Head Of The Class: Destiny's New Subclasses And Abandoned Fourth Class

by Ben Reeves on Aug 19, 2015 at 12:00 PM

Destiny players have been eagerly awaiting a third subclass for their Guardians for a long time. The Taken King expansion looks to deliver big with the new Stormcaller, Sunbreaker, and Nightstalker subclasses that should help Guardians tear through Oryx's forces. You might be comfortable with your current class build, but when you get a handle on these new subclasses, you'll be tempted to try them all out. Senior designer Sage Merrill walked us through how Bungie iterated on each new subclass in order to make sure they weren't repeats of anything the developer has already done.

What Happened To Destiny's Fourth Class?
"In very early Destiny, we had four character classes we were trying to design around," says senior designer Sage Merrill. "But that fourth one just never fit so we cut down to three. When we made that cut everything sort of fell into place. It's not like anything wasn't working, it's just that when you start to slice up the total space for what a class does in a shooter environment, no matter where you put that fourth class it always sort of felt like it was encroaching on what the other classes did."

Destiny's Evolving Class Design
While Bungie always planned to release the initial six subclasses in the original release of Destiny, a separate team has been quietly working on three additional subclasses as far back as the release of the game last year. The Taken King has given Bungie time to fully develop these three new subclasses, creating some of the most interesting abilities in the game to date.

"There's a weird thing that happens during development," says Merrill. "I remember in the initial release of Destiny, when we created the Fist of Havoc ability for the Titan, we thought, 'Man, Fist of Havoc is so good, how are we ever going to make something as good for the other classes?' And then we went and made the other abilities for the other classes, and when we came back we thought, 'Man, Fist of Havoc actually looks kind of weak now.' That happened again when we were designing subclasses for The Taken King."

Iteration is an important element when trying to add new ways to play with characters that players have used for over a year. For example, when Bungie first started working on the new Warlock ability, they considered turning the class into a kind of necromancer who could resurrect fallen enemies as minions, and then send them after their foes. Bungie eventually settled on the Stormcaller's ability to fire chain lightning, but the team hopes to return to the necromancer idea at some point.

"The Void Hunter was probably the hardest," says Merrill. "We probably rebooted him four times before settling on something we liked. He started off as a tracker character who could see through walls, and the fantasy was good, but it didn't play out well. It didn't feel super good to play. With other ideas it was the reverse, where the mechanic would feel really good, but we couldn't find that power fantasy to hook anybody into wanting to use him. So we continued to iterate. It's no secret, but that's how you get a game to be really good; you fix 100 things that no one will ever notice."

While Bungie has created three subclasses for each character, there is actually a bit of diversity hidden inside each. For example, the Warlock Stormcaller's main super is a chain lightning attack, but Bungie designed some Stormcaller upgrades that allow players to chain together more enemies if they want to create a character with good crowd control. Alternatively, Bungie envisioned another path through the Stormcaller abilities that has them creating fewer chains but dealing more damage. Another character build focuses more on mobility, giving the Stormcaller a short-range blink that allows them to dodge enemies attacks, which might be ideal for PvP. These different paths existed in the original release of Destiny, but Bungie thinks they're even more distinct for The Taken King's new subclasses.

Breaking Down The Titan Sunbreaker

  • Hammer of Sol – this Titan super ability allows you to conjure a flaming hammer that will shatter enemy skulls with devastating melee attacks.
  • Thermite Grenade – these grenades create explosions that send streaks of fire rushing toward your target.
  • Sunstrike – this melee attack allows Titans to set their enemies on fire.
  • Fire Keeper – an augment to Hammer of Sol that makes the special last longer. It also gives you an over shield as long as you're standing in a Sunspot, which is a pool of fire that Sunbreakers can create with their Hammer of Sol.

Bungie's Pro Tips: "The Sunbreaker has an attack where he lunges forward and uppercuts guys," says Merrill. "You can also do this in the air with a flaming knee. That will chain detonate. If you launch that guy to another set of guys, they will chain pop with a significant amount of damage. If you can line this up, this is a kind of minigame you play once you know how this works. You don't want to just kill a guy, you want to kick him into his friends so that he chain detonates. He can also make an area of fire around him, and while he's standing in a pool of fire, his super goes down very slowly, so he can hold that space for a very long time. He's all about shelling one area, moving to it, and fighting from that area."

Breaking Down The Warlock Stormcaller

  • Stormtrance – This super gives Warlocks an arc-lightning attack that deals massive damage to multiple enemies.
  • Storm Grenade – This explosion calls down a localized lightning storm.
  • Thunderstrike – An electrifying melee strike that hits from an extended range.
  • Perpetual Charge – performing a melee kill recharges your grenade ability, while grenade kills recharge your melee skill.

Bungie's Pro Tips: "He's not very subtle – he basically electrocutes everybody like Emperor Palpatine," Merrill says. "His melee is probably going to be the most contentious thing. He has a very long-range attack when his melee skill is charged up. It's very hard to beat him in a melee fight from a distance. Warlocks should start getting used to engaging with melee early on. If they're not going up against another Stormcaller in PvP he can win melee fights pretty easy."

Breaking Down The Hunter Nightstalker

  • Shadowshot – "This super gives hunters a bow that can one-shot enemies," says Merrill. "This shot can also create a Void Anchor on walls and floors that tethers enemies to one spot. The duration of this anchor is extended with every enemy you kill, so every tethered enemy you kill increases the length of time your tether will stay in place and capture more enemies. This is one of the ways that Bungie was able to balance the ability for both PvE and PvP.
  • Voidwall Grenade – This explosion emits a horizontal wall of burning Void Light.
  • Smoke – In addition to grenades, Nightstalkers can also throw smoke that slows and disorients enemies caught in the blast.
  • Shadestep – A well-timed roll that will allow you to avoid damage.

Bungie's Pro Tips: "The Hunter has a bunch of toys. He has smoke grenades, and that debuff is much stronger if you hit people directly with the grenade than if people run through your smoke cloud later," Merrill says. "His base super is also pretty complicated. He has the bow, and wherever his arrow hits he creates an anchor that reaches out and grab stuff. Anyone who is grabbed by that tether is debuffed, and in PvP it's a hard stop to all supers. If you see a Titan and a Warlock coming into your base with their supers, you can hit above the door with your tether and it will shut them both down and hold them in place. It's a great counter maneuver."

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