In their weekly progress report post titled “This Week at Bungie,” the developer laid out a healthy list of changes coming to the game over the course of October. Of these, the most notable is the Gambit-specific nerf for the Sleeper Simulant exotic fusion rifle. It’s a relatively small change affecting ammo acquisition and possibly its aim assist, but it’s still a change designed to make the weapon down from “must use” and place it into the “just another option” category. This will no doubt be a popular decision, as the Sleeper’s utter domination of Gambit is something that needs to be addressed. Not for the sake of balance, but for that of variety instead.
Balance is a great quality to strive for in an online multiplayer game, but Destiny 2 isn’t about balance; it’s about power and variety. It’s a game designed to make its players feel powerful through multiple means. Sleeper Simulant’s crime in Gambit isn’t that it’s ridiculously powerful, though it absolutely is. No, it’s actually the negative influence it’s begun to have on the mode. This weapon is so powerful right now that one would have to be stupid not to use it, so of course it’s the weapon of choice for most players. Unfortunately, the side effect is the creation of a much more bland experience overall.
When someone invades with Sleeper, it always plays out the same way: the invader hangs back near the edge of the map, picks-off their competition one by one and generally hangs out until getting sent back. Defenders for their part can either get shot or find a hiding place, as there’s no good way to challenge a Sleeper user besides ambushing them with a shot from one’s own Sleeper Simulant before the invader can get started; that’s it. Instead of the fun, dramatic game of cat and mouse invasions prompted during the mode’s first few days, they’re just a boring annoyance. That’s a shame too, because it brings down a mode that’s otherwise filled with all manner of interesting moments and tactics.
When one’s whole team isn’t running Sleeper Simulant, all sorts of options open up. Guardians can take up roles and kit themselves accordingly. Instead of everyone running Sleeper, two guardians could run Tractor Cannon while the other two focus on high DPS weapons to burn through the boss like it’s nothing. Bonus points if the Hunter(s) present are running Blad Barrage. Alternatively, the team could be based around a Well of Radiance warlock with everyone packing rapid-fire shotguns and long range weapons, making a well-rounded team with their own brand of boss-melting capability. If nothing else, other exotic weapons can come into play and change up the experience. There’s nothing stopping teams from doing this right now of course and there are still moments where someone will invade with something other than Sleeper Simulant. These instances are rare, however, thanks to Sleeper Simulant’s overwhelming superiority.
Bungie has stated in the past that they want to avoid nerfing weapons as much as possible moving forward. They’re keen, it seems, to avoid ruining the fun for the sake of balance, so hopefully their reduction of ammo pickup and aim assist for Sleeper Simulant will be enough to encourage players to try something else from time to time. Variety is a big part of what keeps a game like Destiny 2 going, and weapons that limit that variety by virtue of their mere existence are problematic. If they ultimately end up having to directly nerf Sleeper in order to turn it back into one option among many, then it’ll be worth it. Re-introducing nerfing back into Destiny would be unfortunate, but if that’s what it takes to keep its PvP elements fresh, then so be it.