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The winners and losers of today's Helldivers 2 patch: Snipers rule, Sluggers drool

 Helldivers 2.
Helldivers 2.

Amidst all the wild stuff happening with AT-AT walkers that spawn robots and cloaked ships hiding in plain sight, Arrowhead decided today was a good day to drop a huge Helldivers 2 balancing patch. The changes aren't as dramatic as last month's divisive Railgun nerf, but for this diver, they're already more meaningful.

Arrowhead put a few weapon types under the microscope that didn't see any changes last time around—namely sniper rifles, heavy armor, the Arc Thrower, and the ballistic shield. We're looking at largely buffs across the board with only one big nerf (sorry Slugger). After testing most of these changes for a few hours today, here's what I see as the bigger winners and losers of Patch 01.000.200.

Winners

Sniper likers

  • Anti-Materiel Rifle: damage increased by 30%.

  • Diligence Counter Sniper: increased armor penetration from light to medium.

The sniper rifles of Helldivers 2 have been understandably ignored up to this point, but I'm here to tell you not to sleep on them after today's patch. Both snipers got major buffs, but I particularly want to call out the Anti-Materiel Rifle damage buff—this thing annihilates medium-sized enemies now, so much that lining up headshots is optional. Automaton Walkers? Couple pops to the body and it's dead. Devastators? Knock off those arms in a jiffy. The AMR finally feels like it has a role next to other support weapons. It's best used in the back of the pack to pick off patrols, but in a pinch it can blow off body parts like a mini Autocannon.

Consider the Diligence Counter Sniper the ARM's much smaller brother. The medium armor penetration means it can now target Walker limbs and Hunter legs. It's not a headshots-only gun anymore, which is good considering its high rapid-fire recoil.

helldivers 2 balancing
helldivers 2 balancing

Fire enthusiasts

  • Fire damage per tick increased by 50% (from all sources).

  • Breaker Incendiary: damage per bullet increased from 15 per bullet to 20 per bullet.

The flamethrower didn't really need a buff after its triumphant damage boost in last month's balancing pass, but the damage-over-time of burning targets is much appreciated. Before today, I would rarely ever see enemies die from lingering fire damage—only ever direct flamethrower damage—so hopefully now setting enemies on fire and then backing off until they die is a viable tactic.

Heavy armor wearers

  • Heavy and medium armor protects better and you now take about 10% less damage than before while wearing heavy and about 5% less when wearing medium armor. Fortified commando and light armor is unchanged.

This rules. I've been a heavy armor fan since Arrowhead fixed the armor values last month, but the armor bonus wasn't really worth moving so slowly. Now, I think it is. Using heavy armor today, I could tank at least a dozen laser shots before popping a stim. Automaton rockets, which got a nerf of their own, are also way less of a threat in thick armor. It takes 4-5 to take you down (though they can still knock you over all the same).

Ballistic Shield bros

  • Collision mesh has been slightly increased in size for more forgiveness

  • Changed shield poses so that less of the helldiver is exposed

  • Addressed bug where parts of the helldiver would become vulnerable while using the shield in first person.

The Ballistic Shield might rank among the most ignored stratagems in Helldivers 2. After today, you should really give it a chance. That larger "collision mesh" basically means it'll block any regular laser shot, bug spit, or melee attack from the front, and using it today, I noticed fewer instances of my legs or arms taking damage when they shouldn't. A ballistic shield and SMG is one of my new favorite playstyles.

helldivers 2 balancing
helldivers 2 balancing

Losers

Sluggers

  • Slugger: reduced stagger.

  • Slugger: reduced damage from 280 to 250.

  • Slugger: reduced demolition force.

  • Slugger: fixed armor penetration tag in the menu.

The Slugger took a beating in today's patch. The slug shot variant of the Punisher shotgun has been a dominant pick since launch, largely because of its ability to stagger anything and kill most things in a headshot or two, but those days might be over. I've yet to test this one, but my hope is the Slugger is at least still pretty good at staggering big enemies—I think its hard-hitting slugs were balanced by its low velocity and long reload time.

Heavy Machine Gunners

  • Heavy Machine Gun: the highest fire rate mode reduced from 1200 RPM to a more moderate 950

The Heavy Machine Gun has been pretty underwhelming since it debuted with the Quasar Cannon last week, so today's patch has me wondering why it got a technical nerf. The HMG eats up its ammo so quickly (on top of being so hard to control) that I tend to set its rate-of-fire to the lowest already.

An image of three helldivers, posed in heroic fashion, advertising Helldivers 2's latest Warbond: Cutting Edge.
An image of three helldivers, posed in heroic fashion, advertising Helldivers 2's latest Warbond: Cutting Edge.

Jury's out

Arc Thrower faithfuls

  • Arc Thrower: fixed charging inconsistencies; it will now always take 1s to charge a shot.

  • Arc Thrower: reduced distance from 50m to 35m.

  • Arc Thrower: increased stagger force.

I love the Arc Thrower, even if the unwieldy shock gun can sometimes be more trouble than it's worth. Today's patch has me very curious to pick it up again—the reduced range is a bummer, but "increased stagger force" might be a big deal. Arc weapons have the unique ability to chain damage between multiple targets, so if you're telling me a fully-charged Arc blast can momentarily stun some of the biggest enemies around, that's huge. Reddit user Bird_0f_Prey has conducted some early tests of that stagger force and it looks impressive.