specific gear from vendors because vendors are now slot machines that hand out random rewards; you can’t search for any particularly good guns with exceptional perks because every gun in the game has fixed, and rather mediocre, perks; and armor may as well be nonexistent for how nominally they affect gameplay. With all these changes it was inevitable that returning features from the first game would feel lacking, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Destiny 2’s week-long PvP event, the Iron Banner.
Long ago, the Iron Banner was considered an endgame PvP event (or at least after Bungie updated it a few times), giving players a chance to obtain Raid equivalent gear. Sure, anyone could theoretically complete all of the Iron Banner bounties over time even if they were terrible at Destiny’s PvP, but it was obviously much easier if you were fairly decent at the game. Seeing someone walk around with a full set of Iron Banner gear was a rarity, and while the weapons and armor weren’t quite as good as the Raid gear, it was generally a step above what you could get from normal activities since you could only obtain certain weapons during certain months. Over time, as Trials of Osiris was integrated into Destiny as the new endgame PvP mode, Iron Banner became more of a mid-tier event, but people still played it because it was a consistent way to get high-level gear outside of Raids and Trials once a month, especially if the only thing holding you back from hitting the level cap was one or two specific armor pieces. Naturally, it would’ve been safe to assume that the return of the Iron Banner in Destiny 2 meant that it would fulfill a similar role as it did previously but evidently, Bungie had other plans for the once decently-regarded PvP mode.
As it exists in Destiny 2, the Iron Banner is still a monthly event that lasts for a week, giving PvP fans a way to obtain some rather interesting looking gear. Unfortunately, the gear itself is rather mediocre or average at best, and garbage-tier at worst. Of the eight or so weapons that you can obtain from the event, only three are mildly usable or potentially good, leaving the Pulse Rifle, the Fusion Rifle, and maybe the Submachine Gun as the only Iron Banner weapons that might see consistent use in both PvE and PvP. By comparison, one of the original Iron Banner shotguns in Destiny ruled over the Crucible for months, the Pulse Rifle during the Rise of Iron era was amazing, and the Iron Banner machine guns were quite capable of going toe to toe with almost any other weapon in the game. In other words, so long as the symbol of the Iron Banner was on a weapon, you could almost guarantee that the weapon was going to be fairly usable no matter the perks on the weapon, but not anymore.
On top of that, the Iron Banner was one of the few times where your level mattered in the Crucible, an attempt at giving players a unique gameplay experience. Granted, there wasn’t that much of a difference between levels, but at least there was an illusion that the Iron Banner was this intense mode that was not for people who just started the game. In Destiny 2, the Iron Banner is literally the same as normal Crucible, but with a different announcer and a preset gametype. There’s no level advantages, there’s no larger team sizes, there’s no noticeable difference in ammo drop or ability cooldown rates, nothing that would serve to differentiate the Iron Banner from the Crucible in a practical sense. Heck, the Iron Banner follows the same slot machine RNG reward system that every other vendor follows, so it’s entirely possible that you can play through the whole event, win every match flawlessly, and still get a mountain of trash by the end of it while someone else gets the full set of armor despite losing every single match. If Bungie can’t make the Iron Banner a marginally different experience from the rest of game, then what’s the incentive to play it instead of some other gametype, or a different game altogether?
For the Iron Banner to be reasonably relevant again, Bungie has to put aside the notion that piece of loot in Destiny 2 must be the same for the sake of accessibility, and this is not a problem that is exclusive to the Iron Banner. Trials of the Nine, Raids, Iron Banner, they all offer gear that doesn’t have any standout feature to them relative to the effort that you have to put into these activities, or at least not when compared to the normal gear that you can obtain by doing any other activity. No one’s asking for an insta-win weapon, but some variation and an extra incentive to play these activities would be nice. For example, perhaps the Raid weapons should have an intrinsic perk that lets them penetrate through multiple enemies and light cover in PvE only, or maybe the Iron Banner weapons’ perk slots all have two options so that they offer more versatility than any other themed weapon set, or the Trials weapons all reload faster when the magazine is emptied, anything that would set these weapons apart from the common gear that you can grind for. Something as simple as removing the RNG slot machine mechanic from the associated vendors alone would go a long way to encouraging people to play these activities multiple times rather than bashing their heads against bad luck and weekly lockouts.
In addition, seeing as how Bungie has made up their minds about how every PvP activity must be 4v4, perhaps they could modify Iron Banner so that respawns and ability cooldowns are shorter and more in line with their original Destiny counterparts, creating more chaotic games? It’s not like Destiny 2 will ever work as an Esport game, so why not give players a chance to feel powerful once a month in PvP? Merely having the activity be a preset gametype is not enough, especially if people hate a specific gametype, so give people an incentive to play via unique gameplay experiences. Most of Destiny 2’s problems can be traced to the question “Where is my incentive to play?”, especially when said incentive can be smashed by RNG loot mechanics, so if Bungie is going to start addressing this question, they may as well start by experimenting on an activity that shows up just once a month.