Season 20 Weapon Tuning Preview

Feb 1, 2023 - Chris Proctor, Senior Design Lead

G’day G’dians, we’re back with another weapons preview.

In the Season 19 mid-Season balance update, we brought in several changes to address weapons in PvP. In Season 20, with a new campaign and raid incoming, we focused on a substantial pass over Heavy weapons for PvE and adding subclass verbs to several Exotic weapons (tying in with the new anti-Champion capabilities these verbs now have).

Between the new weapon changes and everything else that’s new or changing in Lightfall, we’re looking forward to seeing what combinations players settle on for the Legendary campaign and the day one raid.

Weapon Archetypes

When playing on console, your reticle will turn red when it's over an enemy that’s inside your weapon's effective range. This is a useful visual aid that we've wanted to be global for a while, so we've also enabled this on PC. In a future Season we'll be making this color customizable, similar to the base reticle color.

  • Red reticle is now enabled on PC.

Linear Fusion Rifles

You probably saw this coming — Linear Fusion Rifles outperform other Heavy weapons for boss damage by a wide margin and have had plenty of time in the sun. We're bringing them down enough for other options to compete. At the same time, Exotic Heavy Linear Fusion Rifles don't do enough to justify using one over a Legendary, so they're not affected by this nerf.

  • Reduced damage vs. Champions, minibosses, bosses, and vehicles by 15%.
  • Sleeper Simulant and Queenbreaker are unaffected – Sleeper fans, this is not a drill.

Machine Guns

Machine Guns have been buffed a few times over the past year or so, but only in PvE. We've opted to increase their base damage a little, which makes them more forgiving to use in PvP. The buff also applies across the board in PvE. PvP damage is typically the base, and PvE has multipliers on top of that. We're also substantially increasing Machine Gun reserves, giving them higher uptime (particularly useful in hard content).

  • Increased damage by ~10%, with the following effects on time to kill (TTK) against a Guardian with Tier 6 resilience
    • High-Impact Frame:
      • TTK reduced from 0.67s to 0.50s.
    • Rapid-Fire Frame:
      • TTK reduced from 0.53s to 0.47s.
    • Adaptive Frame:
      • TTK unchanged at 0.53s.
    • Increased reserve ammo by 50% at 0 inventory stat, and 20% at 100 inventory stat.
      • Note: Inventory stat is a 0-100 value behind the scenes. This is presented as the actual number of rounds in-game, but you can take this to mean that low reserves Machine Guns get a big boost, while large reserves Machine Guns get a smaller boost.

Heavy Grenade Launchers

Heavy Grenade Launchers haven't been touched in a while and are substantially below some other Heavy options for damage. On top of that, Grenade Launcher projectiles have travel time, a ballistic arc, and relatively small blast radius, so it can be hard to consistently land shots on a moving target and they may hit fewer targets with the explosion than you'd expect. With this change, Heavy Grenade Launchers should be significantly more useful in PvE, and easier to use in both PvE and PvP.

  • Increased damage vs. Champions, minibosses, bosses, and vehicles by 20%, minors by 40%.
  • Improved projectile collision, making it slightly easier to land hits.
  • Increased blast radius by 1m.
  • Parasite is unaffected. It does huge damage already.


The new Shotgun reticles show the correct spread pattern, but in its shipping form the size of the reticle wasn't affected by the current spread angle (which will change if you jump, or with magazine options like Smoothbore). This change should make the reticle accurate in most ways at 85 degree Field of View (FoV). A change to make this accurate for all FoV options will come in a future Season.

  • Shotgun reticles now change in size proportional to spread angle.
  • Related note: The Legend of Acrius hip-fire reticle is now a bit more representative of its (very large) spread angle.

Kinetic Weapons

Kinetic slot weapons have always done 5% more damage vs. unshielded targets in PvE. This meant that Kinetic slot Stasis weapons were straight up better, with extra functionality and no downside. We wanted to give players more of a reason to run Kinetic damage type weapons. So instead of a blanket Kinetic slot damage boost, we're switching to a kinetic damage type boost based on whether your Kinetic weapon uses Primary or Special ammo, and increased the bonus significantly.

  • Kinetic Primary weapon damage multiplier increased from 1.05 to 1.1.
  • Kinetic Special weapon damage multiplier increased from 1.05 to 1.15.
  • Kinetic slot Stasis weapons no longer have the 5% damage bonus vs. unshielded targets in PvE.
  • There's also a Kinetic damage type perk coming in Lightfall.


Just like many players, we’ve wanted Exotic weapons that have a strong theming around their damage type to use the real subclass 3.0 verbs, and Lightfall’s longer development and playtest cycle gave us the opportunity to add subclass verbs to many of the top picks. Our goal with adding subclass 3.0 verbs is to this grant these weapons additional functionality, and let them tie into subclass builds in a more meaningful way. In most cases, this is also (or is paired with) a hefty buff.

  • The Queenbreaker’s blinding effect was underwhelming for a Heavy weapon, so we’ve changed how that’s deployed. Note that Queenbreaker was also not affected by the global damage reduction to Linear Fusion Rifles, making it substantially stronger by comparison.
    • Shot now chains to nearby enemies and uses Arc 3.0 blind
  • Ruinous Effigy feels very Void-y, and slamming the transmutation sphere was an obvious place to put an additional effect.
    • Transmutation sphere slam attack now suppresses.
  • The Leviathan's Breath buff from a few Seasons back inadvertently reduced the PvP damage enough that it could no longer one-hit kill players in their Super with a headshot. We've fixed that, but also added volatile, and increased the damage vs. Champions substantially to highlight its anti-Champion role.
    • Now applies volatile on perfect draw impact.
    • Increased damage from 396 to 442. This allows it to once again one-hit kill all supers in PvP.
    • Increased damage vs. Champions by 30%.
  • One Thousand Voices was briefly a top pick in Season 14 but has been eclipsed by other options since then. We wanted to lean even more into a chain of Solar explosions by adding scorch, and with the global Heavy weapon changes it's also a strong option. If you have Ember of Ashes equipped, landing a full burst on a single target will trigger an ignition immediately (Exact results may vary depending on whether other players are also scorching a target).
    • Each explosion now applies 10 + 5 (with Ember of Ashes) scorch stacks
  • Sunshot was a top candidate for applying Solar subclass verbs, and the explosions are the clear place to add to.
    • Explosion on kill now applies 10 + 5 scorch stacks.
  • Polaris Lance always had a burn effect, so it was an obvious change to switch this to scorch.
    • Perfect Fifth shots now apply 40 + 20 scorch stacks instead of a custom burn.
  • Two-Tailed Fox had tough competition as a Heavy Exotic weapon, but now it's the only weapon that can apply subclass verbs from multiple damage types without extra steps.
    • Solar rocket now applies 60 + 30 scorch stacks instead of burn, the void rocket already applies suppress, and the catalyst completes the trifecta.
  • Prometheus Lens has utility with its Solar 3.0 rework, but we wanted to give it something more spectacular on kills in addition.
    • Added the Incandescent perk to the catalyst.
  • Grand Overture’s latest buff (increasing the missile’s damage by 50%) brought it up plenty, it just needed its blind updated to tie into Arc 3.0.
    • Switched the catalyst to use Arc Blind.

Hip-fire Reticles

  • We're starting to experiment with hip-fire weapon reticles conveying more information, and used The Manticore as a test bed for this. You can expect to see more weapon-type or Exotic weapon functionality showing up in hip-fire reticles in Season 21 and beyond.
    • Added a reticle element to The Manticore showing current stacks of Antigrav Repulsor.


With Strand coming to the game, along with a new Strand weapon damage perk, we’ve updated a couple of older perks.

  • Osmosis now works with Strand.
  • Elemental Capacitor now has the following effect when using a Strand subclass:
    • +20 airborne effectiveness (+25 for the enhanced perk).

Rewind Rounds will be appearing on more weapons in Lightfall, but was custom built to only work with the Vault of Glass weapon set, we've tweaked it to be more general-purpose.

  • Rebuilt to work on non-Vault of Glass weapons.

Eager Edge had some bugs that needed addressing in a previous release. We’ve now taken the time to do a more complete rework, which also let us reduce, or remove, most of the restrictions that were in place.

  • No longer deactivates when moving faster than 35ms.
  • Deactivates correctly after a single melee swing.
  • Reduced the base lunge distance buff from 2 to 1.8.
  • Reduced airborne lunge distance penalty from 25% to 20%.
  • The enhanced perk now increases lunge distance slightly, back up to 2.

Blinding Grenades on Grenade Launchers don’t do Arc damage, so it’s not appropriate for them to trigger Arc 3.0 Blind effects. We didn’t feel the need to change their disorienting effect though, so we’ve updated the name to overlap less.

  • Renamed “Blinding Grenades” to "Disorienting Grenades."

Veist Stinger is one of the most desirable origin traits in the game — particularly (but not only) on Linear Fusion Rifles – to the point where it makes it hard for non-Veist weapons to compete. It needed some adjustment. With this change it’s still valuable, but more in line with other origin traits.

  • This was typically a full reload when the perk activated, it now reloads 25% of the magazine.

The Future

We’re already hard at work on Seasons 21 and 22, and some of the changes we’re making include adding a Full Auto Melee accessibility setting (which will apply to all forms of melee), a pass over weapon type and Exotic weapon hip-fire reticles (including increasing how visibly they change even at high FoV), and adding features like charge meters and Exotic perk counters. We’ve also got balance changes in the works, but it’s a little too early to get into them. We’ll have more information to share post-Lightfall.

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