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  • Daniel James

Hear Me Out: Snipers and Shotguns Should be Primary Weapons

A bit over a month back, Slayerage made a video explaining his dislike for the current "dual-primary" weapon system.

His argument, summed up: Destiny 2's weapons feel incredible boring, and it's because the dual primary system has destroyed the game's variety. We have two slots for very average weapons, and single slot for a large pool of heavy weapons.

Additionally, former "special weapons" like shotguns, snipers and fusions that deliver 1-hit kills at various ranges are forced to share a slot with rockets, which kill everyone at literally every range. These cumulative changes mean we're stuck with very boring primary weapons, but now across two slots.

He's absolutely correct with this charge, but his solution is to revert back to Destiny's original 'primary-special-heavy' system. While I feel that system is indeed superior to our current system, I think there's a much better fix that lets Bungie keep dual primaries and make Destiny 2 even better than its predecessor.

The Crucible | Destiny 2

I think Bungie needs to put Snipers, Shotguns and Fusion Rifles in the primary slots. Before you laugh, here me out.

As Slayerage says, Bungie made a huge error in relegating special weapons to the heavy slot. While I agree that the current system kills weapon variety, I think he's looking back on Destiny 1 with rose-tinted glasses. That system was a nightmare of its own, and its handling of special weapons was a tumultuous period that should not be replicated. The solution lies, instead, in balancing special weapons for consistent use in the Crucible, rather than hoping that limiting the frequency of their use somehow makes them tolerable.

I'm going to quickly express why Destiny 2's gun system is flawed, why Destiny 1's gun system was also flawed, and how my proposed system fixes the problems present in both.

It's hard to explain the problems with Destiny 2's gun system without reiterating Slayerage's points, so I'm going to do just that:

The Crucible | Destiny 2

There's no reason kinetic and energy slots should exist. In his video, Slayerage describes them as "Suck-Ass Weapon 1" and "Suck-Ass Weapon 2;" His point being that these weapons are universally meant for low-tier enemies, eliminating any choice the player could possibly be presented with. Virtually all weapons in those slots are going to deliver similarly slow progress at clearing mobs, or delivering boss damage.

Meanwhile in the heavy slot, the players have to choose between snipers, shotguns, grenade launchers, fusion rifles, linear fusion rifles and rocket launcher--all of which behave radically differently; seemingly offering choice, until you realize how few scenarios there are where anything but Rockets aren't overwhelmingly preferable. Folding specialized weapons like snipers, fusions and shotguns into heavy must have been a relief for Bungie sandbox staff wearied of their Sisyphysean task rebalancing them throughout Destiny 1, but it seems like Bungie just wanted them to go away.

The problem is that those three weapons were balanced for each other, not the heavy weapons they now accompany. Each delivers a 1-hit kill in The Crucible at a very narrow range, unique to the class. Close-range players like shotguns; long-range players excel with snipers; and mid-range players somehow get kills with fusion rifles. I'm still in awe of that ability, which I never did master.

The Crucible | Destiny 2

The problem, Slayerage explains, is that now these weapons sit in the same slot as rocket launchers, which deliver 1-hit kills at literally every conceivable range. There is no reason to use anything except rocket launchers in either PvP or PvE. As a result, Destiny 2's gun system is boring. We have two slots that give players no real choices, and a single slot that represents a question with a single answer.

The problem is that Destiny 2 doesn't present players with meaningful choices, despite there existing an entire class of weapons built around choice, effectively hidden behind rocket launchers.

Slayerage's answer is that Bungie should reinstate the old gun system: Primary, Special and Heavy. But while I agree it's a preferable system to our current one, Bungie didn't axe it without reason. It was a deeply flawed system, and one that remains worth replacing.

The Destiny 1 gun system was a nightmare. By the second half of 'The Taken King,' special weapons rapidly overshadowed every other weapon class in the game; by 'Rise of Iron,' the entire class had become so impossibly unbalanced that Bungie flat-out removed special ammo at spawn, effectively forcing players to wait for special ammo crates to use them. They'd effectively become Heavy Weapons-lite.

The Crucible | Destiny: Rise of Iron

Rise of Iron was a dark period for Destiny PvP, as the sandbox tore itself to shreds. Vanilla Destiny's limited sandbox was boring, and The Taken King fixed this by stretching the sandbox with increased weapon variety. It was fun, yes, but it was built on a rapidly eroding foundation. Long before Rise of Iron ever released, balance changes were frequent, with weapons and abilities constantly being readjusted.

Many players blamed "casuals" for requesting these changes, and while their frequent overreactions didn't help, they were indicative of a genuine problem. Destiny's sandbox was not a solid foundation that allowed anything like Halo's sheer variety and modularity; so while The Taken King provided great fun, it was constantly fracturing pieces of the game.

In Rise of Iron, the seams exploded violently. The already strained sandbox couldn't hold up to the new expansion. The problems became so severe that Bungie was forced to destroy special weapons entirely. In an update, special ammo was removed from player spawns entirely. Players would spawn without special ammo, and continue to lose them upon death. While it's unfortunate they're now in the heavy slot, Rise of Iron had effectively made this decision long before the sequel was even announced.

The problem with special weapons is that Bungie wants them in the game, but hasn't found an appropriate way to balance them. They absolutely have utility within Destiny's sandbox, but there's no gun system that both gives us a compelling reason to use them and lets Bungie balance them appropriately.

I believe there's a solution solves that this. Hear me out: I believe Destiny's balance could thrive if snipers, fusions and shotguns were moved to the primary slots.

This does, however, require a few more changes to actually work. First, all three need to be rebalanced. In Destiny 2, they were balanced to at least nominally compete with grenade and rocket launchers, but for obvious reasons, that's not going to fly in a primary slot.

While I can't do an exact balancing, since I have neither the tools, training or skill of an actual Bungie developer, I can give a goal. In my mind, all guns in Destiny should be balanced to compete with hand-cannons. Throughout both games, these have arisen as the consistently best weapons for competitive players.

The Crucible | Destiny 2

The best (non-Last Word) hand-cannons typically killed with two body-shots and a head-shot. Assuming the target is standing still, a gun like Eyasluna or Lord High Fixer drops a Guardian in just under a second.

In my opinion, Destiny 2's guns should be rebalanced to compete with that. While I'm okay with the slightly longer time to kill, two-body shots and a headshot should be the target for top-tier hand-cannons. Meaning, any top-tier weapon that shares the primary slot should be even match for a player with such a hand-cannon.

So a shotgun player should be able to get within 1-shot range of a player wielding that hand cannon at around the same time he's a single shot away from death himself. Likewise, a (competent, not pro) sniper player should be able to line up a headshot in the same time. A reasonably good player with a fusion rifle should be able to land a mid-range kill at that same time. Assuming hand-cannons as the pinnacle of balance, of course, this should work. Of course, I'm not an actual dev and I'm sure it's complicated than that.

Keep in mind that with shotguns and fusion rifles, distance is a factor in calculating the time. Because they're both potentially single shot kills, the range for a single shot kill needs to be calculated accordingly. There's two ranges that need to be considered: the range at which a player can afford to take two shots from a hand-cannon and still deliver a single-hit kill (which is effectively the range they'd need to travel), and the range at which the gun can be fired to deliver a single-hit kill.

The Crucible | Destiny: Rise of Iron

But I do believe this should be the goal in balancing the guns. If balanced this way, players have a viable choice to run any combination of traditional primary without being penalized for not using one of the former special weapons in a primary slot. It also means that the actual decision to use a shotgun, sniper or fusion rests entirely on the desire for a "specialized" weapon.

This effectively increases the variety of playstyles and makes gun-choice meaningful again.

Now, there are other things that need to be balanced. Special ammo was a huge problem throughout Destiny 1, which required constant change to the point that it was removed from spawn entirely. It was likely this problem which pushed Bungie to make them heavy weapons in Destiny 2; so if I don't have a solution for that, my suggestion isn't exactly useful.

My solution is to bring back special ammo. While the former special weapons would be in one of the two "primary" or "kinetic" slots, they really do need ammo limitations outside of smaller magazines, at least within The Crucible. Instead of Destiny 1's crates, players should spawn with four rounds per life, with that number being reset every time they die. If they kill another player with a special weapon, they pick up another shot. But that player needs to be carrying their own special weapon, with at least one shot in their own chamber or magazine.

The Crucible | Destiny: Rise of Iron

This gamifies the special ammo economy a bit. If players don't properly utilize their specialized weapon, they'll rapidly run out of ammo. This also prevents them from spamming the weapons, while rewarding them for skilled use. It also adds a new dimension that Halo includes: players can deny their enemies special ammo.

By not carrying a special weapon in their primary slot, a player can lower the amount of special ammo their enemies can get. Additionally, a player with a special weapon is incentivized to use their ammo so their enemy can't receive it. In competitive Halo, players can waste ammo or suicide off-map to deny their enemies Power Weapons if near death. While suicide shouldn't be encouraged in Destiny, encouraging players to waste ammo adds intensity and urgency to gunfights where players may otherwise resign themselves to death and just want to respawn faster.

Up to this point, I haven't actually presented a reason why we can't just make these balance changes but still have a single primary slot, plus special and heavy slots, which was what Slayerage suggested. The reason is that I actually still see value in a dual primary system, and I really think, if properly balanced, many players would still choose to run with two primary weapons. The two goals, after all, are loadout variety and player choice. And choosing to use a specialized weapon needs to carry a cost, not be a mandatory item. Some players just don't use special weapons, period; and reducing that variety, while eroding the weight of choice, would be a step backwards.

The Inverted Spire Strike | Destiny 2

In sum, this system allows special weapons to return in a way that brings new specialization to Destiny's gunplay and adds depth to the gear system while simultaneously simplifying it. By removing the baffling and arbitrary kinetic-energy divide between primary weapons, loadout variety is effectively doubled. The further introduction of special weapons, rebalanced to emphasize actual specialization, means they can excel in a way they never did in either Destiny game.

Special weapons have always been essential to the power fantasy of Destiny. With Destiny 2's failure to deliver a power fantasy, it's time for them to emerge from the shadow of the rocket launchers they were unfortunately hidden behind. Granted, this system is far from perfect, and there are many adjustments that need to be made that I didn't mention, because I have no clue how they work. But I think if Bungie took the time to balance special weapons for the primary slot, both Bungie and players would be supremely happy with the result.

#Destiny2 #Bungie