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Helldivers 2 players aren't happy about the game's first balance patch—here's why

 A giant bile titan, a towering insect from Helldivers 2, lets out a vicious scream as it stomps over the landscape.
A giant bile titan, a towering insect from Helldivers 2, lets out a vicious scream as it stomps over the landscape.

Helldivers 2 had its first balance patch yesterday and—as one might expect—it's not gone down splendidly.

In case you're unfamiliar, one of the best higher-difficulty weapons received significant nerfs due to its overuse. According to Arrowhead, the railgun was meant to be an "anti-tank sniper rifle" rather than the best-in-slot support weapon it very much became. Previously, this thing was capable of capping chargers and bile titans with a few well-placed rounds.

It can still take out heavily-armoured opponents, it just requires a little more skill—the 'unsafe' mode has a chance of blowing you up if you hold fire for too long, but it also increases its armour-piercing qualities. Limb damage has also been reduced, so you need to aim for headshots.

As designer Alex Kravchenko noted when the patch dropped: "Sure, you will have your own favourite [gun], but it should come from your personal preference, not from the universally-agreed knowledge of which gun is the strongest." It's not like the patch was nerfs all the way down, either. The flamethrower is actually good now—and it's even able to deal with chargers, albeit a smidge slower than those halcyon railgun days. Regardless, players (at least the vocal ones) are, well, a bit upset.

This has been made a little worse by several prickly comments made by various Arrowhead devs over on the Discord that I'm not going to share here—partially because I don't think pointing fingers is productive.

Is it the best (or most professional) move to stoke the flames? No, of course not. But I want to underscore that most of these screenshots are taken out of context, divorced from the inflammatory messages surrounding them.

Ideally everyone would keep a cool head, but the server has over 100,000 members at the time of counting. If even a fraction of those people were yelling at me in real-time, I might get a little snippy too—as would anybody. Moving on.

Alas, poor Railgun, I knew him Sweet Liberty

Helldivers 2 screaming man from intro
Helldivers 2 screaming man from intro

I've felt the sweet kiss of the Railgun—but I'm still climbing the difficulties myself. Our guides writer Sean Martin, however, has been jumping into the trenches of difficulty nine after the patch. He pretty much agrees that the game's maximum difficulty feels a lot more miserable right now.

The reason you're seeing players post screenshots of seven bile titans having an impromptu vomit rave around their evac shuttles? They're as common as flies on Helldive difficulty, and often joined by a cadre of chargers to knock you about.

In a pre-railgun nerf world, these beasts were manageable—because a well-trained user could blow a titan's head off in a few shots. Its stopping power also afforded some crowd control for chargers while you busted their kneecaps. The weapon's unsafe firing mode lets you emulate some of its old strength, but it's hard to handle a weapon with finesse when the hive is descending on you.

While the meme of 'just use your stratagems' spreads, there is a nugget of truth to players' complaints. There are other anti-tank weapons available, but they're unwieldy and sluggish things. There are anti-tank stratagems, but their cooldowns are very high, or their uses are limited.

The railgun was effective not just because of its stopping power, but because it was simple to use and it had a fast rate of fire. It was able to cull these squads of bile titans before they became completely unmanageable. I think the takeaway is that either higher difficulty options need to cool it on the big boys, or the game needs better anti-tank options.

That being said, this is the first balance patch the game has ever had. It's not the end of the world for things to be a little less pleasant while Arrowhead figures things out. There'll be more to come, and the inclusion of mechs and vehicles may change the meta so much that we'll all have nothing to complain about.