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The Big Takeaways From Destiny’s Upcoming Class Rebalance

by Matt Miller on Dec 04, 2015 at 11:23 AM

Bungie’s Sage Merrill just took to Bungie.net to offer up an extensive and detail-filled post regarding the upcoming changes coming to Destiny. As the man in charge of Destiny’s sandbox, he specifically digs down to explain the upcoming changes to class balance. That’s a big deal, and here’s why.

If you’re a Destiny player you’ve seen a lot of weapon rebalancing in recent months, from wholesale changes to weapon classes like the shotgun and hand cannon, to specific adjustments to problematic weapons like Thorn. But we’ve had much less in the way of fundamental class rebalancing. That changes next week, when the Titan class is in line to see some significant changes to its playstyle. 

I encourage you to read Merrill’s full post on Bungie.net; it’s rare to hear a developer speak so specifically and candidly about the process behind balance and ongoing game updates, and he has a lot of detail and data to back up his explanations. 

With that said, here are some of the big things we learned about Titans from his post, along with the broader issue of class balance in Destiny 

1. Bungie agrees that Sunbreaker Titans are overpowered in PvP, but they’re probably not as overpowered as you think. It seems that, in general, Bungie aims for a balance in which players of any given class should have an average Kill/Death ratio of 1.0 (with some exceptions). Players who run Sunbreakers are currently over that, hovering around 1.06 K/D. So, contrary to what our mutual experience suggests, Sunbreaker Titans are not completely dominating the Crucible, but they are doing better than everyone else by at least some margin. And that leads us into point two.

2. The Sunbreaker subclass is being nerfed, especially its hammer super. Several relatively modest changes are being put in place that in aggregate should make hammer-wielders a little less of a killing force, and a little more defeatable. The Sunbreakers damage resistance is lower, the hammers will travel a little slower, splash damage is decreased, tracking has been dramatically lessened on Flameseeker, and Cauterize now has a three second cooldown, which should lessen the health regen effect. While a few of those changes have effects on the broader subclass, the big takeaway is that we’re seeing a notable nerf to the super, but few decreases to other aspects of class functionality.

3. The Titan’s other subclasses are getting better. Bungie feels that both the Striker and the Defender need some improvements to make them more appealing play options. All three subclasses are seeing a boost in melee range (which is sorely needed), but the Striker will feel the most benefit from that change, as they’re also getting a nearly 20% boost to their Storm Fist melee damage, along with dramatically increased melee recharge when using Overcharge. Along with some other significant buffs on individual perks, Strikers are about to be a lot more powerful. Defenders are seeing fewer changes, but one big one; triggering your Ward of Dawn super now instantly recharges grenade and melee. That change makes a Defender into more of the kind of mobile base he or she is meant to be, and better equips him/her to defend a point against anyone who comes near. Finally, all three subclasses are getting some improvements to the Catapult Lift jump option; the increased velocity may finally make that the preferred vertical movement mode for many players. 

4. Hunters and Warlocks are seemingly untouched, but probably not for long. Merrill pulls the curtain back a little bit in his blog post, noting that class rebalance has been lower on the priority list than other important balance issues, most importantly trying to get the three new subclasses right in the launch of The Taken King, as well as hammering out some of the major weapon rebalance challenges that continue to face the game. Nonetheless, the team is now examining class balance closely, and with some big changes to the Titan in next week’s patch, you can bet that Bungie will be watching class balance very closely in the coming weeks. Merrill also notes a desire to make some more frequent adjustments to the live game moving forward. Whether you love how powerful your Hunter or Warlock is, or you think they’re desperately underpowered, Bungie may very well be looking to your classes next. 

5. We now have a rough sense of how popular each class is, and it’s fascinating. Check out the graph included in Merrill's post, and included below for convenience of reference, and you’ll be treated to some graphs that exhibit really interesting detail regarding how people play Destiny. It’s interesting to see that the three classes are relatively evenly distributed in both PvE and PvP. Unsurprisingly, you can see the three new subclasses all smash into the graph as The Taken King releases on September 15, but the more interesting note is what happens to each afterwards. 

The Warlock’s new Arc Stormcaller subclass has a pretty steady decrease in usage in both PvE and PvP over the last 90 days, though the trend is less consistent in PvP. The Hunter’s Nightstalker class has maintained its popularity many weeks after launch, and now appears to be the preferred subclass across game modes for Hunters. And check out the expanding popularity of the Solar Sunbreaker Titan in PvP over the weeks, as more and more players get wise to its potential for destruction. While you’re looking, you can see why the Titan Defender subclass needs some encouragement; very few players run that build in PvP. As a side note, Merrill notes something important about Defenders in his post; while the data shows that Defender Titans are played less in PvP, and their K/D is much lower than other subclasses, the data also suggests that teams that have Defenders tend to do much better, and are more likely to win. Something to think about the next time you’re heading into the Crucible with friends. 

What do you think of the changes coming to Destiny in the upcoming patch? Share your thoughts in the comments below.