Fusion Rifles and Current Effectiveness
With the February balance patch on the horizon, something to think about is what changes could potentially be made to the special weapon archetypes other than shotguns, as in the TWAB for 1/26 states, Bungie is looking to “promote alternatives and counters to shotguns,” which can be interpreted in a variety of ways. The first to come to mind for myself and a few others, was the category of fusion rifles. Throughout Destiny’s three year lifespan, many weapons have risen and fallen out of favor with players. At release, fusion rifles were an effective special weapon choice for many players, especially for those lucky enough to acquire Plan C and Pocket Infinity early on. Pocket Infinity received changes on its own that brought it down a bit in hotfix 22.214.171.124 (and recieved various other changes in multiple other patches), but fusion rifles as a whole got hit with the stick in patch 1.1.1.. After that, fusion rifles saw severely limited to no use until patch 2.0.0, or the pre-Taken King patch, where fusions received several changes that brought their usability up, mainly affecting base stats of fusions to make them usable, but balanced. A few months after TTK released, patch 2.1.0 launched, bringing with it the first SRL event, as well as a hefty amount of weapon tuning that altered fusion rifle stability while aiming and while firing from the hip, and reduced the carried ammo inventory. Then, the April Update, or patch 2.2.0 brought a blanket base stability stat buff, bringing us to where fusion rifles are now. Patch 2.2.0 was the last stat alteration made to fusion rifles (the pre-Rise of Iron patch, or 2.4.0, fixed some UI issues with accelerated coils not properly displaying the applied damage reduction, and fixed a specific issue with the Techeun Rage’s stat bars being displayed improperly).
With the brief history lesson out of the way, let’s talk a bit on how fusion rifles currently work as we understand them in game. Firstly, let’s talk stats. Charge time is how long your fusion rifle charges, and is essentially the rate of fire stat for fusion rifles. Charge time and impact work the same way that rate of fire and impact do on most other weapons, and are also used to tell you what archetype the fusion rifle lies in. Stability and range are the two biggest stats on fusion rifles, and with the current state of understanding of fusion rifles, the argument for which stat is best is still a debate. Stability works to tighten the grouping of fusion rifle bolts, which makes getting consistency out of the faster charging fusions much easier, whereas you may not need as much stability on a 4 bolt kill fusion since less bolts are required for the kill. Range is a bit of a grey area, as some things we know for fact and others could be entirely wrong. One common school of thought that people go by is that range increases bolt velocity, which most fusion rifle users will stand by. Another is that it supposedly makes the bolts “stick” more, allowing easier kills at longer ranges. While Bungie isn’t 100% clear on what range does, especially on fusion rifles, one thing is clear: you definitely want range on your fusion rifle. A solid balance of both range and stability on a fusion rifle tends to work fairly well, but don’t trash a fusion straight away if you don’t get something like perfect balance or rifled barrel on it. Fusions at their base can be very effective if you know how to use them. Now, from stats we go to archetypes. Fusion rifle archetypes are split into how many bolts you need to land in order to get a kill, with all legendary fusions firing 7 bolts in total. The slowest charging fusions (think: Saladin’s Vigil and Darkblade’s Spite) will net you a 4 bolt kill, and are generally the fusions with the greatest capacity to kill consistently at longer ranges. The middle set of fusions that you’ll tend to see quite a bit are the 5 bolts to kill fusion rifles (think: Phanta Rhei and Thesan FR4), and the fastest and also least used are the 6 bolt kill fusions (think: Branded Lord and Split Shifter). Fusion rifles work in a spectrum on how you use them, with more careful planning in gunfights being attributed to 4 bolt killers, and the more reactionary playstyle being left with the 6 bolt killers.
Now that the big picture of fusion rifles is out in the open, what changes could we see in the next weapon tuning? In their current state, fusion rifles are very effective, and left in the hands of an experienced user, can be a very powerful tool. Out of all the weapons, fusion rifles appear to be on the same list as sidearms, where both currently do fairly well in the crucible, but no real glaring issues are present with either weapon type. Fusion rifles fill the role of being a weapon to fill the gap between shotguns and snipers, handling the extended areas of close quarters and occasionally reaching out into the beginning of the far range engagements. The main tweak that could happen and probably will happen would be a tweak to ammo, where fusions hold the spot of second on the list of highest inventory stat. Any alterations to the stability stat could potentially either make fusion rifles too powerful or not effective enough, although perhaps a minor tweak to the range stat on some fusions may happen, even though ridiculously long range kills with fusion rifles are few and far between. Though what we may see for possible changes for fusions are very few and small, there’s always the potential that a larger tweak is in the works, for some piece of fusions we may not have even considered. “Shoot to loot, spin to win, voop to voop. All tactics are viable.”