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Why Helldivers 2 Nerfed Its Most Overpowered Weapon

The last time Arrowhead Games rolled out a major balance change for "Helldivers 2," the devs were left apologizing for upsetting a large swath of the community. Well, history is destined to repeat itself, and here we are again. Another balance change has some members of the community freaking out. This time, it's unlikely that Arrowhead will say sorry, partly because the company has adjusted its PR strategy — and partly because this change was totally justified.

The latest "Helldivers 2" patch tuned down the effectiveness of the Slugger, the game's most popular shotgun. Specifically, the patch reduced the Slugger's stagger effect and demolition force while also reducing its total damage output by 30 points, down to 250. The changes definitely count as a nerf, but that's right in line with Arrowhead's design philosophy.

Back in March, Arrowhead's Head of Product Testing Patrik Lasota wrote a blog post explaining in intricate detail how Arrowhead is dealing with balance in the game. Lasota wrote, "I have since the game released seen many who say 'Don't Nerf, only Buff' and other similar ideas. However as a designer I can tell you this is not a great idea, but I understand where the sentiment comes from." Lasota went on to explain that Arrowhead is prioritizing the fantasy of "Helldivers 2," weapon by weapon. Sometimes that means nerfs, but the community still isn't guaranteed to react positively to those changes.

Breaking News: Shotguns, not snipers

Arrowhead has directly addressed the big changes it just made to the Slugger. Senior game designer Alexus Kravchenko responded to fan concerns in the official "Helldivers 2" Discord server, writing, "The truth is, [the] Slugger was just hands down the best sniper rifle out there, which is not fitting for, you know, a shotgun." That reasoning seems pretty solid. Even the most impossible missions in "Helldivers 2" could become manageable tasks with an all-powerful shotgun, especially one that can deal extreme damage while maintaining a safe distance. This probably goes without saying, but not all Helldivers out there necessarily see things the same way.

Some players are voicing their displeasure online and saying the changes were utterly unnecessary. There's a healthy debate running on Reddit, but some players are ready to abandon the Slugger altogether. These players have started comparing the Slugger's new stats to other guns like the Devastator. They're in search of the new "meta" weapon, which unfortunately goes against the entire power fantasy system that Arrowhead is trying to establish, but gamers will do what gamers do.

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