In the recent “This Week At Bungie” (TWAB), designer Victor Anderson discusses some adjustments to weapons coming in the 2.1.4 update on January 29th. This is the most exciting part of this TWAB for me. Discussions of optimizations, meta shifts, and experiencing discovery are major aspects of gaming that I have fallen in love with. I recently wrote about the deprived state of Destiny’s PvP and what needs to be done to improve it. Significant sandbox changes like this align with what both the PvP and PvE elements of Destiny need to continue feeling fresh and exciting.
Auto Rifles (ARs):
A damage increase for rapid-fire (i.e. Valakadyn), adaptive (i.e. Scathelocke), and high-impact (i.e Age-Old Bond) frames. ARs haven’t been near the top of the food chain for PvE/P since the weapon system change that happened a week before Forsaken released last September. A major cause for this is their medium-range competitors, Hand Cannons (HCs) and Fusion Rifles (FRs), are simply more optimal in the current state of the game.
ARs are designed to provide a consistent string of damage, but this requires the user to remain exposed to receiving damage as well. HCs and FRs are designed to distribute intermittent chunks of damage which allows the user to cease exposure to incoming damage while waiting to release the next chunk of damage output. In Destiny 2’s first year, static rolls for HCs inhibited their ability to compete with the damage potential of some of the perk rolls assigned to ARs. This alongside FRs being restricted to the power weapon slot (which hindered their general usage capability due to a naturally poor ammo economy) allowed ARs to be the supreme choice for general medium-range combat by a small amount.
Once FRs were freed from their power ammo constraints and HCs were allowed random rolls, ARs fell to the wayside. The precision frame archetype of ARs featured fan favorites such as The Number and Uriel’s Gift. This frame has been the king of ARs since the release of Destiny 2. The rapid-fire frame would be competitive but required the right conditions as it suffered from optimal range issues. The precision frame currently falls short of HCs and is the only frame not being buffed per this TWAB’s mention. This leads me to believe the other three frames will be simply brought up to the precision frame’s potential, which will still be sub-optimal compared to HCs and FRs.
A shining light of the AR buff is the potential of the exotic ARs being buffed as well. I’m not entirely sure the exotics will be buffed as they don’t specifically state that they have an assigned frame. Though, most players generally relate rpm and impact value (both of which these exotics share with the buffed frames). If these exotics are buffed, they will all be significantly more viable for PvE.
Currently, Sweet Business and Suros Regime can have some of the highest damage output capabilities for primary weapons. The Hard Light is incredibly versatile for handling enemy shields. Cerberus+1 can nearly rival damage potential of shotguns and FRs under the right conditions. None are currently worth the one exotic slot when seeking optimization due to powerhouses like Whisper of the Worm and Tractor Cannon. Despite lacking optimization, these four exotics are fun and unique. We’ll be seeing far more use out of them with a significant enough buff to damage.
Scout Rifles (SRs):
All frames will receive a damage buff for PvE and the lightweight (i.e. Manannan) and rapid-fire (i.e. Black Scorpion) frames will receive a damage buff for PvP. We’ll tackle the predicted effect on PvP first. The rapid-fire SR frames have never really been extremely effective in the crucible. With a buff to their damage, it’s possible they become viable. However, it is more likely they suffer the same issue at long range engagements as ARs suffer in medium range vs. HCs. Pulse Rifles (PRs), higher impact SRs, and Sniper Rifles (snipers) can distribute significant chunks of damage at the cost of delay before the following chunk of damage. This delay weakness is negated by the ability to use cover while waiting.
Rapid-fire SRs will require the user to remain exposed to a sniper’s one-shot-kill capability among other dangers. If this frame becomes viable, it would only be within a “sweet spot” of range somewhere between the HC and PR optimal ranges (which both can be competitive in as it is). This frame struggles in concept when compared to other weapon options, but perhaps the damage buff is significant enough to surpass adversity.
The lightweight frame buff will likely be a more significant impact to the PvP meta. The Manannan SR4 and Pleiades Corrector are standout performers within this archetype. In the initial era of Destiny 2, PvP was dominated by lightweight and precision frame SRs for long range combat with the lightweight frame edging ahead of precision. PRs have since taken the throne alongside snipers, but snipers have to deal with a naturally low ammo economy as special weapons. The movement speed increase from lightweight frame weapons alone is a significant advantage over other frames. The major factor taking them out of the meta is the inability to compete in combat when trading blows shot-for-shot. If the damage buff is significant enough, then lightweight SRs could overtake PRs in the “consistent damage at longer ranges” department.
I’m not sure if the MIDA Multi-Tool (terror of initial Destiny 2 PvP) and Skyburner’s Oath will be affected by this coming buff. Much like the Exotic ARs, these two exotic SRs share the main principles (rpm and impact) of the lightweight frame despite not being listed as having a frame. The Skyburner’s Oath will likely never top the PvP meta due to its projectile speed that is comparatively slower than most other weapons. The MIDA may return to the throne of consistent damage at long range if it is affected by the buff.
For PvE, SRs used to be the go-to choice for damage at longer ranges until bows were introduced and snipers became more easily available. SRs were nerfed at the same time to make things even worse for the weapon type. We could see SRs become usable with a significant enough damage buff. Bows act like slightly weaker snipers with a far larger ammo capacity and will likely be the greatest competition for SRs. I have a hard time seeing SRs overcoming bows for usefulness as it stands, but it will be dependant on how much of a damage increase is given to SRs on January 29th.
Snipers in PvE are in a dominant spot for long range effectiveness. The ability to do massive damage at such safe distances is extremely useful. Triple tap is a fan favorite perk that significantly reduces the ammo economy issue snipers face. Whisper of the Worm’s “White Nail” perk completely eliminates the ammo concern and becomes nearly a requirement for challenging activities like world’s first raid completion races. A buff to rapid-fire framed snipers will be generally inconsequential to the PvE meta.
The one possible change would be if D.A.R.C.I. is affected by the buff. This is an unknown similar to the previously mentioned exotics for the same reasoning. If buffed, it could compete with Whisper of the Worm (The Whisper) for optimal loadout decision making. D.A.R.C.I. currently does more damage per second (DPS) than The Whisper, but suffers an ammo economy issue that The Whisper generally ignores. With its longevity of damage output, The Whisper is typically chosen over D.A.R.C.I. despite a slightly lower DPS value.
In regards to PvP, snipers have suffered flinch, ammo economy, and damage issues for essentially the entire existence of Destiny 2. They’re far from the strength they held for many years in Destiny before the sequel’s release. Mr. Anderson did not mention the community’s flinch and ammo concerns. The damage increase allowing the rapid-fire frames to kill with two body shots is significant. The more commonly used snipers in PvP (Alone as a god, The Supremacy, and Twilight Oath) all fall within this affected frame. Snipers may not yet be close to their former glory in Destiny, but this buff will certainly increase their viability.
Mr. Anderson specifically mentions some exotic weapons that will be adjusted with the 2.1.4 update. Legend of Acrius (Acrius) is addressed first with damage and range buffs. Acrius was a dominant choice in the first year of Destiny 2. Priority for this weapon fell with most other shotguns leaving the power weapon slot to become more easily used. Acrius was designed to be the king of high impact shotguns. This weapon will have a tough task to return its throne’s importance when competing with options like grenade launchers in PvP and The Whisper in PvE.
Telesto was mentioned next and will finally receive a deserved nerf. Telesto has been a terror in PvP since it was moved to the energy weapon slot months ago. The explosive orb design for this weapon allowed it to do massive damage at ranges other FRs couldn’t come even close to competing with. Even snipers and PRs struggled with this weapon that should only be optimal within medium range. The ability to place the orbs on the environment to halt other players from challenging lanes and gaining map control is one of the many strengths Telesto has. This nerf is straight up necessary and will allow the weapon to continue being useful, just not overpowered. The added “optics zoom increase” buff will likely be insignificant in my opinion.
The final exotics mentioned were Trace Rifles (TRs). Coldheart used to be a fan favorite for damage output until the weapon system change months ago allowed more frequent use of shotguns and snipers while also forcing all TRs to require special ammo instead of primary ammo. TRs have since not had enough ammo to distribute the amount of total damage needed to justify using over other special weapon options. The coming buff to ammo economy will be an improvement that we’ll need to test before determining if they can compete with other special weapon types. The PS4 exclusive PvP tyrant Wavesplitter has a damage decrease to balance the ammo economy buff it will receive alongside its TR siblings. TRs will receive a higher minimum amount of ammo received when picking up special ammo. Still no word on if we will ever receive a Trace Rifle Scavenger perk on armor.
Mr. Anderson wrote that these changes are only a sampling of what’s to come for weapons in the 2.1.4 update. I’m eager to find out what other changes will come. I’d love to see an ammo reserves buff to swords and grenade launchers with a damage buff to rocket launchers. This will not have a significant impact on PvP while providing a larger variety of viable power weapon options in PvE.
Summary of Meta Predictions:
My prediction on how these changes will impact the game will be vague as the information we are given about the changes is also vague. I don’t believe ARs will be much better than they currently are, but all exotic weapons will be used more often if affected. I think lightweight SRs may be viable in PvP, but SRs as a whole will likely remain silver medalists to bows in PvE. Snipers will be in a better place in PvP and pretty much the same place in PvE (with exception to D.A.R.C.I. if affected). Acrius will likely fall just shy of viability, Telesto will still be strong (just not overpowered), and TRs will be seen more often in all content while still sub-optimal.