Destiny Weapon Balances Hurt the most loyal fans

destiny gjallarhornRecently it was announced that Destiny will be launching a host of new weapon balances. For many this has been a long waited change and update. It will probably be another instance where the community is divided with respect to opinions about whether or not the balances should have happened. Hardcore PVP players and those who finally got a Gjallarhorn are likely to be the ones most frustrated by it. Obviously those on the other side of the issue probably think this is a long awaited and necessary update. I believe this update furthers the lack of confidence many have in the longevity and loyalty of the title and I also believe it strengthens a point I recently made about PVE and PVP needing to be melded. But before I get into the post I want to say something to all of the defenders of the very imbalanced nature of PVP, especially Trials of Osiris, up to this point.

You mad bro?

For a while now it has been pretty obvious that weapons like the Thorn and The Last Word are incredibly unfair weapons to have in a PVP environment. Especially when you consider that not everyone has these weapons. Many have defended them, but if you look at the chart that Bungie revealed, it’s undeniable that these two guns are the most used, most preferred, and most efficient guns in PVP. I love these charts by the way, because they make it so easy to prove people wrong when Bungie hands over their own stats about the game. The question is, how much weapon saturation do these guns have in the community? Because if you don’t actually have these guns and look at the preferred weapons of choice in PVP then it becomes crystal clear that the landscape of PVP has been undeniably unfair and slanted, especially in the Trials of Osiris. This leads to my first point and section…

What took so long?

After E3, I believe it was Datto, who said the new PVP content was a lot of fun, but he made the point that he thought it was because of the absence of exotic guns and gear. Up to this point it has been consistently requested to have the Thorn and The Last Word tweaked to make The Trials of Osiris more balanced. A simple band-aid fix that would have made a huge impact would have been to simply disallow exotic guns. They had to know after just a week or two what was going on and it wouldn’t have been that difficult to make the guns unusable. I know I’m saying “What took so long?”, but I’m not expecting a weapon balance to get cranked out as soon as an imbalance is detected because Bungie has proven they are pretty slow at fixing issues (ie: the heavy ammo glitch fix). Disallowing exotics would have taken minimal effort but would have had significant impact on the balanced nature of the game. The issue here is that it’s becoming difficult to have confidence in Bungie to manage their own game.

No confidence

In this situation we continue to see a game that throws out a bunch of new content and excites the community, but then the content is not only lack luster and empty but it is also imbalanced and somewhat convoluted. So it’s difficult to continue to telling people that yes, $60 for all the Destiny content is worth getting if you can find some people to play with from the beginning. The more this sort of thing happens, it continues to pull the veil back on what seems to be a very unhealthy way to develop a game. Now I don’t know if this is linked to the Activision problem that I talked about in a previous video and post or if it’s more related to the nature of a game that is treading into new waters. I want to give Bungie some credit as the approach to having a ten year game with such a sharp divide between PVE and PVP is pretty ambitious. But I do think that the split identity of the game is the primary cause of a lot of the problems which is why I suggested in a recent post that they should blend PVE and PVP. I think if you were to blend the two sides of the game into one larger game type that was epic in scope you would not have to be doing these weapon balances nearly as often or maybe not at all. The impact and the slant of a given weapon would be somewhat softened in a large engagement with blended AI controlled bosses, vehicles, and enemies. But this would not take away from their power and allure in other game modes. The effectiveness of a Gjallarhorn, for example, would be great against a mini-boss but then you wouldn’t have your heavy ammo to use on the regular players. And sure, you could save your G-horn for regular players but then you wouldn’t have it for the spongey and bothersome mini-bosses. This would bring an element of balance to the game without invalidating player decisions and prized gear.

Why bother?

The primary problem with these weapon balances is that they continue to invalidate player decisions and time investments. For those who farmed for a Gjallarhorn and finally got one, they are probably a little irritated to see an incoming nerf making it slightly less effective than it has been, especially if you just recently found one. Those who may have finally finished the Thorn bounty or got their Last Word leveled up so they can start getting good with the weapon to get on a level playing field with all those who use it, are now seeing that the guns will soon stop being the ruthless killing machines they have been.

So this is problematic for the future of Destiny because it’s an entire game built around looting for coveted gear and then grinding to level it up as they become very important to your experience and success within the game. And to have those decisions and time investments invalidated and uprooted is incredibly frustrating, especially when the balances are so predictable. How did these imbalances make it out of testing? How did you not see that The Thorn was ruthless in PVP? How did you not see that the Gjallarhorn was insanely OP when compared to the rest of the rocket launchers in the game? And here’s the rub: Those benefits and perks are wonderful in PVE and fitting. You do all this work, you finally land a coveted rare weapon, and it’s supposed to be a game changer, and they are. Now those “game changer” mechanics and the epic nature of the guns have been nullified to a certain degree, making them less exciting and less alluring, thus short-circuiting the very nature of Destiny. The nature of Destiny is that you want to keep playing to either find really good loot or level up the good loot you have found. All of that is being uprooted when every couple of months Bungie has to say, “Oh, that really great weapon that you finally found that everyone else has been wrecking you with, it’s now not quite as good as it used to be.” This just de-incentivizes long engagement and frustrates the loyal fan base who puts in the time necessary to have some of these big ticket items which hurts the longevity of the franchise.

The split identity of Destiny is going to, as I’ve said many times before, continue to fracture the game and increase the inconsistencies and the incoherent nature of the game making things feel contradictory. It also continues to torpedo what you’re trying to do as your efforts are frustrated and beleaguered by Bungie tweaking and micromanaging the game. It still, to this day, feels like a paid beta that they continue to de-bug and fix which is going to continually push many away. And the people who feel the sharpest side of the weapon balancing sword are those who have invested the most time in the game.

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