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Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Big Changes to Destiny's gameplay balance

The third and final live stream exploring the April 12 update completed earlier this afternoon, and the hour-plus presentation provided some interesting insight into several facets of the Destiny experience that are in for changes.

Two weeks ago, we learned about new activities coming to the game, and last week brought details about specific gear and progression systems. This week’s stream explored changes on the way to the Crucible, new approaches to weapon balance, and a significant overhaul of the warlock’s three subclasses.


Anyone who plays a lot of small-team Crucible matches like Elimination and Skirmish knows that reviving teammates is a contentious issue. Right now, after dropping an enemy, it feels like it’s relatively easy for someone on the opposing team to bring them back into the fight.

That’s set to change on April 12, when several factors are set to combine to make committing to a revive a harder choice. Revive-focused exotics like Light Beyond Nemesis and Crest of Alpha Lupi now take a little bit longer to complete the revive, preventing the so-called “sprint revive.”

Whether using an exotic or not, the overshield acquired after a revive is now slightly weaker, it takes a little longer to complete the revive, and you need to be closer to your target to start the revive. Finally, the previous five-second revive timer is moving to seven seconds, and that timer does stack on multiple revives. For example, your second consequent revive in a round will go out to 14 seconds.

Taken together, you can expect that teams that have relied on aggressive forward players who are then subsequently revived by their supporting players will now have a tougher time enacting that strategy than before.

Ammo Economy

Crucible ammo economy is a hotly debated issue among hardcore Destiny players, and Bungie has made frequent changes to the system over the life of the game. That tradition is set to continue in the April update, in which both special and heavy ammo is getting a retrofit.

Special ammo will now return to spawning at the start of a match, allowing players to deploy their preferred opening tactics, such as taking up an early sniper position. However, additional special ammo won’t spawn until three minutes into the match, so being careful about overusing special ammo is essential. A subsequent drop will occur two minutes after that. We double-checked with Bungie post-stream, and this change includes Elimination and Trials matches – places where the change will likely be particularly notable in match results.

Attentive guardians may have also noted the way many opponents in the Crucible have used Icebreaker and sidearms as a way to get around the special ammo inventory, by using those weapons and then switching out to another preferred weapon. That option has now been eliminated.

Meanwhile, heavy ammo is becoming all the more precious. Bungie seems to have decided that the frequency of heavy-ammo appearances was overriding the Crucible experience, so heavy ammo will now only drop once in a standard Crucible match, at exactly the five-minute mark. Mayhem, which as the name implies focuses on crazy action, will not see any change to its heavy-ammo-drop deployment.

Crucible Loot

Many competitive-focused players in recent months have bemoaned the dearth of loot after the completion of Crucible matches. In keeping with Bungie’s strategy to provide more routes to a light-capped character, that issue is set to change with the update.

At the highest level, everyone can expect to see a higher drop rate for legendary weapons and armor after a match completes.

In addition, as previously mentioned last week, sterling treasure boxes will now drop after completing a single match of the weekly playlist. Today, Bungie also explained that completing Shaxx’s weekly bounty now has a chance to provide items up to light 335. Longtime players know that process is a time investment, but importantly, it provides a long-term path to light-cap for Crucible players above and beyond Iron Banner and Trials of Osiris.

Trials is set to return as soon on the first weekend after the April 12 update, on Friday, April 15. On that day, expect better rewards incoming in the highly competitive mode. Complete a flawless Trials run, and you can now expect that the Mercury Lighthouse chest may provide either armor or weapons, and both can drop at up to light 335. Meanwhile, Trials bounties can provide equipment and weapons up to 330 light.

In Iron Banner, the post-game drop system has been adjusted by removing legendary engrams as a possibility, and instead providing Iron Banner-specific legendary gear. In addition, if you get all the way to rank 5 in any given week of Iron Banner, you’re looking at artifact and ghosts that drop at 320 light. And before we leave the topic of Iron Banner, Bungie took time to note that the previously frustrating bounty requiring 2500 points and a win has changed to require 1500 points and a match completion, making it far easier for the average player to expect completion.

Weapon Archetype Balancing

In what is sure to be a fierce debate among the active player base (like it always is), Bungie is rolling out some changes to the weapon archetypes.

First, it’s worth noting that Bungie is sticking to its guns (pun intended) as far as the commitment to keep the PvE and PvP in parity with one another from a balance perspective. That decision aims to ensure any given player can really learn the feel of a particular weapon or subclass, and rely on that feel of play in any game mode.

Drilling down into specifics, auto rifles are seeing an adjustment within the archetype to make low rate-of-fire weapons more appealing (through higher overall damage), and high rate-of-fire guns a little weaker (through a lower overall damage stat).

Similarly, low rate-of-fire pulse rifles are getting a little bit of a damage boost as well to make them more competitive.

Hand cannons are looking at a minor change that should be welcome news to anyone who frequently finds themselves running out of reserve ammo. While magazine sizes aren’t seeing any change, you can now expect a higher reserve-ammo count across the board.

Fusion rifles have been a maligned choice for several months now, and Bungie is aiming to make this mid-range weapon archetype a little more useful with the April Update. Stability has been increased across the board for all fusion rifles, so you can shoot the weapon and expect a much tighter spread of fire. We’ll see if this blanket adjustment is enough to bring the cool but often underused weapon style into popular use.

Sniper rifles have always been intended by Bungie as a weapon for patient users at a significant distance, but recent play styles seen in the Crucible suggest that the archetype is becoming increasingly overwhelming even at medium range. A few changes aim to make that strategy harder to implement. First, the three closest-range scopes are being pushed out a little bit. That should make them more deadly at longer ranges, but clumsier in short-range engagements. In addition, two additional animation frames have been added when zooming in on a target, making it take just a split second longer to lock in on an opponent. Along with that, the Snapshot perk now reduces zoom time by only 20 percent, instead of 30 percent. Finally, stability has lowered on sniper rifles by a little bit. Taken together, snipers are going to need to be even better than they currently are to succeed with their favorite weapon.

Interestingly, we didn’t hear anything about new changes to shotguns – a weapon type that many players debate endlessly. Bungie has either concluded that any concerns about the shotgun are overstated, or they’re just not talking yet about what is changing.

Specific Weapon Balancing

When diving into changes to specific weapons, Bungie showed off a remarkable graph that indicated what many players already knew from anecdotal evidence; The MIDA Multi-Tool exotic scout rifle is wildly popular, and is being used way more than its competing primary weapons. The developers like MIDA’s overall feel, but want to make it a little less painful to be at the other end of an assault by this beast. Thus, MIDA is losing access to its high-caliber rounds perk, so you won’t get staggered when someone hits you with a shot. Is that enough to curb its overwhelming appeal? Only time will tell.

An old favorite for many year-one players is due for a big comeback; the Suros Regime exotic auto rifle has had a good bit of reworking, and the sum changes sound like a good thing for the weapon. Like all low rate-of-fire auto rifles, the new damage boost will be a significant advantage. But to keep that change from making the Regime an absolute beast, the spinning-up perk now kicks in a little later (four rounds, to be exact). However, Bungie is also adjusting perks to allow for some dramatic range options, particularly for an auto rifle. As such, expect the Suros Regime to be best-in-class for players looking to use auto-fire at medium range.

Hawkmoon was one of the most sought-after weapons of year one. It’s seeing a range increase to make it more appealing in Year Two.

The Last Word, like MIDA, is a frequent death dealer on the Crucible field right now. With the April Update, damage is coming down on The Last Word when utilizing the weapon’s signature perk of hip fire. It seems like a relatively modest change, but Bungie seems convinced that it’s enough to hold Jaren Ward’s epic hand cannon in check.

The exotic hand cannon, Thorn, had become the prevailing hand cannon in use by the end of Year One. It’s seen less use since the new light level kicked in with The Taken King’s release, but in non-power-enabled PvP matches it can still be a frustrating weapon to confront, due to the overwhelming effect of its damage-over-time effect. The hand cannon is staying at Year One light values, but that DoT is being nerfed; it does four poison pulses instead of six, each of those pulses does less damage, and the visual effect for poisoned players has been scaled back. In short, Thorn has a much lower chance now of killing you with its damage-over-time effect.

In addition to the previously mentioned adjustment to the Icebreaker sniper rifle (you can’t use it to get ammo back for other secondaries), handling has also come down on the weapon a little bit. It is also remaining at Year One levels. The change to handling is no doubt to discourage its use over other Year Two sniper options.

One of the most underused exotic weapons in the game has been Dreg’s Promise, a sidearm that was obtainable back in Year One through playthroughs of Prison of Elders. Bungie seems to recognize that the promise of Dreg’s Promise has been left unfulfilled, and along with its return in the April Update, expect it to become a contender for your secondary slot. That’s because it has gained a much more dramatic tracking feature, similar to rocket launchers with the tracking perk. For many players without great precision-aiming capabilities, it may be a godsend.

Telesto is one of the most distinct exotic weapons in the game, due to its ability to deploy small explosive sticky rounds. The weapon was not working correctly, however, and its problems have now been resolved. The explosive rounds can now track on and attach to friendly players. Expect to see a new emerging strategy in which a support player will attach Telesto rounds to a more forward attacking player, and use them as a mobile bomb. The Telesto will do no damage to allied players, but now has broader utility when used in conjunction with friendlies.

A few notable legendary-tier weapons were also discussed. 1,000-Yard Stare is the most equipped secondary weapon in the arsenal right now, and for good reason. It’s a strong overall contender with few weak points. In addition to the broader archetype changes hitting sniper rifles, this particular weapon is now getting a lower ammo inventory. Qullim’s Terminus (and its Harrowed cousin) is also seeing reduced ammo. The Spare Change pulse rifle, and related low RoF pulse rifles, look deadly if you can nail two subsequent headshot bursts. And to illustrate the earlier claims about high RoF auto rifles, we saw some Doctrine of Passing in play. Frankly, it still looks pretty devastating, but we’ll see when the update hits.

Warlock Rebalance

A few months back, Bungie tackled a significant rebalance to Titans. With the April Update, the class focus has shifted to warlocks, and we learned today of some significant adjustments to how the space wizard will play starting in mid-April.

Sunsingers have an overwhelming melee attack when equipping a Flame Shield. The strength of that shield is scaling back, and the other two melee options (Solar Wind and Brimstone) are seeing a buff, hopefully resulting in a more interesting choice for your melee perk. In addition, Bungie claims that 90 percent of Sunsingers are running Fireborn builds to self-resurrect after death, leaving the other super perks in the dust. Now, the other two options (Song of Flame and Radiant Skin) are getting buffs to allow for more grenades and better buffs for your allies. One big surprise to emerge out of the stream is that Firebolt Grenades are not seeing any changes. Many players have been frustrated by the powerful effect of that ability’s DoT. It sounds as if the grenade is going to maintain its powerful position in the meta-game.

The Stormcaller subclass has been a devastating option in Crucible engagements for months now, especially due to how long the super remains deployed on the field. The subclass is looking to see a nerf to a couple of its abilities. Landfall can no longer destroy Titan Bubbles, and its blinding effect has been lessened. Equally important, Stormtrance will simply not last as long, and will drain more quickly if you constantly spam your chain lightning. Dedicated Stormcaller players are going to have to think more carefully about when to deploy their big super ability.

The warlock’s original subclass isn’t being left out of the rebalance. Voidwalker appears to be lagging behind the other subclasses in overall usage, and Bungie wants to make the playstyle more appealing. To do so, Nova Bomb is remaining the single-use area effect killer it has always been. Instead, to improve the class, Bungie is increasing its utility as a vampiric build. Using smart perk choices and careful deployment of melees, grenades, and supers, a Voidwalker can now regain energy quickly, and deploy any given ability more frequently.

Source: Gameinformer

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