Weapon Balance Debate (2.0 & You)

Published on: Jul 18, 2015 @ 04:50

If prolonged periods of silence with Bungie have taught us anything, it’s that they’re almost always broken by the announcement of momentous change. The clamor for some sort of correspondence had reached a fever pitch in recent weeks, and Bungie’s sandbox team has answered with a slew of tweaks that are poised to invigorate both the PvE and PvP metagames.

With sweeping changes to weapon subclasses, and some much-needed Exotic attention, Destiny is sure to see some life in September to ring in the Taken King. However, as is the case with all new ideas, some are more well-thought-out than others.

While nothing is final, we feel comfortable in offering an assessment of where we feel Bungie is acting wisely, and where a given change – or lack thereof – looks shortsighted.

In the near future we’ll also be doing an analysis of the Exotic updates. For now, be sure to check out latest podcast, where we discussed all of this at length.

Primary Weapons

Auto Rifles

Perhaps the most anticipated weapon class to be addressed, Auto Rifles are seeing their role consolidated and refined. Whereas they previously offered an easy way of dealing consistent, albeit low, DPS with sustained automatic fire at a wide range of distances, Auto Rifles are being adjusted to more closely mimic the model of a mini-Submachine Gun.

They’re seeing a flat increase to base damage, in addition to to a 10% boost against enemy AI combatants. To offset this currently vague damage buff, you’ll be forced to use them at even closer ranges, as their Stability and base Range profile is being tweaked to close-quarters. This means you’ll be getting more up close and personal, but may be able to mow down your enemies in true satisfying automatic style.


This is exactly what Auto Rifles need, with the heavy caveat that the damage buff must be substantial enough to truly offset the Range and Stability nerfs. Destiny’s PvE meta is all about being able to safely handle opponents from far enough away so as to minimize personal risk, and if Auto Rifles are unable to drop enemies fast enough, than forcing a player into close proximity to use one effectively will be a PvE death sentence.

In PvP, Bungie is clearly looking to fill in some of the gaps for ideal engagement. Auto Rifles will be more deadly in close-to-medium range, where Shotguns can’t touch you, and Scout Rifles are begging for more breathing room.

Outlook: Good

Pulse Rifles

Ever since their base damage increase, Pulse Rifles have seen a great resurgence in the Crucible, if not the PvE renaissance some were hoping for. This isn’t going to change with 2.0; Pulse Rifles will be seeing several noticeable nerfs, in addition to one very smart buff.

taken king pule rifle

Base damage for the medium RoF models will drop by 2.5%, and class stability will be nerf’d to an extent where it will require more skill to land a burst of headshots. This will lengthen TTK for certain models, while making it more difficult for all to dominate in the Crucible. Finally, they will see a class-wide buff to Magazine Size, so they can be used in PvE for longer periods of time without having to reload.


Pulse Rifles are still hurting a bit for damage in PvE, so it’s a disappointment to see the only change to DPS being a negative one for what is arguably the most versatile archetype. With that said, the Pulse Rifle is may unseat Thorn and The Last Word for Crucible dominance, and Bungie is wise to anticipate this metagame shift with some pre-emptive tuning. Expect stability perks to be in high demand for reforging. The extra magazine size is a long time coming, and will hopefully stack with current perks such as Appended Magazine for a weapon that has some staying power.

Outlook: Good

Scout Rifles

Bungie noted early on that Scout Rifles were designed to excel at a certain range, and have steadily buffed certain aspects while tweaking perk availability until they were left with a weapon that does exactly what it is designed to better than anything else. As Hand Cannons will further see their dominance at range reduced, the Scouts incoming buffs are going to make it the weapon for PvE. These include a non-negligible blanket buff to AI combatant damage at 5%, increased Magazine Size, and a base damage increase for the medium and high RoF models. Finally, their hip-fire accuracy is seeing a nerf.


All of this is great! Scouts are going to be doing more damage, and the nerf they’re seeing will only adversely impact situations in which you’re already being overwhelmed. If you like to play a smart, ranged game, Scout Rifles are going to be all the more important to you come 2.0. In PvP, the medium and high RoF models are going to be a lethal option when the maps occasionally open up.

Outlook: Excellent

Hand Cannons

The uncontested PvE king is being brought back down to earth. Hand Cannons are the hands-down best primary DPS weapon in PvE at the moment, while being very workable in PvP with the right roll. Bungie seems to want to make them fit more in the Auto Rifle wheelhouse, but reward snapshot precision. To this end, ADS accuracy past the intended range is being reduced, as well as zoom while ADS and magazine size. What’s more is that damage falloff will begin much sooner, forcing Hand Cannons to surrender their mid-long range superiority to Scout Rifles once and for all.

taken king hand cannon nerf


We’re not entirely certain any of these changes were strictly necessary. The only Hand Cannon that is “overpowered” in PvE is Fatebringer, and every offender in PvP is Exotic and could be fine-tuned specifically. If they aren’t too drastic, most Hand Cannons will still do well at ranges that are practical for Destiny’s PvE metagame. Of course, these tweaks could be paving the way for TTK weapons, and very well could prove smart decisions somewhere down the line. For now, we expect frustration as Guardians will attempt to accommodate to the nerf when the patch drops with TTK.

Outlook: Fair

Special Weapons


The much beloved and much maligned buckshot bruisers are going to see a drastic change to their role in PvP, and a cynical hit to their DPS capacity in PvE. Bungie clearly noticed the disproportionate importance of perks like Shot Package and Rangefinder and has seen fit to re-tool them, reducing Shot Package’s accuracy buff by 30% and reducing the base Range increase from Rangefinder from 20% to 5%.

taken king shotgun pve nerf

In PvE, apparently we were doing a little too well with them, as we’ll be doing 10% less damage on enemy combatants and 10% less precision damage on top of that. Whether Bungie is hoping to incentivize using other special weapon types, or simply trying to make their game harder by making our weapons worse, Shotguns are going to need a shot or two more to reach their peak efficacy.


Another disappointing PvE change cements the notion that Bungie feels the best way to even the playing field is to knock out the top contender, and not to raise the surroundings appropriately.

Fallen Captains, Servitors, and Centurions in the Prison of Elders must feel a bit emboldened by this news, while the rest of us shake our heads collectively. Having said that, the Shot Package and Rangefinder nerfs are going to drastically impact PvP, and hopefully for the better. Blink Shotgunners are going to have a tricker time, as will anyone else using their Shotgun as a “primary.”

Outlook: Fair

Fusion Rifles

One of the least-used PvE weapons, Bungie takes no steps to remedy this, instead opting to dedicate their efforts to the impact of Fusion Rifles solely in the Crucible. They have a lengthened projectile travel time, reduced accuracy at range, and certain models are seeing reductions to base Range on top of this. However, close range Fusion Rifles will see an increase to their accuracy in close quarters. This will once again bring Fusion Rifles into the PvP mix as viable Shotgun alternatives, which is Bungie’s stated goal.

taken king fusion rifle nerf


We’ve talked plenty about how Fusion Rifles are in no-man’s-land in PvE, and even with the minor Shotgun PvE nerf, these changes will do absolutely nothing to make them viable in the majority of Destiny’s PvE content, especially endgame challenges. This yet again highlights the imperfections of a system in which a weapon is balanced for two distinct “games” simultaneously. While Fusion Rifles may yet be neatly balanced with Shotguns, they will be irrelevant for the foreseeable future in all else.

Outlook: Poor

Sniper Rifles

Snipers have been functionally sound since Destiny was released, and very little will be changing. They’ll still do unrivaled damage with unrivaled precision at unrivaled distances, but one particular perk that has been onerous for anyone in competitive PvP will see its reign come to an end. We’re talking of course, about Final Round, which will now be nerf’d so that its bonus damage will only apply to the last round in a clip, providing that’s it’s a precision hit.


While some of the Sniper perks may be a little underwhelming since the House of Wolves’ release, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the class as a whole. The maxim “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” thus applies. Final Round, on the other hand, perhaps defined “broken” – Good riddance!

Outlook: Good

Heavy Weapons

Rocket Launchers

Rocket Launchers were created to make things go boom, and thankfully this will be easier than ever with Bungie’s slated changes for the weapon subclass. Luckily, it’s hard to screw up something so refreshingly simple, and Bungie wisely picked the one perk that is perhaps a little too “idiot-proof” to scale back.

Grenades & Horseshoes’ nasty proximity detonation will require a little more precise aim to proc, but Blast Radius for all Rocket Launchers is seeing a buff.


Nothing wrong here. Grenades and Horseshoes was a little too defining of a perk for PvP, and now it’ll still do its role, while stopping short of combusting your adversaries across zip codes. Plus, when you get your rocket to detonate, it may catch an extra player or two in the ensuing radius – if the BR buff is a noticeable one! In PvE, you’ll have more wave-clearing potential.

Outlook: Excellent


Nothing announced. They could use a PvE combatant damage bonus, in addition to higher Stability on all high RoF base models. These require too much perk investment to measure up to the Jolder’s Hammer, Deviant Gravity, or Against All Odds raw damage output. The “goal” for LMGs should be peerless single-target DPS at the cost of AoE potential. That should be the trade-off for not using a Rocket Launcher, and Bungie would do well to consider if LMGs are where they want them.

Your Thoughts?

With all of these proposed changes, it’s worth nothing that nothing is set in stone yet. However, we’d love to know where you stand, and whether you think this will balance Destiny for the better or for worse. What’s your favorite change? What do you think is totally unnecessary? Please share your feedback!

In the near future we’ll also be doing an analysis of the Exotic updates. For now, be sure to check out latest podcast, where we discussed all of this at length.

I'm aWrySharK, your resident Exotic guru and lover of all things min/max. At PlanetDestiny, my perfectionism is no longer simply a matter of form over function.