Helldiver 2 Dev Team Releases First Batch of Balance Fixes

We recently released a patch containing our first round of balance changes to Helldivers 2 and our Head of Product Testing has some valuable insight into our philosophies and practices when it comes to balancing. Hello everyone! My name is Patrik Lasota, I was the designer on the first Helldivers and am currently Head of Product Testing at Arrowhead. A bit of a grandiose title, but what it means in this context is that I’m responsible for how Arrowhead listens to feedback and balances its games. I’d like to talk about the changes we made in this patch and why.

Primary weapons
First I’d like to speak to the general power of primary weapons. Many have commented that they aren’t powerful enough and are unable to deal with all the enemies either by the amount of ammunition required or their raw DPS. This is very much intentional, you need to rely on your Stratagems, and the Stratagems of your team to deal with all the enemies effectively. Either by Eagle Airstrikes, Orbitals, Support Weapons, or Turrets, some of your loadout/team should be tailoring their loadout to killing the weaker stuff more efficiently. This doesn’t mean that your primary weapon shouldn’t feel good to use, but please understand that it is primary only in the sense that it’s something you always spawn with.

Nerfs and Fantasy
I have since the game released seen many who say “Don’t Nerf, only Buff” and other similar ideas. However as a designer I can tell you this is not a great idea, but I understand where the sentiment comes from. All too often in the games industry the core fantasy, and what makes a weapon feel good and fun, is ignored for the sake of Balance. I believe players are scared of Nerfs, because it will ruin the fantasy of a weapon, ruin their fun. It is extra important to us to tread carefully so that we don’t ruin fantasy and fun when we do nerfs. We hope you, our players, will tell us when we cross that line inadvertently.

Let’s take a closer look at the changes we have made for this balance patch.

SG-225 Breaker
The Breaker was quickly pinned down as the “meta” weapon, vastly overperforming other weapons and being the “best” choice for all Helldivers, at least if YouTube is to be believed. Helldivers veterans will remember the breaker from the first game and how powerful it was, something we have made an effort to mimic in this game as well.

When we looked at the Breaker and the data we have on its usage it painted a picture of a well liked weapon that was great at killing chaff and generally had a few more kills than other weapons. It was however not necessarily better at making you succeed in a mission, and no real damage nerfs were warranted. The calculated total damage per magazine was quite high compared to other weapons however, and something that could be reigned in, while reinforcing the intended fantasy.

The fantasy of the Breaker is a powerful automatic shotgun that bucks wildly as you hose down targets in front of you. It should be deadly up close, with high DPS and its major drawback should be ammunition management and pacing your fire so as not to overshoot a target. To that end we have lowered the amount of shells in each magazine and increased the recoil.

SG-8 Punisher
The Punisher is a powerful pump shotgun that should hit hard, but be limited by its slow reload and fire rate. Its rounds reload allows you to have it constantly topped up and makes the ammunition efficiency fantastic. Unfortunately the Punisher had a bug with only half ammo being picked up each time you picked up ammunition, making its supposed great ammunition economy quite poor instead. It also had a weak impact when firing on enemies, often requiring multiple shots even at shorter range.

To bring it more in line with its intended fantasy we increased the damage per shotgun pellet, the stagger amount and the total amount of ammunition you can carry. We hope this will make it feel more punchy as even if you don’t kill a Hunter with the first shot, you will most likely stagger it, giving you time for a follow up.

SG-225SP Breaker “Spray & Pray”
The Breaker S&P was intended to be an even wilder, more point and destroy version of the regular Breaker. Something where pacing yourself would be even harder. A shotgun that requires you to get closer, but in comparison have a higher damage potential once up close. As many players commented however, it was mostly good for tickling anything larger than a scavenger.

To bring it closer to the fantasy we increased its armor penetration, increased its fire rate from 300 rpm to 330 rpm and increased the amount of shotgun pellets in each shot from 12 to 16. To compensate for this additional firepower we reigned in the magazine capacity from 32 to 26 as to not make it outshine the regular Breaker too much in the ammunition economy department.

Another one of the current meta weapons enforced by its convenience and efficiency. The Railgun is really intended to be a high powered anti-tank sniper rifle, requiring both timing with the unsafe fire mode and accuracy with where you hit the enemy. It was vastly over-performing in how safe it was to use and how convenient it was, not requiring a backpack or assistance to be effective, and not requiring risk to take out even larger armored targets.

To that end we have changed it so that the safe mode is capable of penetrating medium armor, such as Automaton Scout Walkers, but not more heavily armored enemies like Chargers and Bile Titans. For those targets you now must run it in unsafe mode and overcharge it. In addition we reigned in the Railguns ability to damage massive body parts, meaning to get any real efficiency out of it you must score hits on heads and other weak points. We are aware it rose to prominence as part of other anti-tank weapons not being as convenient or efficient in comparison. We are monitoring the situation closely and will adjust more based on how this change plays out.

The Flamethrower is really the embodiment of stepping into a queen’s lair and torching all her eggs, as done by a badass action heroine. It should be powerful up close and an inconvenience to enemies that are lit on fire or want to walk through the fire and flames. As many have commented the flamer has felt a little too anaemic, not outputting damage at a rate that is warranted by a weapon with a shorter range and large volatility such as the Flamethrower.

We have increased the flamethrower direct damage to be able to barbecue enemies that get close much faster. Please enjoy your Terminid Barbecue Device responsibly, as this also makes it even more volatile for any Helldivers caught in the stream.

Laser Cannon
Our original intent was that the Laser Cannon has the role of a Machine Gun, but with theoretically infinite ammunition. However many players were somewhat disappointed by this role, expecting more armor penetration from the large drilling beam that it looks like. Especially when looking at the Orbital Laser, that can drill down and kill even the heaviest targets given enough time. Here we have decided to side with the community and shift the Laser Cannon more towards the players’ expectations and their fantasy.

The Laser Cannon has gained additional damage versus massive body parts, increased armor penetration to make it capable of dealing with medium armor and better ergonomics to make it easier to stay on target. As this is quite a major change from the original intention of the weapon, please be prepared that it might change again in the future if these changes don’t work out well. For now, let us know how it feels!

Shield Backpack
The Shield Backpack is safety at the expense of a backpack slot. Unfortunately the safety offered up by the Shield Backpack was a bit too great, essentially allowing you to ignore many mechanics that contribute to the fun of Helldivers, such as knockback, shockwaves, and giant explosions obliterating your and your friends.

To that end, we have increased the time the shield needs before it starts regenerating if not broken quite significantly. This essentially means that you can’t hide behind a rock for 5 seconds to get your shield back to full, instead it will be a degrading health bar until it breaks. When the shield breaks, it will take longer to regenerate than before, but still significantly shorter than if it has not broken. To compensate for these extra times, the regen speed of the shield itself is near instant to max. HP. This is only a partial solve in our minds for the Shield Backpack, but it should bring it out from the “must have” meta slot it has filled currently.

120 mm and 380 mm Barrages
The fantasy of these is an artillery storm, denying entry to the area in which they are active and raining down powerful shells on the target for a longer duration. They are primarily different from Eagle Stratagems in that while the Eagle Strikes are fast to arrive and have pinpoint accuracy, these have a longer active time, but are less accurate.

They have however not delivered on the feel of being active much longer, or the saturated area denial effect. To bring them closer to the fantasy we have decreased their scatter area and given them an extra salvo. They should still solve a different problem than the Eagles, but have more value now.

In closing
I hope this gives you a greater insight into how we are thinking around balance and why we make the changes we have. Happy Helldiving!

Source: Arrowhead Games Studios Blog

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