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Analysis: Inferno’s Flaws

Published on: Mar 5, 2015 @ 9:06

So, Inferno Control has been around for a few days, and we’ve gotten a chance to experience the game mode that promised more tactical, white-knuckle fights that would reward a cool head and a coordinated fireteam. Has Inferno delivered on its promise?

We argue in favor of its inclusion as a regular game mode here, but this article will offer a cautionary counterpoint.

We will discuss the issues of “balance” in the Crucible, the roll of Destiny’s radar in effecting this balance, and how Inferno’s principle change works to upset or maintain this balance.


Destiny PvP vs Other Shooters

First of all, we’re going to take a look at how Destiny’s PvP fares in the arena of shooters at large.

The pace of PvP shooters is dictated by a few mechanics, including player speed, weapon damage and efficacy, ability potency, and map size, to name a few. As any of these variables are adjusted, the overall “feel” of the game changes too.

If map size is limited, players are forced into increasingly close-range encounters, and the pace increases. If player speed is reduced, so too is the pace of the game. These elements are in constant friction with one another; no single one exists in a vacuum. There is a dialectic between certain pairs, and rock-paper-scissors-esque relationships between others.

Game designers are well aware of how it is easy to drastically alter the balance and pace of a shooter by simply tweaking a single aspect of the gameplay. Consequently, many are cautious with implementing new ideas and game modes. Destiny is no exception. Bungie might have hit a sweet spot with Halo, but they’ve been far more tentative in attempting to square Destiny’s world with the competitive nature of an online shooter.

For the most part, we think they’ve done a good job. But it’s no secret Destiny is starved for content. Doubles and Inferno were the first in a list of improvements and additions slated to hit Destiny over the foreseeable future, and Bungie is counting on their success to press forward confidently with nascent content. A lot of this success is dependent on maintaining the unique niche Destiny occupies in the PvP world.

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As it stands, Destiny is a curious mix of slow and fast pacing. Players move quickly, are able to sprint indefinitely, and travel in three dimensions with unpredictable ease. Grenades are powerful and abundant, and Supers can often snowball into a spurt of killing that overwhelms an otherwise routine game of cat-and-mouse gunplay.

To counter this, Destiny eschews the standard of many recent PvP shooters such as CoD who demand lightning quick reflexes by intentionally creating weapons and scenarios with near-instant kills. When applied to and assessed in a weapon, the resulting statistic is known as “Time To Kill” (abbreviated TTK). CoD further heightens its already dizzying speed by inflating firepower to levels that do not allow for mistakes to be made. They incentivize the best-of-the-best with a positive feedback loop of Killstreaks, leading to an extremely competitive and (often) frustrating game.

To avoid an unsustainable fast pacing, newer CoD entries design some maps to limit and/or force engagements into predictable channels. Even so, complaints of unbalanced weapons abound, and balancing patches are frequently necessary.

Destiny, fully aware of its role in bridging the gap between RPG, MMO, and PvP, attempts to soften the edges of the prototypical shooter by lengthening TTK across the board. Much like Halo, this leads to many situations in which a tactical retreat is not only possible, but outright advisable. It is still very probable that you will encounter a team against whom you have no chance, but the chance of a single Guardian destroying an entire fireteam without any help is considerably less than it would be in a different game.

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In a curious decision, Destiny also includes a constant Radar system that, while not outright declaring the position of an opponent, consistently gives their angle relative to the player. For more information on taking advantage of this mechanic, check out the excellent guide written by our resident Crucible expert.

This radar system has the function of creating an environment in which it is extremely difficult to ever get the drop on somebody. Ways to limit radar penetration are few and far between, and there are even perks designed to increase the prevalence of radar availability.

Now, in a typical PvP shooter, all other variables being equal, the best weapon is the one that takes the shortest amount of time to kill its target. The degree to which other weapons are balanced depends on how they compare to this Holy Grail of stats. If they have an unfortunately high TTK, then they must be powerful in other regards to compensate for this weakness. The SUROS Regime, long held as the pinnacle of PvP power, fit this description. Its TTK was always respectable – but its accuracy, stagger power, and health regeneration made it the cream of the crop.

From a context-free standpoint, SUROS Regime was balanced in the most literal sense of the word: Its shortcomings were compensated for by its strengths. Unfortunately, the trade-off still put it at a level that was unmatched by too many weapons, and it was thus unbalanced.

All powerful weapons in Destiny get the benefit of this dialectic; they either have very low TTK, or an extremely valuable perk or niche that negates their downsides. Thorn has lingering damage and impressive range, The Last Word scoffs at its own magazine and range issues with blisteringly fast TTK, and Efrideet’s Spear can trade off burning ammo for the occasional one-hit kill paradigm shift with Final Round.


Where Does Radar Fit?

Well, the mother of all these tradeoffs is the Shotgun. It is a close-range weapon with which you only really get one attempt to make your shot count. Its TTK is basically instant, if played correctly, and the steep penalty to range, RoF, or stability is often not steep enough to ward against its use.

The best players are able to stack the deck in their favor by taking advantage of positioning, movement confusion, and outright aiming skill and reaction time to win fights.

If a shotgun user faces any other weapon user from close-range, the shotgun user will win. However, as a deterrent to shotgun dominance – or perhaps it is simply a happy coincidence – Destiny has radar. It is nearly impossible for a single player to approach another from a distance without being noticed, providing that the target is constantly checking his radar without maintaining ADS for long periods of time.

But the balance swings the other way, too. The lengthy TTK on most primary weapons means shotguns still fare well in the right hands. Erratic movement, mind games, or sheer dumb luck can let serious shotgun users still win in a one-on-one scenario, even after their intent is known.

CQB fans also have another reason to be happy in Destiny: small maps. First Light and Bastion notwithstanding, Destiny is home to a lot of tight, claustrophobic geography with limited sight lines and sharp corners.

Consequently, it is often very easy for shotguns to permeate the metagame. There’s no question they have been the most contentious weapon in PvP; almost every PvP relevant patch has addressed their power.

Ultimately, they have avoided a nerf that would relegate them to irrelevance because of balancing factors like radar, and stiff competition from Fusion Rifles and other high-risk, high-reward weapons.



What happens when the radar is removed? By eliminating it, Destiny tips the scales unnaturally in favor of low TTK weapons, the prime abuser of which is shotguns.

The already ubiquitous killers have fresh life in Inferno Control. Not only does a shotgun-wielder not have to worry about being spotted before they’re physically visible, they can also flank and eliminate enemies with impunity.

Many PvP shooters settle for a hybrid radar system, in which a player’s proximity is not revealed to an opponent until they open fire. Sound and light can be indicators as to position as well, leading to a sort of happy medium for hit-and-run opportunists. Suppressing fire can be dangerous for unwary enemies, but also opens you up to constant visibility on radar. A stealthy close-range killer could get behind your lines and take out one or two guys, but the momentary flash of red would alert you to his position and potentially spoil a spree.

In Inferno Control, there is no such balancing mechanism. The “hardcore” aspects of rewarding only kills disincentivizes any weapon that can’t reliably guarantee a quick kill. While peppering the enemy with pot shots could snag your team 50 points here and there in basic Control, you’re out of luck in Inferno.

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Consequently, it behooves a Guardian to come loaded with weapons that get the job done, even at increased risk. Again, shotguns fit this description best. Although the knowledge may be tacit, it is evident that most people realize this.

Just try and visualize the amount of shotguns you’ve encountered in Inferno Control since its launch. How many times have you been killed by Felwinter’s Lie with Shot Package and Hammer Forged? It’d be impressive if you could even count the number on both hands.

Inferno Control’s rotation of small maps such as The Cauldron, The Burning Shrine, and Anomaly – while fresh and fun – do nothing to discourage the proliferation of buckshot bruising.


What’s the Fallout?

If you are constantly at risk of being killed by a dauntless, fast-moving shotgun user, how do you cope? Typically, there are two or three strategies that offer success.


One of the more frowned-upon techniques, it is nevertheless a very prudent strategy when dealing with nomads on the battlefield. Camping can pay off.

You eliminate the need to constantly be aware of your immediate surroundings by focusing all your effort on not being flanked. With the looming threat of a face full of shotgun pellets, campers are out in droves to salvage their poor K/D ratios.

Have you been running for a while without encountering anyone? Crouch, turn around, and wait. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few seconds later someone came barreling through, hot on your tail. 2.

Team Up and Talk

This was Destiny’s intent with Inferno Control. It is perhaps the most rewarding way to experience the new game variant, and truly makes the best out of what is arguably a flawed, if otherwise enjoyable experience.

If you’re able to find 2-5 people with whom you can comfortably fight, Inferno Control becomes a far more tactical experience. It rewards covering flanks, sticking together, and a well-thought-out gameplan.

You’re less likely to be gimped by a Heavy Weapon with the recent patch and reduced drops – though Supers remain an ever-present danger – so a little teamwork can go a long way. I highly recommend trying it out with some people you know; you won’t regret it.

It’s truly unfortunate that team-chat isn’t enabled by default.

Join ‘Em

Maybe you don’t have someone to play with. In this case, I recommend embracing the CQB brawl. With a shotgun of your own, you’ll be trading kills a lot, but you may find some success and enjoyment with the knowledge that anyone could be anywhere at any time.

You’ll certainly jump out of your seat rounding a corner only to be blasted back into a respawn timer. A Fusion Rifle with a fast charge rate such as Plan C or Light of the Abyss can also do well.


Adapt & Learn

Ultimately, a skilled Crucible player will be able to adapt to the Inferno metagame, and thrive with any number of weapons and strategies. However, I believe it is unfortunate that they have to.

Bungie could have anticipated the shift in weapon usage in Inferno Control, and pre-empted their dominance with some Inferno-specific mods. The reason “hardcore” game variants do well in other shooters is their balance in lethality.

Often, health or shields are severely handicapped, leading to an equally deadly presence for any combatant at any range. If you were able to kill a player with a single burst from a Pulse Rifle, or a few well placed Auto Rifle headshots, the Shotgun’s OHKO niche would be subsequently less prized.

Still, this is not easy to balance either. It would undoubtedly be a demanding undertaking. Inferno Control is testing the waters of expanding Destiny’s PvP world; it makes sense to start simple.

It’s clear that Destiny is relying on its intrinsic PvP design philosophy to carry Inferno Control. For the most part, it works, but players must be prepared for shotguns to reign supreme. If you aren’t ready to swallow your pride and are prone to hurling your controller at the wall, you might want to stay out.

The best may be able to whether the storm, but if you’re an average Guardian who is still determined to make a foray into Inferno, consider bringing a few friends. You’ll be able to navigate the changes better with a reassuring presence at your side.

Give it a try! Let me know what you think of my assessment in the comments – this is just one man’s opinion and we’d like to know yours.