If you have played or have watched another person play Destiny 1, you are most likely acquainted with the concept of the Exotic Armor piece or Exotic Weapon. For those unaware, Destiny weapons and armor pieces all drop according to a certain table of rarity, starting from common and going onward to uncommon, rare, legendary, and finally, exotic. The exotic weapons and armor pieces are supposed to be the pinnacle of all gear in the Destiny franchise and in Destiny 1, this is case time and again. The first major exotic that gained everyone’s attention was the ‘Gjallerhorn’ rocket launcher, shown below:
This exotic was so powerful that it fundamentally altered the game for the span of about a month or two. This weapon was so powerful and so devastating because it fired a rocket that split into a swarm of smaller rockets all doing near full damage to any boss that it hit. Once players discovered that this weapon could be used to remove entire chunks of health from almost any boss, the Gjallerhorn became a form of entry into any group of dedicated players that was attempting the hardest activities. Bungie saw that the community used the Gjallerhorn as an entry pass; after realizing how detrimental this was to community gameplay, they sought to make it weaker and less effective to level the playing field again. Instead, they crippled the weapon and forced it into retirement by lowering its maximum damage and leaving it behind with the release of the next expansions. This happened to almost every weapon that was “overused” in the base Destiny game including a revolver or “hand cannon” called Thorn. The Thorn hand cannon was a monster in Player-Versus-Player battles because it had a unique perk that caused the gun to shoot poison bullets, slowly sapping up to around 20% to 30% of another player’s health. Combine that with the fact that the Thorn could take down about 30% of a player’s health per shot normally and you have a weapon that could blow through other players in around two shots. It soon became the staple of every Player-Versus-Player match that you would be killed at least once (more than likely several times) by someone wielding the Thorn. This caused a large portion of the player-base to complain that it was ‘overpowered’ and Bungie added it to the ever growing stack of now-useless weapons.
Now for most people, the weakening of these two weapons were not a huge deal, as the Thorn was monumentally difficult to get a hold of and the Gjallerhorn was a weapon only received via random chance. However, with the weakening of these weapons I think Bungie fell into a habit that is incredibly dangerous for a multiplayer game. They started to take away incredible weapons from the players and replaced them with unusable counterparts due to a complaining community. I’m not even necessarily talking about how powerful the weapons were either, both the Thorn and Gjallerhorn were absolutely beautifully designed weapons that a designer/s probably slaved over for hours upon hours to come up with the beautiful intricacies that made the weapons stand out.
After moving into Year 2, about half of the exotic weapons and armor pieces in the game were given new life by Bungie upgrading their maximum “Light” level (or their power level) up to 400 rather than the previous 200. Being a late-comer to Destiny’s expansions, I didn’t receive Thorn or Gjallerhorn until months after they were weakened and I feel like I severely missed out on some incredible moments that could have come with these weapons. To this day, I do not understand why Bungie never tweaked the weapons to be less effective but still be of value into Year 2 instead of completely destroying any usefulness that they could have had by leaving them in Year 1.
As of writing, Destiny 2 has been released for a while now and has just released the first expansion called “The Curse of Osiris”. Though one thing that has been constantly nagging me is the inherent lack of exotic weapons and armor that FEEL exotic. I’ve had an increasingly difficult time finding exotic pieces that alter the way you play the game, more often than not they just tend to give you a relatively useless ability that are re-worded in other exotics. The “Crown of Tempests” exotic helmet is one of the coolest looking helmets in the game so far, but unfortunately, it is almost useless from a practical standpoint. The Crown quickly recharges your grenade, melee attack, and special ability upon electrical damage kills using any of the three skills mentioned before. This exotic is only useful in large groups of enemies and in order to make the ability worthwhile, a player would have to eliminate up to 5 enemies in one throw of a grenade and one melee attack, which is severely difficult if you are in a boss fight or in a sparsely populated area. Compared to the Zhalo Supercell, which activates its ability once every few seconds, or the Gjallerhorn, which activates upon every shot fired, the Crown is underwhelming. When brought against the Exotic pieces from Destiny 1, the new iterations fall short of their more usable counterparts.
Another example of an unwarranted change is the Riskrunner auto rifle from Destiny 2 compared to the Zhalo Supercell from Destiny 1. The Supercell was relatively unassuming but it had the chance (every few shots or so) to shoot out a bolt of lightning that would jump from enemy to enemy, quickly creating a vast web of arcing electricity. The Riskrunner is almost a direct copy of the Zhalo Supercell with the ability to fire a bolt of electricity only when you are hit by electrical damage instead of on every shot like the Supercell. In certain situations, like fighting the Fallen who primarily shoot electrical damage shots, you will constantly benefit from the Riskrunner’s electrical ability. However, once you start fighting the Cabal, a type of enemy who largely uses fire damage, you will use the Riskrunner maybe once per encounter. Destiny 2 has opted for weaker and more specific exotic options which heavily downgrades the value of the respective item. Why would I use an exotic auto rifle that shoots electrical damage once per encounter over a weapon that is more consistent?
Exotic pieces in Destiny should be consistent no matter the situation or at the very least, allow you to use its ability more often than once per encounter. With the release of Destiny 2 and its expansions, I fear that the trend of destroying great exotic weapons and armor instead of balancing them will continue to be the status quo until the only items remaining are those pieces sanctioned by Bungie to be not too good and not too bad. Balance in a game is important, but taking away the very tools you gave to the player because they used them effectively also takes away some of the inherent fun in using those tools to begin with.