Destiny Will Nerf Its Hottest Weapons

Last week, Bungie generated some inevitable controversy by finally spelling out their plans for Destiny weapon balancing. It included a few known quantities, Auto Rifles need buffs, PvP dominators like Thorn need nerfs, but the proposed patch goes out of its way to cripple other strong weapons like Ice Breaker, Black Hammer, and the game’s Ark of the Covenant, the Gjallarhorn.

The specifics of these individual decisions I’ve already discussed, but the long and short of it is that people are upset that weapons they liked won’t be as strong as they’ve been previously.

But how will they react if someday it happens to all their weapons?

In its first year, Destiny has always had systems in place that allow players to “ascend” their old weapons to new max damage levels. During the first level/damage-cap raise in the Dark Below DLC, it was a convoluted system that involved trading in old exotics for new ones, and spending eons re-leveling them to unlock their new top tier of power. It was one of the biggest missteps of the DLC, and the next time around for The House of Wolves, the system was streamlined. All exotics could be leveled using one or two easily-purchasable shards, and even all old legendaries could now reach new damage max levels using the more rare Etheric Light.

But now as we head into Destiny “year two,” where does it end? Can Bungie keep inventing new ways to continue to make sure old weapons stay relevant? Or will they finally have to draw the line at some point and say “alright guys, it’s a new era, find new weapons and learn to love them instead.”

It’s a more complicated problem than might be initially apparent.

If Weapons Have a Shelf Life

If Bungie lays the hammer down either at the debut of The Taken King (unlikely), or a year later when Destiny 2 inevitably comes out (more likely), that will upset many people. After all, even though Bungie has indicated your specific Guardian can probably transcend multiple games, your character is really a composite of your gear and weapons at any given time. Everything else is just cosmetic.

By introducing a hard cut point where no, you will not be able to keep increasing the damage capacity of old weapons, that will effectively nuke the entire collection of gear players have spent years building. No matter how good your Gjallarhorn or Fatebringer, if they can’t hit the new damage max, they will never be able to compete with new weapons.

In most games, this isn’t an issue. Obviously in other shooters like Call of Duty, Halo, Battlefield, Far Cry etc, the games are self-contained experiences in which you personally are not amassing gear in any meaningful capacity that would need to carry over from one installment to the next. But even with loot-based games where Destiny draws influence, Borderlands and Diablo, there’s no expectation of carryover from one sequel to the next. Or in Diablo’s case, when the level cap was raised in the Reaper of Souls expansion, everyone simply understood that no matter how big and brawny their collection of level 60 legendaries was, now they were going to have to get out there and find a new set at level 70.

But Destiny, as ever, is a unique experience, and one where players seem to be a great deal more attached to specific weapons than pretty much every other game I’ve played. To nerf my beloved Ice Breaker hurts, but to be told I can never use it again? Unconscionable! So the argument here is that if gear is ever left behind, it essentially erases all the hard work Destiny players have put into building their characters, because characters in this game are effectively a compilation of gear, and it forces them to divorce themselves from weapons they have grown to love.

If Weapons Are Immortal

After all that, the obvious solution seems to be to allow Destiny players to hold onto their weapons and let them hit new high watermarks for damage with each new piece of content, potentially even with sequels. No one loses anything, right?

Kind of. But allowing the game to have an eternally widening pool of top-tier weapons is something that can bog it down in the long run. We’ve already seen this in practice with the most recent House of Wolves expansion. Despite two new full endgame modes, one for PvP in Trials of Osiris and PvE’s Prison of Elders, players have been remarkably slow to pick up new “top-tier” weapons in favor of old favorites, with only a few exceptions.

Obviously, I realize there are specific problems with many of Wolves’ weapons including inarguably useless perks (Shank burn!), but the answer here isn’t just “make better weapons and we’ll use them!” In that world, if you allow all guns to be max damage, you constantly have to make better and better weapons to outdo them if you want people to use new things. This is power creep, and can quickly zap all the fun out of a game.

This has been a problem with the recent weapon nerfs. People look at the Gjallarhorn getting its damage cut and say, “just make other stuff as good as Gjallarhorn!” but all that would do is create a wider gap between good items and the mediocre.

Do you see where all this leads? If Destiny continues to allow the ascension of all weapons indefinitely, it’s going to be harder and harder to balance the game with a stupidly wide pool of usable weapons, and will create a situation where players are less inclined to pursue the endgame when they already have their collection of favorite weapons that only need a piece of currency or two to stay relevant whenever new content is released.

So what’s the answer here?

There are a few options I can see working going forward.

First, Bengie could stop allowing the ascension of legendary weapons indefinitely, while continuing to let exotics reach new max damage levels. That would create a much smaller pool max damage weapons to work with, and though a few favorites would be left behind, fans would get to keep their exotic collection functional. Legendary armor is a different story and too much of its own issue to even go into here, as the game desperately needs better endgame armor options.

Alternatively, Bungie could draw a hard line as to when players will simply have to forage in the wild for an entirely new set of gear. It would be painful, but certainly not unprecedented, and might help the overall health of the game. And after all, is it really realistic that you’d be able to keep using an exotic you found in 2014 by the time Destiny 3 rolls around in 2018? I don’t think so, and other than adding nostalgia value, I’m not sure if such a thing would provide an overall benefit to the game.

Or, everything could just be ascended forever and Bungie would have a hell of a challenge on their hands designing weapons that are so mindblowingly awesome that everyone is content shoving their existing arsenal in the vault.

Perhaps there are middlegrounds even between these different ideas (you get to ascend three weapons of your choice per reset? I don’t know), but this is going to be a problem Bungie will run up against probably with a year, and there are no easy answers that will satisfy both fans who love their current loadouts and a game that has to keep feeling fresh by creating new, must-have loot.

The Taken King Getting Quest and Bounty Overhauls from Destiny

In its Weekly Update this week, developer Bungie detailed the upcoming changes to bounties and quests, revealing a dramatic overhaul to the tasks. First of all, The Taken King’s creative director Luke Smith stated that the studio is making the expansion’s new quests more in line with the base game’s Exotic Bounties. These bounties are multi-step, difficult challenges that rewarded players with Exotic weapons upon completion. Destiny power leveling can get the Exotic weapons.

Continue reading The Taken King Getting Quest and Bounty Overhauls from Destiny

New challenges for the week of July 14 with Destiny

It’s that wonderful time when Bungie’s rotating selection of high-reward activities are rebooted (along with any raid progress made in the previous week), giving everyone a fresh chance at scoring some of the game’s sweetest and rarest loot.

Are you new to Destiny? Don’t know what any of this means? Good news. There’s a Destiny wiki that’s packed with information. Click for details on what Strikes are, and how Nightfall differs from Weekly Heroic challenges.

The House of Wolves add-on also adds a new weekly wrinkle, in the form of Prison of Elders. The multi-round gauntlets are built for endgame play, with the specific enemy types and modifiers changing from week to week.

Here’s a rundown of what’s happening this week:

Nightfall (The Nexus)

  • Epic – This is a standard Nightfall modifier. It just means there are more enemies to fight, and a greater number of Majors (the yellow health bar dudes) on the field.
  • Nightfall – Another standard Nightfall modifier. This one boots the entire Fireteam back to orbit if everyone is downed inside one of the revive-only respawn Darkness Zones.
  • Angry – Enemies can’t be staggered.
  • Brawler – Guardian melee attack do increased damage.
  • Grounded – Guardians take increased damage when in the air.

Continue reading New challenges for the week of July 14 with Destiny

A Mage-like Guardian Class in Destiny – Warlock

“Warlocks have long studied the Traveler, mastering some of its arcane energies. Its true purpose still remains a great mystery, but discovering truth has always driven you into the unknown. Now, our enemies stand between you and your greatest discovery – the secrets of the Golden Age.”

Destiny Warlocks

The Warlocks are a mage-like Guardian class in Destiny, and have been compared directly to both the prototypical wizard class and the sci-fi mainstay Jedi. Utilizing the powers of the Traveler to create magic-like effects, the Warlocks are extremely powerful. Though they have the ability to deal massive amounts of damage, they do not benefit from the pure speed of the Hunter or the strong defense of the Titan classes, making them a class of reserved expertise rather than full-out assault.

Visually, Warlock silhouette’s are an inverse of the Titan ‘V’-shape. Cues of a Warlock is the dark face-mask. Approximately 20% of Warlock gear will show armor, while 80% will be composed of cloth.

An Incredibly Strong Group of Destiny Guardians – Titans

“The first Titans built the Wall, and gave their lives to defend it. Now, you stand in the same high place, steadfast and sure, protecting all who shelter in your shadow. You hail from a long line of heroes, forged from strength and sacrifice. Our enemies may be deadly and merciless, but so are you.”

Destiny Titan

Titans are an incredibly strong group of Guardians, designed specifically to play the role of super soldier or space marine. They are an all-out, heavy assault class, and can be considered a class equivalent of the prototypical “warrior” class. Their armor is composed of heavy metals, and they are designed to withstand a significant amount of damage at the expense of range and maneuverability. Visually, Titan armor holds a strong ‘V’ shape in the overall design. Cues of a Titan can be given in the swept-back helmet or the angled thigh pads. Approximately eighty percent of Titan gear will show armor, while the remaining twenty percent will be composed of non-armor materials.

A Stealthy Class of Destiny Guardians – Hunters

“Hunters once prowled the wilderness and wastelands, taking big risks for even bigger rewards. You’re no outlaw—at least, not anymore—but making your own luck has always meant bending the rules. Your unique brand of daring and ingenuity is needed now more than ever.”

Destiny Hunter

The Hunters are a stealthy class of Guardians, focusing largely on sniping and silent attacks. Designed around the concept of bounty hunters, the Hunter could also be considered the class equivalent of the prototypical “rogue”. Visually, capes and hoods play heavily in this player type’s design. Hunter armor is a mixture of approximately 50% armor to 50% non-armor (cloth) material, being an overall looser fit than Titan gear.

They are to be considered a more long-range, stealthy class than the others. Joe Staten from GameSpot comments on the bounty hunter characteristic of the class, describing them as “cool and collected”. They are usually the one taking a shot before the enemy even knows they are there. Bungie Senior Graphics Designer Lorraine McLees described the class as a “combination of speed and strength”, and Assistant Community Manager David Dague added that the Hunter class “is about stealth tactics”

Hunters were once survivors that roamed the wastelands and wilderness making their own luck. Through manipulation of the Traveler’s energies, Hunters learned how to survive in the wild. This heritage has led to their characteristic tendency of bending the rules to suit their particular situation. Being the trailblazers amongst Guardian classes, Hunters serve as invaluable scouts when surveying hostile and dangerous territory combining their trademark daring and ingenuity.Some fear them as being too dangerous, but their bravery has led to many discoveries dating back to the Golden Age.