After spending as much time as possible over the last week playing Destiny’s Crucible, I’ve found that the Bungie balance patch has, in fact, changed up the game in a significant way. Through a combination of nerfing guns that were considered overpowered, and slightly buffing certain aspects of other, less-used weapons, Bungie has done quite a lot to shake up what was , undoubtedly, a stale meta. All guns now feel like they have a clear purpose for use, and optimal engagements at which they excel, leading to a sense of balance not previously seen in PvP. Take, for example, Blink/Shotgun. While still relatively strong and prevalent in the Crucible, for the first time in a long while, there are multiple meaningful options to combat it.
It seems like the guns that have been tweaked now have a defined role to play in the PvP environment, with more obvious strengths and weaknesses. You can see the new path Bungie is taking with weapons by simply looking at the perk changes. It’s worth noting that all the perks now focus more on improving one stat at the cost of another, thus forcing players to pick which one they care most about. The same is true with weapons. For more about Exotic weapon changes, check out our analysis here.
The class that was affected the most by this patch, Auto Rifles, received some very apparent changes. Since 2.0, they hit harder much at close range, with high-impact archetypes (The Summoner) doing 25 damage per headshot, and the middle-Impact archetype (including both For The People and Hard Light), doing between 20-21. However, this new found close range stopping power comes at the cost of a dramatic damage fall-off over range.
Even at mid-range they do significantly less damage, and both archetypes become drastically less effective. It was so obvious to me where my window was for getting the optimal kill time, that within a few games with each I was automatically making the switch to my Pulse Rifles whenever I saw one of the maps with larger sight lines come up.
Then I tried out Hard Light, which has both Aggressive Ballistics (increases the base precision damage from 20 to 21) and an Exotic perk which enables Hard Light projectiles to suffer no damage drop off, and it made a world of difference. I could kill people just as fast with an Auto Rifle as I could pre-nerf, and from the normal distances! It was an amazing feeling, and for the first time, I actually looked at Hard Light as an Exotic, and worthy Primary Weapon.
SUROS Regime elicits the same feeling from me, though not for the first time, as the Focus Fire perk now grants a range boost, which pairs excellently with Suros’ already stellar base Range.. These two Exotics now truly exemplify the the role that Bungie had in mind for them when they started: to make them feel special, without being overpowered. They both have that special feel now, but at no point in time did I feel like I was dominating people unfairly. I still had to pick and choose my engagements; simply because using Suros or Hard Light merely allowed me to compete with Pulse Rifles at the middle ranges, it didn’t make me better than them. It offered me the option to continue playing with a class I love, without feeling like I was making a sacrifice other than an Exotic weapon slot.
Moving on to Pulse Rifles, Bungie made it clear that they were staying a step ahead of the meta when they preemptively, slightly, nerfed a few high-impact Pulse Rifles (Hopscotch Pilgrim and The Stranger’s Rifle) to make them no longer a guaranteed two-burst kill (dependent on opponent’s armor level). Before the patch had come out, it was becoming apparent that, when the Exotic Hand Cannons no longer ruled the Crucible, high-impact Pulse Rifles had the next fastest Time to Kill, and they would assume the top slot. Already, Trials of Osiris and Iron Banner were filled with Adept Messengers and perfectly-rolled Hopscotch Pilgrims, along with the poor bastard who had to settle for a Spare Change. These guns had the ability to kill even a fully-armored Titan in two bursts, and impressive base Range and Stability to boot. Bungie looked ahead to see this, and before even letting the meta shift in that direction, took aim at the most popular offenders. Doing this doesn’t mean that the guns are terrible now, because they aren’t. In fact, they are comparatively very even, and more in line with other weapon kill times. What it simply means that, again, there is no overwhelming best choice. If you choose Hopscotch, it might kill faster, or slower, than another weapon, given your opponent’s armor selections.
Knowing that they were trying to promote other choices, I went with a couple different Pulse Rifles during my games last night. I played with Red Death and Bad JuJu, and both felt wonderfully different from one another. Red Death, will, I think, be one of the new dominant guns in the emerging meta. The ultra-fast Time to Kill is still there, and the only flaws it has were the ones that have always been there: the less than stellar range and stability, and the fact that it’s not the easiest gun to pick up kills with at close range. When controlled correctly, though, it has that wonderful two-burst kill everyone looks for, and the Exotic ability to heal is incredibly useful for competitive PvP. Basically, I think in the hands of skilled player, Red Death could be one of the best guns in Crucible. The trade-off of course, is still there. You have to be very good with Red Death to get these excellent results. If you miss even one shot from a burst, the slower RoF will almost guarantee your death against other good players, so use it at your own risk.
When I was playing with Bad JuJu, even though I know not much has changed with the gun itself, just the lack of longer distance HC and AR kills made it feel so much more competitive. No longer can a Bad JuJu be outgunned at medium range by two headshots from a Thorn. It may not have the fastest Time to Kill out there, and it won’t win many battles at close range with HCs or ARs, but once it gets a little farther out, it shines. This is an example of buffing a gun by proxy.
Bad JuJu itself has had almost nothing changed in 2.0, with its TTK staying a mediocre .96 seconds. It won’t kill someone using The Summoner at close range, as the new high-impact ARs can put someone down in as little as .8 seconds, and even Thorn, without the DoT, can kill in three shots at .73. However, when you use Bad JuJu, and you back away just a little, and get outside that damage falloff range, Bad JuJu’s .96 starts to look pretty good compared to the 1.1 seconds of both The Messenger and Thorn. Simply by decreasing, substantially, the range on these guns, Bad JuJu has a chance to be dominant, if played correctly. ARs and HCs no longer carry their low TTKs with them into ranges far beyond what’s right, and it’s starting to bear fruit for the PvP of this game.
Now, that’s not to say that these guns don’t have their own weaknesses. Both Red Death and Bad JuJu excel in the mid range, but both are hard to control and get consistent kills with in close quarters, and neither are exceptional at the longest of ranges either. This was made brutally evident to me by an beat-down I received from a pair of players rocking MIDA and Vision of Confluence. Now that Scout Rifle users no longer have to fear being picked off by Thorn or TLW users feathering the trigger from absurd distances, and now that larger maps are back in the rotation, I expect them to soon be out in force.
This, once again, is Bungie showing us we have to make choices, just like with our perks. If we want to excel in one area, we must be prepared to be weak in another. ARs and HCs are excellent at close range, PRs are great in the middle ranges, and SRs are great at long ranges. You have to choose which one you want to be good at, and suffer the consequences of that choice. Before the patch, some guns were good at all ranges, and solid for all encounters. That made for an easy choice, and we wound up with games filled with Exotic Hand Cannons. No longer will that be happening in the Crucible, as the one-size-fits-all Primary Weapons seem to have disappeared, and the game is much better off for it.