Destiny — Icebreaker an unfortunate return to Year 1 RNG

Icebreaker, alongside Gjallarhorn, was as game-breaking a weapon as they came. The former, a sniper rifle that regenerates ammo; allowing the player to sit out of harm’s way and slowly chip away at swarms of enemies or bullet-sponge bosses alike. The latter, the most devastating of heavy weapons; dealing massive rocket damage with the added bonus of wolfpack rounds, that either kick ’em while they’re down or seek out additional enemies if the explosion downed the original target.

These were the two most sought after exotic weapons in Destiny’s first year. Other firearms were just as coveted, but they had specific routes of acquisition. To obtain these exotics, though, was a roll of the dice, and the dice had many sides.

For this gamer, it took until Destiny’s 49th week to finally pick up that rocket launcher — and only then because Xur, the mysterious merchant, deemed it time to sell the weapon (a mere 2 weeks before it was left behind as Year 2 ticked over and the Gjallarhorn became irrelevant). Xur had sold it once before — on only his second appearance — but for many this opportunity came too soon in their Destiny adventure, either not having the currency required to purchase it or not knowing the weapons true power, and so the chance passed them by.

Icebreaker was a similar struggle for many. Xur sold the weapon just once — in his 5th week — although by that stage at least players were better prepared; more familiar with Xur, acquiring Strange Coins, and the value of an exotic weapon in your arsenal. Miss that weekend, though, and you’re back to crossing your fingers during every Raid, Nightfall, or engram decrypt. And cross your fingers you should, because in Year 1 Exotic item drops were few and far between — no Three of Coins here to bolster your chances.

And so it was with a huge sigh of relief — but also excitement and enthusiasm — when within a month of The Taken King release a Redditor and his friend happened upon an extension to the daily story mission. The secret route led them off the beaten path to a usually locked area, and prompted the players to clear a Fallen Ketch of all enemies within 10 minutes. It was, at the time, one of the most challenging activities Destiny could throw at a fireteam, but it rewarded a sniper rifle named Black Spindle, that would be to Year 2 what Icebreaker was to Year 1.

The opportunity to acquire exotic items through these secret activities (such as Black Spindle), through hidden quest lines (such as Sleeper Simulant), or even through a long and convoluted ARG’s that required thousands of Guardians to come together to solve a data encryption puzzle (for Outbreak Prime) signalled the end of the random rewards that led to a culture of the haves and have-nots. A new dawn. You can earn your top tier weapons.

The Owl Sector website went live shortly before Rise Of Iron, then revealed new secrets that ultimately lead players to Outbreak Prime, an Exotic Pulse Rifle.

And yet here we are, over a calendar year later, and Bungie have regressed. Although Rise of Iron brought the aforementioned Outbreak Prime ARG, it also brought with it the first of 2 weapons that are kept exclusive through randomness. The first, Thorn, gives each Destiny character 4 bounties per week, each of which offer the chance to be granted the quest line.

The other — Icebreaker’s Year 3 return — gives each character just 1 chance per week to acquire the weapon. That bounty requires you to complete the Nightfall activity within 30 minutes, gaining a ‘gold tier’ score. It’s one-and-done. If you complete the activity, and don’t get blessed by RNGesus, you have failed in your attempt and must wait until the following week.

I don’t know the odds of acquiring the weapon with each bounty completion — but can attest to having completed it 3 times per week in 6 of the 8 weeks since it’s been available. That’s 18 completions, but no reward.

The concern, from someone who suffered through 49 weeks of Destiny’s first year without the most powerful weapon in the game, is that there is a real possibility that by reverting to this once-per-week RNG roll, some players may never see the weapon. And worse — by adding Icebreaker as a bounty reward, Bungie have guaranteed that not even Xur can save the day, as he only sells weapons available through the exotic engram loot pool, which quest and bounty items are not.

The saving grace is that unlike Year 1, the Icebreaker is now less desirable. The ammo recharge rate had already been nerfed long before The Taken King expansion made it irrelevant, and with Nightfalls having a time limit for the best rewards, sitting back and sniping no longer works as a strategy.

But for the completion-ists who now have 1 gaping space in their exotic collection, it’s the return of a frustration that seemed to be in the past. Bungie had learned their lesson and created concrete routes to acquiring items, but their Live Team (who are keeping the lights on while the core development team work on a fully fledged sequel) didn’t get the memo.

edit: About a week after writing this, I got an Icebreaker